The Outrageous Claims of Mormonism

April 14, 2009

From the perspective of traditional Christianity, the claims of Mormonism are outrageous.  Arguably their most outrageous claim is that the early Christian church, one or more of them, removed “many plain and precious parts” from the scriptures shortly after the death and resurrection of the Savior.  What was left out when the New Testament was first put together many centuries ago?  Who decided what was to be included?  Upon what basis or criteria were some early Christian works deemed worthy while others were not?  Perhaps more importantly, who authorized these scholars and clergymen to decided for all of us what is and is not scripture?  How can we be sure that they were objective and unbiased in their scholarship?  Was something that should have been included left out?  Was anything that should have been left out included?

If we do not have answers to all of these these questions, can we be certain that our understanding of Christian doctrine is approved by the Savior?  Those who feel that Mormons are not Christians because some of their claims are outrageous may be the ones who are truly outrageous, not the Mormons.  If we are honest and humble followers of Christ,  concern should be true or false, not orthodox or heretical.

I want to know what true scripture was left out of the Bible.  How do I find out?  Help me out here.

How Wide Is The Divide?

August 24, 2008

Today in high priest group we discussed Elder Holland’s talk to the last General Conference entitled, “My Words Never Cease.”  In it he discusses the doctrine and scripture underlying the principle of continuing revelation and the concept of new scripture that adds to what we already have in the Bible.  During the discussion I became aware of two forces or ideas that were being expressed.  One is that we must teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ in such a manner that it does not offend anyone.  The other is that we must preach the truth even if some are offended because truth always offends some.

Which is it?  Must we preach truth even if some are going to be offended?  Or should we carefully avoid bringing up doctrinal differences with other faiths who might be offended in the interests of being accepted as mainstream or perhaps not so mainstream Christians?  Just how different are our doctrinal beliefs?  Or “how wide is the divide” as some have recently expressed it?  And if the divide is wide, if our beliefs are very different from those of traditional Christianity, how likely is it that we will be able to convince them that we are Christian even though we believe very differently?

Finally, is there any danger to the saints themselves in coming to believe there is very little difference between what we believe and what the evangelicals and other traditional Christians believe?  Is there any chance that some of our own members will become confused about doctrine and begin to think that “one church is as good as another” or that it isn’t really important to be a baptized Mormon if one is a sincere believer in a Protestant faith that is pretty much the same?

What is salvation in Mormon doctrine?

July 16, 2008

I have been a little frustrated in recent years by the various ways in which knowledgeable Latter-day Saints use the term “salvation.” Since joining the Church as a high school senior in 1963 before my 18th birthday, I have always used it to mean “eternal life” or “exaltation” which means receiving a fullness of the Father and a “continuation of the seeds” in the highest of three degrees in the Celestial Kingdom which is the highest of three kingdoms of glory. (See D&C 76 and 131). Every other reward or punishment in the next life is some form of “damnation.”

I use my definition for salvation because of my studies of the scripture, the writings of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, the writings of Robert L. Millett of the Religion Department at BYU, and the official Church manual True to the Faith which has been through correlation and is distributed to new members of the Church.

Other knowledgeable members with an interest in doctrine insist on using the term “salvation” to mean any inheritance in a kingdom of glory whether it be be telestial, terrestrial or celestial. They reason that any “kingdom of glory” must be considered a form of salvation regardless of whether or not it involves exaltation and eternal life. After all, only the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes such a reward possible, and the Prophet Joseph Smith is reported to have said that the telestial kingdom is so glorious and so much better than the life we live here in mortality that we would commit suicide to get there if we could see what we are missing. What the prophet’s actual words were, and whether or not they were reliably recorded, I cannot say.

While I have never read anything in True to the Faith that I clearly disagree with, and I accept it as an authoritative statement on official Church doctrine, I also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God and the “most correct book on earth” as proclaimed by Joseph Smith. And the other day I ran across this passage which I found interesting because of my frustration over the varying and sometimes conflicting definitions of salvation used by Latter-day Saints. Here is the passage, and it clears things up for me:

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. (Alma 11:40)

What does this mean for us? In the vast majority of cases where the words “saved” or “salvation” are used in scripture, it is a reference to eternal life and exaltation. There are a tiny number of instances where these words are used to mean something else. But those instances are so few that when we use these terms to mean anything other than eternal life and exaltation, we ought to carefully explain our definitions. Otherwise, many will be confused. Our meaning will not be clear. We must not use these terms willy-nilly and just assume that others understand. Remember, even the Sons of Perdition will be “saved” in the sense of being restored to resurrected, physical bodies before they are cast into Outer Darkness with the devil and his angels. And the resurrection could never take place without the Atonement of Jesus Christ either. But no one would suggest that the Sons of Perdition are “saved” or inherit “salvation.”

False Prophets, True Prophets and Service

June 4, 2008

“A false prophet tells you what you want to hear. A true prophet tells you what the Lord wants you to hear.”

I heard this a few weeks ago, and it rings true to me. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. Ever since mankind left the Garden of Eden, he has been stoning the prophets, and otherwise killing them. And that certainly was not because they were telling the people what they wanted to hear.

Is this a true principle that can be applied to service work? We hear a lot about service in the Church as the answer to almost everything, but when service is mentioned it is usually in general terms. One rarely hears anyone explain just exactly what it is. What is service anyway? Is it work that is wanted by those who receive it, or is it work that the Lord wants them to receive? Sometimes I get the idea that service is whatever we want to do for neighbors that will make us feel good rather than what they need or want.

For instance, to many Elder’s Quorums, service is fixing a roof or painting a fence or perhaps doing some yard work for an elderly widow. Perhaps it is collecting some canned goods for donating to a “poor” family that doesn’t have enough to eat. Does this mean that a brother or sister doesn’t need “service” if he can afford to hire a contractor to fix his roof or paint his fence? If he has plenty of food, does that mean he needs no service? What if his biggest need is to overcome the problem of loneliness? Does the Church have service projects to deal with that? It is hard to see how paint, yard work, canned goods, etc. will help a new member deal with his loneliness after he has lost all his friends and family when he joined the Church. And we all know that many new members lose everything socially. They have no friends except us when we do “service” by taking them into our families and circles of friends. And a person does not have to be a new member to be lonely. With the disintegration of the family in our time, loneliness has become a major problem everywhere including the Church.

What many think of as service is highly overrated, in my view. We need to provide the service that the Lord wants us to provide, not what we think we would like to do. The first step is to find out from the Lord and from our fellow ward members what is really needed. And then we must do like a true prophet does and provide what the Lord wants us to provide. Service is wonderful indeed, but that depends on the service. Let’s not be like the Boy Scout who came home all beat up.

“What happened,” his family asked.

“I helped a little old lady across the street,” he replied.

“But why are you all beat up?”

“I guess she didn’t want to go,” he shrugged.

Let us provide the service that is needed. If we aren’t willing to do that, let us just forget about service.