Not a stumbling block

Mitt Romney defended his Mormon faith rather well at last night’s gathering of the ten declared Republican candidates for president last night. He was forthright, did not evade the question, and should be respected for the apparent strength of his belief.

But here’s where this Christian has to stop and specify: I respect Gov. Romney’s strength of belief; I do not agree with or respect his actual belief. I find the Mormon faith to be interesting, and Mormons to be good people. But Mormonism is not Christian. It isn’t even clear that it is a monotheistic faith, and there appear to be strong elements of idolatry.

A fairness doctrine kicks in here: so, too, have many Protestants described Roman Catholics (“cult”, idolators), and Jews, Muslims, and nonbelievers of all stripes find our theology of the incarnation of Jesus to be strange if not outright idolatrous. But we have the advantage of having truth on our side…(can’t find the HTML code for “grin”, so, just imagine it to be here…)

We should all tend to that proverbial beam in our eye before we seek to remove the mote from the eyes of Latter Day Saints. In different words, what I would ask is good old American tolerance: to not insist those who believe differently from us to change or renounce their heartfelt belief to gain public office.

In other words, I would vote for Mitt Romney if he is the Republican nominee. Although my preference is Rudy Giuliani, Romney is still head and shoulders above any Democrat now in the race.

What would it take for me to make a candidate’s religion a true stumbling block? If a candidate was a believer in a faith whose theology requires the rest of us to convert, or otherwise submit and accept second- or worse class citizenship.

Right now, only Islam among the major faiths comes to mind. Mormons are persistent evangelists, but aren’t known for attempting to convert us all at the point of a sword.

[addendum Beliefnet has a comparison between the major elements of Christianity and Mormonism. This is sufficient for me; Mormonism is not a Christian faith to my mind.

Along these lines (departure from Christian belief), Mormons also believe that it wasn’t our free will that got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden, rather, it was God’s plan from the beginning. And, as a consequence, mankind is not totally depraved, but, rather, according to this summary at Beliefnet,

The Fall was a planned blessing from God, enabling people to experience human bodies, procreate, experience the joy of redemption, and to do good…

This is interesting; “a planned blessing.” As for that doing good, well, based on the results to date, I’d vote for “totally depraved” as a more accurate description of our species.]

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9 comments

  1. This is interesting. Weird, but interesting. Regardless of personal struggles like this example, Mr. Romney is the best candidate for the job.

  2. In response to your article you state,

    I find the Mormon faith to be interesting, and Mormons to be good people. But Mormonism is not Christian. It isn’t even clear that it is a monotheistic faith, and there appear to be strong elements of idolatry.

    What elements of idolatry are you refering to?

  3. Idolatrous elements include this description of God (from Beliefnet:

    God the Father resides in heaven with His wife, the Heavenly Mother; Christ, their only begotten Son; and “exalted” Mormons, who become God-like in heaven. God has a perfect body, which looks like ours.

    God with his “wife?” and a “perfect body, which looks like ours?” Both are reflections of making God in our image, and thus is worship of that which is less than God as Christians conceive the Deity.

    The other element is the total authority of human authority in the person of the LDS leader to supersede Scripture.

  4. sloagm · · Reply

    Well, I think that the Beliefnet description is actually a pretty good description of what the LDS believe. It is clear that your description of Christianity relies much more on creedal notions than biblical notions. These creedal men weren’t prophets, nor were they apostles, nor were they ordained or called by apostles. You can’t remove the head of the church (prophet and apostles) and still expect the body to function properly. They don’t have the authority to act in that capacity. Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist church in America said so himself, and he then left the sect that he formed. However, he did not leave his faith in Christ or in God, or the scriptures.

    The difference is in the creeds. Your ideas of the Godhead, your idea that the Bible is closed canon (in fact, the bible was not even a book until its compilation much, much, much later than the writings of John the Apostle and Revelator), all come from the creeds. The books of the bible were a collection of scrolls and manuscripts, and during the creedal period it was decided what was scripture and what was not. The oldest complete Christina bible is from the 8th century. Imagine all the words of the prophets and apostles that were left out of the Bible when the creedal leaders (or those that came later) decided what was important and what was not. By whose authority did they make that decision? Do you imagine that for all the time that Peter led the church that he only wrote a few doctrinal letters? Or Paul, or Stephen, or James? Or any of the other apostles?

    Your ideas of original sin and the fall come from the creeds and philosophers of that period as well, not the scriptures.

    On that basis, if that is your definition then the LDS church definitely does not fit it.

    The Christian concept of Christ on belief net is exactly what I believe. In terms of BeliefNet’s discussion of the conception of Mary in “the most literal sense” we really have no doctrine other than the Biblical account, so we don’t teach that God and Mary had some kind of intimacy. How it happened except the teaching that it was miraculous is irrelevant to our Salvation so we don’t teach it. We will not be judged based on our understanding of the details of the conception of Christ.

    The concept of free will was the entire reason that Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden. The fact that God knew that they would take that course of action does not negate their free will to do it. The plan was for Christ to be our Savior from the beginning. It wasn’t as though God had to rethink things after Adam and Eve disobeyed. Can you imagine God saying to himself “oh no, they ate the fruit! Now what do I do? I guess I will have to provide a Savior for them.” It was known all along. That does not negate our freedom to choose. Just because God knows us better than we know ourselves doesn’t mean we don’t make our own decisions. The fall provided a way for God to send us to earth and be tested, receive a body (a sacred blessing, not a curse), and prepare ourselves for eternity. Our entire existence here is “a planned blessing,” the fall is only one part of it.

    As for your idea that we are all depraved, I guess I have more optimism in the human family than you do. I believe we all have need of the redeeming power of Christ, but there are many, many people that are trying their best, and many others that are only “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”

    I know this is a political blog, but you raise some really important points of LDS doctrine. So those are my two cents.

  5. sloagm · · Reply

    In my posting above I stated that the prophet and apostles are the heads of the church. In fact Christ is the head of his church. However, after Christ was killed he directed his church through those he directly ordained as his apostles, and “upon [that] rock” he said he would build his church. Rock, in the Greek, is Peter the prophet and head of the apostles.

    I just wanted to clarify that, so that people don’t think we believe that a prophet is actually the head of Christ’s church. Christ is the head of His Church, and He calls prophets and apostles to govern His affairs on earth under His direction.

    The organization of His church on earth is separate from the relationship that anyone on earth can have with Him if they seek after Him, for truth is truth wherever it is found. You don’t have to be a member of His church to receive answers to your prayers or have a testimony of His divinity because all are alike unto God, and he will bless anyone that believes in Him and is a “doer of the word, not a hearer only”.

  6. sloagm · · Reply

    After reading your mischaracterization of my beliefs, and your discussing of some interesting LDS ideas that may seem quirky, but have nothing to do with salvation through Christ, I posted two replies. Is there a reason why they were both removed? Just wondering…

  7. jdmkun · · Reply

    I certainly agree to your comment on tolerance. God isn’t a respecter or persons so why should we be?

    The doctrines of the LDS faith may seem strange to those not of the faith, because they don’t match the traditions of Christianity. One example: Christians believe that God does not have a body. This belief can be traced back to the Nicene Creed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed) which was over 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe Christ has a body of flesh and bone. The scriptures clearly support this position. After Christ’s resurrection, Christ appeared to many people. Luke 24:39 states, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Doesn’t the Holy Bible also state that “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) The scriptures also state that “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) And didn’t Israel (Jacob) state he saw God “face to face” (Genesis 32:30) I could submit many more references out of the King James Bible. My point is that there’s always two sides to every story.

    To your other point regarding LDS leaders superseding scripture… the LDS church believes in continued revelation through proper authority. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”(2 Tim 3:16) Is it a difference in belief, yes. However, who is to tell God that he can’t talk to his children? I think God wishes to help his children. It’s when we close our eyes and ears that he can’t. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

  8. Sloagm, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    I did not remove any of your comments; just hadn’t gotten to moderating them until just now.

    The only comments I will delete are those that are personally abusive, obscene, or spam.

    You raise some interesting points, some of which as an evangelical Protestant I find “stumbling blocks” — e.g. the concept of some wise men interpreting Scripture in the name of Christ’s church militant.

    Catholics carry this out through what they call this concept the Magesterium, and it has its virtues.

    As for man’s depravity, it may not be quite what you think. I know that it wasn’t what I thought it was, until I began to read some authoritative evangelical preachers.

    I’ll post a complete citation from John Piper shortly.

    More to come…

  9. sloagm · · Reply

    I would also find that if some “wise” men were trying to interpret scripture it would be stumbling block. That, in fact, is the great stumbling block of the myriad of Christian denominations today. Why do you think that the world was scrambling in the “dark ages” for so long? I agree that the Magesterium doesn’t sound scriptural. I wouldn’t put my stock in a bunch of “wise men” either. What I do put my stock in is a prophet and apostles. One would not argue with the thought that Peter, the Apostle could interpret the words of the prophets, but not because he was a Pharisee scholar, it was because he submitted himself to the Holy Ghost. So in this respect he was wise, but not wise as to things of the world…wise because he knew where to find truth (through the Spirit). Likewise, prophets at any point in history are not perfect, nor are they generally the high and mighty of the world. They are not perfect (Christ was the only perfect man), but they are willing, and they know where to find answers: from God. So the LDS church lives and dies on the notion that the heavens have been reopened by Christ, through an imperfect man, as imperfect and simple as Peter the fisherman in Palestine. Nobody in the church thinks Joseph Smith was more than a man, but he was ordained an apostle by Peter, James and John the original leaders of the church, who returned to lay their hands on his head and ordain him such. And we don’t think Gordon B. Hinckley is more than a man today. He worked for the railroad and in media, and wanted to be a journalist. He is ordinary by himself. But he was ordained an apostle and is today the head apostle and prophet of the church. His authority does not come from his scholarship, it comes in an unbroken line from Joseph Smith, Peter, James and John and back to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Take it for what it is. Either it is true or it is not. But the reasoning of it is sound. It is either a fraud or it is truth, but it cannot be disputed that the organization follows the pattern of the primitive church. Don’t believe me or do believe me, that is not my decision. But that is what we preach.

    Everything else is fringe to the teaching that Christ died and was resurrected, that He lives today, and that Christ’s Priesthood authority is on the earth to direct the affairs of men, if they will heed it. That is Christ’s order, that is why he established the quorum of the 12 apostles in the first place, his plan has not changed from that time.

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