The Daily Toreador out of Lubbock, Texas today posted an article intriguingly titled “A lesson on LSD.” The author immediately comes clean:
Oops, sorry for that misprint in the headline. Actually, I’m not sorry. I did it on purpose to get your attention. So now that I have it, what I really wanted to give you was a lesson on LDS, or Latter-day Saints.
What follows is the oft-heard charge that non-Mormons don’t know what Mormonism is, so the journalist, Taryn Chesshire, decided to provide a short lesson. Several points are discussed, but the one that seems to me to be the most germane is the “misconception” that “Mormons aren’t Christian.”
If any of you hold the same misconception, I’d like to ask you the same thing I asked that co-worker: “What is a Christian?”I was under the impression a Christian was someone who believed Jesus was the son of God, he died for men’s salvation and was resurrected three days after his crucifixion to join his father in heaven. Do I have that about right?…
If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do.
Since it’s impossible to know what everyone labeled “Mormon” and everyone labeled “Christian” believes, I think there’s more benefit in discussing the religions instead of the individuals. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume the “Christian” embraces historic, orthodox Christian theology, and the “Mormon” embraces the authoritative teachings of his prophets and apostles. Using this scenario, I take vigorous exception to the statement, “If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do.”
On the face of it, the Mormon and the Christian will both affirm Taryn Chesshire’s statement that Jesus is the Son of God who died for men’s salvation, etc. But anyone who understands the meanings of the words contained in that statement knows Christian/Mormon agreement goes no deeper than the syntax.
On March 12th a new Christian book will hit the bookstore shelves: By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification. Gary L. W. Johnson, adjunct professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has contributed a chapter entitled, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons: What Next?” In this chapter Dr. Johnson discusses LDS Professor Robert Millet’s book, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
One of several doctrines Dr. Johnson addresses is the Christ of Mormonism. He writes,
Millet is unapologetic in his defense of Mormon theology. To begin, he explicitly rejects the cardinal doctrine of the Trinity, candidly admitting that Mormonism believes in “Three distinct Gods” (70) who are “three distinct personages, three Beings, three separate Gods” (141). In layman’s language this is polytheism, pure and simple…Despite Millet’s insistence that his Jesus is the same one that we met in the pages of the New Testament, it is the other Scriptures of Mormonism that define him. This Jesus was born “as we all were, the spirit children of the Father” (20). This Jesus is a spirit brother of Lucifer (21). This Jesus is the Christ of Joseph Smith and is considered absolutely foundational to Mormonism (39). It is conceded that the Christ of “traditional” Christianity and the Christ of Mormonism are very different, and in substantial ways. Why? Because the Christ of orthodox Christianity is rooted in theological creeds, while the Christ of Mormonism “comes from the witness of a prophet — Joseph Smith” (174). Contrary to Millet’s claim that Christ is the central figure in the doctrine and practice of Mormonism (80), Joseph Smith, by his later admission, holds that place of honor (158). In fact, without Joseph Smith, there is no Mormonism (151). The Jesus of Mormonism is distinctively the Christ of Joseph Smith. The two cannot be separated. (By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, 196-198)
This brief look at Mormon Christology clearly exposes the fallacies in “A lesson on LSD.” Our hypothetical Mormon does not believe everything the Christian believes; the two belief systems are really not compatible at all.
While I don’t agree with the theology or conclusions of another LDS author, Joseph Fielding McConkie, I do appreciate his honesty in drawing distinctions between Mormonism and historic Christianity. He calls for public disclosure of the deep doctrinal differences between the two religions. Dr. McConkie writes,
This [First] vision stands as a refutation of the fundamental doctrines of a corrupt Christianity. It destroys the very premises upon which all the creeds of Christendom rest…As Latter-day Saints we must know clearly where we stand. If our message is simply a reworking of key Bible texts for which we have gained some insights that others overlooked, then why not abandon the offensive notion that there was a universal apostasy, or that there is but one true church, and get on with the matter of mending fences with historical Christianity? If, on the other hand, we are serious in testifying that there was indeed an apostasy, that it was universal, that it included the loss of the priesthood and the saving truths of salvation and the knowledge of the very nature of God himself, then we must be prepared to stand alone. …it is not common ground that we seek. We seek sacred ground, and upon that ground we must stand. (Here We Stand, 202-203)
This makes a lot of sense to me. So why is it we find that the vast majority of public comments from Mormons sound like the one in “A lesson on LSD”: “If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do”?
On page 6 of Dr. McConkie’s book he asks a really good question of his fellow Latter-day Saints: “Should we trade our birthright to be thought acceptable by a corrupted form of Christianity?”
I wish the answer would be heard around the world.
I have often imagined what it might be like for Joseph Fielding McConkie to walk into the same room as Robert Millet. Is there tension in the air now?
McConkie is a traditionalist, but Millet is a minimalist. McConkie, like his father, is a bulldog for Mormon orthodoxy. Millet is a neo-orthodox professor who is essentially paid to interface with evangelicals.
Personally I don’t see the conflict. Surely we can understand that there are different personalities, different approaches and different ways to approach the same subject, depending on the objective. I can read McConkie and appreciate that he is stating to an audience of LDS members his opninion that we need to be more clear that there are theological and practicial differences between the LDS church and other Christian denominations. I beleive he is correct. That is not incompatible to Millet’s perspective that we can discuss both the differences and the similarities in our beliefs in a way that is respectful and productive. That doesn’t mean we capitulate our strongly held beliefs, it simply means we respect each other. How long ago was it that Protestant Reformers were the rebels with ideas and doctrines that the mainstream church found offensive and heretical? Do those same Protestants really want to take the role that their progenitors in the faith fought so valiently to escape?
As I live in a world full of people of other Christian demoniations and other religions, I find happiness and productivity in knowing that we have values that we share in common and as we work to celebrate those things we have in common. When we discuss our differences, we do so respectfully and thoughtfully.
As usual, Sharon, I think you have raised your questions in this spirit.
This goes along with what I said to neal and ginger, LDS know what we christians believe, and for the christians who do not know what LDS believe, they do not offer it up in full. Like I said to Neal in a former post, If I were to ask you, do you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, I honestly believe the simple short answer would be Yes.
The rest of A of F 8 would be left off. A friend of mine invited me over last monday so he could talk with some MM’s. My friend knew nothing about them but wanted me their in case they were not honest in their beliefes. About 20 minutes into the talk, my friend asked them about drinking coffee.
The LDS member said to my friend, the Word of Wisdom, forbids us to drink coffee or tea. That was when I opened my mouth and said, No, the WoW says, no hot drinks, you guys define that as coffee or tea, It does not say coffee or tea.
Then the LDS member got mad and said to me, I percive you guys are trying to catch us in our words. I said to him, Be honest, I kept my mouth shut up un-till you were not very honest about the WoW. I notice this kinda decit among mormons way to much, then as Neil said in a round about way, so did these LDS, I had the spirit of contention.
Why is it, LDS cannot be open and honest about what they believe, and when I point it out, it’s my fault and I have a spirit of contention? Rick b
I do not believe that members of the LDS church know what “we” meaning Christians believe. When I was still a member and tried to think about other churches, I had no idea what they taught. For example, I had the ignorant view that baptists spent their entire time preaching and talking about either baptism or bashing the teachings of the LDS church and little else, this is just not the case.
As a child and while still LDS a teacher once told me that the LDS church is like a piano that has all the notes and the entire harmony of the gospel could only be heard from the LDS church and that Christian churches were missing different keys on their pianos some only having white keys and others only black, referencing that they are missing essentials of the gospel. This is not the case.
Of the Christian churches that I have attended: Pentacostal, Baptist, and Calvary Chapel were the foundation is the Bible, the common beliefs hold that there is One God and Faith alone in Jesus saves. It is not that Christian churches are missing keys, they have all the essentials of the gospel. It is the LDS church that add so much more to the gospel that it because a blurr of extra noise that drown out the essentials of the gospel: One Almighty God, One Atoning Cross, One Empy Tomb, and One Authentic Faith.
Neal, in order to celebrate the things we have in common, we must first find out what we have in common. This is what the apostle John meant by testing the spirits (1 John 4:1). I am more than happy to discuss with you respectfully and thoughtfully the differences and commonality of Mormonism and Christianity. If that distinction is offensive to you, then you may change it to LDS and Baptist.
What do you and I have in common about the most important issue of any religion, the nature of God? John 17:3 tells us that eternal life is dependent about what one believes about God. This should be a no brainer. I can’t worship and glorify God if I refuse to believe what he said about himself. And I should not celebrate commonality with someone whose beliefs (no matter how sincere) demean and lower God. For sake of discussion, say my view of God is wrong and yours is right. I would still be morally and intellectually dishonest for discounting our differences and celebrating our common belief that there is a God who should be worshipped. “Celebrate” means “ to commemorate, honor, or praise with happiness.” So for both of us to celebrate the things we have in common, they must be honorable and praiseworthy in both of our minds. For example, someone says my wife is fat, ugly, and reeks of body odor, but he does profess that she is indeed a woman. To that point we agree. I believe my wife is a woman. He believes my wife is a woman. Yet, is it right for me to celebrate this commonality with this individual? If this were an actual scenario, I would question this individual to find out if indeed, we were talking about the same woman. If after careful questioning, I found that he was indeed talking about my wife- well, the celebration of commonality ends quickly and abruptly!
So, let’s discussion our commonalities. What do you believe about the nature of God?
I want to clarify what I mean by, LDS know what I believe.
Twice in my life, I have asked LDS members what do you believe, and twice they said to me, What do you believe, Honestly I cannot believe I fell for this twice, but admit I did.
I would tell them, well as a believer in Christ, I believe Jesus is the only son of God, I believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins, I believe in the trinity, I believe Jesus was and is the eternal God, I believe in the Bible only and I believe in Grace alone no works.
I would give this list, and the two times I did, the LDS would look at me and say, I believe the same thing you do. Now either the LDS are not really LDS if they believe exactly as I do, because this means we cannot be different religions yet believe exactly the same thing, or this means those LDS I spoke with were and are liars.
It was these two times plus all the other experiences that I have encountered that lead me two believe the LDS know what I believe yet do not admited it unless pressed for info.
Just as a side not to go along with this, Twice on this blog, people claiming to be True LDS members have accused the people running this blog to be lying and using decit, When I called them on it, they dissapered never to return and never gave a reply.
Yet when I feel LDS use decit by not fully admiting things and I point it out, I am accused of being a trouble maker and having a spirit of contention. Why the double standerd? Rick b
I am actually with you on this one. I think LDS members are often WAY to defensive and THEY are responsible for causing contention. I have observed this more often with LDS Members who have a weak foundation and feel trapped when they don’t know the answers. I go into most conversations convinced that I probably WON’T have all the answers, so I can listen more, talk less, and spend time outside of the conversation FINDING answers that can lead to another interesting conversation.
I do think, though, that you are a little rigid, Rick. Yes, the Word of Wisdom states the term “hot drinks”. Subsequently, the First Presidency has defined “hot drinks” as “coffee and tea”. This has been so for nearly a hundred years. I don’t think people are trying to be dishonest by now using that definition of “hot drinks” in defining that requirement of the Word of Wisdom.
As for the issue of A F 8 and the Bible. I tend to agree with you on this one but would still cut people a little more slack than I think you are willing to. I understand what you are saying, and because of what you say I intend to be more clear with my answer when asked if I believe in the Bible. I DO think, in fairness, that most LDS people when stating they beleive the Bible are not trying to be dishonest. Many churches use different translations of the Bible, many of which have disagrements, some serious, some less so. a simple question answered simply doesn’t necessarily mean somebody is trying to be dishonest — it may simply mean they are looking for common ground. AGAIN RICK — I TEND TO AGREE WITH YOU ON THIS. I’m just trying to point out that the omission may not be malicious. On the other hand, I am going to try to NOT omit that in the future in order to be more clear. You did teach me something today, Rick. Thanks.
Like you I can admit I dont have all the answers, But I also dont feel I am being to rigid. I understand the Church’s beliefe on defining Hot drinks, But yet to be Honest How hard is it to say Hot drinks verses Coffee and tea?
Then to get mad at me over something that simple is crazy.
Then on the Issue of the Bible, Maybe not every LDS is being dishonest, but still lets be fair here, The BoM does have around 4,000 plus changes in it, Major or minor is not the point, A change is a change, So either both are not translated correcly or both are, But I believe also, malicious or not, it does lead people to believe something you really do not. Thanks for your reply. Rick b
First — Rick B. — valid points all. I think it is silly for anyone to get mad at someone making a point. If we accept the right to BE critical we must also accept the right of others to CRITICIZE us! My foundation of faith is built on the perfection of the Savior and His infinite atonement, which makes it possible for me to accept and understand the imperfections of others — but that is a discussion for another day. In any case, I do agree Rick b, so you have at least one faithful latter-day saint who would backhanded (in a loving, Christian way) anyone for jumping down your throat for pointing out an apparent contradiction of omission.
GREAT analogy. It was to the point and it was also pretty funny. Let me give you a cursory answer and then you and I can fill in the details as we go along. I don’t want to be guilty, as Rick has rightly stated, of omitting things, but I am going to spend time trying to get at some commonality. There will be time enough to disagree later. Agreed? That is the spirit of this post — a general understanding of God, as I see it. A starting point, not a definitive theological dissertation. And this is personal, not academic, so when you disagree with points or want me to expand on one point or another, I will happily do so, also from my heart and soul, not as an academic exercise but an expression of my faith and belief.
I believe that God is the Creator of the Universe and is the literal Father of my soul, and the Father of all people who have been or will live on the earth, making all of mankind my literal brothers and sisters. I believe he is the author of the plan of salvation whereby all of his children may return to Him. I beleive that to make that plan possible, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to inhabit a mortal body. I beleive that Jesus Christ lived a sinless, perfect life, that in all things He did the will of His Father, that He was a teacher of righteous truth, and that happiness and peace are found in living a life consistent with His teachings. More than simply being a teacher of good things, Christ was also Savior of the world, and the only name wherby salvation comes. His atonement in Gethsemane and on the cross and His resurrection from the grave made possible the Father’s plan. He is my Redeemer and nothing that I do on my own could ever reconcile me from my imperfection. Only through His mercy and grace can I return to my Heavenly Father. I believe He will return again as He has promised in clouds of Glory to once again cleanse the earth and will reign in perfect peace.
I believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three seprate beings and that we can see evidence of that at teh baptism of Jesus as Jesus stood in Jordan, the Father announced that He was well pleased from the heavens, and the Holy Ghost alit symbolically in the form of a dove. I believe them to be ONE, not in substance, but in a perfect unity of purpose and power, in the same way WE are commanded to be One — not the same being, nut one in purpose, in faith and in power.
Some of those things we have in common, some we disagree about, but in none of them have I intended to call your wife “fat, ugly, or reeking of body odor” — nor have I intended to offend your belief, faith or understanding of God. I expect i have a lot to learn, so be gentle. I had a marvelous conversation with a Paestinian friend recently as he described his torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers when he was a young boy. In his darkest moments he called out to God and received comfort. He and I have a widely different view of God, but I learned in that moment that as a child of God, reaching out to his Father in a time of need, his Father responded and brought comfort. He and I disagre about many things, but we agree that God is our Father, that He loves His children and will no leave us comfortless. There are a great many more discussions we will have over the years as I work to help him understand the role and importance of Jesus, but for now, we CELEBRATE our love for our Father and for His mercy to His children. That is a start.
PS — Sorry for all the typos. I tend to think faster than my fingers move and if I am in a hurry I don’t take time to reread and fix my mistakes. SORRY! I’ll try to be more careful.
Neal, thanks for your long and thoughtful response. No insinuation was intended in using the illustration about my wife. I’m not sure where you got the idea that I had felt that any of your comments has been an offense to my wife, but I do believe you got the point of the illustration. That’s all it was intended to be. All I am saying is that there is no point in this fictional character and me celebrating commonality if we must stoop to the lowest common denominator to find a point of mutual agreement. In the context of the illustration, I would not be willing to sacrifice my wife’s honor and character for the sake of celebrating commonality with the fictional character in my illustration (i.e., “Let’s celebrate the mutual belief that my wife is indeed a female. Let’s not talk about the fact that you think she is a smelly, overweight slob. That will only bring discord”). Remember, Neal, the “you” here does not refer to you. It refers to the fictional character in my illustration. Well, you offered a lot more information then I ask for. I appreciate you taking time to write your thoughts. But to keep the discussion focused, lets return to the question in my last post, the nature of God. For us to celebrate commonality, we must agree on who God is. To help your response, allow me to pose a few questions. Do you believe that God is an ultimate God? In other words, do you believe there are no other gods beside the God that you worship? I am not just talking about this earth, but the whole universe- all of creation. Do you believe there are any other gods out there? Do you believe that the God whom you worship was once a man and progressed to godhood? Do you believe that the God you worship is a literal offspring of a heavenly Father, which is also a god? Do you believe that the Father of the God you worship was also once a man who worshipped another god (his heavenly father)? Do you believe that the heavenly father you worship has a goddess wife? Do you believe that the God you worship is continually progressing (i.e., growing in knowledge and wisdom, and will continue to do so throughout eternity)? For clarity, I am not seeking to debate or even discuss these points at this time. Which is a point, I think you brought up in your post. My goal in these questions is to see if a commonality of belief about God exists between us to justify mutual celebration. By the way, Neal, don’t take my continual use of your phraseology as an exercise in sarcasm. They are important terms. God is worth celebrating. And he is worth celebrating with other believers (a common belief). Thanks for your time.
First — I wrote my response quickly enough that my use of the metaphor about your wife was clumsy — I understand it was a metaphor and I was trying to use it in the same way, to say “I haven’t meant any offense”. Thanks for your sensitivity there.
I wil take each question separately. The answers I give will be my own — not speaking as a representative of my church, although my beliefs and thoughts have certainly been influenced by the teaching I have received throughout my life. I am not claiming any authority for these answers nor do I believe I know everything. I have tried to be thoughtful, prayerful and studious in coming to these answers, and will do my best to be honest and candid.
You asked “Do you believe that God is an ultimate God? In other words, do you believe there are no other gods beside the God that you worship? I am not just talking about this earth, but the whole universe- all of creation. Do you believe there are any other gods out there?”
My answer — I do believe that God is an ultimate God, but not in the way you have subsequesntly defined “ultimate”. If I could hazard an analogy — My recognition of and love for my parents is based on the fact that they are my parents. They gave me life on earth, they provided for me, cared for me, taught me, prepared me for life, etc. I recognize them for that and love them for that and see them as the only people who provided all of those things for me. I do this in full recognition that other people ALSO have parents. That fact does not diminish my parents or my relationship with my parents at all.
SO, I recognize God as an ultimate God. He is my Heavenly Father, the Father of my spirit, the creator, and all of the other things I mentioned previously. There are no other Gods that I recognize or worship or who I believe have anything to do with my worship, understanding or love of God. In this idea I believe we have commonality and cause to celebrate. In fact, like my analogy, we celebrate because we share this God as a Father and are therefore brothers! That is cause of celebration. I mentioned earlier my Palestinian friend. I feel that he and I, despite some deep and serious divisions in belief, celebrate our united love of God our Father and consider ourselves brothers.
Having said that, I don’t want to dodge your other important question or take us off track. In answering this question I confess I am wandering into territory where I am less familiar, but will, as promised, try to articulate my belief. Even with my limited, finite mind, I can understand that there are concepts such as eternity and infinity that I can’t full comprehend, but can appreciate. As I contemplate the infinite universe, I can comprehend a reality in which there are other Gods with other creations and universes. However, I am still comfortable with my answer that I believe God to be an ultimate God, because he is the only God I worship and who is my Father, just as I can love and revere my parents despite the fact that other people have parents as well. I hope my silly analogy makes sense.
You asked “Do you believe that the God whom you worship was once a man and progressed to godhood? Do you believe that the God you worship is a literal offspring of a heavenly Father, which is also a god? Do you believe that the Father of the God you worship was also once a man who worshipped another god (his heavenly father)? Do you believe that the heavenly father you worship has a goddess wife?”
I answer — Yes. I believe that there is purpose and meaning in the familial pattern that God established on the earth and commanded that we follow. I believe it is an eternal pattern. I do not believe it was an accident that God commanded us from the beginning to be joined together as husbands and wives and in that union commanded us to bring children into the world to be raised in those family units, and that he established that among the greatest joy to be had in all the world was to be found in that union and in those family units. I believe that it is an eternal pattern meant to teach us in all things to become like Him. That is a simple answer to a series of complex questions, but I hope sufficient for our discussion. I confess that contemplating eternity is sometimes a bit mind-boggling, but still important. If I have been incomplete, let me know and I can expound.
You asked “Do you believe that the God you worship is continually progressing (i.e., growing in knowledge and wisdom, and will continue to do so throughout eternity)?”
I answer — Again, the nature of your definition makes me qualify my answer — I believe God to be omniscient — which is to say He has all knowledge of all things in all of eternity, that which has been, that which is and that which is to come. If not, He could “cease to be God”. After all, if there was knowledge that He didn’t possess He could learn something that could destroy His plan — It would no longer be perfect, and neither He. He is perfect, He is omniscient, therefore He cannot “grow in knowledge and wisdom”. He acheived all knowledge and all wisdom. I do however believe in the concpt of eternal progression, and believe that God can grow in glory as His children progress and become “even as He is”.
OK, I’m sure we have some differences in there. I also hope you accept my simple explanations of doctrinal ideas that could consume volumes! I am simply meaning to answer the questions as quickly and simply as I can while still being forthright and candid. I recognize that my answers will likely contain some differences and departures from your beliefs. The goal, as you very articulately stated is “to see if a commonality of belief about God exists between us to justify mutual celebration”.
I’ll tell you that I celebrate that with all of the crap and hard and bad things happening in a wicked world, we can have such a conversation that is, to me, uplifting, edifying, faith confirming, interesting, and focused on important, eternal truths. Thanks for staying engaged.
Neal, let’s return to the original discussion of this thread. Sharon wrote, “So why is it we find that the vast majority of public comments from Mormons sound like the one in “A lesson on LSD”: “If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do”? My purpose in asking you about your beliefs concerning the nature of God was to address this issue. Also, my desire was to see if we have enough in common to fellowship, or “celebrate” a commonality, as brothers in Christ, or as sons of God. My first observation about your response is that is was not as simple as it could have been. It was far more complex than it needed to be. Let me illustrate. If you were to ask me the same questions that I asked you, I would have responded as follows, “Do you believe that God is an ultimate God? YES! Do you believe there are no other gods beside the God that you worship? YES! Do you believe there are any other gods out there? NO! Do you believe that the God whom you worship was once a man and progressed to godhood? NO! Do you believe that the God you worship is a literal offspring of a heavenly Father, which is also a god? NO! Do you believe that the Father of the God you worship was also once a man who worshipped another god (his heavenly father)? NO! Do you believe that the heavenly father you worship has a goddess wife? NO! Do you believe that the God you worship is continually progressing? NO! So, do we have any commonality whereby we can celebrate God? Can we fellowship as brothers in Christ? We do not agree on even one of the above points about God. Your god is completely different than mine! Even concerning the issue of a heavenly father. I do not believe that He is my literal father (i.e., had physical relations with a goddess wife and sired me as a spirit child). So, to be true to my beliefs, I cannot, and should not stoop to the lowest common denominator to celebrate commonality in our beliefs. In fact, if I truly celebrate my belief of God, then I must repudiate yours because it is diametrically opposed to what I believe. Some of this may sound harsh to you, but it is important for you to realize the gravity of our differences.
Now, Neal, I am not attempting to debate you, I am just trying to point out that my beliefs as a Christian and yours as a Mormon are very, very different (may I be so bold as to say, irreconcilably different). My second observation is that you need to be careful in your use of terms. I realize that to a certain degree terms must be defined, but if everyone has a unique, personal definition of terms, then communication becomes meaningless. You claim to have an ultimate God, and to your credit you defined what you meant. But the question remains, are you being misleading by using the term “ultimate” in your definition of your god? The accepted meaning of ultimate is “greatest, highest possible; maximum, utmost, impossible to surpass.” Even by your own definition you are not using the term correctly. Your parents may be your only parents and the only parents whom you honor and obey, but that does not even make them your ultimate parents. Grammatically, that is a misuse of vocabulary. Allow me to share an illustration. I ask a person if his parents are dogs. He responds, “Yes.” I ask him to explain. He says that his parents are warm, friendly, loyal, meat lovers, and protective, so to him, they are dogs. Now, all these things are true of both dogs and parents, but this man’s desire to agree with me has turned vocabulary on its head. Before you think my illustration is too absurd, consider Bill Clinton’s definition of terms during his deposition concerning the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He claimed that his definition of sex was different than the prosecutor’s definition of sex; therefore he didn’t consider himself misleading when he said he didn’t have sex with his intern. Neal, even by your own definition it is incorrect to say that the god you worship is ultimate to you. If you truly believed this, you would not also believe that there were any other gods, period! It doesn’t matter if you believe, as you say, “there are no other Gods that I recognize or worship or who I believe have anything to do with my worship, understanding or love of God.” The fact that you tacitly acknowledge the existence of a father and grandfather of your god, who by the very nature of your theology, must be more advanced than your god, nullifies the meaning of “ultimate”. I am not asking you if you recognize or worship any other gods. I am asking you if you believe any exist. When you say that to you, the god you worship is an ultimate god, then by the very definition of the word, you are saying that he is higher than his heavenly father and his heavenly grandfather. What you are in essence saying is that you believe that your god is an ultimate god to you, yet you acknowledge there are other gods that are greater than he is. That very admission does not allow you to claim the term “ultimate” for your god! If you believe, as LDS theology teaches, that the god you worship has a heavenly father and his father a father ad infinitum through eternity past, and they are all eternally progressing, then even by your own definition you do not believe in an ultimate god. You cannot believe that the god you presently worship at one time in the past had a heavenly father whom he worshipped and still claim your god to be an ultimate god. To do so guts the word ultimate of any meaning. Granted, that in no way diminishes your love and loyalty to your god, but that does not make him ultimate even by your definition.
So, in conclusion, I agree with Sharon that there is a concerted effort to couch Mormon theology to make it more palatable to mainstream Christianity. That was the point of her original article in this thread, and with all due respect, your responses have born this out. In my 18-year association with Mormon missionaries I have experienced this same misleading use of terms. Several previous bloggers have mentioned AF 8. To the average Christian this means that there may be potential (although miniscule) errors in the translation of the Bible from the original languages to the receptor language. To a Mormon this means that the Bible has many errors in every translation because of the loss of major portions of the original, and is therefore not as reliable as their inspired works. AF 8 is written in such a way as to appease both sides. In other words, it is an equivocal statement. And as long as no one asks any questions, or does not know the correct question to ask, the misconception continues to the benefit of the Mormon Church.
As I study the history of the LDS, I see a church that took up arms to defend their unique beliefs. Today I see a church that has shelved these same beliefs to gain respectability among their Christian neighbors. The Bible states “by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing… 2 Corinthians 4:2,3. The success of true Christianity depends upon its open and straightforward proclamation of the truth. Whenever Christians have “watered down” the Gospel, or made it more palatable so as not to offend, it has fostered anemic, dead, and ultimately false Christianity. Am I right to assume that the success of the Mormon gospel depends upon a certain veiling of the fullness of that gospel so as to win converts? One has to question the great effort of Mormonism, especially in this century, to “veil” their core beliefs (i.e,, the fullness of the Gospel) so as to palliate potential converts.
Thanks for the response — I was hoping to see something from you. I answered with completeness because I didn’t want to be accused of hiding my beliefs or not showing completely how they may differ from yours. Had I defined the terms, YOU would have been required to answer in a more complex manner. Your answers are short and to the point because THEY WERE OUR QUESTIONS! Definitions ARE Important. IT is completely unfair to compare my answer to Bill Clinton who gave his convoluted answers to defend a lie. I gave my answers and definitions to explain to you how I felt in an honest answer to an honest question. You set the questions up, knowing how I would HAVE to answer if I were honest. If I had answered as simply as you did, you would have called me a liar. You asked for my beliefs, I gave them to you.
Further, in the early history of the Church you will agree that the vast majority of people would have considered themselves Christian and most even somewhat religious. We live in a very different time. We are surrounded by a culture of secular, humanist, athiest, immoral teaching that pervades our news media and our entertainment and increasingly, our classrooms. Do you really find it so offensive that we say “Fellow Christians, we share a belief in morality, in family, in prayer and in the reality of a living God. We share a belief in the sanctity of life and the importance of chastity and morality. There is much that brings us together, despite doctrinal differences which separate us.” If you sense a desire in members of the LDS Church to draw closer to others who share some core beliefs it is because we believe that together we can make a difference in an increasingly wicked world. There is a time and a place for our doctrinal disagreements, but we ought to unite in our efforts to stem the tide of evil.
Yes, my response was a little delayed. I had several projects that I had to kick up to the top of my priority list. I’m a little confused by the point you are trying to make at the onset of your response. I gave you a sample of how I would have answered had the same questions I gave you been posed to me. What definition is needed? These are straightforward questions that could be clearly answered with simple yes/no responses. Also, how was I setting you up with my questions so that I could call you a liar? I know what Mormons believe. So, when I asked you if God had a heavenly father who he worshipped as God, I was hoping you would simply say yes. Where is the baiting or “set up” in that? My point is, this is what you believe. So why don’t you just say so? I would have been perfectly content with a “yes” answer. In fact, by doing so you would have proven me wrong by showing that Mormons are straightforward in sharing the Fullness of the Gospel. Yes, definitions ARE important. That was my whole point. You redefined “ultimate” to mean something that it is not, as you also did with the terms omniscience and eternal. How can a god be omniscient and eternal, if at one time he did not exist, lived as a man with all of his mortal frailty and ignorance, and then became a god? Your own prophet said, “I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea…” (Teachings of Joseph Smith, pp. 345-347). He also stated “there is a God above the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that he had a Father also?” (Ibid., pp. 370-374). Yet, as I peruse McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, the terms “From everlasting to everlasting, eternal, no beginning, God of gods, Eternal Father, etc., are freely used. All I am trying to point out, Neal, is that using terms because they are accepted as meaning one thing to a group of people, even though they mean something totally different to you, is equivocation.
Concerning the Bill Clinton illustration, remember, we were not talking about immorality or personal character. It is a perfect illustration of turning vocabulary on its head. That was my point. Learn to glean the kernel of truth and not be sidetracked. I was not referring to morals or motives. I was referring to Clinton’s profound abuse of the meaning of words. Sex means sex. To say it all depends on the definition is ludicrous. Ultimate means ultimate. Your use of it in defining your god is unwarranted and misleading. That was the only point I meant for you to take away from the illustration. If you are still offended by the Bill Clinton illustration; perhaps this one would set well with you. A Mormon missionary accused me of passing out a booklet filled with lies about Mormonism. I worked through the booklet point by point. The missionary admitted that everything written was true. I then asked him why he said it was filled with lies. “Well, because it isn’t authoritative.” So is a lie a lie because it is untrue, or because it is not authoritative (i.e., hasn’t been authorized by the LDS presidency)? Once again, this is standing vocabulary on its head.
I really don’t know what else I can say. Fellow Christian? Same core beliefs? As I have already said, we have nothing in common but hollow terms about the highest of beliefs, the nature of God. I stand corrected, you believe in a living God and I believe in a living God, but sadly, that could be claimed by nearly every existing religion on the face of this planet. Yes, Neal, I agree with you that this world is becoming increasingly wicked and immoral, but is not the greater wickedness in providing a false cure for such wickedness? In Jeremiah 17:9 God claims that man’s heart is masterfully deceptive and incurably wicked. The greatest evil is claiming a cure for this wickedness other than the ONE prescribed by God. No world wickedness will be eradicated until wickedness is eradicated from the heart by the blood of Christ through faith alone. God said that anyone who preaches any other gospel than the only one given by God is “anathema” (cursed, devoted to the direst of woes). Only God has the authority to curse, so this is clearly God’s view of one who has the wrong view of Him, and the wrong view of His salvation. Again, you claim to be right. I claim to be right. Yet, our views are profoundly different. Would God be honored if we set aside the only cure for world wickedness to fight its symptoms?
Thanks Eric — I have learned a good lesson. I need to answer one person at a time. Rick B was earlier bent way out of shape because he felt the Mormons he had spoken too were dishonest because they answered questions too simply in order to try to conform, so I tried my best to answer your questions in a way that were complete and explained where there might be the need for some some contextual clarification. I now know that in responding to you I need simply stick to yes and no. I was mistaken in believing the point of htese conversations was to gain understanding and insight. This site is apparently intended to allow people insight into these bloggers criticisms of the LDS Church, it’s teachings, culture, practices and people. That is interesting to me. I have felt it might also be interesting for people to hear a response from time to time from someone who considers themself a faithful member of the LDS Church but who is willing to engage in dialogue. That was the point of my being clear about definition, context, etc. I understand that we disagre — otherwise there would be no point in the dialogue, no point of the whole site. I’m trying NOT to persuade, but to give understanding as to why I believe what I believe. That was my disagrement with your Bill Clinton analogy. I’m not trying to explain away anything — only allow you a chance to understand how and why we might differ. I’m not on trial trying to justify my belief or behavior. You asked me a question of my belief and I wanted to give you the fullest explanation I could — not to persuade you that I am right and you are wrong, but to have a solid basis of understanding how we differ and why. I get that you are uninterested in that and will move on to more fruitful dialoge. I have enjoyed this though!
Neal, I am reading what you and Eric the red write, I follow every reply. I am glad your being honest and giving a fuller answer to your replys. Let me add this, I believe if someone like me or sharon or eric knows the defenation behind the LDS terms, a simple yes or no, like Eric asked for is fine. If it is a somewhat private talk, as private as it can be when it is open to everyone reading it.
But my point is this, when a new topic is started by Sharon or anyone of the others who post topics ask questions, and the LDS are vague in what they believe, I believe that is being dishonest. You yourself admited to a point that, in my example of the A of F 8, LDS only go so far in talking about that. rick b
Sorry, Neal, esoteric definitions and diversionary explanations are not my idea of clearly defined beliefs. I’m only trying to help you be more clear and straightforward in the presentation of Mormon doctrine. I thought my quotes of Joseph’s Smith’s teaching did a good job of helping towards that goal. To a person who doesn’t have a background in your beliefs, your answers were, whether intentionally or not, misleading. I gave an illustration of such misleading statements in my reference to AF 8.
You stated that your goal in our dialogue was “to have a solid basis of understanding how we differ and why.” Goodness, Neal, who was the one that kept crying for celebration of common belief and working together as brothers in Christ? Who was the one who kept trying to downplay difference? My whole point was to show you that Mormonism is so diametrically opposed to Christianity; we could never claim to be brothers in Christ.
If you want to claim the moral high ground and say that I am uninterested in discussing difference, fine. Reminds me of a recent conversation I had with two Mormon missionaries. About 30 minutes into the conversation, one of them blurted out, “This conversation is done. I get the impression that the only reason you are talking to us is to prove us wrong.” I do pray that our interchange will open your eyes to some of the inconsistencies in your beliefs, and to the God of the Bible.