My LDS neighbor, a very kind man, was excited about inviting me to an ecumenical Christmas celebration held at his local stake center, so I decided to attend the Sunday night service. For the past seven years, the choirs from the local Mormon stake in my area and a Christian church down the street alternate church sites to sing songs such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Holy Night,” and Handel’s “For unto Us a Child is Born.” While some songs involve the congregation, for the most part, the two choirs take turns with their musical pieces; several times they combine their forces, producing a harmonious 50-member choir.
Halfway through the hour and a half presentation, the stake president gave a 15-minute “Christmas message” that was more benign than I had expected. He related stories about two of his favorite Christmas composers, Handel (musical) and Dickens (literary). The sermon he read was well done, of which there is no doubt. He kept it simple with a feel-good Christmas message. Overall, the entire production was excellent. Next year, the service will be at the Christian church, and the Christian pastor will give the Christmas message when the tradition continues.
Unless a person was paying close attention, this very well could have been a typical Christmas choir presentation performed in any Christian church. So why did I feel uncomfortable during the entire performance?
The apostle John wrote the following, beginning in verse 7:
“Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.”
He added in verses 10 and 11:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”
These are pretty tough words from the apostle, but his concern was in not allowing teachers with differing doctrinal perspectives to take a position of leadership at the house church where Christians gathered for worship. Relating that to the ecumenical service I attended, I wonder how many from the Christian church had their possible concerns about Mormonism desensitized. With nary a mention of “LDS,” “Mormon,” “Joseph Smith,” or “Thomas S. Monson,” the LDS musical director and two stake presidents who spoke limited their scriptural references to the Bible. Even the prayer at the beginning of the service referred to “unity” and “being one” as noble endeavors the two churches were pursuing in the spirit of Christmas. It would have been natural for the Christians to have been impressed with the beautiful building, harmonious singing, and eloquent message.
Besides possibly confusing the Christians from this very liberal denominational church, how many Latter-day Saints in the audience could be equally befuddled? Salt and light is diminished when hands are clasped in a scene of “unity.” With the differences being minimized, the Mormons in the audience may have felt good about themselves and their faith. Desensitization to the true Gospel message is a real potential, especially if the mainly LDS audience walked away from the service assuming that Christians must believe Mormonism is “Christian.” “Otherwise,” they might reason, “why did they join with us in a worship service?”
As we were filing out of the sanctuary, my neighbor’s family eagerly asked what I thought about the presentation. I was disarmed. By trying to explain all of the above, I knew that this would have made me out to be Scrooge and possibly ruined my relationship with them while, really, accomplishing very little. I didn’t feel that this was the time or the place to bear my disagreement or introduce a gospel message. Instead of ruining their time with punch and cake, I said nothing more than, “They sang very nicely.” I walked away to my car, not particularly liking my answer.
I understand that it’s Christmas, a wonderful time for friends, families, and loved ones to come together. I am just uncomfortable that a local Christian church was willing to compromise the fellowship of the believer by uniting a religious service with an organization that, once you get past the surface, disagrees with the major fundamentals of the historic Christian church. By doing this, I see only flashing lights—blinking, blinking, blinking—in front of the railroad tracks. Ignoring these signals can produce nothing positive and instead will lead to disastrous consequences.