“Picky, theological details”

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.


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.
This entry was posted in Truth, Honesty, Prayer, and Inquiry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “Picky, theological details”

  1. Sharon,

    Normally the denial of original sin has to do with rejecting the idea that Adam acted as our head in any kind of way and that the human soul is untainted by the curse. Mormons take things even a step further and reject the idea that even Adam himself sinned. It was a “transgression”; next to one’s view of God, one’s view of man is a spiritual biggies that is formative in a persons life.

    I do have to get “picky” with at the least your wording. Even though I love the sound of the phrase “eternal-death-inducing differences”, I would not state (me maybe you would) that false belief induces spiritual death; false beliefs merely keep one from the real antidote. Before spiritual regeneration, all men are dying.

  2. falcon says:

    Mormons face a lot of problems in holding on to their “testimony” in light of all of the evidence that Mormonism is not a restored gospel but the invention of a religious entrepreneur, Joseph Smith. I would say this fireside chat is a sort of preemptive strike because of all of the information about Mormonism that is available on the internet. There is a malady within Mormonism known as “shaken faith syndrome”. This happens when the naive Mormon starts questioning and finds out that Joseph Smith and Mormonism isn’t quite what its been portrayed as being by the LDS church.
    So what’s a Mormon to do when experiencing shaken faith syndrome. Denial just goes so far and so the information has to be dismissed as unimportant. The “faith merit badge” is earned in Mormonism when someone can say, “I learned about all of that a long time ago and it hasn’t effected my testimony one bit.” The heart of the matter is the desire to believe something in light of the fact that it’s all false.
    Mormonism is facing a critical juncture in its history, especially in places other than third world countries where information is not so readily available. Two-thirds of those on the rolls are inactive. Returning missionaries are walking away from Mormonism at an alarming rate. At a certain point, the preponderance and weight of the evidence is so strong that an emotion driven “testimony” can no longer maintain faith in what is obviously a false and deceptive religious system.
    When I listened to John Dehlin’s presentation on Mormon Matters dealing with “Why people leave the LDS Church” I sensed a real desperation in his plea that “Even though all these things/evidence is correct, it doesn’t mean the church isn’t true.” I thought, “What!?” That’s like a woman who catches her husband cheating with another woman and the husband says, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
    Mormonism is in a bind and therefore psychological pressure of guilt, fear and intimidation are employed to keep the doubters in the fold. That and a few “all better now” comfy blanket mottos serve to keep some in the program.

  3. “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.’”

    How can Hafen say that and yet be a part of a religion that insists that we treat Mormonism as a fellow Christian denomination, as well as insists that Mormonism only “adds to” the existing beliefs of Christians? They want to have their cake and eat it to.

  4. David, a general theme of the Bible is that sin leads to death. At the Fall, humanity died, but the dead spiritual state leads to even deeper eternal death. Death is like an ugly flower that most fully blooms in hell.

    “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

    Hence, we ought to be able to speak of spiritual death in multiple ways.

    Grace and peace in Christ!


  5. Aaron,

    I hear you on that. I was just being “picky” 🙂

  6. falcon says:

    Mormons who are locked into the system, can’t leave. In their minds, Mormonism holds the key to their salvation. As a Christian, I don’t have to hold membership in a church organization. My salvation is complete in Jesus Christ. No denomination can add anything to what Christ purchased for me by His death on the Cross. As a Christian, I recognize clearly who God is and what He did for me through His Son Jesus Christ. Mormonism is a man-made organization, despite all its claims to the contrary. When Mormons see through the lies and deceit that is perpetuated by the organization, they are on the road to being set free and fear no longer has a hold on them. That’s why sincere questioning, will lead a person out of Mormonism and into the arms of Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.
    Mormonism holds nothing in its repetition of meaningless rituals that have no value in God’s plan of salvation.
    If a Mormon gets disenchanted with Mormonism as an organization, it’s a short trip out the door. Generally this is what causes Mormons to begin asking questions. Once they see the “prophet” and the “GAs” as having feet of clay, the loss of confidence can have the effect of them putting their faith and trust in Christ. The result is eternal life.

  7. Nice to see Aaron “in” on the posts. I guess the MO here is usually that when Aaron posts an article, he generally stays out of the ensuing discussion.

    I’d like to ask Aaron to stick around because I like his company, but I feel like I’m asking someone to “take a seat” in his own house (LOL).

  8. …seriously,

    Aaron makes a good point.

    When Mr Hafen states “other Christian churches don’t know quite what to do with us.”, what rock has he been living under all these years?

  9. jackg says:


    Your take on this subject is spot on. I loved your comments.

    What Hafen is doing is merely reinforcing the programming that has already taken place through years of indoctrination. Mormons are leaving the Mormon Church, and the “brethren” need to get a handle on it.

    I think “faithful” questioning means ask your bishop and your stake president and other leaders. Read your BOM more, and ask the Mormon god (who really doesn’t exist). It definitely doesn’t mean to read scholarly studies or sound biblical exegesis or research online. That’s the unfaithful road to apostasty. It’s all about control.


  10. mossface says:

    The questioning issue is a really, really sticky wicket for the church, and one of the things I find most distasteful about LDS thought now. I agree with jackg that acceptable questioning within the church is questioning which starts from the assumption that the church has the answers. I guess I would argue that “faithful” questioning is questioning that presupposes faith in the thing being questioned. In other words, it’s not questioning so much as seeking confirmation of established beliefs.

    I would assert that there is no room for open (or “faithless”) questioning in Mormonism, and that’s a very telling state of affairs. Fact will stand up to scrutiny. Period. If the church was factual (BoM events literally happened, etc.), there would be no need for this paranoia about seeking outside approved church sources for info. Information control on that level smacks of a cultish organization.

    I think there is room within most mainstream flavors of Christianity for plenty of open questioning, and that’s consistent with an intellectually healthy outlook. Individuals, or even individual churches may take a more dogmatic approach, but the greater Christian diaspora is quite a diverse place, intellectually. There’s room for all types.

  11. falcon says:

    I don’t see a whole lot of control, at the level we see in Mormonism, in Christian denominations. There are some control freak behavior in certain groups, but if someone doesn’t like it, they can leave. I don’t know how accurate the reports are but we hear of people being hounded and some other negative behavior being directed at folks when they leave Mormonism. I was raised Catholic, was told it was the true church and if you left you were hell bound. Interestingly enough, folks within other Christian denominations were not thought of suffering the same fate. I left the Catholic church at the age of twenty and no one in the hierarchy of the Church even knew I left. My family did, of course, and it was a problem for my mother, especially when I didn’t get married in the Church, but she got over it. Eventually I worked my way through my heathen stage and became a Christian.
    The point is that I don’t belong to a religious group. I’m free to question whatever I want and explore all sorts of theological issues, study the history of the faith and pursue my religious interests without any restrictions or sanctions. If I want to attend a religious service, I do. If I don’t want to, I don’t. I love the freedom I have as a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m not saying that others follow the way I work out my faith in Christ, but I know my hope is in Him.
    Mormons have their own form of religious expression and to me it’s pretty bleak! They are putting their faith in a system that can do absolutely nothing for them. The system wasn’t “revealed” by God, it was developed by a man/men and it appeals to man’s vain ambitions. Mormons could save themselves a whole lot of time, trouble and money if they asked a few simple questions and sincerely sought answers. Mormonism doesn’t provide a pathway to God. It provides people with false hope and false promises. Mormonism cannot deliver what it professes, because what it professes isn’t a gospel but a form of religion.

  12. setfree says:

    terrific observation mossface, and true!

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