On January 25th (2010) LDS Seventy Bruce C. Hafen spoke at the University of Utah during a fireside for young adults. Though I didn’t agree with everything, I found some of Mr. Hafen’s remarks (as reported in Mormon Times) to be quite refreshing. For instance,
“Faithful questioning is a hallmark of a searching soul, he said…”
I don’t know what Mr. Hafen meant by “faithful” questioning, but I agree with his implication that spiritual questioning is a good thing. Mr. Hafen goes on to qualify his remark by excluding information found on the Internet that is critical of Mormonism, suggesting that searching souls have no way of knowing whether the arguments presented have “already been discredited” or “addressed by Mormon scholars and leaders.” On this I disagree. In my experience, a searching soul will usually find both sides of an argument on the Internet quite readily.
Mr. Hafen, using a mountain metaphor, reportedly conveyed,
“Other ‘mountains’ in the gospel are the doctrines of premortal life and eternal nature of the soul, the Mormon rejection of original sin and the hallowed, the nature of the Godhead, and the elevated way the church views Eve.
“These are not ‘picky, theological details,’ he said, ‘they are life-giving differences.'”
To which I heartily assent. I like the way Christian pastor and author A.W. Tozer conveyed a similar idea:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
“For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 1)
Mr. Hafen’s talk continued, according to the Mormon Times report,
“When a person considers how unique the church’s understanding of core doctrine differs drastically from the rest of Christianity, ‘It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that other Christian churches don’t know quite what to do with us.'”
Thank you, Mr. Hafen. Again we agree. Core Mormon doctrines differ drastically from historic (and I would say biblical) Christianity. These are nothing less than “life-giving” or eternal-death-inducing differences; it is extremely important to know under which category these doctrines fall.
So I agree with some of what Mr. Hafen says above, but I disagree with his suggestion that the Christian church doesn’t know quite what to do with Mormonism. Long before Mormonism ever appeared on the scene Martin Luther wrote,
“I am not permitted to let my love be so merciful as to tolerate and endure false doctrine. When faith and doctrine are concerned and endangered, neither love nor patience are in order…when these are concerned, neither toleration nor mercy are in order, but only anger, dispute, and destruction–to be sure, only with the Word of God as our weapon.”
Indeed, “It is a plain Scriptural duty to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints'” (J.C. Ryle, quoting Jude 3). Let searching souls observe and study the battle. When ready, with armor on, let them enter into the fray (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.