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Why do we work?

February 6, 2010

One of the areas of most disagreement between traditional Christianity and Mormonism is the conflict over grace and works. The divergence in views is complicated by the misrepresentation of both camps of the other’s belief system. Many Christians have complicated the issue by misrepresenting Mormon teaching. Mormons do not teach “works only.” Neither do they ignore the role of grace or faith. These are essential Mormon doctrines. Stephen Robinson states it thusly:

But only at this point, when we finally realize our inability to perfect and save ourselves, when we finally realize our truly desperate situation here in mortality and our need to be saved from it by some outside intervention—only then can we fully appreciate the One who comes to save (Believing Christ, 1992, p. 33).

Both groups of people could agree on this statement without reservation. We are unable to save ourselves. Our works are not sufficient to reach God’s standard.

Sola fida?

The question isn’t whether or not Mormons believe in grace or faith, it is whether or not salvation is by sola fida—faith alone. This is the gray area of disagreement and is represented well again by Robinson:

In the new covenant of faith, perfect innocence is still required, but it is required of the team or partnership of Christ-and-me, rather than of me alone. Because Christ and I are one in the gospel covenant, God accepts our combined total worthiness, and together Christ and I are perfectly worthy.  As a result, in Christ I am clean and worthy today. My individual perfect performance remains a long-term personal goal and will be the eventual outcome of the covenant relationship, but it is not a prerequisite to being justified in the short run by faith in Christ” (pp. 43-44).

Robinson seems to be saying that some good-faith effort is necessary to join together with Christ in a relationship. It is a joint effort towards salvation; man puts forth everything that he has, and God picks up the rest of the tab. Robinson pictures the Savior saying this to us, “You do everything you can do, and I’ll do what you can’t yet do. Between the two of us, we’ll have it all covered. You will be one hundred percent justified” (p. 33).

I deeply respect the work that Mormons perform for their church. Many of my coworkers are involved in high levels in their wards and stakes. They are somehow able to accomplish being bishops, relief society presidents, bishop’s councilors and secretaries and yet also carry on full-time work and maintain a relationship with their family. Thousands of young men and women take time off in their college years to serve their church away from home on missions. Weekly church attendance, maintaining covenants made in the temple, abstaining from certain drinks, preserving a lifestyle in accordance with the gospel, generous financial giving—these are all traits of active Mormons. These behaviors spring out of a doctrinal foundation.

29 And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
30 And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true;
31 And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.
32 But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God;
33 Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation;
34 Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also (D&C 20).

Enduring to the end in the covenant relationship is an integral part of Mormon belief .

Which works?

While Non-LDS Christians strongly believe that works are an example of faith in Christ, we might disagree with Mormons on the actual definition of those works. James’ epistle is an example of this. Writing to his Christian brethren, James specifically mentions their already present faith, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:3). He wasn’t going against the Pauline doctrine of salvation by faith apart from works (Rom. 4:5), but rather was commanding the Jewish believers to show their faith by their works. James clarifies what those works were. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27).

What comes to mind when you think of works? Would we have the same definition of works as James? He devotes one section to loving one another (ch. 2:1-13), another to controlling the tongue (ch. 3), and another section to chastisement against worldliness (ch. 4). A recurring theme in James is a caution towards the wealthy (ch. 5:1-6). He doesn’t speak of the ordinances or restrictions that we typically might associate with the term works.

Why work?

Here is the question that I have for Mormon readers. Why do traditional Christians do good works? If non-LDS Christians believe that salvation is by faith alone, apart from works, what reason do they have for doing good works? Since I believe that my salvation is secure and I will be instantly in the presence of the Father when I die, why on earth would I spend my life doing good works? Why hasn’t “easy believism” caused me to engage in all sorts of sinful activity, decreased my church attendance, eliminated my charitable giving, and eradicated my desire to study the Bible and pray?  The answer to this is simple. An inward change results in outward actions. A real relationship with Jesus necessitates a desire to be in fellowship with Him, to follow Him, to serve Him, to work for Him.

Why do you work?

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129 Comments leave one →
  1. The Red Dart permalink
    February 7, 2010 12:03 am

    My brother from another color took a stab at some of these issues yesterday:

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2010/02/discussion-and-implications-of-the-new-perspectives-on-paul-npp/

    Best,

    TRD

  2. The Red Dart permalink
    February 7, 2010 12:25 am

    Also, I have said this before, but I will say it again here: I think that Blake Ostler’s three volumes of Exploring Mormon Thought are the most significant works on LDS philosophical theology ever written. They really are ground-breaking, and I think anyone who wants to take Mormonism seriously (and be taken seriously) should read these volumes. His second volume deals with soteriology, and his treatment is very interesting. He is far more interesting to read than Stephen Robinson, in my judgment.

    Best,

    TRD

  3. February 7, 2010 1:36 am

    TRD,

    I’ve discovered your real alter ego–its not The Yellow Dart or The Green Dart. You are Blake Ostler!! Your secret is out! Enough self-promotion already. 🙂

    On a more serious note, it is unfortunate that you find that I can’t be taken seriously unless I’ve read a particular book or set of books. What if I were to suggest to you that I couldn’t take you seriously unless you had read, say, all of Matthew Henry’s commentary? Or Lewis Sperry Chafer’s 8 volume Systematic Theology? Or the complete works of Jane Austen? [Ask Seth if you just want the abridged version–he’s got most of the story lines and characters down pretty well.]

    I’ll be honest, the reason that I read Robinson wasn’t because I really wanted a particular insight into the way “all Mormon’s think.” It was because a Mormon suggested that I read his books. So I did. It really is that simple. I can understand what you are trying to say — basically that Robinson doesn’t represent all Mormons. I totally get that. But he is a professor from BYU who publishes his works through Deseret Book. I think he represents mainline Mormonism fairly well.

    I’m sorry to have not represented your views in this post. I was trying to get at what most LDS believe, although I am well aware of the individuality of each person’s faith. I had hoped that we could discuss our personal motivations and thoughts on the concept of works and I think that this can be done without the outside influences of Ostler or Robinson.

    Steph

  4. February 7, 2010 1:37 am

    Great post, Stephanie!

    TRD, in your experience has the average active non-internet Mormon ever even heard of Blake Ostler? I’m asking because my experience has said no.

  5. February 7, 2010 6:15 am

    All we internet Mormons would like from people is that they haven’t refuted or even challenged “Mormonism.” Only a specific flavor of it.

    A popular flavor – yes. But just a flavor.

  6. February 7, 2010 6:17 am

    “acknowledgment”

    We would “like an acknowledgment” is what I meant to write.

  7. The Red Dart permalink
    February 7, 2010 1:44 pm

    Stephanie and Jessica,

    When I dig into other persons faith tradition, and especially when I make critiques or criticisms of it, I try and read it’s most serious thinkers (preferably in their original languages if possible) and to engage it’s strongest representations and arguments (even when those authors and their views aren’t known by all of that faith tradition’s lay adherents)–that’s what I am suggesting here. I just assume (perhaps incorrectly) that other’s try and do the same. Mormonism is a fairly young tradition, and you have the great fortune of having access to its primary and secondary sources in your native language (well, for the most part anyway). If no one has recommended Blake’s works to you before me, than mea culpa. It was merely my assumption (perhaps unfounded) that you would have heard of his books and/or articles through FARMS, FAIR, Sunstone, or Dialogue, especially since he has been engaged specifically in Mormon-Evangelical dialogue for more than a decade and a half. In fact, he even wrote a review of How Wide the Divide in the FARMS Review(volume 11, issue 2 if I recall correctly), along with a number of other reviews of that work in the same volume (including Mosser and Owens). He has even been invited to speak at BIOLA (more than once), and his works are also the subject of serious discussion in a number of contributions to the New Mormon Challenge and elsewhere.

    Now, I will frankly admit that I don’t know much about what average Mormon reads. Probably Harry Potter and Twilight, for all I know. Now, Stephen Robinson is perhaps more “popular” than Blake Ostler, perhaps not least because he writes much less densely and doesn’t engage the breadth and depth of issues that Blake does. Moreover, his views are probably more congenial with those who govern Deseret Book. It is worth noting, however, that the FARMS Review has said essentially the same thing as me regarding Blake’s series, and I think most Mormons are probably fairly comfortable with FARMS (and FAIR) and their views, especially when dealing with more complex and thorny issues. As for my experience, Jessica, I do know “non-internet Mormons” who have heard of Blake and read (at least portions) of his books and/or articles. I might as well mention here that Blake has taught at BYU before as well (usually advanced philosophy courses), since you seem to think that is quite significant for S. Robinson. I don’t know what that anecdotal evidence is worth, but there it is. Finally, having discussed Robinson’s works with other Mormons, I would say additionally that just because they have read them doesn’t mean they fully grasp them, especially in their details, because they “quick reads.”

    Now, perhaps I should have said “more seriously,” but I am happy to note, however, that you did catch my more important point, which Seth emphasizes: Mormonism is not monolithic.

    Best wishes,

    TRD

  8. February 7, 2010 5:58 pm

    I know that Clean Cut recommend How Wide the Divide to Jessica earlier last year. I also recommend HWD not only for the charitable manner but also because Craig Blomberg asked Stephen Robinson about many passages in Believing Christ. (see for example, p. 181). Robinson notes that Believing Christ “was meant to be a popular book using LDS language for LDS readers, not a work of theological precision using Evangelical terms for Evangelical readers.” (p. 158). This does not mean that when Robinson engages in more theologically precise discourse with Blomberg that all disagreements cease. But it certainly means that if an Evangelical finds something puzzling in Believing Christ, they might consult HWD to see whether Blomberg also asked about it and how Robinson responded.

    I think it’s important to realize that HWD is part of a larger and continuing dialogue between Evangelicals and Mormons. It was groundbreaking and in many ways represents the best example of how Evangelicals and Mormons can discuss their beliefs in a responsible and charitable way. It was not the last word, however, and thankfully so. Both Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints wrote passionate and insightful responses to Robinson and Blomberg’s conversation, thus meaningfully extending the conversation. (See here). These are also very important because both sides had much more to say.

    Although it is true that Ostler wrote a critique of Robinson, it doesn’t mean that Ostler represents some completely different brand of Mormonism. In fact, in his review Ostler notes: “I believe that Robinson has elucidated a profound and insightful view of deity and grace” and stated that “I want to emphasize that Robinson has done an outstanding job in describing how humans become ‘gods’ that is consistent both with Mormon scriptures and the Bible.” Yes, there are differences between Robinson and Ostler (about the nature of scripture which they discussed before HWD), but Evangelicals should not feel overwhelmed as they have to learn some completely new tradition.

    In 2007, Blomberg gave a presentation as part of Denver Seminary’s Women’s Forum titled “How Wide the Divide? Eleven Years Later, Mormons and Evangelicals in Conversation.” I can’t recommend it enough, even if you have never read HWD or even if you have read everything. Blomberg presents a captivating review of the origin and history of the conversations, and the main differences between Mormon and Evangelicals based not just on his conversation with Robinson but later as a part of a group of Evangelical and Latter-day Saint scholars that have been meeting every year for at least a decade.

    Interesting, Blomberg explains that in HWD, he suggested a different version of the Robinson’s parable of the bicycle (p. 226 fn. 36). Blomberg changes the ending so instead of the daughter putting in her change and having the father make up the difference, the father pays completely for the bicycle and instead suggests that the daughter could thank him by buying him an ice cream on the way home. He notes that Robinson’s parable of the bicycle came out in 1995, but later in 1999 when the group met at Fuller Seminary, Blomberg explains that Robinson said he was able to accept Blomberg’s version of the parable.

    There is more to the story and when we familiarize ourselves with what has been discussed we can more deeply participate in the larger conversation.

  9. February 7, 2010 7:50 pm

    TRD,

    If you believe that Blake Ostler has some thoughts that are pertinent to this topic feel free to summarize them here.

    You are a very intelligent person, TRD, and I’m sure you have given these matters considerable thought. I’d also love to hear your own perspective on this topic! 🙂

    Stephanie

  10. shematwater permalink
    February 8, 2010 5:01 pm

    Getting away from which books one should read, I would like to say that what the LDS teach and what the rest of Christianity believes is vary similar, having few real differences.
    There was a great blog on this a few days ago, entitled “Eternal Rewards.” You should check it out.

    I will give a brief explanation here.

    Christians: Most seemed to agree that, even though there is only one heaven where all will live in the presence of the Father, each will receive a different reward in heaven, which is determined by their works here on Earth.

    Mormons: Your works here are earth determine yor reward in heaven, which is divided into different degrees for the different rewards, the highest with the Father, second with the Son, and third with the Holy Ghost.

    So the only real difference in the detail in which the LDS describes heaven and the way in which different rewards are gained.
    Other differences arise when you discuss other doctirnes. Like, the rest of Christianity believes all will be in the presence of the Father, mainly because they believe in the Triune God. However, the LDS, who believe in three separate deities, allow all the pressence of one, but not necesaarily all three.
    In the basic debate of works verses faith they have the same basic understanding of things, that faith gets you to heaven, and works determines your reward.
    On Grace there is a little bit larger difference, as the LDS teach that all except a few (sons of perdition) will partake of the grace of God, regardless of what they did in this life, while Christians make all blessings contingent of Faith, casting out all non-believers to dwell with Satan, having no part of God’s Grace.

    This is basically how I see the doctrine of the two. The idea of a changed life producing changed actions is a common idea, but is not unique to mainstream Christianity, as the idea is very much a part of the LDS doctrine, and thus is not a difference. I will say that the difference is in the fact that the LDS give credit for all good works, whether you believe in Christ or not, while most of Christianity seems to hold to the idea that if you don’t believe in Christ all your good works become evil.

    It has been fun posting here.

  11. February 8, 2010 5:58 pm

    I work because I love God. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s honestly why.

    I see works in a new light since I was truly converted to Christ a couple of years ago. More and more, I see the good works of the gospel as being primarily about kindness, love, tolerance, charity, humility, and service. I am less and less concerned with the Word of Wisdom, what clothes people wear, how many earrings they have, what movies they watch, or even who they’re sleeping with.

    That’s not to say I no longer believe that clean living pleases God; merely that I try not to use this as a way of “in-grouping” and “out-grouping” anymore, recognizing that I am unclean in many aspects, so I have no reason to feel superior.

    I bring this up because it highlights the primary difference between why I worked before and why I work now. In the past, I worked so I could be “in the club.” I genuinely believed my righteousness or lack thereof determined my worth before God, so I worked to gain the approval of others (God included); to maintain a temple recommend; to “feel worthy;” to rid myself of debilitating guilt. I worked out of fear of retribution if I didn’t. I worked to be good enough.

    One of the most interesting things that has happened since my conversion is that I no longer feel so compelled to hide my sins — from myself, others, or God. I don’t wear them on my sleeve or brag about them, but I am able to be much more honest with myself about my many weaknesses and imperfections. I think that’s because I no longer fear hell as a result of them. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts God has given me is permission to be exactly where I am, knowing that because I rely on the mercy and merits of His Son, where I am is okay. Perhaps ironically, that acceptance gives me the strength and the courage to allow Him to help me become even more.

  12. February 8, 2010 6:13 pm

    “He knew we must be free to choose in order to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation… It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.” (LDS Gospel Principles [2009], chapter 3) — Are you listening, neo-orthodox BYU professors? Or is this stuff just not official enough for you? Chapter 4 goes on to say, “Our choices there made us worthy to come to earth.”

    For neo-orthodox Mormons to essentially argue that the attempt to prove oneself worthy has nothing to do with Mormon motivation in working is preposterous.

  13. February 8, 2010 6:21 pm

    I should note that on the second and third Sundays for the next two years Mormons are going through the 2009 edition of Gospel Principles

    Not a book by a BYU professor and not a book by a fringe Mormon philosopher.

    If people like Millet and Robinson want to show that they are really committed to grace, they should publicly denounce the merit-oriented statements that keep coming come church manuals and General Conference talks.

    “Let us make our homes sanctuaries of righteousness, places of prayer, and abodes of love that we might merit the blessings that can come only from our Heavenly Father… How might we merit this promise [spoken of in Ezekiel 36]? What will qualify us to receive this blessing?” – Thomas S Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be”, October 2008 Conference (cf. “To Learn, To Do, To Be,” Ensign, May 1992, 47)

    “Each of us has been sent to earth by our Heavenly Father to merit eternal life” – Robert D. Hales, “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets”, October 2007 General Conference

    It seems the proponents of Mormon neo-orthodoxy want to turn a blind eye to what their Church continues to feed their sheep. Integrity demands the approach of Paul in Galatians to this issue. Paul would not shrug his shoulders at the fact that LDS Church Distribution centers continue to sell the Miracle of Forgiveness, by Spencer W. Kimball.

    True repentance demands integrity!

    Take care,

    Aaron

  14. February 8, 2010 6:52 pm

    Aaron, how do you know the McConkie-ite neo-conservative faction of the LDS Church that held dominance during the 1970s and 80s are not the TRUE outliers in this religious tradition?

  15. February 8, 2010 7:23 pm

    Katie ~~

    I appreciated your thoughts you shared. Beautiful.

    May God continue to work thru you & for His glory,

    Gloria

  16. February 8, 2010 7:45 pm

    When did I mention McConkie? I’m talking about widely used and distributed General Conference talks and priesthood, institute, and seminary manuals. You know, the stuff neo-orthodox Mormons silently throw under the bus when it doesn’t fit with the agenda of the day 🙂

  17. February 8, 2010 7:56 pm

    Nah Aaron.

    I’m simply taking responsibility for my own religious beliefs, that’s all.

    I refuse to commit myself to anything I haven’t gained my own testimony of.

    And I do mean anything.

  18. February 8, 2010 7:59 pm

    And Mormon Doctrine, The Miracle of Forgiveness, the present correlated manuals…

    All of them are part of a phase the LDS Church is going through.

    Just partly though, mind. There’s plenty of truth in all those sources and I do respect them. But that doesn’t mean they get my unquestioning allegiance either.

    And, my experience is that the fundamentalist mind considers anything less than fanatical – bordering on brainless – devotion to something to be “throwing it under the bus.”

    Nuance has never been fundamentalism’s strong-suit.

  19. shematwater permalink
    February 8, 2010 8:02 pm

    For anyone to deny that our works in this life do not effect our reward in the next is to deny the Bible and what Christ himself taught. However, to claim that the motivation behind the acts of LDS members is solely to gain these rewards (or even primarily) is just as rediculous.

    We live righteous lives for many reasons, among which is the desire to gain all the rewards we can. However, what people assume is that because we believe in such a great reward we would not serve if we didn’t. This is false. We (speaking in general) would serve God and do all the good we could because we love our Father, with or without the promise of reward.
    Those whose primary motivation is to gain reward will find that they have lost it in the end.

  20. February 8, 2010 8:36 pm

    Seth, your point about taking full responsibility for your own beliefs is something I’ve just come to myself. I actually blogged about it a couple of days ago here.

    Aaron, I agree, those sources are beyond disturbing. There is still WAAAAY too much of “merit” and “qualification” in mainstream Mormon teaching. It still leads to too much suffering. It’s very frustrating.

    I hope Seth’s right that this is just a phase that will pass. ‘Cuz it drives me batty.

  21. February 8, 2010 9:03 pm

    Note Katie, I’m not entirely comfortable with the solutions that Evangelicalism has come up with on the grace vs. works front either.

  22. February 8, 2010 9:03 pm

    I partly understand how emotionally difficult this sort of thing is to tackle head-on. I have Mormon friends who struggle with it.

    I say these following things with a heavy heart and take them very personally because, among other things, this affects people close to me.

    The problem is that Paul didn’t treat the above problem as something to be solved with a soft and quiet transition. Getting the merit/qualification/how-to-receive-forgiveness issue wrong was, for Paul, something to raise hell over with compassionate rage. What I’m specifically talking about is Galatians 1:6-9 and the attitude of Paul in the rest of the letter.

    Treating current Mormon manuals and Conference talks like annoyances, the phasing out of which we should simply quietly wait out without raising a table-turning gospel-ruckus, is not a gospel-attitude.

    Jesus says skip your father’s funeral, hate your mom and dad, sell everything you have and don’t look back. And Paul says he wishes the dudes would just emasculate themselves. Let them be anathema and accursed even if they show up in angel-garb and shining light.

    The other problem is that the “we should simply quietly wait out the phase without raising a table-turning gospel-ruckus” attitude is, in my opinion, cold-hearted and cruel. Why? Because most every lay Mormon is not a internet-savvy neo-orthodox manual-tossing liberal smarty-pants who feels like they can faithfully and consciously treat the modern-day stream of continuing revelation like a salad bar of both delicious cherries and unfortunate spiritual poison. Nor are they effectively encouraged by the larger Mormon system and leadership to do so.

    These manuals and Conference talks affect millions of real people that will die sometime soon (as in within a day or 70 years), likely far before this “phase” is supposedly over. If you love these people, we will stick up for them and do the right thing that reflects gospel-urgency.

    And that practically means, among other things, that Millet and Robinson should come out CRYSTAL CLEAR with the disagreements they have with church leadership and Conference talks. And stop treating Church leadership like the Great Sacred Cow and instead knock it down in love for the sacredness and purity of the gospel.

    Grace and peace in Christ,

    Aaron

  23. February 8, 2010 9:05 pm

    There’s a real problem Aaron with judging a religious tradition by the emotional insecurities and deficiencies of the people who happen to be practicing it.

    As any well-read Christian ought to know full-well.

  24. February 8, 2010 9:21 pm

    Note Katie, I’m not entirely comfortable with the solutions that Evangelicalism has come up with on the grace vs. works front either.

    Seth, agreed. I tend to think the entire conversation is misguided when the crux of the matter is “what I get in heaven” vs. “what I’m doing with my life, today, to help others.”

    internet-savvy neo-orthodox manual-tossing liberal smarty-pants who feels like they can faithfully and consciously treat the modern-day stream of continuing revelation like a salad bar of both delicious cherries and unfortunate spiritual poison.

    This was very passionately-pleaded, but I don’t understand how you can be a neo-orthodox…liberal smarty-pants.

    You’re either neo-orthodox (everything the prophet says is True) or you’re a liberal smarty-pants (not everything the prophet says is True). You’re not both. Right? Or what am I missing?

    Though Aaron, you’ve made me think about how I should approach this issue in church. I have no answers, but I get what you’re saying about the danger of just taking it lying down. It’s a very difficult position to be in, as I’m sure you can appreciate.

  25. February 8, 2010 9:28 pm

    We tend to like labels Katie.

    They come in handy for people we’d prefer not to deal with.

  26. February 8, 2010 9:31 pm

    Katie, I understand that with the consequences it’s not something for the light-hearted soul. Even though I feel strongly about it I’m sorry if I am not very empathetic about it all.

    I say neo-orthodox and “liberal smarty-pants” somewhat synonymously, both being toward the end of the spectrum that highly and critically filters what modern Mormon leadership teaches, whereas the mainstream Mormon people are taught to default toward the other end of the spectrum, essentially treating what comes from General Conference and widely used current church manuals and magazines as a kind of extended scripture.

    “In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, the Liahona or Ensign magazine [1997 edition: church manuals], and instructions to local priesthood leaders.” (Gospel Principles [2009], chapter 10)

  27. February 8, 2010 9:32 pm

    Correction,the 1997 edition said “church publications”, not “church manuals”.

  28. February 8, 2010 9:34 pm

    Katie, maybe this will be helpful.

  29. February 8, 2010 9:34 pm

    Aaron, name me a single religion that doesn’t have the same divide between people who do study the doctrine in-depth and people who don’t.

  30. February 8, 2010 9:50 pm

    Conservative evangelical/fundamentalist Baptists . . .

    (chuckling)

  31. February 8, 2010 9:57 pm

    I’m still confused on the labels, because to me orthodoxy MEANS “don’t question the brethren.” Orthodoxy is what the brethren say it is, even when they disagree with each other. At least, that’s how I was raised.

    So if a person is willing to disregard what the brethren say (like a polygamist fundamentalist or a liberal or an apologist), they aren’t “neo-orthodox,” they’re apostate. Even if they’re going off the track in completely different directions.

    Ultimately, this doesn’t matter too much to the content of the discussion. I’m just trying to get terms straight.

  32. February 9, 2010 12:04 am

    I’d simply like to say ditto to aquinas’ excellent comment.

  33. February 9, 2010 12:08 am

    Aaron, there are those of us within Mormonism who see “problem areas”, or better yet, “areas for improvement”, with the Gospel Principles manual. Although you are not Mormon, I’ll still invite you to send your comments and suggestions for improvement to the source(s) listed on the inside cover of the manual. Although is recently underwent revision, there is still much room for more.

  34. February 9, 2010 12:10 am

    Katie, I need another term than apostate because the category I’m thinking of includes people like Millet who spurn, for example, things recently taught in General Conference.

    Seth, mine is a religion of sola scriptura. We get more breathing room in that. You can’t have your cake and eat it too with a hierarchical religion that teaches its living leadership is a direct conduit to God.

    I wrote this awhile back in a different context, and I think it might help:

    There is no question in my mind over whether the seeds of Mormonism’s institutional racism were planted by Protestants. Racism is only the beginning of the list of the embarrassing sins of my religious ancestors. There are worse skeletons than racism in our closet. Furthermore, you and I both come from the same rotten mom and dad, Adam and Eve. The nice thing about sola scriptura (a belief some Mormons seem to retreat to when forced to deal with things like Adam-God) is that I can discard the teachings of historic Jews and Christians when they don’t reflect (explicitly or by inference) a historical-grammatical reading of the Old or New Testament. My leaders have no more access to God than I do, and I am not bound to any one religious hierarchy. God has promised that his people are securely in his hand, but he has not promised that religious leaders who are professing Christians will never lead people astray.

    Mormons, on the other hand, have been given the promise that their leaders will never lead others astray. When Mormonism touts what it calls “continuing revelation”, living prophets, living apostles, and a modern stream of prophetic counsel, it ups the ante. I can, and I do right now, unequivocally denounce and condemn what Luther said about the Jews. But Mormonism’s leaders haven’t demonstrated a willingness to stand up and unequivocally and explicitly denounce and condemn what it (“it” being the institution with various institutional channels of communication and control) has promoted, perpetuated, enforced, and acquiesced to.

    I can toss a book by John Piper or Rick Warren in the trash, denounce what they say, and not feel like I’m butting heads with God’s living oracles.

    Mormons, including liberal and neo-orthodox ones, seem generally petrified by the thought of openly and explicitly repudiating and renouncing something their modern-day leaders teach. Especially if they’re a person of public influence.

    Ever wondered why someone like Robinson or Millet doesn’t take public and open aim at a book like the Miracle of Forgiveness, or doesn’t explicitly contrast their new take on 2 Nephi 25:23 with the interpretation promoted at General Conference for decades? They try to quietly reverse what they see as poisonous and destructive teachings without calling out any recent leader for false teaching.

    Take for another example the way black Mormon Darius Grey walks on shells at times in this KUER interview:

    http://www.kued.org/productions/utahnow/?action=viewShowDetails&id=174

    The Church won’t give him the dignity of being able to openly rebuke living leaders for not doing simple, basic things he knows they should be doing. Lest he suffer the hard consequences of openly criticizing the Brethren.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  35. February 9, 2010 12:50 am

    I would simply like to say ditto to Aaron’s passionate comment.

    I also can only partly relate to how emotionally difficult of an issue he raises, but my heart cries wholehearted agreement with his passion and the urgency he expresses.

  36. February 9, 2010 12:54 am

    Todd had a comment that went into spam (I have no idea why!) and I’ve retrieved it here.

  37. February 9, 2010 12:57 am

    Good thing there isn’t going to be a “false doctrine” or “proper theology” test when we die. Because if there were–practically EVERYONE (LDS christians and Traditional christians included) would be damned.

    Or as Stephen Robinson put it:

    “Finally, even if the rest of Mormonism—apart from our faith in Christ—is not true (though I deeply believe it is), then which is more potent, my theological “error” in believing the Book of Mormon or Christ’s saving blood as I call upon his name? Was God’s promise (Romans 10:9-13) truly unconditional, or is there an implied exception just for Mormons who might believe and confess? Are Christians saved by the grace of Christ or by “proper” theology—by the atonement or by catechism?”

  38. February 9, 2010 1:48 am

    Hi Clean Cut,

    No–there will be no “theology test.” 🙂 But the scripture tells us that “He that hath the Son hath the life” (I John 5). So the “test” will be this: Do you (or I) have Jesus?

    More specifically, John’s gospel tells us that eternal life is “to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17). So the test, more specifically, will be this: Do you (or I) know the Father and the Son? According to the quotation you cited, Robinson would have us believe that anyone who literally “calls” on the literal name “Christ” will be saved. But can’t someone “call” on the name “Christ” and not really know Him? Jesus explicitly said they could:

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    NChristine

  39. February 9, 2010 2:17 am

    And even then, nobody on earth is the final arbiter of who really knows Christ. (For the record, I believe there are LDS Christians and Traditional Christians who still have yet to truly know Him).

  40. February 9, 2010 2:35 am

    And even then, nobody on earth is the final arbiter of really knows Christ.

    Absolutely, Clean Cut. That leaves to each of us the individual and sobering task of assessing whether we really know the real Christ. John told us that Christians’ fellowship is “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3). So do you or I know those real Persons, or only think we know them? It is eternally incumbent upon us to not be mistaken on this point. Paul urged, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (II Cor. 13:5).

    NChristine

  41. February 9, 2010 2:43 am

    But do you see how talking about who the “real” Jesus is takes us right back around in theological circles by creating a subjective theological test? Just look how hard it is to get trinitarian Christians to all understand the “proper” or “real” Jesus/triune God. It goes right back to who has the “proper” theology or catechism. And almost everybody is going to be out of luck if that’s what it takes.

  42. February 9, 2010 3:37 am

    Hi Clean Cut,

    I see what you are saying. But I think you are referring to “head knowledge,” while the scriptures I mentioned refer to relational knowledge. I can know a lot about Bill Clinton but not really know him. Likewise, I could conceivably be deceived into thinking that I know Bill Clinton, when the man I know is actually not him but an impostor.

    Jesus specifically spoke of the possibility of not knowing the “real” Him: “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5). And of course Paul spoke of the possibility of someone preaching “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:4).

  43. February 9, 2010 1:47 pm

    Practically EVERY example I’ve ever seen where people exclude Mormons from not knowing the “real” Jesus is based on “head knowledge” and not “relational knowledge”.

  44. shematwater permalink
    February 9, 2010 2:20 pm

    This whole thing sounds very silly to me.

    Personally, I have read nothing from the general authorities that contradicts what is in the Bible, and as such I am perfectly confortable accepting both as scripture.

    Joseph F. Smith once wrote that the reason we vote on all propositions in the church is because it is against the laws of God to force any man, woman, orchild to act contrary to their own conscious, and I agree with this whole heartedly.

    As to our works meriting forgiveness, I have yet to read this in any quote from the general authorities. They speak of meriting blessings, or Eternal Life, but not forgiveness. All men are forgiven through the atonement (except sons of perdition), but we must merit the rewards, or blessings of our Father.
    Let us use the time honored comparison to Earthly fathers. Do we merit our father’s love and forgiveness? No (at least we shouldn’t). However, we do merit his trust, and we receive his help and blessing when we prove (through our actions) we are deserving of it.
    It is the same with our Heavenly Father. We do not merit his love our forgiveness, but we must merit his trust and his blessing, proven through our works.

    Anyone, whether LDS or not, who hopes to gain forgiveness through their own actions will always fail. However, anyone, whether LDS or not, who hopes to gain the blessings of heaven without work will always fail.

  45. February 9, 2010 4:52 pm

    shematwater, how about:

    “The truth is that we are saved by grace only after all we ourselves can do. (See 2 Ne. 25:23.) There will be no government dole which can get us through the pearly gates. Nor will anybody go into the celestial kingdom who wants to go there on the works of someone else. Every man must go through on his own merits. We might just as well learn this here and now.” (Marion G. Romney, “In Mine Own Way,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 123)

    Try sending this quote to Millet and Robinson and see what kind of response you get. I dare you. 🙂

  46. shematwater permalink
    February 9, 2010 6:38 pm

    First: I really don’t know who Millet and Robinson are. I am not up on all those who write about the church.

    Second, I don’t see how this quote changes anything I said, so I am not sure what your point is.

  47. February 9, 2010 10:07 pm

    Practically EVERY example I’ve ever seen where people exclude Mormons from not knowing the “real” Jesus is based on “head knowledge” and not “relational knowledge”.

    This kind of begs the question that head knowledge is not necessary to have relational knowledge. The Bible talks about deceiving spirits and those who preach Christ and are righteous, but are really not following Him. thus, one can have the appearance of relational knowledge, e.g., living and outwardly righteous life, and still not be in relation with Christ.

    I submit that apprehension of the Being you are worshipping is necessary for correct relational knowledge. One cannot be worshipping a Being who is another God, i.e., our Spirit Born elder brother, and be talking about the Christ of The Bible. This position utterly contradicts Isaiah 43 – 49.

    Darrell

  48. February 9, 2010 10:13 pm

    Aaron,

    Great comment regarding the difference between Mormonism’s position in regards to its leaders and Christianity’s position in regards our leaders.

    All I can say is DITTO!!

    Darrell

  49. February 9, 2010 10:32 pm

    I can toss a book by John Piper or Rick Warren in the trash, denounce what they say, and not feel like I’m butting heads with God’s living oracles.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. This is one of the main problems with cafeteria Mormonism. You can’t really pick and choose what you believe and still submit to the authority of the leadership of the church. Seth, I fear that the evolution you are waiting for just won’t come. The LDS church’s requirement of works for salvation has remained relatively static throughout their history. It is not just a phase. I don’t see any signs of that changing.

  50. February 9, 2010 11:52 pm

    Says who Stephanie?

    Modern Americans tend to think that any policy stance that has lasted more than 20 years is “unchangeable” or “eternal.” They have little sense of history that way.

    Aaron, if you’re going to take this line of thought again, I’m going to have to point out that belonging to a religion that deliberately chose a policy of organizational dysfunctionality as a means to avoid taking responsibility for it’s own teachings and ideas is hardly a “selling-point” in my book.

    If Evangelicalism means never having to say you’re sorry, or that you even care – I think I’ll take a pass, thanks.

    Thankfully, there are Evangelicals out there who feel a bit more of a sense of responsibility and ownership for their own history than you do.

  51. February 10, 2010 1:28 am

    Are you kidding me, Seth?

    When was the last time the LDS church said sorry for something in its history? You and the other intellectually inclined LDS apologists are sometimes sorry, but most Mormons aren’t. There’s a world of differences between Mormons and evangelicals, but “Mormons say sorry for their past while evangelicals don’t” isn’t one of them.

    The way I see it, Mormon leaders should apologize for their sinful historical past, but they don’t. Evangelical leaders don’t have to apologize for their sinful historical past, but they often do just the same.

    Katie, there’s actually some merit to the liberal / neo-orthodox labels Aaron is using. Last year, Scott Lloyd (one of the apologists for FAIR) did a thread at MADB proposing a new dichotomy between “orthodox Mormons” (apologists, intellectuals, people who like to consider church manuals and General Conference talks “not doctrine”) and “folk Mormons” (the morons filling the pews who don’t do their homework on LDS history and actually believe most of what the prophets say comes from God). Since then I’ve been seeing more online Mormons trying to use the terms in those ways.

    See this thread here (which has the link to the original MADB thread).

  52. February 10, 2010 4:12 am

    Jack, there are people I’ll take rebukes from on this point, and people I won’t take it from.

    Aaron doesn’t want an apology from the LDS Church on racist doctrine.

    He wants the LDS Church wiped off the map.

    In fact, I think he’d probably be disappointed if LDS leadership ever did apologize for it properly.

    It would give him one less item to criticize us over and make his mission that much harder.

  53. February 10, 2010 4:34 am

    Nice sidestep Seth. What Aaron wants or doesn’t want doesn’t really matter. The fact remains LDS leaders have yet to apologize or renounce any of the practices or teachings you and every other liberal Internet Mormon try to pretend doesn’t exist.

    Darrell

  54. faithoffathers permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:36 am

    Stephanie,

    I am new to this thread- have been gone a while.

    Thought I might throw something out there.

    In the past, I used the bicycle metaphor to illustrate the way the atonement and our works mesh together to complement each other. I no longer use that metaphor because I believe it is incorrect as follows:

    The work we do and the work Christ does for us are qualitatively different. It is impossible for us to do the kind of work Christ did for us in performing the atonement. We are absolutely dependent upon Him for salvation and grace.

    BUT- we are required to work nonetheless. We must have faith in Him, repent, be baptized, etc. etc. as He taught. Without faith, repentence, effort, sacrifice, enduring trials, blood, sweat and tears, it is impossible to become Christlike. And that is the ultimate reward.

    I do not believe that there is a New Testament passage that contradicts this concept.

    So it is not as if we are contributing any money to buying the bicycle. The cost of the bicycle is actually paid in full by Christ. But we must do our part- the part He asks of us if we want to be ready to receive the reward He made possible for us.

    Thanks,

    fof

  55. February 10, 2010 4:46 am

    Yeah, well… we seem to get precious little acknowledgment of the progressive things we do say. So I can’t imagine Mormonism Research Ministries will be making it a big news item if there is such a clear-cut apology.

    As for the doctrines, they’ve already been rejected for the present-day quite decisively. Bruce R. McConkie did that himself in General Conference.

  56. February 10, 2010 4:51 am

    I don’t know… I think MRM dreams of publishing that kind of news, Seth…

    http://blog.mrm.org/2009/04/robert-millet-chosen-as-next-apostle/

  57. February 10, 2010 7:08 am

    You know Seth loves MRM when he speaks of it in the plural.

  58. February 10, 2010 7:25 am

    Just be happy I’ve quit calling it “Mormon Research Ministry.”

  59. February 10, 2010 12:30 pm

    FOF,

    Welcome back! Good to see you again. 🙂

    I really do see the point you are getting at in your post. And I appreciate your willingness to distance yourself from the bicycle illustration. Your concerns are the same as mine–we can’t contribute to the cost of the bike.

    You said: “BUT- we are required to work nonetheless. We must have faith in Him, repent, be baptized, etc. etc. as He taught. Without faith, repentence, effort, sacrifice, enduring trials, blood, sweat and tears, it is impossible to become Christlike. And that is the ultimate reward.

    I do not believe that there is a New Testament passage that contradicts this concept.”

    I guess it would depend upon how you define justification. When is a person justified? Paul, after using the example of Abraham being justified by faith, has this to say.

    Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:4-5

    The work that Abraham didn’t do was not the Mosaic Law. Abraham lived prior to the giving of the law. Paul cannot be contrasting grace with Mosaic Law. He is contrasting grace with effort. Abraham was justified prior to his circumcision, prior to him offering up Isaac as a sacrifice, prior to even the birth of Isaac. He had taken no action, and yet God declared him fully righteous. The Mormon system of grace+effort does not fall in line with Pauline doctrine.

    Stephanie

  60. shematwater permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:25 pm

    FOF

    I like what you said. May I add just a small part to the illustration that I think gives the proper light on the subject.

    While we take no part in the purchasing of the bike, we still must learn to ride it or it will do us no good. We cannot enjoy the gift of the bike if Christ rides it for us.

    DARREL

    speaking of head knowledge and relational knowledge, I don’t think the two can or should be separated. One must first have at least a limited “Head Knowledge” before they can persue a relationship with another (including God). However, this is increased by the relational knowledge, which is inturn inhanced by the increase in head knowledge. The two are complimentary, and if either is missing from a persons life they cannot truly know God.

    I would say that if you have any apprehension about the one you worship you lack sufficient k nwoledge in both areas and thus do not have eternal life, Eternal Life is to know the Father and the Son.
    As to the God of the LDS not being the God of the Bible, I have to disagree with you. I see no other God in the Bible.

    (Oh yeah. I have not been able to keep up on these threads as actively I might want to, and so I have kind of lost what the original topic was, and what we were discussing before. Sorry)

  61. February 10, 2010 9:28 pm

    Darrell, you’re kind of proving my point (and “head knowledge” and “relational knowledge” were the terms NChristine used). Again, this takes us in circles. (Some things really are an ‘eternal round’).

    Stephanie: “You can’t really pick and choose what you believe and still submit to the authority of the leadership of the church”

    Nonsense. The “authority” of the “authorities” is good for a lot of things (ie: running the Church)–but they don’t mandate that we must all believe alike on every point. Even the authorities themselves are going to pick and choose what to believe on many things that they may disagree with each other on.

    Just last night I finished reading an article in Dialogue by Blake Ostler about all the different ideas that have been put forth within Mormonism about preexistence and the nature of spirits. I also thought what he said at the end would be relevant to this discussion:

    “Many Mormons, and probably most non-Mormons, have failed to grasp the wide latitude of possible beliefs which can be tolerated within the tradition of Mormon thought. Although many view Mormon thought as restrictive, it is in fact more INclusive than EXclusive, more thought-provoking than thought-binding. For instance, an individual member’s beliefs may range from an absolutist view to a traditionally heretical, finitist view of God and man and still remain well within the bounds of traditional Mormon expressions of faith—a latitude far beyond the tolerance of Protestantism or Catholicism. The Church’s reluctance to clarify its theology on an official level has left it up to individual members to think through and work out their own understanding of and relationship to God. In short, the burden of a consistent theology and vibrant relationship with God in Mormonism is not a corporate responsibility; indeed it cannot be. Rather, it is an individual burden that reflects the unique relationship of God with each member. And each member must be willing to face the implications of his or her beliefs.”

  62. February 11, 2010 3:30 am

    Clean Cut,

    Nonsense. The “authority” of the “authorities” is good for a lot of things (ie: running the Church)–but they don’t mandate that we must all believe alike on every point. Even the authorities themselves are going to pick and choose what to believe on many things that they may disagree with each other on.

    If you honestly believe that drinking coffee or tea is not forbidden by Scripture are you okay to drink that and still receive a temple recommend? Most traditional Christians view this as a personal choice, not a law (Matt. 15:11). What if you disagreed that salvation was by grace + works and you believed it was by grace alone. Would you be able to have a church-sanctioned Bible study on that topic? What if you believed that Joseph Smith led an immoral lifestyle and made poor choices when it came to his marriages. Would you be encouraged to share those views with your fellow brethren? What if you believed that his translation of the Book of Abraham was a forgery. Would you be asked to teach Sunday school with those views? What if you believed in the Trinity? What if you wanted to teach Sunday school using a modern translation of the Bible, such as the ESV? What if you wanted to serve grape juice, instead of water, for sacrament? What if you felt led to offer a different sacrament prayer than the standard one? What if you felt led to celebrate with praise and worship in sacrament–forgoing the piano and organ and choosing drums and guitar instead? What if you were a woman and believed in the priesthood of all believers. Would you be welcomed into the EQ? What if your “calling” wasn’t something that you felt led or gifted to do at all. Would you suggest to the Bishop an alternative ministry? What if, as a missionary, you felt led by the Spirit to contact your friends and family over facebook to ask them to pray for you. Would that be allowable? What if you didn’t feel that the church was putting your tithing to good use. Could you donate it elsewhere and still receive a temple recommend? What if you believed that wearing sacred garments was legalistic. Would you still be given a temple recommend? What if your son or daughter wanted to be baptized prior to the age of accountability. Would your church baptize a six- or seven-year-old?

    I just don’t see the freedom of Mormon thought that Blake Ostler discusses. For what its worth, I’m not sure he is the best representative of Mormon thought anyway. I’ve never met a non-internet Mormon who has heard of him. I went to Deseret Book yesterday and asked the clerk if she had heard of him. She hadn’t. They didn’t stock any of his books.

    Steph

  63. February 11, 2010 3:58 am

    Stephanie,

    Great points.

    ——————————————–

    Clean Cut,

    Interesting that Ostler’s views were published in Dialogue, a fringe publication not at all affiliated with the LDS Church. I am curious, can you find any such liberal, accepting thoughts in an Ensign?

    Darrell

  64. February 11, 2010 6:58 pm

    Just to be clear, Stephanie, I wasn’t saying that anything goes in Mormonism and that a Mormon can believe or teach or change the ordinances and structure of the church in any way they want. Obviously it would be absurd to say that “anything goes” in Mormonism–otherwise you yourself could even consider yourself a Mormon and seek a temple recommend. So I’m not saying that anyone can do anything they want to do and still get a temple recommend. What I am saying is that if you look at the history of beliefs in the Mormon tradition you will find that Mormons have held a wide variety of view points–even among the “authorities” themselves. This isn’t a point Ostler is uniquely making–he’s simply observing the truth. Anyone wanting to look into the history and development of the doctrine of preexistence and the nature of spirits (which is what I had in mind in the first place) will see this diversity of belief.

    PS: I have no idea what a “non-internet Mormon” is.

  65. February 11, 2010 7:38 pm

    I would define a non-internet Mormon as one who attends Church and actually believes what is taught from the pulpit, in the Ensign, and in the Church manuals. You know… one who actually believes that what the Church says is true.

    🙂

    Darrell

  66. February 11, 2010 8:53 pm

    I believe the Ensign is true.

    I just don’t view it as making theologically determinative statements.

    For instance, if Thomas S. Monson writes an article emphasizing the importance of works…

    Well, he’s right! I sustain that and believe it.

    But that doesn’t mean he’s writing a theological treatise either – nor should his article be taken as such.

    In my view, I believe in the words of the prophets just fine, thanks.

  67. February 11, 2010 8:59 pm

    “I believe the Ensign to be true.”

    “… not theologically determinative…”

    “…I sustain it and believe it…”

    “…not a theological treaty…”

    “…I believe the words of the prophets…”

    Is anybody elses head spinning besides mine?

    Darrell

  68. February 11, 2010 9:14 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I can understand what you mean. I am a little confused however with the assertion by Ostler that there is greater diversity of thought among Mormons than among Protestants or Catholics. To me, belief always is accompanied by action. So when you say that a person cannot do the actions that I mentioned above and remain a faithful Mormon, I don’t really see how a person can believe differently. If such great variance in Mormon thought is encouraged, why isn’t there greater diversity among wards? I’m actually quite astonished with Ostler’s suggestion. Can you provide specific examples of these various beliefs and practices that are acceptable?

    Stephanie

  69. February 11, 2010 9:46 pm

    Well, the point wasn’t that “great variance in Mormon thought is encouraged” as much as that there is a wide latitude of possible beliefs in Mormonism. http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2010/02/wide-latitude-of-possible-beliefs-in.html

    It might also help to read everything in context. I provide some links on my blog. You asked for examples. Well, I’ll tell you that R. Gary (who commented there) and I probably disagree about whether the flood was universal or more localized. There’s certainly room for that kind of disagreement in Mormonism. Another evangelical who commented thought I was advocating a free-for-all and I tried to clarify more what I was referring to with the following: “For example, some Mormons believe that spirits are born by heavenly parents so they have a beginning, other Mormons believe that spirits are uncreated and eternal and don’t have a beginning or an ending.”

    More on the variance of that topic here: “Tripartite existentialism”
    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/04/15/tripartite-existentialism/

  70. February 11, 2010 10:19 pm

    Most of the spinning is likely due the tendency of online debaters to view everything ever written as somehow theologically rigorous.

    The General Authorities are not theologians. Their writings do not have that kind of academic rigor. Nor should they be expected to.

  71. February 11, 2010 10:30 pm

    Thanks for providing the links, Clean Cut. I understand the minor variations in belief–these are common to any group of people. After all, it is not as though we are all cut out with cookie cutters with identical ideologies. Similar non-essential belief variances exists among Protestants as well–Bible versions, hymns vs praise music, premillennialism vs amillennialism, prophecy, spiritual gifts, etc.

    I appreciate your concern about not condoning a free-for-all environment where even I might be given a temple recommend. I’m sorry if I conveyed the impression that a free-for-all is a positive thing. I believe quite the opposite. I’ll give an example. A friend of mine got married quite young, had an affair and left her husband after only 8 months of marriage. She then moved in with her boyfriend. I got together with her shortly after this to challenge her about her lifestyle. At one time she had professed to be a Christian so I felt that it was “sisterly love” to talk with her. When I gently prodded her on the matter of living with her boyfriend she said, “Well, this is right for me.” I gave her some Biblical passages that showed the opposite but she dismissed them and said, “I know. But this is right for me.” Please know that I understand the ungodliness of this attitude. I am well familiar with it and would never promote it. On the other hand, one of my friends from college was the leader of Campus Crusade for Christ. He shared with me that he sometimes went with his unsaved friends to the bar while they drank and would then drive them home. To me, that seemed like a bad idea and definitely not something that I would be caught dead doing. However, he had a faithful relationship with the Lord and sincerely believed that he was reaching his lost friends for Christ. I have to respect his decisions and realize that he alone is accountable before God–I can’t control his behavior.

    What I am challenging is not the variance in beliefs; it is the lack of variance in behavior. Why should each member be accountable to their bishop for their coffee and tea drinking habits, their wearing of certain garments, their donation of money? These are personal choices that each person’s conscience should decide for them. In effect, the temple recommend process does regulate belief systems because people are forced to accept certain agreed upon doctrines in order to be granted access to the LDS holy of holies. I find it hard to believe that God–who works through the conscience and has made nothing unclean–would control his people on rules and regulations.

  72. February 11, 2010 10:30 pm

    Clean Cut,

    Thanks for the links. I have read a bit on the different models for Premortal Life and Spirit Birth. I know I give you, Seth, and other LDS a hard time sometimes on this stuff, but I want to make sure you understand where I am coming from.

    I realize and grant that on certain topics there can and is a wide range of acceptable beliefs within Mormonism. That I think is undeniable. The problem as I see it comes with how these wide range are categorized by Mormons in discussion.

    As an example, oftentimes when discussing a controversial subject with a Mormon, e.g., spirit birth of Jesus Christ, they will tell me something to the effect of, “The Church doesn’t teach that.” Now, I realize they may not hold this belief; however, to say that the LDS Church does not or has not taught it is simply dishonest. It is almost as if they want to use the fact that there are different acceptable positions within Mormonism to gloss over the tough subjects.

    In addition, the very fact that some of these beliefs are even acceptable within Mormonism creates problems from the Traditional Christian perspective. By nature, many of these positions are heretical, bordering on non-Christian, from our perspective. I for one cannot accept that God’s true Church would allow such teachings.

    Make sense?

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  73. February 12, 2010 2:33 pm

    The General Authorities are not theologians. Their writings do not have that kind of academic rigor. Nor should they be expected to.

    I realize what you are saying here, but in my opinion it simply does not line up with LDS claims. Theology, by definition, is the study of God. The LDS Church has claimed to have living Prophets who communicate with God. They have even compared their prophets with Moses who had a close personal relationship with God.

    As a result, it is self-contradictory to say that a prophet’s writings or words are not theology. For, if your prophet speaks with God, He should be able to speak with authority about the nature of God. In fact, He should be able to speak with significantly more authority than some academic who is simply studying words that were written 2000 years ago. This is especially true givent he fact that you claim those word he is studying have had “plain and precious truths” removed from them.

    ————————————-

    Another thought on the wide range of views with Mormonism. The LDS Church staked part of its claim on the fact that the Christian Church has gone into apostasy. As evidence of this fact, they often cite the areas we each other, stating that God’s Church would not be so divided on issues.

    Well, what is happening now to the LDS Church? They have MULTIPLE splinter groups who have broken off over disagreement on issues, and on-line Mormons are happy to cite the disagreements on issues such as pre-mortal life, whether Christ is eternal vs. spirit birthed, etc. If the traditional Christian Church’s disagreements are evidence of apostasy on our part, why is all the LDS disagreement not evidence of the same thing?

    Darrell

  74. February 12, 2010 2:39 pm

    Divided about what Darrell?

    Orthodoxy of theology?

    That would be an assumption on your part from your standpoint entrenched in American Protestantism.

  75. February 12, 2010 2:54 pm

    See Clean Cut’s links. The articles point out some of the areas of disagreement (or, as you might put it, latitude of acceptable beliefs) within Mormonism. Whether they are acceptable or not is beside the point. The issue is there is a lack of agreement even among the hierarchy of the church on key theological points, and these very disagreements are similar to the ones Mormonism used to accuse us of apostasy.

    Darrell

  76. February 12, 2010 3:11 pm

    Besides Seth, what is Orthodoxy if not simply what is true? Shouldn’t a prophet who speaks with God know what is true about Him? Why turn to a academic is reading an error filled Bible?

    Darrell

  77. February 12, 2010 3:25 pm

    That assumes a full orthodoxy is even possible – which it is not.

    Most LDS material I have read, while including theological disagreement, also include a loss of Priesthood authority as a prime feature – so to classify the LDS definition of apostasy in terms of orthodoxy alone is incorrect.

    For myself, I would consider the focus on orthodoxy to be one of the inevitable badges of the apostasy. When the church fragmented and fell apart, orthodoxy was brought in as a substitute for what was lost. But a rather inadequate substitute. In this sense, the creeds themselves are proof-positive of the apostasy.

    No longer guided directly by God, humans had to find other alternatives to govern themselves.

  78. February 12, 2010 3:37 pm

    When the church fragmented and fell apart, orthodoxy was brought in as a substitute for what was lost. But a rather inadequate substitute. In this sense, the creeds themselves are proof-positive of the apostasy.

    Looking at Church history to the earliest days, I don’t see how this follows. First, you would have to assume there was a church structure and priesthood order prior to the advent of orthodoxy, which I don’t believe is at all evident. However, orthodox views, as well as creeds, are evident in the Bible. As a result, the apostasy, should one assume one did occur, would have been away from creeds and orthodoxy.

    While certain issues may have been solidified in later councils, creeds and orthodoxy on certain points were already in place and in development long, long before any church structure or priesthood order.

    Darrell

  79. February 12, 2010 3:48 pm

    Darrell, I wouldn’t condemn Christians because of the wide divergence of belief. I may have in my simplistic youth, but not now. In my (very small) study of Christian history I’ve gained a healthy respect for the process that took place. I may still believe that the Trinity is illogical and incomprehensible, but there is so much about God that I too can’t yet comprehend, so my views have softened. I’m a lot less critical of the theology.

    I still disagree with some of these doctrines like the Trinity and Dual Nature of God, but people don’t realize how much effort went into trying to understand God the best they could. We can learn from them. I don’t believe that they had malice or wanted to do bad–quite the opposite. I feel they were doing the best they could–and to prevent further apostasy. Anytime I learn more of their struggles I feel more connected with the historic body of Christians. I read about their problems and trials and I feel more connected with them. I see where they got it right and I rejoice, I see where they got it wrong and I sympathize. I wish more Saints would feel a connection to the larger body of Christ, rather than cut themselves off from history.

  80. February 12, 2010 4:02 pm

    Why does the LDS church even have the authority to act in the name of God if the question of whether or not its teachings are true is completely irrelevant?

    Why does the LDS church get to have the priesthood and teach things that are false while all of the other churches that teach things that are false don’t get to have it?

    If orthodoxy and correct teaching are irrelevant, seems like the best thing might be for God to simply dole out the priesthood to all of the Christian churches of the world so that we can all be performing these saving ordinances that matter so much.

    Now if only there was someone who taught something like that . . .

  81. February 12, 2010 4:10 pm

    Many Mormons make assumptions and simply equate the Apostasy with the Nicene Creed, but I think this is the wrong approach.

    Nicea was simply an attempt to pick up the pieces after things had already fallen apart, and been in a state of disarray for some time. It was merely making the best of a bad situation. I do not view Nicea as an unqualified negative as some Mormons do.

    My feeling is that the elements of apostasy were already in motion during Jesus’ lifetime. The apostles later struggled and fought a losing battle with these elements. I do not believe a unified true Church ever made it into existence in the first place. The apostles never got a breather, and never experienced a period of a unified and complete authorized Church. They had the essentials in place – but the implementation was so fragmented and scattered across a wide geography that it was literally a hopeless task.

    Persecution, lack of adequate communication, squabbles among Church leadership, inherent flaws in the transmission of key texts – all contributed to the collapse of the Gospel.

    And this doesn’t even take into account the almost utter annihilation of Eastern Christianity in the face of Muslim pressure. The Christian population in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia (and beyond) utterly dwarfed the population in Europe. At one point, Baghdad alone had more than twice the number of Christians than all legendary King Arthur’s Britain. This apostasy was complete and utter – as opposed to the European apostasy, which was only partial – in key respects.

    Basically, I don’t think the fullness of the Gospel ever really had a chance after Christ’s ascension, and rapidly collapsed in the next two centuries. It wasn’t ever fully implemented to begin with, and it couldn’t keep up with it’s own expansion. In short, the ministry of the apostles seems to have ended up – in the long term – as one of planting seeds rather than harvesting (although they did both).

    I think unsophisticated Mormons often make a mistake in thinking there was some perfect “primitive Christian Church” which we are supposed to be recreating today. This was the original assumption of many early Mormons such as Brigham Young and others. They felt impressed by what they saw as a restoration of Peter and Paul’s Church. But Joseph’s revelations soon surpassed these expectations. Revelation soon made it clear that what was to be restored was not Peter and Paul’s Christian Church per se, but rather ADAM’S Christian Church, Enoch’s Church – the original true order of God had from the beginning, but lost to the Jews, and later Christians.

    This is a position arrived at by modern LDS scholarship. It is not something that can be expected to be the opinion of every general authority of the LDS Church. They are not scholars, nor are they expected to be. They have more than enough on their plate in running the LDS Church without expecting them to act as Church historians, linguists, philosophers, and theologians.

  82. February 12, 2010 4:19 pm

    Jack, I think the whole criticism of orthodoxy thing can be taken too far.

    For instance, right ideas do matter.

    Just not as much as many Protestants and Catholics seem to think they do.

    Or rather, they matter a lot, but are completely misused in their application. For instance, when people go beyond the plain text of scripture to make speculative philosophical and metaphysical declarations about God and then use that as a fence to keep people outside the flock.

    That is an utter abuse of orthodoxy and the LDS Church is completely right in it’s avoidance of such priestcraft.

    So the fault of much of “orthodox” Christianity is not that it cares about ideas, but rather that it enshrines ideas over and above genuine Christian living and sets up purely speculative theology as a barrier to keep people from entering into genuine personal covenants with God.

    For this perversion of God’s covenant, many in the Christian tradition (and some even in the LDS tradition) will have much to answer for.

  83. February 12, 2010 4:28 pm

    So which are the right ideas that matter, Seth? Does it matter that I believe in the Trinity so long as I’m not using it as a cudgel against Mormons? Does it matter that I don’t think God has a wife? Does it matter that I believe in creation ex nihilo and exhaustive foreknowledge? Does it matter that I don’t think I’m going to be a God[ess] in charge of my own planet/universe/spirit children in the next life? Could I be Mormon and believe all those things?

    Complaining about our focus on correct theology is one thing. But if correct theology doesn’t really matter, why doesn’t God just inform the rest of the Christian world about temple ordinances, give us the priesthood and let us roll? We’d be about as good as Mormonism then as far as orthopraxy is concerned.

    Seems like you guys have built your own little fence for keeping people from making genuine personal covenants with God.

  84. February 12, 2010 4:34 pm

    They are not scholars, nor are they expecte0d to be. They have more than enough on their plate in running the LDS Church without expecting them to act as Church historians, linguists, philosophers, and theologians.

    We thank the oh God for LDS scholars
    To guide us in these latter days
    We thank thee for sending their scholarship
    To lighten our minds with its rays

    We thank thee for every time they correct
    Our highest priesthood leaders who are so busy
    It’s not like we can expect apostles and prophets
    To be theologians

    When dark clouds of institutional ambiguity and apostolic error hang o’er us
    And threaten our peace to destroy,
    There is hope smiling brightly before us liberal Mormons,
    And we know that deliv’rance is nigh in LDS scholars

  85. February 12, 2010 4:36 pm

    All of those things DO matter Jack.

    However, I would not use any of them to bar you from making sacred covenants with God within the LDS framework and pursuing a Christlike life in fellowship with fellow Mormons.

    They matter, but not for that purpose.

    Now, granted – not all Mormons are going to share this view. Old prejudices die hard, and many Mormons have internalized the faulty traditional Christian emphasis on orthodox as a boundary-maintenance tool. That’s why I included Mormons in my criticism above.

    It is also true that the theological framework of 5-point Calvinism is going to give you a lot of difficulty within the Mormon framework. I’m not disputing that.

    But the true test of affiliation for any Mormon should be, first and foremost, Christlike living and making and keeping of covenants with God. All other concerns are secondary to this.

  86. February 12, 2010 4:37 pm

    So Aaron….

    Are you going to favor us with a re-enactment of the South Park episode on Mormonism too?

    It should fit nicely with the tone you seem to be shooting for.

  87. February 12, 2010 4:37 pm

    It’s “not like”, rather. I always botch online humor with mistyping! 🙂

    _______________

    /fixed 🙂

  88. February 12, 2010 4:46 pm

    So believing in false theology isn’t enough to stop me personally from participating in God’s true church.

    But teaching the things I just listed in our churches is enough to stop God from giving the true priesthood to the rest of the Christian world and thus stop us from making those covenants with him.

    Is that an accurate understanding of what you’re saying? Because it seems like, no matter how you slice it, we both think God discriminates due to false theology in some way or another. Traditional Christians just cut out the “priesthood” middle man.

  89. February 12, 2010 5:42 pm

    “But teaching the things I just listed in our churches is enough to stop God from giving the true priesthood to the rest of the Christian world and thus stop us from making those covenants with him.”

    What do you mean by teaching?

    For instance, I’ve heard a huge range of views from guys in High Priests meetings or even Gospel Doctrine class. You get old ward warhorses expounding on personal theories all the time. As long as they don’t get in a fight with sister so-and-so in class, no one really cares.

    But as a teacher, you are expected to stick to the core curriculum because of your position of perceived authority. You don’t want to give the impression that your own speculations are somehow officially sanctioned. This is merely responsible teaching – true of any teaching institution.

    In short, don’t mess up the community for everyone – because that is the first and primary function of going to Church within the Mormon faith – participating in a covenant community.

    Learning the Gospel is only a secondary function of LDS Church services.

  90. February 12, 2010 6:36 pm

    Let me try to explain what I’m getting at, Seth.

    My husband is 28 years old and LDS and thus he is an elder in the church who holds the Melchizedek priesthood. He has the authority to baptize, bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit, ordain others to the priesthood, bless the sacrament, set men and women apart for callings, and give blessings. I’m pretty sure that he theoretically has the authority to administer any ordinance in the church, assuming he’s ordained to the correct office for it.

    My classmates at TEDS are about the same age, mostly men and mostly MDiv students; men preparing to be pastors. Their desire is to consecrate their lives to God. They’re getting ready to set out on a lifetime of performing baptisms and confirmations, administering to the sick, and blessing the Eucharist. They are earnest and passionate about God.

    Yet according to the LDS worldview, the ordinances performed by my husband are binding and eternal while the ordinances performed by the TEDS students are ultimately invalid and will have to be re-done by the LDS church, either in this life or the next (though they may have other merits to them). My question is, why? Why can’t God just authorize all of them? Why can’t they all be binding and good? As far as God is concerned, what’s the difference between the man I share a bed with and the men I share a seminary with?

    I only see two possible answers to the question of why God favors Mormons by granting them the priesthood and the authority to act in his name in the first place:

    (1) There is no reason for it. God’s decision in that matter is completely arbitrary; Mormons hold the priesthood entirely by his grace. They did nothing to merit it and they can do nothing to reject it. Jacob he has loved and Esau he has hated and that’s the way it is.

    (2) God gave Mormons the priesthood so that he could set apart a covenant people to teach the world who he really is, because he cares that his true nature is known. The priesthood is (among other things) a control, a seal of authorization to insure that his truth is being taught. Or in other words, correct theology does matter, and it matters deeply. You personally aren’t rejecting the rest of the Christian world on the basis of theology, but your God sure is.

    You’re a Mormon inclusivist, Seth. You wouldn’t mind if someone like me joined the church and maintained my largely evangelical view of God. You don’t think that would disqualify me from the blessings of the covenants I would make. You want “big tent” Mormonism.

    I’m an evangelical inclusivist. I care about correcting false theology, but I won’t say that it automatically disqualifies someone from salvation. I want “big tent” evangelical Christianity. I don’t want to kick out the open theists like some evangelicals do, and I want to see Mormonism reform to something that can be accepted as orthodox by the Christian world.

    But in the end, I think we both believe in a God who gives a damn that his true nature is known to the world and wants to enforce it.

    That’s why there’s nothing wrong with Christians excluding other faiths from the tent on the basis of rejecting the Trinity, if we believe that’s God’s true nature. Mormons do it, too—or they believe in a God who has already done it for them.

  91. February 12, 2010 7:07 pm

    Well put Jack!

    Darrell

  92. February 12, 2010 7:09 pm

    I believe we need to try and get the theology right. But I’d like to see people inside the LDS framework given the leeway to experiment amongst themselves and be given time to grow in Gospel participation and “get it right.” I’ve seen lack of competition of ideas result in bad theology before in the LDS framework and I’d like to avoid this. I’d like the Mormon faith to be both school and hospital to people – where you don’t have to be perfect before you’re allowed in. This is why I think primary emphasis on covenant commitment and ethical living is rather wise on the LDS Church’s part. It allows God’s church to remain a living Church.

    But let’s separate the issue of who’s allowed to be “Christian” and who’s allowed to be “Mormon.” I think there are much greater grounds for exclusivity when you are talking about “Mormonism” than when you are talking about “Christianity” – which is a far, far greater umbrella.

    I also don’t like seeing Christ’s salvation being made contingent on what I consider to be a very unfair set of criteria. Making salvation contingent on high levels of orthodoxy is tremendously unfair. Half the Evangelical and Catholic Christians in Ecuador fail the test by the standards that some online Evangelicals seem to be setting. I don’t think it is fair to exclude Mormons from Christianity on tests that most of the world’s accepted Christian population cannot even pass themselves.

    This is why I prefer the LDS view that salvation is a very broad gift indeed, and it is administering the ordinances of the higher “exaltation” with which the LDS Church is primarily concerned.

    I don’t discount the real good others are doing. I don’t think that a Baptist merely “went swimming” and called it a baptism. The ordinances and commitments of other faiths mean something very important and will be remembered in heaven in my mind. But we need the disciplined Church structure that we have been blessed with. We need this organized format to effectively live up to the calling that God has given us. And we need all the help we can get.

  93. February 12, 2010 7:14 pm

    Okay Seth. If all of the beliefs I listed above should not effect my ability to make sacred covenants with God, and correct theology is only secondary, then please see what you can do about getting God to come down to DeerGrove Covenant Church in Palatine and give the priesthood to my pastors so that I can make these sacred covenants with God, too.

    Because I think you’re trying to have it both ways right now, and I don’t think it’s working.

  94. February 12, 2010 7:20 pm

    Wait a second… I said something Darrell liked?

    Somebody go check on Hell. I think it might have just frozen over.

  95. February 12, 2010 7:45 pm

    The problem with understanding that human problems are complex is that you constantly get crap from all the people who think they have simple answers.

    The problem here Jack is that we are talking about a ritual and covenant paradigm, and you keep trying to force it back to a theological paradigm. But I just don’t see the LDS Church operating on that paradigm. In practice, we really don’t (and I would note that I don’t think half the other churches out there are quite so theologically anal as we religious bloggers tend to be). The covenant is what is primarily important. The theology only comes in second place. Which is not to say it isn’t important. It’s just not the supreme arbiter in this neighborhood.

    And online Evangelicals keep trying to force us back into the orthodoxy game – to play a game rigged by their rules.

    And there’s no real clarity of what we are talking about here.

    The moment some Mormon suggests that orthodoxy might not be necessary for salvation, half a dozen Evangelicals jump all over them saying “well, you don’t think it’s important at all then.” Which is just stupid. Important and crucial get all mixed up in these debates. And the moment a Mormon tries to suggest that orthodoxy doesn’t hold the guest of honor seat at the LDS table, Evangelical respondents immediately start complaining about how it doesn’t even get invited to dinner. Which is also just stupid and untrue.

    I mean, would it kill people to recognize just an ounce of nuance in the debate here?

  96. February 12, 2010 7:45 pm

    None of the above is meant to be personally directed. It’s just general gripes I have.

  97. February 12, 2010 8:28 pm

    Wait a second… I said something Darrell liked?

    Somebody go check on Hell. I think it might have just frozen over.

    LOL!

    Jack, you might be surprised. If you and I sat down for a cup of coffee, I bet we would find we agree on a whole host of things.

    We may not agree on the proper way to deal with Mormonism, i.e., I doubt it can be reformed into Christianity, but I bet we see eye to eye on a lot.

    Take Care!

    Darrell

  98. February 12, 2010 8:45 pm

    Because I think you’re trying to have it both ways right now, and I don’t think it’s working.

    No doubt.

    I find most informed Mormons who stay active in the Church tend to do this. They develop a dual way approaching the church. Unfortunately, their position is just wholly inconsistent with the message that comes from Salt Lake. It is much, much more exclusive than they like to portray it.

    ———————————————————————

    Seth, you keep stating how the role of an apostle is not to be theologically rigorous. Here is my question…. what is their role?

    Why sing a song about a prophet guiding you in the last days if his guidance is nothing more than an administrative function?

    Darrell

  99. February 12, 2010 9:11 pm

    Seth, if orthodoxy is not necessary for salvation (exaltation?), then I see no practical reason for why God would limit the administration of saving exalting ordinances to such a narrow little sliver of humanity.

    That is all.

  100. February 12, 2010 9:27 pm

    Same as it’s always been Darrell. Same as it was for Paul, same as it was for Peter.

    To declare Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    That’s a pretty bare-bones job description that can be as simple or complex as you can or want to make it.

    I’ll note that Peter and Paul weren’t theologically rigorous either.

    Otherwise, you wouldn’t need Augustine, Aquinas, Barth, and Calvin to explain it for you, now would you?

    Apostles are no more theologically and philosophically rigorous in the Evangelical tradition than they are in the Mormon tradition. Peter, James and John were fishermen. Mostly humble men of trade. Paul was the exception in having a fair amount of religious training as a high-ranking Pharisee. But even he left all sorts of loose ends all over his teachings that later Christian thinkers spent hundreds of years debating and cleaning up.

    So it is with Mormon apostles. Men of trade, business and profession, but few disciplined theologians. When we do get someone ambitious in this area, like McConkie, Talmage, Pratt, or others, they – like Paul – leave a lot of loose ends lying around.

    Welcome to the human condition.

    Thankfully, you don’t have to be an Aquinas, or a Calvin to testify of Christ and bear special personal witness of him. And simple men can see God, hear his voice and testify powerfully as to his reality and fundamental message.

    Apostles are also charged with the mundane task of guiding the mortal affairs of the LDS Church. Neither of those job descriptions compel me to take their theological ideas as the final word.

  101. February 12, 2010 9:30 pm

    I don’t think Augustine, Aquinas, Barth, and Calvin spent their time trying to do damage control and correction on the theological mistakes of the apostles.

  102. February 12, 2010 9:32 pm

    He doesn’t Jack.

    He offers them to everyone.

    Or maybe I’m misunderstanding here. Are you saying that everyone should get an automatic Celestial ticket?

    That would violate human agency.

  103. February 12, 2010 9:35 pm

    Of course you don’t think that Aaron.

    This is why we “online Mormons” have to keep explaining it to you.

    The Bible was not theologically clear. It was not sufficient to decisively establish most of your truly unique theological positions. Which is why your faith tradition required later men to come and add to the Bible.

    But I’m well aware you’d like a poke in the eye better than admitting this. Nonetheless, my point stands.

  104. February 12, 2010 9:45 pm

    The Bible was not theologically clear. It was not sufficient to decisively establish most of your truly unique theological positions. Which is why your faith tradition required later men to come and add to the Bible.

    Wrong Seth. They didn’t add to the Bible, they interpretted it. There is a correct interpretation, and it is acheivable.

    Just because Mormons interpret the Bible wrong (due to additional false scripture and false prophets) does not mean the Bible is not clear. Human error does not make the Bible less than sufficient.

    Darrell

  105. February 12, 2010 9:50 pm

    Same as it’s always been Darrell. Same as it was for Paul, same as it was for Peter. To declare Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    Oh, so now they do more than just lead the church… they actually teach and preach. But wait, that means they have to teach and preach theological messages.

    Nevertheless, they aren’t required to be theologically correct. Afterall, they are only men who supposedly talk to God. It would be highly improper for us to expect them to actually get the study of God right. We need the people who study the error filled Bible in order to get that right.

    Round and round in circles we go.

    Darrell

  106. February 12, 2010 10:03 pm

    Creation ex nihilo.

    Not in the Bible.

    There are other examples, but that one is pretty clear.

    Christian thinkers added the concept to the Biblical text because their own philosophical paradigm required that it be so. Perhaps they were right, perhaps they were wrong. But it is quite clear the Bible is and was silent on the matter.

    So yes, they did “add” to the Bible.

  107. February 12, 2010 10:06 pm

    Yes, they teach theological” messages. Did I ever say they didn’t?

    What I said Darrell is that you don’t have to be theologically COMPLEX or completely in-depth to declare a very simple message – Jesus Christ and him crucified. You don’t need a PhD at divinity school to do it.

    I’m not writing in rejection of the practical role and place of theology. I’m just saying some of you have taken it waay overboard in its role.

  108. February 12, 2010 10:06 pm

    Wrong Seth… we have gone round and round on this topic. It is clear in Colossians. You may not choose to read it that way, but then again, you are free to be wrong.

    🙂

    Darrell

  109. February 12, 2010 10:08 pm

    No, Seth, I don’t think you’re understanding me here. But I also don’t think I can say it any clearer than I already have.

    I appreciate your efforts to be generous to non-LDS Christians just the same.

    Have a happy Lupercalia weekend.

  110. February 12, 2010 10:14 pm

    And just so we’re clear, this was not me trying to be one of those “online evangelicals” and force Mormonism to say orthodoxy is important. This is something I’ve honestly been ruminating on lately.

    Anyways, take care.

  111. February 12, 2010 10:21 pm

    I’m not writing in rejection of the practical role and place of theology. I’m just saying some of you have taken it waay overboard in its role.

    Yeah, I know. How dare we say that a person needs to know the true nature of the God he worshipping. Wait, I think your church even teaches that.

    So, you are right, we are way off base to question whether it is okay to teach that Jesus was created, God and man are the same nature, the Father was once a man who walked on another earth beholden to another God?

    Blake Ostler himself seems to downplay the importance of knowing the true nature of God (despite what your own Prophet Joseph Smith said) by asserting that a finite God or an infinite God are both okay teachings within Mormonism.

    But no, you are right, it is way to theologically rigorous to expect a man who talks with God to get his nature right.

    Darrell

  112. February 12, 2010 10:41 pm

    It is unreasonable to automatically expect that Darrell.

    Or did you suddenly change your mind and decide that everything about God is knowable by human beings?

    And by the way, I’m kind of curious how many times you are going to keep asserting that the “Mormon Jesus” is a created being. We’ve more than established that he isn’t. I’ve personally explained it to you several times. If you keep using that terminology, it’s going to start looking like you are deliberately misrepresenting LDS beliefs in an attempt to score “scare points” with any uniformed Evangelicals you think might be reading this.

  113. February 12, 2010 11:04 pm

    A spirit born Jesus who progressed to Godhood is and has been taught in Mormonism Seth. You can deny it all you want and accuse me of dishonesty if you like, but it won’t change the truth.

    Darrell

  114. February 12, 2010 11:26 pm

    Yeah, exactly. That is a viewpoint within Mormonism. But it doesn’t change my point.

    Uncreated.

  115. February 12, 2010 11:32 pm

    Deprnds on your view of Spirit Birth Seth. Maybe. Maybe not.

    Uncreated to you. Other views within your faith take more latitude with the view of spirit birth.

    Come on now. Stop being so dogmatic in your theology. Allow your fellow Mormons some room.

    Darrell

  116. February 12, 2010 11:35 pm

    Still can’t get used to typing on an iPhone. Pardon the sloppy posts!

    Darrell

  117. February 12, 2010 11:38 pm

    I’m not being dogmatic about LDS beliefs Darrell. I’m simply engaging YOUR dogmatism.

    The dogma of your tradition has a special use for the word “created.” When a Protestant apologist uses the word, it almost always seems to mean ex nihilo. Nine times out of ten.

    Since we reject creation ex nihilo, your use of the word does not apply to our beliefs in this instance. So you need to be more explicit about how you are using the word. Otherwise, I will end up concluding you are taking advantage of double-meanings in the term to deliberately mislead your fellow Evangelicals who are less educated on the subject.

  118. February 13, 2010 3:51 am

    Seth,

    First, who’s talking to a protestant that is uninformed about Mormonism? We are two well informed people discussing the Mormon faith. I believe you know exactly what I am talking about, and you are just trying to cloud the issue.

    Second, there is no need to worry about my level of honesty when discussing Mormonism with those who are uninformed about it. I don’t expect you to believe me, but the reality of the matter is I am more than honest. I have a power much higher than Seth to report to on that point.

    Third, if you want to discuss honesty in delivering the Mormon message, than we really need to talk about the LDS Church’s proselytizing methods. All the LDS Missionaries who share with Evangelical Christians that “Mormons believe just like you do” or “No, we believe in salvation by faith alone as well”. There are major sins of omission as well: never bothering to mention that the LDS Church has taught that God was once a man who progressed to Godhood or that man will progress to become a god who populates other worlds.

    If anyone has issues with honesty in dialogue, it is the Mormon Church representatives.

    Darrell

  119. February 13, 2010 4:31 am

    It’s a well known statistic that about 80% of any given blog’s readership never comment.

    As far as I knew Darrell, we’d both written each other off as hopeless cases and were merely carrying on for the benefit of the silent readership.

  120. February 13, 2010 4:33 am

    Everyone is busy Darrell, and with limited air-time to get their core message out.

    The LDS Church does a more than serviceable job of getting their CORE message out.

  121. February 13, 2010 4:28 pm

    I would say that the LDS Church’s method is a great way to achieve their goal, which is to get people to join the church. But, no, I don’t believe full honesty has any function in it.

    Darrell

  122. Scott Lloyd permalink
    March 13, 2011 6:16 am

    Just found this site while looking up something else on a Google search; hence, my late contribution.

    I notice Ms. Jack wrote above:

    “Katie, there’s actually some merit to the liberal / neo-orthodox labels Aaron is using. Last year, Scott Lloyd (one of the apologists for FAIR) did a thread at MADB proposing a new dichotomy between “orthodox Mormons” (apologists, intellectuals, people who like to consider church manuals and General Conference talks “not doctrine”) and “folk Mormons” (the morons filling the pews who don’t do their homework on LDS history and actually believe most of what the prophets say comes from God). Since then I’ve been seeing more online Mormons trying to use the terms in those ways.”

    Ms. Jack is accuracy-challenged.

    In the first place, I am not “one of the apologists for FAIR.” I am not affiliated with FAIR. I do post on a message board that in the past was operated by FAIR. Posting there does not make one “an apologist for FAIR,” as even anti-Mormons are/have been allowed to post there.

    Second, Ms. Jack has distorted my meaning. My suggestion, which I raised for discussion purposes only and have since abandoned, was by way of conveying my belief that Mormon orthodoxy is what the LDS Church leadership defines it to be, not some notion that somebody clings to merely because grandfather happened to believe it was so.

    I doubt anyone will see this comment at this late date, but at least my effort to set things straight will be part of the record.

    Scott Lloyd

  123. March 16, 2011 10:44 pm

    Scott ~ Are you not a member of FAIR? If so, I apologize for getting this wrong. You are the Church News staff writer who routinely covers the FAIR Conference every year, and your participation at MADB indicates that you are heavily interested in LDS apologetics, so I’m sure you’ll understand how the mistake was an innocent one.

    Since you claim that I misrepresented your idea, I’m surprised that you did not link to the original material so that others can judge for themselves. Your OP seems to have vanished from the MADB Web site, but thankfully, Google has it cached.

    Here is what you wrote about “orthodox Mormons” versus “folk Mormons”:

    On the one hand, we have Mormons who seek to learn and understand the authoritative doctrines, policies and positions of the Church so as to use them as guidelines for their own faith, belief, worship. For the purpose of discussion, I shall call them orthodox Mormons.

    On the other hand, we have Mormons who, for whatever reason — laziness, intellectual neglect, intransigence, invincible ignorance, whatever — cling to folk doctrine as though it were scripture. I shall call them folk Mormons.

    To illustrate how this breaks down, here are a couple of applications:

    A folk Mormon is convinced that all faithful Church members one day will be called upon to walk en masse to Jackson County, Mo., there to build the temple of the New Jerusalem.

    An orthodox Mormon understands that the above notion is a tradition handed down from the early Utah period of Church history, when some Church members were convinced the Second Coming would occur within their lifetimes and they would have the opportunity to go reclaim their Missouri lands.

    A folk Mormon is wedded to a traditional understanding about Book of Mormon geography (i.e. hemispheric or North American model) to the point of calling into question the faithfulness and loyalty of those who are not.

    An orthodox Mormon knows that the Church takes no official position about locales for specific Book of Mormon events and thus understands that Latter-day Saints are not bound to accept one particular model over another.

    A folk Mormon is prone to gospel hobbyism at the expense of a wholesome balance in scriptural and doctrinal scholarship.

    An orthodox Mormon lives “by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.”

    And later on, another poster even offered in the thread:

    I’m pretty sure by “orthodox,” you mean “neo-orthodox.”

    I will allow others to decide for themselves how “accuracy-challenged” I am.

  124. Scott Lloyd permalink
    March 22, 2011 5:00 pm

    Ms. Jack,

    I didn’t link to it because I couldn’t find it. The board has changed its name, old Google links don’t work anymore and, from what I understand, the board has only archived a portion of its older content. Obviously, your Google-aided detective skills are better than mine.

    My position is and has been that orthodoxy in the Church of Jesus Christ is defined institutionally, from the top down, not by what traditionally gets passed along just because nobody gets around to correcting it for a while. And I reject the notion of a “neo-orthodoxy” in Mormonism.

    Anything attributed to me that is not consistent with the above is a misrepresentation of my position.

  125. March 23, 2011 6:39 am

    Scott ~ For the record, my “Google-aided detective skills” consisted of doing a search for “scott lloyd orthodox folk mormons,” which pulled up several blogs that quoted your post directly. I then did a search for an exact quote from the post (“laziness, intellectual neglect, intransigence, invincible ignorance”) which pulled up the now-defuct MADB thread link and its Google cache. It took less than a minute.

    Given the re-organization of MADB, I don’t blame you for not being able to locate the post with ease, but now you know how it’s done.

    As I stated earlier, I’m content to let your OP speak for itself.

  126. Scott Lloyd permalink
    March 23, 2011 3:58 pm

    OK. I don’t think you’ll find in there anything about “morons filling the pews who don’t do their homework on LDS history and actually believe most of what the prophets say comes from God.”

  127. March 23, 2011 4:34 pm

    Scott ~ A critical restatement of an idea is not the same thing as a misrepresentation. I think it’s in your best interest to learn the difference.

  128. Scott Lloyd permalink
    March 24, 2011 4:10 am

    Apparently “critical restatement of an idea” is your spin phrase for hostile distortion.

    But as you say, let the earlier post speak for itself. How about we do the same with my follow-up clarification posted here?

  129. March 24, 2011 7:36 am

    Apparently “critical restatement of an idea” is your spin phrase for hostile distortion.

    No, Scott. Allow me to break it down for you piece-by-piece:

    morons . . . who don’t do their homework on LDS history = My paraphrase of your laziness, intellectual neglect, intransigence, invincible ignorance as the proposed reasons for the existence of “folk Mormons.” This one should be fairly obvious.

    filling the pews = My assessment of who these “folk Mormons” are that you targeted in your post. It’s my experience that the majority of LDS members hold to ideas that you and other apologists would deem as “folk Mormon” doctrine, therefore your post was really a critique of the bulk of your LDS brothers and sisters.

    actually believe most of what the prophets say comes from God. = Where these loathsome “folk Mormon” doctrines that you despise so much actually originated.

    Now you may (and almost certainly will) disagree with my critique of the fatuous, self-serving categories that you proposed over a year ago, but your protests here that I misrepresented your ridiculous ideas are just pathetic. There was no need to misrepresent your OP; it was terrible all on its own.

    How about we do the same with my follow-up clarification posted here?

    I’ve been trying to do as much for at least three posts now, as you can observe from my lack of attempts to address your post hoc “clarifications.” You’re the one who keeps dragging this out.

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