Evangelicals Accused of Undermining Freedom of Religion

The VaticanA couple of weeks ago the Vatican released a document which reaffirmed its belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church. In the mass of media coverage following the release of this document, one Canadian newspaper column caught my attention.

Paul Albers is a freelance columnist in Ottawa who also happens to be LDS. Using the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s reaffirmation as a springboard, Mr. Albers wrote an opinion piece for the Canada Free Press in which he takes issue with evangelicals who delineate doctrinal differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity, and who make an effort to proselytize Mormons. He wrote:

“An industry has developed among Evangelicals that is focused on attacking other denominations, branding them as ‘cults of Christianity’ just for disagreeing with some of the conclusions they have reached about Christian doctrines. Individuals and businesses in this industry make their living selling books, movies and presenting speeches on the perceived evils and errors of their targets. Their hit list includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Seventh Day Adventists and The Church of Jesus Christ or Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormons).

“As a practicing Mormon, I find it amusing to see their consternation at the Pope’s words when it is impossible for us to hold a single General Conference, temple dedication or religious pageant without Evangelicals showing up insulting and desecrating what we hold sacred in protest of the mere existence of our faith. In 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention decided to hold their national convention in Salt Lake City specifically to target Mormons for conversion. Mormons generally shrug these stunts off, supporting the right of all religions to conduct missionary work, but I can’t help but wonder how Evangelicals would react if Catholics began showing up at their events with anti-Protestant placards and pamphlets.”

I can’t speak for all evangelicals, but I recall a discernment conference I attended a few years back. Some folks from a group identified within the conference as heretical stood outside the building handing out opposition pamphlets to conference attendees. The evangelical response was to dialog with these folks, invite them in for lunch, and allow them to attend — and address — the conference session that covered their specific faith group.

At any rate, Mr. Albers offered this advice to Catholics and Protestants alike:

“Those who want to proselytize others to their faith would do better to concentrate on making the case for their position rather than going on the offensive against what others believe. They will likely be more successful that way as well…

“Freedom of religion is undermined by churches that spend their resources trying to tear down other religions, spread misinformation about them, or foster contention between faiths.”

I thought Mr. Albers’ advice surprising in light of teachings from the LDS Church’s last General Conference. Consider these:

Offensive against what others believe: “The knowledge of God and His physical separateness from His Son and the Holy Ghost was lost after the death of Christ and His Apostles. Confusion and false doctrines about the Godhead were fashioned out of the Nicene Creed and Constantinople councils…I know that heaven-sent revelations have replaced the gross errors of man-made doctrines concerning the Godhead.” (Gary J. Coleman, “Mom, Are We Christians?” Ensign 5/2007, 92, 93)

Misinformation: “When the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, he became aware of the divisiveness among the clergy concerning the nature of Deity. In an attempt to overcome this he gathered the eminent divines of the day to Nicaea in the year 325… When a definition could not be reached, a compromise was made. It came to be known as the Nicene Creed, and it’s basic elements are recited by most of the Christian faithful.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Things of Which I Know,” Ensign 5/2007, 83)

Fostering discord between faiths: Speaking of the organization of the LDS Church, “Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was again in existence on the earth to bless mankind with the doctrines and teaching of the Savior… the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth…you can compare the glorious message with what you may hear from others, and you can determine which is from God and which is from man.” (L. Tom Perry, “The Message of the Restoration,” Ensign 5/2007, 88)

As readers of Mormon Coffee know, I don’t have a problem with the LDS Church pointing out differences between the doctrines of Mormonism and the doctrines of other faiths. Freedom of religion is not “undermined” when the LDS Church asserts that its doctrines and organization are true, which results in an implied proclamation that faiths in disagreement with Mormonism are not true. The problem I have is with the double standard I see so often coming from Latter-day Saints.

In his column, Mr. Albers was the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. I would like him to keep this in mind:

During their time in the mission field, most Christian missionaries around the world seldom find it necessary to discuss Mormonism (or the other religions on Mr. Albers’ list). The Christian missionary message begins with, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Gospel message moves on to discuss the remedy for man’s eternal peril, Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Contrast that with the Mormon missionary message which begins with the Restoration: full spiritual truth and authority were not to be found on the earth — all religions and all Christian churches were wrong — but in 1830 truth and authority were finally restored and now can be found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Every Mormon missionary kicks off his or her “gospel presentation” with a direct offensive against every non-LDS church. But it’s evangelicals who are chastised and accused of undermining freedom of religion.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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30 Responses to Evangelicals Accused of Undermining Freedom of Religion

  1. The idea of folks outside of a Christian gathering, opposing our message, has always made me smile. If Mormons were to ever tract or hold signs or attempt to start challenging conversations outside a Christian church or meeting, they would be overwhelmed by the response: the eagerness of Christians to dialog with them on the spot, take their literature, invite them into church, take them out to lunch, invite them over for dinner. We would see it as a exciting, delightful opportunity. The Christians I know aren’t embarrassed by Christian doctrine, and are happy to give an answer and defense for the hope that lies within us.

    On another note, Monday night I was in Salt Lake City talking to folks who were preparing for the Pioneer Day Parade. I challenged a Mormon named Nathan on topics of repentance, the nature of God, and the afterlife. He at one point very condescendingly portrayed the Trinity as a politically mandated invention that sprung into existence at the Council of Nicaea. To dispel some of his faith-promoting rumors, I talked to him about the history of the council and the context that surrounded it. Later he said, “Look, I would never criticize your religion!” In light-hearted humor I responded with, “That’s great! So you would never call my creeds an abomination before God?” Well, yes, actually he would.

    At the end of the day, the “we don’t criticize other religions” is often just a defense mechanism, an “out” from having to forthrightly discuss tough issues with people who disagree with you. And Sharon’s right, the complaint is a double standard. Mormonism is founded upon an open rebuke, repudiation, rejection, and restoration of what it considered apostate Christianity.

    Mormonism missionary work is largely dependent on criticizing an existing Christian foundation. As Francis Beckwith once wrote:

    “[M]ost LDS converts come from nominal Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, which makes sense given the way in which Mormon missionaries present their message. They offer a Restored Gospel, a term that is easy to understand if one already has an idea of what “gospel” means. LDS missionar­ies offer instruction to their prospective apostles, churches, beliefs, angels, God, Jesus, and Scripture–none of which make any sense unless the listeners and their ecclesiastical predecessors are the result of traditional Christian evangelism, catechism, and Bible study. The Bible used by LDS missionaries in their quest for converts, the King James Version, is a translation produced by non-LDS Christian scholars. Consequently, LDS success, according to Mosser, is parasitical on Catholic and Protestant missionary work, education, and scholarship.” -Francis Beckwith, “Sects In The City: Mormonism and the Philosophical Perils of Being a Missionary Faith”

  2. Falcon says:

    I’m glad I stumbled acrossed this web site. I find it very stimulating and intellectually challenging. I’ve made more than a nominal study of Mormonism and give you folks credit for wanting to (and having the patience and Christian love) to dialogue with Mormons. I like the theme of this post. My beef with Mormons has been their deliberate obfuscation of what they believe.

  3. M2 says:

    I understand that Mr. Albers is not an official in the LDS church. I guess, the issue that I take with what Albers is saying, is that:

    “Those who want to proselytize others to their faith would do better to concentrate on making the case for their position rather than going on the offensive against what others believe. They will likely be more successful that way as well…” – Mr. Albers

    Albers’ whole commentary is ‘his beliefs’, and he is going on the offense to defend that ‘one should not go on the offense’. It’s the same as saying, ‘you shouldn’t try persuade people!’ which in itself is paradoxically a persuasion, or ‘you shouldn’t judge’ is in itself a judgment.

    Another criticism that I would have is that Albers says:

    “Freedom of religion is undermined by churches that spend their resources trying to tear down other religions, spread misinformation about them, or foster contention between faiths.” -Albers

    In essence, he’s saying that it is unethical to ‘tear down’ religions. I guess my question is, how does he justify such an absolute? I do not see this example in Scripture: 2 Cor. 10:5; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:3-4.
    So if it is a part of (person A)’s religion to tear down others and if (person B) is saying, “this has to stop.” Isn’t (person B) trying to tear down (person A)’s right of freedom to practice his own religion? So this ‘tolerant’ gentleman, who is screaming “I cannot tolerate intolerance!” has his feet firmly planted in mid-air.

  4. Jeff says:

    In a way, it seems he’s trying to defend what he believes in freedom of religion, but then tearing down the other part of the bill of rights, 1st amendment which is freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble…

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind at all another person engaging in religious conversation with me. I think its absolutely important to hear two sides of the story so you can make an intelligent decision. If you shy away from things that oppose your point of views/beliefs, then you will continue to believe what you believe.. If you want to believe the sky is purple all your life, just stay away from anyone/anything that would say its some other color.

  5. Ralph says:

    Its human nature in all facets of life that when someone says you are wrong to feel offended. However, its always the 1 to 5% of people that carry on with it further and make a general fuss about it. Yes, being told that something you deeply believe in to be true about God/religion is false is also an attack. But its an attack on the belief, not a personal attack. In general you will find that the ones who will talk back to Mormon critics in defense because they feel offended are in the 1-5% bracket. This tends to give us a bad name. Its the same, I have found, with other religions. This was from experience I had on my mission. I served in Finland where the state church is Lutheran. There was a lot of ‘persecution’ for anyone wo left the Lutheran church for another religion, including Pentacostal, Catholic and other mainstream Christian churches, let alone SDA, LDS or JW. Its human nature, which we learn from the Bible we need to overcome in order to be true followers of our Saviour.

    So yes, I agree that Mormons and Mormon critics alike can offend and be offended as we have seen on this blog site during various discussions. We must learn not to be offended, as that is a choice we can make. I have my beliefs and you have yours. I do not mind a friendly discussion about the differences with a mind to convert you, as you have in mind to convert me. It goes both ways because of what we see as God’s truth and vitality to salvation.

    Also a good honest general discussion without anyone getting offended might just help us understand each other even if we still agree to disagree, because I do believe that some of the things argued over between Mormons and Mormon critics are actually one and the same, just neither party wants to admit it or there is too much contention fogging up the middle that no one can see the similarities, just the differences.

  6. Falcon says:

    Aaron,
    I’m curious as to what you shared with the Mormon gentleman regarding the Council of Nicaea. It seems to have stopped him in his tracks.

  7. Alex D. says:

    I, too, am curious as to what you (Aaron) had to say to Nathan on Monday night. Could you be so kind as to let Falcon and I (and whomever else may be reading this blog post) in on what you had to say?

  8. Clark says:

    There is one glaring problem when it comes to dialouge between Latter-day Saints and Evangelical Christians. MISINFORMATION! It’s as simple as that.
    Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals, are both accused of believing things which they simply do not. As a Latter-day Saint, I often hear people tell me I believe all of the following:
    – Joseph Smith is more important than Jesus Christ
    – Latter-day Saints are discouraged from reading the Bible
    – Jesus Christ failed in his earthly mission
    – Adam is the same person as Heavenly Father
    – Black people will be slaves to white people in the Celestial Kingdom
    – A man can not enter the Celestial Kingdom unless he is a polygamist
    – In the Celestial Kingdom, women will get pregnant, just like they do here on earth, except billions of times over
    – Mary was not a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus
    – Latter-day Saints will be rewarded if they beat up gay people
    Perhaps some of these ideas aren’t very well known, but I’ve heard them all, and more. On the other hand, Evangelical Christians are told they believe certain things, which they do not, including the following:
    – If a certain person spends their whole life doing drugs, chasing women, lying, stealing and even killing, they can still get into heaven as long as they say one quick prayer before they die
    – Once a Christian is “saved” that gives them free rein to do whatever they want, including lying, stealing, drinking and even killing. No matter what, they still get into heaven
    – When Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, he was actually praying to himself, since they’re the exact same person
    – If a young child, from a remote part of the world, dies of something like starvation and never has the chance to hear about Jesus Christ, they will automatically go to hell, since there’s no second chance for anyone
    – All homosexuals will automatically go to hell
    My point in bringing all this up is, positive dialouge is always better than accusations. ALWAYS!

  9. rick b says:

    Clark, I wont get into every little issue you said, but simply put your wrong on some points.

    One point your wrong on is,

    – If a certain person spends their whole life doing drugs, chasing women, lying, stealing and even killing, they can still get into heaven as long as they say one quick prayer before they die

    It is not, if you pray one quick prayer, it is, if you recive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Remember the thief on the Cross.

    You said

    – All homosexuals will automatically go to hell

    Read Romans chapter 1-2 for starts, Homosexualaty is a sin, and unless they repent of their sin and call upon the name of Jesus, they will go to hell.

    As far as the rest goes, I cannot speak for others, but I buy the Oringial LDS sources and on my blog, I scan the document onto my blog so people can read it if they dont happen to own it and then see for themselves. I have challanged many an LDS member by having them over my house and opening you books and showing them the source. Rick b

  10. amanda says:

    hey rick,

    i almost laughed at your response to the comment above yours…you missed the entire point! the point wasn’t what EXACTLY you are accused of believing that isn’t true…the point is that there is fault on both sides, and nitpicking just leads to a cycle of contention…and we can all agree that contention is of the devil. i think our Savior would want us all to find common ground through Him, instead of focusing on our differences. after all, we are all God’s children, deserving of love and the blessings of the gospel (however you define them)

    i would agree that sometimes those differences are important to discuss…but certainly not to the extent that it is on this blog 🙂 amanda, married to a former baptist.

  11. amanda says:

    ps. it’s okay if you don’t believe mormon doctrine,right? so why is there a need to justify this position to the point of exhaustion…if you’re comfortable in your position, let it rest…we mormons still love you, and if we don’t, shame on us.

  12. Daniel says:

    Amanda, somehow I feel you miss the entire point of this site. I accept that you are as comfortable in your position as I am in mine. However, if I believe what the Bible says about hell and Christ (which I assume that as a Mormon you disagree with my position), then I am called to confront those with whom I disagree, to do it as a form of love for them, in a desire that none should perish apart from Christ. It is not because I feel threatened by Mormonism, or out of hatred for it, but out of concern for your soul. There are very serious differences between LDS theology and Christian theology (yes, that’s right, I do not consider LDS a form of Christianity), to the extent that I would argue that who you worship as God is different. That’s a big difference that I think is very important to discuss. Where you spend eternity hangs upon it.

  13. rick b says:

    Amanda Said

    the point is that there is fault on both sides, and nitpicking just leads to a cycle of contention…and we can all agree that contention is of the devil.

    No I dont agree with you, Contention is not of the Devil, if it were, Jesus was guilty of it, Read http://mormonismreviewed.blogspot.com/2006/07/contention-is-it-of-devil.html

    Then you said

    after all, we are all God’s children

    Again, this is not true, please read your Bible, it says,

    John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:

    only those who recive him are children of God. Rick b

  14. Toby says:

    Great article, in my years of research into the cult of Mormonism and witnessing to mormons I have found it interesting that they tend to use what their apostles say only when it bennifits them. It’s quite comical really that they often resort to circular reasoning and disception to make their points (i.e. they only answer the questions we should have asked). The Mormon religion stands theologically, historically, anthropologically and Archeologically baseless. But yet millions are blinded by its deceit. The ony effective way to approach Mormon’s with the truth is by love and compassion, not with proof texts and evidence, they disregard it anyway.

  15. amanda says:

    i must reply to that “loving” response you left me, out of concern for my soul. let me remind you, with all due respect…that it is God who judges me, not you…and if you concern yourself with the BEAM that is in YOUR eye, you might “receive Him” and all that he taught in that bible you seem to think i don’t understand, more effectively. i think that you have hatred in your heart for all those who seem different than you, and all you are accomplishing is dividing those that He loves…and through my experiences in life, i have learned most definitely that He loves me…and i know that the blessings and knowledge that i have of Him is not something i should apologize for, even if someone who claims to be motivated by love only wishes to judge me out of complete ignorance- you should read your bible more carefully next time. Jesus turned the other cheek, he never contended, he taught and led by example…i think if He were here on this earth, he would again lead by example and love…and not post on your blog.

    get a clue

    p.s. notice how i have no intention of convincing you that your convictions will lead you to hell..because i simply do not believe that is true, or certainly don’t think i am qualified (as you seem to think you are) in determining anything regarding someone’s personal salvation, it’s simply not something anyone is capable of, except Him who bled on the cross for us all.

  16. Amanda, is calling us hateful your way of “loving” us too? And wouldn’t that require you making a moral judgment about our heart? When Jesus spoke of not judging, he put his words into a context that gave a clear message: we shouldn’t arrogantly and hypocritically apply double-standards in our judgments. Jesus never puts a moratorium on moral judgments altogether. In fact, he says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)

    If you want to benefit from public internet dialog between Mormons and Christians, you’re going to have to develop some thicker skin. Christians don’t have to be the ultimate judge to make basic discernment based off of God’s word. Unless you repent of your idolatry, unless you embrace God as the only God of all reality, unless you embrace Christ as the savior who offers free and immediate forgiveness received by faith apart from works, then you will die in your sins and suffer what the Bible calls “eternal punishment”. Jesus was no hippie. He at times hotly contended and he passionately loved the truth and spoke vehemently against the proud and softly toward the humble. He was/is an electric, dynamic figure who can’t be put in the box of the Mormon view of spiritualized calm anemia.

    If you lived here in Utah, my wife and I would love to have you over for dinner and meet you face to face (e-mail me at aaron[at]mrm[dot]org if you’re interested). That always helps. But for now, don’t go around calling people on this site hateful. It’s not only inaccurate, it’s a deconstructive conversation stopper.

    Grace and peace in Christ,

    Aaron

  17. Oh, I just saw the request to remark on what I said regarding Nicea. I have to split for Sunstone today, so I’ll have to comment later on about it.

  18. amanda says:

    i guess you believe that you can’t reconcile your strong beliefs about the Savior and our loving Heavenly Father and my belief that his gospel is once restored in its’ fullness upon the earth. by their fruits ye shall know them. and this blog seems to only produce the rotten fruit of hatred and ignorance toward “mormons” as you call us. i don’t believe you, Aaron, are in this category…however the people who post here certainly say hateful things. i will continue further correspondence by email.

  19. rick b says:

    If people use what your prophets spoke and show how they cannot agree on truth, how is that hateful?

    Speaking of Not being loving, Paul said

    1Cr 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

    Is that loving of Paul to say?

    What about when Paul said in Gal 1:8-9 if you preach any other Gospel you will be damned, Where does Paul get off judging you and saying if you dont believe what he teaches you will be damned. Boy Amanda maybe you should rebuke Paul for being judgemental and hateful, Or was he correct in his views and maybe it is you who are incorrect and do not know your scripture? Rick b

  20. amanda says:

    you’re right rick, i don’t know my scriptures as well as i should…and i daresay you fall into this same category. we all have room for improvement don’t we?

    there is one difference though, between you and Paul…and forgive me for pointing this out as it might injure your ego…his point of view made the cut (the bible) and your point of view is only to be seen right here, on your blog. don’t let it get to you though, I’m sure there is a consulting position available for you in heaven… which you are extremely qualified (knowing your scriptures the way that you do). i sadly must prepare for a promising future in the “i thought i knew jesus” department in Hell, where i will be weeping and whaling and gnashing my teeth. because i guess, according to you, it’s not enough to really believe in him, you have to really really really be a baptist.

    but in all seriousness, you bring up a good point. there is a very important message in what Paul wrote/said. i guess we’ll find out at that great and last day– who he was referring to. and i’m sure He will delegate most of that judgment stuff to you since you are clearly qualified..i mean, after all, you DO have a very loving blog dedicated to the judgment of mormons- you might have some insight that He doesn’t have.

  21. amanda says:

    p.s. let me know if you get a call about any of those positions, because obviously, at that point– i will have to concede to your point of view…my salvation is at risk. but until you have that kind of sway with the Almighty, I’ll take my chances being a mormon 😉

  22. amanda says:

    ok, i have to apologize here too…i’m only now just learning the blogosphere rules of engagment…i never blog—so be patient with my slip ups..i will try to stay on topic

  23. rick b says:

    Amanda, You use insult to get your point across, I used the Bible, please try and use scripture to show me my error, other wise you will appear to do the Judging you accuse me of. Rick b

  24. amanda says:

    it’s not judgment, it’s sarcasm. i use it mostly to point out my general disdain for ones’ logic. and i really thought my sarcasm creatively displayed what you actually think of yourself 🙂 that is the only insight you have given me, even if you manage to quote scripture in the midst of it. you’re basically asking me to eat a poop sandwich…yeah, it has whole grain bread, fresh garden tomatoes, green lettuce, my favorite cheese,mayo and even bacon…but it’s still a poop sandwich. no thank you

  25. rick b says:

    So you dont like the Scripture I quote, yet you cannot answer back with scripture and cannot give an honest reply as to what the scripture say, but yet your still correct and I am wrong, you call that logic? Rick b

  26. amanda says:

    i thought it was completely logical to give you an analogy of the poop sandwich. let me give you a detailed anatomy of this sandwich you keep serving me.

    whole grain bread, fresh garden tomatoes, green lettuce, my favorite cheese, mayo and even bacon…are all there to represent the necessary elements in your arguments, such as scripture..i didn’t find it necessary to contend with the fact that you quoted scripture…and you at least pretend to say it nicely…your general understanding of those scriptures isn’t questionable…then we have the POOP which is essentially the bulk of what you have to offer me. your message is what i find undesirable.

    forgive me if i didn’t choose to take this discussion down the bible-bashing route, i don’t believe in using scripture the way you do–calling others to repentance and all that-. i use scripture to call myself to repentance.

  27. rick b says:

    You cannot support your view from scripture, that is why you choose not to use it. Rick b

  28. amanda says:

    yes i can, and i’d be happy to accommodate you. i haven’t in the past because frankly i was too lazy to open like fifty windows on my internet browser because i wasn’t in the mood to PROVE anything…but consider yourself lucky…give me ONE scripture and doctrinal point you want to make, and i will respond with scripture- i think you are worth the effort.

    look forward to it 🙂

  29. Arthur Sido says:

    Amanda (and Rick)

    Pardon me for jumping in here, but this comment was just begging for a response…

    ” i don’t believe in using scripture the way you do–calling others to repentance and all that-. i use scripture to call myself to repentance.”

    Read the Scriptures and you will see that the example provided by the apostles and disciples is constantly one of using the Scriptures to prove a point and calling others to repentance. Your flippant dismissal strikes me as a convenient dodge, rather than engagement with the text. The Scriptures do not mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to someone else. The Word declares common, universal truths regarding God and man. It may prove easier to joust using scatological humor, but the doctrines of the Bible stand in stark contrast to the doctrines of mormonism.

    “1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” Acts 17: 1-3

  30. rick b says:

    Amanda, I agree with Arthur and the scripture he used, You can either reply to that or leave it and reply with scripture to the other topics. The other topics are getting so long I cannot keep up with them all, So I choose to stay on top of the most recent. Rick b

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