Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Why Mormons Don’t Wear Dog Collars – Yet!

I recall, many years ago, a priesthood quorum meeting at the local Mormon Church where a discussion revolved around the question of how we could raise the profile of our church and make ourselves more visible to the wider world. We sat there lost for ideas (so much for priesthood) until one man said, “We could wear badges!”

All eyes turned on him with a mixture of scorn and pity and, with a depth of derision usually reserved for talking about the ministers of other churches, someone said sarcastically, “Oh! Why don’t we go the whole hog and walk around in dog collars?” The idea was quashed there and then and nothing more said as the culprit skulked away into the night to think about his apostate ways.

Not long afterwards we saw the first Mormon missionaries turn up wearing those badges so familiar these days. Typically, this innovation came in with no comment and no one remembered the scorn and derision that had been poured on the idea. This was different. This was at the behest of “the prophet”.

The story illustrates something that is so difficult to put across in a seminar or article; the sneering contempt in those words, “why don’t we go all the way and wear dog collars!” It wasn’t a case of “Mormons don’t do that sort of thing” but undisguised disdain and disrespect for those who do.

On another occasion the local church held a fancy dress event and the highlight was two missionaries who turned up wearing their white shirts and suit waistcoats back-to-front, making them look, with their jackets on, for all the world like two young Anglican or Catholic priests. Oh, how we laughed at this sneering piece of cant.

Such contempt is a thread that runs throughout Mormonism like the writing in a stick of Blackpool rock. In barely veiled references to “men that preach for money!” and “Christians that take the easy option” Mormons informally and routinely speak contemptuously (among themselves of course) of Christian churches. Where does this self-reverential attitude come from?

It begins with the defining story of Joseph Smith who taught that all the creeds of all the churches were an abomination and all who profess those creeds corrupt (Joseph Smith History 1:19). Without this account of the Christian Churches Mormonism would be superfluous since it is claimed to be a restoration of things lost in the apostasy of those churches. It continues with the statement in the founding book of Mormonism, The Book of Mormon that the Christian churches are part of the “great and abominable church” founded by the devil and that  it slays the saints and corrupts the Bible and is the mother of abominations (1 Nephi chs.13-22)

It progresses through the statements of other Mormon leaders who proclaim that Christianity is “a sounding brass...as corrupt as hell” and an agent of the devil (John Taylor, 3rd Mormon president) and who identify the Catholic Church as a satanic organisation, the whore of Babylon, and Protestant churches as harlot daughters (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon apostle, Mormon Doctrine).

Mormons, Satan and the “Orthodox Religion”

Finally, it comes via the infamous portrayal in Mormon temple ceremonies of a Christian minister being in the pay of Satan. This portion of the temple ceremony involved a dramatisation, originally played by live actors but latterly shown on film, showing a Christian minister, complete with dog collar, being summoned onto the scene by Satan who offers to pay him if he will preach “the orthodox religion” to Adam and Eve.

The minister proceeds to preach the Christian message which Adam finds “incomprehensible” and rejects in favour of the message brought by two agents from God who preach Mormonism. The conversation between Satan, the minister and Adam when I went through the temple in the 1970’s went like this:

ADAM: Who are you?

          LUCIFER: I am the God of this world.
ADAM: You, the God of this world?
LUCIFER: Yes, what do you want?
ADAM: I am looking for messengers.
LUCIFER: Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you? I will have preachers here presently.
(Lucifer turns his head as a sectarian minister approaches the group)
LUCIFER: Good Morning sir!
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Good morning!
(The preacher turns and looks into the camera.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: A fine congregation!
LUCIFER: Yes, they are a very good people. They are concerned about religion. Are you a preacher?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am.
LUCIFER: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Certainly! A man cannot preach unless has been trained for the ministry.
LUCIFER: Do you preach the orthodox religion?
SECTARIAN MINISTER: Yes, that is what I preach.
LUCIFER: If you will preach your orthodox religion to these people, and convert them, I will pay you well.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I will do my best.
(Lucifer guides the preacher to Adam and Eve, who stand nearby.)
LUCIFER: Here is a man who desires religion. He is very much exercised, and seems to be sincere.
(As Lucifer presents the preacher to Adam and Eve he steps back and observes the ensuing conversation. The preacher is made to sound sincere, although misguided and credulous. Adam appears humble, faithful and immovable in his determination to serve God. He is not swayed by the preacher, and is astounded by the doctrines espoused by the preacher.)
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I understand that you are inquiring after religion.
ADAM: I was calling upon Father.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am glad to know that you were calling upon Father. Do you believe in a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who sits on the top of a topless throne; whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere; who fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved by grace, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure. Do you believe in such a great Being?
ADAM: I do not. I cannot comprehend such a being.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: That is the beauty of it. Perhaps you do not believe in a devil, and in that great hell, the bottomless pit, where there is a lake of fire and brimstone into which the wicked are cast, and where they are continually burning, but never consumed?
ADAM: I do not believe in any such place.
SECTARIAN MINISTER: My dear friend, I am sorry for you.

To find out more about the ceremony and its different incarnations and to hear an audio you can visit Mormon Coffee, the blog of Mormonism Research Ministry

But the Melody Lingers on

There you will discover that this portion of the ceremony was finally removed, one of several radical changes made in 1990. Nevertheless, it defines the Mormon attitude to other churches and explains that conversation back in the early 1970’s when that minister was still routinely mocked and portrayed as a lackey of Satan.

As I have said, this is the hardest thing to put across in an article, attitudes passed from generation to generation, but it is an important insight. Another instance of it involves an encounter I had with Mormon missionaries earlier this year.

A young man of 20 approached me outside my house to talk about his religion and I told him I was a Christian. With a display of hubris that took my breath away he asked had I ever before met anyone like him who was giving up two years of his life to serve a fulltime mission. I thought of the many people I know who gave up half a lifetime to serve missions in places a good deal less comfortable and more dangerous than the second city of Wales. I answered that I had and it seemed to take the wind out of his sails for a moment.

I then told him that I had been a Mormon but had long left that church to become a Christian. He asked me why I had left and I was glad to share with him the message of grace that had won me to the Lord. This was when his whole demeanour changed and, his face contorted in a mocking sneer, he began barracking me about turning my back on “the church”. When I began to respond he positively bellowed at me, “DON’T YOU QUESTION MY AUTHORITY!” It was quite comical to see this 20 year old really believing he was an “elder” and had authority.

His companion, who had been pretty quiet throughout this exchange, I use the term ‘exchange’ loosely, at least had the good grace to shuffle his feet and look embarrassed. The young missionary then pointed imperiously at the house I had left and told me in no uncertain terms that my faith meant that I could sit at home for the rest of my life unconcerned for the lost since I had my ticket to heaven, unlike his which urged him on to go bravely to - Swansea?

You see, contempt is the attitude of the typical Mormon towards other churches and my missionary encounter confirms that it is not peculiar to older generations but colours the thinking of young Mormons coming through today to represent their church to the world.

But Mormons are so very nice, so very upstanding and responsible and of course this is true. But they still look upon Christians with that peculiar mix of pity and haughty disapproval typical of a people who know that they are God’s best and we are the rest. Perhaps one day, as with the badges, Mormons will adopt dog collars, but you can be sure that when they do they will hold in as much contempt those who don’t as they now do those who do.

33 comments:

  1. You know something Mike... Your particular ward must have been a real piece of work.

    Interesting how your own localized experiences inflate into a theme that runs throughout the LDS Church though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are a piece of work Seth and no mistake. No matter what the issue, however clearly it is explained, you always find a way to twist things such that it falls to the hapless and misguided individual, local group or those nasty anti-Mormons to take the flak.

    You don't stop for a moment to ask whether there might be something to learn, you just pile in with your recriminations and dodge the issue. After all, your a Mormon so what on earth could anyone teach you? Jesus would say, "I have not found such blind faith, no not in all Israel."

    It was a normal ward and the experience wasn't confined to them or to then, something you might have realised had you read without prejudice. Of course, in those days Mormons actually believed something. In those days restoration was the watchword. These days goodness knows what motivates a Mormon to get up on a Sunday morning.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Carla. I do think these memories are important and reflect how Mormons have thought over time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was thinking that my experience wouldn't add anything, until I read Seth's comments. I have never been a Mormon but moved to Utah a few years ago for my husband's job. I have been a Christian and studying the Bible since I was 15 years old. I politely listened to his presentation of his church then I began to share who I believed God to be (not what he believed) and how we can be sure of heaven. I said that Christians don't do good works so the can gain favor with God but because we are so grateful for His grace, and because we were saved FOR good works, not BY good works. Then he asked in a sarcastic tone, "Well, what good works do YOU do?" (Mind you, this is a boy-child speaking to a nearly 60 year old woman in HER home, at his request!) When I told him that for 5 yrs I have been volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center he seemed quite at a loss for words! At some point, he began to sneer and snicker at what I was saying. I reminded him that I had listened respectfully to the nonsense he was trying to pass off as truth and he could at least show some respect to me even if he didn't agree with what I was saying.
    So, Seth, this is not a localized situation. I'm on the other side of the world. I have only spoken to two teams of missionaries (though I've had neighbors who were Mormons even before I moved to Utah and have been in Utah 7 years now). I also had an older missionary who invited me to ask questions, when I did so, and then pointed out that his answer didn't fit with the Bible, he pointed his finger at me in anger and said, "well, one day you'll see you're wrong" and turned on his heels. Mind you, I'm a very soft-spoken woman who simply "spoke the Truth in love". If they believe they have the truth, why be so combative and rude?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes. I knew missionaries in my own mission who were like this.

    They usually made pretty bad company for their fellow missionaries as well.

    One of the missionaries I had to work with was like that. He, as a brand new missionary, once lectured his senior companion while the guy was laid up in a hospital bed with a cast covering his entire arm about how he was "holding back" his personal missionary work, and needed to "hurry up" and heal so he wouldn't have to waste any more time waiting for him.

    Yeah, he was a real gem to deal with. One of my companions almost quit the mission field and went home because of the guilt trips this guy always enjoyed laying on us.

    I imagine I have just as many anecdotes as you do on this subject.

    But I quite reject that these attitudes are any more pervasive in the LDS Church than in your local Berean Baptist congregation - or in the Lutheran chapel down the street.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Jolee, your experience is of great value. It not only affirms what I have written (the least important part) but it equips you to teach and warn others who might be considering the Mormon message (the most important part). Thanks for speaking the truth in love and God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would also remind you that the grace is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    I think this kind of thinking may be impacting several Mormons within the faith currently.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Seth,

    You are right of course. There are "attitudes" in all churches and I have met them as much as anyone. The problem is that in most churches they are problematic and dealt with whereas in Mormonism it is "official". You can't just dismiss the temple text for instance, not even by hiding behind the old "sacred so we don't talk about it" ploy. I visited the temple many times and saw that scene played out time and again.

    From Joseph Smith's earliest history (JSH 1:19) through the statements of most Mormon leaders at one time or another, to the text referred to above, this attitude to other churches is endemic. Of course, when you are on the inside this is not your experience and, even after that event I related in priesthood class, I would have taken your view on things. But, having stepped outside, and looking at it from a different perspective, and having been many times on the receiving end of this attitude, I find it undeniable.

    It isn't a case of getting at Mormons or refusing to see the good and only seeing the bad. It is more a question of underastanding what you are seeing before your eyes when it happens to you. Why are these people like that? Because it has always been encouraged.

    I would add a codicile. I have come to joke with my friends that, presented with two American Mormon missionaries, I can within a few minutes tell you which one is from Utah. I have even done it at a distance when others have told me their stories.

    "He was like this"

    Was he from Utah?"

    Funny you should ask that...?

    Funny that, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Actually, he was from Vegas. He converted mid-adolescence.

    ReplyDelete
  10. And the only reason this stuff is not "official" in Protestant churches is because Protestants are always able to pull the "that's not official" trump card as a part of their organizational structure.

    But in reality, the culture of judgment and works-obsession, and holier than thou is every bit as much a problem in Protestant circles as in Mormon circles.

    The only difference is that Protestants have found a convenient "out" via organizational choices. Thus, they don't really have to take responsibility for anything they say, do, or believe.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Seth,

    There is no offical Protestant "that's not official" trump card because there is no single monolithic Protestant organisation that claims the position of "official" and no Protestant Church HQ to rule by dictat.

    The remark about not taking responsibility is below the belt, unfair, untrue and, frankly, quite ironic. I take responsibility for everything I say, do and believe and will stand with any man or woman prepared to take this seriously.

    Of course, it could be that grace is greener on the other side because what Mormons think of as grace is dry brushland. Maybe the grace is greener because it is real grace.

    Stop and think for a moment about how Mormons get all excited in meeting the promise of grace and then how it feels after so many years to find that you have to "earn God's generous liberality." Since becoming a Christian this popular and familiar Mormon oxymoron has come to seem what it is - bizarre.

    Then you look across the fence at your Christian neighbour and he's got grace in spades free for the asking, just like the Bible promises. The grace on the other side is bound to look greener because it is.

    ReplyDelete
  12. No, it's not below the belt. Because half the online Protestants I encounter pull out the same "I'm not connected to any of the other bad things in my religious culture" line of rubbish in debates on a regular basis. The first line of your above comment is case-in-point. It is used as a trump card by Protestant debaters ALL THE TIME.

    It is irresponsible. Protestantism has deliberately chosen an organizationally dysfunctional structure.

    But if you think I'm going to let you hide behind that choice and throw crap at Mormons and Catholics, you've got another thing coming.

    ReplyDelete
  13. As for your remarks about grace... You're certainly entitled to your opinion.

    I think it's a highly prejudiced opinion, but there you are.

    ReplyDelete
  14. That was a bit strong wasn't it Seth? I understand your frustration but really it is not called for.

    First, no one has "deliberately chosen an organizationally dysfunctional structure." The Mormon preoccupation with structure, order and authority, based in part on a misreading of Eph.4, has blinded you to the obvious fact that what binds Christians together is not organisation but relationship. We relate to Jesus and, through that, to each other.

    We are not all Christians because we meet at the same time, sing the same songs, follow the same reading plan and look to the same leaders but because we love the same Lord. Inevitably, we express that love in different ways and sometimes, like all families, we disagree and fight and this issues in denominations etc. This grieves God but doesn't mean we stop being family.

    Secondly, the term "Protestant" has limited meaning and is inappropriate in this context. I am a Protestant inasmuch as that label distinguishes me from Catholics but it is not a term that defines my faith. Within that broad designation there are numerous categories of Christians and if I am to be labelled I suppose I am Evangelical and Reformed in my outlook. Even then there are nuances and shades and there are changes in my understanding as I grow and develop.

    Mormons, of course, see these "divisions" as a liability and proof of apostasy because there is "one Lord, one faith and one baptism." But the Mormon solution to this perceived problem is no more helpful since Mormonism is itself divided into sects and "denominations". To deny this by labelling "apostate" everyone who disagrees with your particular denomination of Mormonism is cowardly and unbiblical.

    Isn't it ironic that SLC Mormons have much more in common with some other Mormon groups than ever they have with Evangelicals and yet it is these "other Mormons" that the SLC Mormons vilify and these "other Christians", so called, that they seek to be associated with? While Christians strive generation after generation to find common ground with each other, following the example of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), SLC Mormons seek constantly to disassociate with other Mormons as though somehow they alone have the pure religion.

    On the subject at hand, I have acknowledged that judgementalism as described is not confined to Mormonism but, as the above comment illustrates, it is most definitely and officially encouraged. Deal with JSH 1:19 and with the text from the temple film heard by generations of Mormons, and with the numerous quotes from leaders of many generations that set a tone of judgementalism in their attitude to other churches for Mormons. Don't say "that is your opinion and a poor one at that", rather address the issue as it is presented.

    I don't write as I do for spite, or to mock but because these things need looking at and Mormons need to see things for what they are and not for the way they are presented in the safe and soporific pages of official manuals and magazines. Consider that you can pick up magzines and papers, Catholic and protestant, and find robust and challenging discussions on key issues, with people taking different positions and considering alternative views.

    Where does this happen in Mormonism? Where is the discussion in the Mormon Church about changes to the temple ceremonies, or the absence of an open canon, or the teachings on polygamy, or gods, or a hundred and one different things Mormons might want to ask about but fear to in case they'll be hauled before the Stake High Council?

    I would rather have the reality of the Christian Church with all its faults than the fairy tale, castle-in-the-air picture sold to unsuspecting investigators by Mormon missionaries.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Mike, let's be clear here.

    I'm not the one firing the opening shots here.

    You are the one throwing crap at us. If you hadn't done that, you wouldn't have gotten any remarks about the pervasive dysfunctionality of Protestant culture and doctrine from me.

    Don't start nothing, won't be nothing.

    If you don't want these remarks from me about the severe problems with western-style Protestantism, then don't go out on the internet looking for a rumble.

    You want to trash the LDS hierarchical system, without even any attempt at nuance or fairness, then expect a response.

    And for the record, I'm perfectly willing to discuss the flaws of Mormonism with outsiders - and I do so on a regular basis respectful and fair-minded Protestants and atheists.

    But I'm not going to do it with a one-sided pundit who is trying to score rhetorical points with the sole aim of tearing down a system I see both good and bad in. Your remarks are overblown, utterly one-sided, incapable of seeing any good in your hated ex-spouse, and unwilling to concede even on points that really are good and advantageous in the LDS system.

    As long as that is your stance, you can expect the same stance from me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Seth,

    I wouldn't say that I have nothing good to say about my "ex". In my published testimony I have good things to say about Mormons:

    http://mormonchapbook.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-i-left-mormon-church.html

    You say that you see in Mormonism both good and bad and are willing to discuss the flaws of Mormonism. Yet you have failed singularly to address the issues I raise in this very post, instead attacking me for raising them.

    How do you feel about the temple segment in which Christian ministers are mocked and vilified without mercy, portrayed as in the pay of Satan? About the hubristic attitude toward "paid clergy" (said with a sneer) engendered by this and other typical Mormon religious touchstones?

    It is all well and good to have a laugh at individuals' failings, as you have done, but there is a basic dismissive and condescending attitude engendered in Mormonism toward other churches. How do you feel about that? How do you answer the charge beyond the typical Mormon denial and horror that anyone should think anything but the best of Mormons?

    The issue of organisation has arisen. Apart from accusing me of "throwing around crap" you have not even tried to address the question. How do you understand "Protestant organisation" and how do you see it inferior to the Mormon system? I charge that Mormons are preoccupied with organisation and a pyramidal structure based on a flawed understanding of Eph.4. Have you stopped and wondered how else the church might be organised? How this text might be understood differently?

    As to my own bias, of course I have a bias! If it didn't matter to me one way or another I wouldn't bother - would I? I have good things to say about Mormons but I don't believe for a moment that the Mormon Church offers salvation. Would you rather I lied and suggest it might just to get on your good side?

    I don't believe that 20 year old males have any right to go around calling themselves "elder" and berating me in the street when they don't know anything about anything. The idea is risible given what an "elder" is in any society, not just religious ones. Would you rather a man of my age (the age of an elder) should concede the point and defer to children just to make you happy?

    Should I keep this to myself because Mormons have sensitive little hearts and find any level of criticism offensive? Seth, there is no such thing as a right to not be offended and if you think there is how do you think Christians feel about what Mormons think of them behind their backs? Abominable, corrupt lip-servers who teach the commandments of men and deny the power of God (JSH 1:19); isn’t that what these “elders” are teaching my neighbours about me even as I write this? Of course, so why not own it, defend it or decry it, but don’t get all mealy-mouthed about it.

    I know Mormonism; I have read and consulted, sat under the teaching of Mormon prophets and apostles, studied manuals and guides, taught the subject year after year. I have then gone on to find faith in the Christ of the Bible and studied and consulted, read and pondered Christian teachers and preachers for some 24 years so I think I am in a position to make some basic comparisons. Can you say the same? Or are your thoughts full of the bias instilled by the Mormon Church?

    "Liberty is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear" (George Orwell)

    ReplyDelete
  17. "How do you feel about the temple segment in which Christian ministers are mocked and vilified without mercy, portrayed as in the pay of Satan? About the hubristic attitude toward "paid clergy" (said with a sneer) engendered by this and other typical Mormon religious touchstones?"

    I took out my first temple endowments in 1994.

    At that point the skit with the clergy-man had been REMOVED. It is no longer a part of the temple ceremony, and I've never viewed it even once. Neither has anyone else in my age group (mid-thirties) and younger. So I don't particularly have an opinion on it.

    Neither do I view Joseph Smith's report of God's words as applicable to anything other than the religious climate surrounding Joseph Smith at that time. If your church doesn't participate in the errors that those men were promulgating, then you're home-free as far as I'm concerned.

    "I think I am in a position to make some basic comparisons. Can you say the same? Or are your thoughts full of the bias instilled by the Mormon Church?"

    Considering that I've spent the last decade immersed in the thoughts, arguments, apologetics, and viewpoints of other faiths - yes. I am qualified. And I don't uncritically accept everything the LDS Church says.

    But I know an unbalanced critique when I see it. And I don't let those slide - no matter who is making them. I've roasted Mormon bloggers just as badly as Protestant ones on occasion. I've had multiple ex-Mormon friends of mine who've had extensive online interaction with me note that they do not consider me an "apologist" for the LDS Church (although I do engage in apologetics).

    But you'll find that unfair, one-sided, bitter diatribes without perspective tend to bring out the worst in me.

    Nor does your present declared agenda particularly inspire much trust in me as to your objectivity or your trustworthiness to present a balanced picture of Mormonism.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Seth, Lets review some of this. You wrote:

    "I'm not the one firing the opening shots here."

    I hope you are not taking all this personally. I will regard most men my equal and a few my betters and feel no animosity toward you. However, since you raise the subject, mine is not a "first strike" but a response to what I have written about in this and other posts, i.e. the Mormon claim to exclusive authority and attitude of disdain for other churches.

    While I regard others my equals I cannot regard Mormonism as worthy of equal consideration with Christianity. I am not investigating Mormonism. My investigations are concluded and I am now putting the case for the prosecution. Why shouldn't I since Mormonism brings grave charges against my own Christian faith every day? Have you forgotten? It is breathtaking to find someone whose church so readily and so often blindly lambasts other churches complain about a lack of even-handedness.

    JSH 1:19 is most definitely not time and place sensitive but is a devastating comment on what Mormons even today teach is an apostate Christianity. I don't understand how you can write as you do:

    "If your church doesn't participate in the errors that those men were promulgating, then you're home-free as far as I'm concerned."

    My church, as you put it holds firmly to the same tenets Joseph Smith condemns as damnable and corrupt and I believe and profess them. If he was commenting on a local and temporary fall from grace and it was possible for "my church" to have moved away from the position of our 19thC forebears then I can't see quite how the Mormon argument of apostasy and restoration stands up. You have just put a case for reformation. You seem very confused.

    As to the temple text I don't see how its having been removed has any bearing. The whole thrust of my argument is that this scene and dialogue has been played to generations of Mormons, has influenced even the generations who haven’t seen it, and reflects the true Mormon attitude to other churches. You don't have to have seen it to have an opinion, only to know of its existence and have access to a faithful account. I am never impressed with the typical Mormon "that was then, this is now" response and wish Mormons would "own" their own faith and heritage.

    What I am doing here is defending my own Christian faith from daily and dishonest assaults from Mormonism and reasoning through the points raised in that confrontation. My challenge to you is to reason along with me. So far all you ever seem to come up with is not reason but assertions and complaints.

    Can you see that JSH must, by its nature, apply to all churches at all times? can you understand the reaction of Christians to the insulting dialogue I have reproduced? How do you deal with these things that represent your Mormon faith?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Mike, I fail to see what our respective religion's positions have to do with my point.

    I'm not the one with a counter-cult website.

    That's you.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Seth, Hmm, let me see. What could our respective religion's positions have to do with anything? Is there an otherwise uncontroversial world in which Mormons and Evangelicals get on famously, until those mischievous people wreck this idyll with their anti-cult web sites?

    Not really. I am the one with a counter-cult web site but you are the one with the counter Christian church. Why do Mormons insist on perpetuating this utter nonsense about Mormonism being uncontroversial? Can't you see that counter-cult ministry is not aimed at otherwise benign religions? Every cult is an attack on the truth of the Christian faith so I don't quite see what you expect a Christian to do. How else do you expect Christians to respond to cults?

    What Mormons say and what missionaries teach about the Christian faith is a lie and I am challenging that lie. You are meeting that challenge with - complaints. How can we discuss Mormonism without talking about Mormonism? How can the discussion be meaningful if we can only say what Mormons want to hear?

    This is really not personal Seth. I just think you need to realise that protesting Mormonism's "worthiness" doesn't cut it any more and you have to be prepared to actually join the discussion along with all that entails, something I am afraid I find Mormons are not prepared to do.

    You object to what I say about your church but I object to the way Mormonism misrepresents my faith constantly and then misrepresents itself as "the one true church". Now we can discuss these things, which is what my humble blog is for, or you can go on complaining.

    ReplyDelete
  21. OK fine.

    So I take it that you are conceding that my earlier comment about Protestantism being "organizationally dysfunctional" was not only fair, but actually invited then?

    This seems to be the sort of talk you were inviting, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Seth, I don't think it is fair in the sense of being accurate but it is fair comment in the sense that this is how you see it; it doesn't offend me. If you don't call it how you see it then we can't talk about it with any degree of integrity.

    That is what always bothers me about these discussions. I appreciate good manners as much as anyone but if good manners are going to get in the way of robust and meaningful discussion then it is no longer good manners but evasive tactics. In my experience too many Mormons are too quick to be shocked by what people think and say, so quick in fact that it becomes suspicious. You write about "the sort of talk" I am inviting as though "the gloves are off" or something. I am not inviting bad manners but I am not afraid of robust and challenging discussion and that is what I am inviting.

    I am happy to discuss church organisation and your strong views about it and you can call it what you like. What I find infuriating is the fact that - and I speak generally now - while I attempt to pursue a discussion and carefully marshal my facts and present my thinking, Mormons all too often present their attitudes and prejudices. I suppose it is a product of the very thing I wrote about in my post.

    I come across it time and again and am convinced that if you put a dozen quotes from Christian leaders before a Mormon and asked which impressed him the most he would pick the one that best reflected his preconceptions (usually CS Lewis) or none when he should be asking which might teach him something. But the Mormon has a settled attitude - not a well worked out apologetic - towards Protestantism, the Creeds, Church history, the Bible, paid ministry, the list goes on, and so has nothing to learn. Along come the Evangelicals with theology and an apologetic and the Mormon answers with attitudes.

    Paid clergy is somehow corrupt, Christians don't believe in works, Christianity is some cobbled together manmade creed, the Bible isn't translated correctly (they don't even understand the difference between translation and transmission and have no idea how the Bible is translated). These are not carefully worked out views but attitudes held by Mormons and certainly the idea that there might be an alternative view, a better is unthinkable because the Mormon Church is “true” whatever that means and cannot be wrong in any respect.

    It is depressing to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  23. That Protestantism is a complete disorganized mess with no one answerable for anything is not an "attitude."

    It's a pretty clear fact.

    As for paid ministry, I could care less. I think even the LDS Church could benefit from a few more paid employees. This seems a difference of style more than substance between our camps to me.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Seth, You are not even trying. Stop shouting and start talking for goodness sake.

    There is no such thing as a Protestant organisation, dysfunctional or otherwise. Except in relation to Catholicism there is hardly a Protestantism at all. There are Christian believers who follow different traditions but hold to fundamentals. You really are hung up on organisation aren't you? Church is organised but is not an organisation. Eph.4 doesn't describe church organisation.

    As to paid ministry, that is the second time you have dodged an issue by saying you don't care. But the subject under review here is the Mormon attitude (not your attitude) to Christian Churches.

    There is an institutionalised attitude of disdain towards the Christianity that Mormonism is attempting to replace and it is epitomised by the Mormon disdain for "paid clergy"; you must be familiar with it. If you want more evidence of the Mormon official attitude to other churches visit this site

    http://www.mrm.org/we-never-criticize

    I assume you visit this and other blogs to discuss these issues, so discuss.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm not particularly interested in arguing that such attitudes are not in existence in LDS circles. I'm just pointing out that it's not a particularly "LDS thing." It's just a human thing. You get this kind of behavior in any religious tradition.

    ReplyDelete
  26. That's fine. How's the weather where you are? We have had a very cold winter which I hope bodes well for a good normal summer; something we haven't had for a few years in my part of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  27. And it is relevant, because your post was clearly trying to paint it as something uniquely Mormon.

    If you're willing to concede at this point that these problems aren't any more prevalent for Mormons than for any other denomination, you're right - we basically have nothing further to argue about.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Seth, You have done what all Mormons do. You have avoided meaningful discussion and simply made assertions. Read through your contributions here and see for yourself. You have insisted that I am wrong, that you are right, that I am biased and that you are even-handed but you have failed to address anything I have posted to show institutionalised anti-Christian attitudes.

    I have already conceded that all sorts of believers have bad attitudes such as those I describe. On 15th Feb. I wrote:

    "You are right of course. There are "attitudes" in all churches and I have met them as much as anyone. The problem is that in most churches they are problematic and dealt with whereas in Mormonism it is "official". You can't just dismiss the temple text for instance, not even by hiding behind the old "sacred so we don't talk about it" ploy. I visited the temple many times and saw that scene played out time and again.

    From Joseph Smith's earliest history (JSH 1:19) through the statements of most Mormon leaders at one time or another, to the text referred to above, this attitude to other churches is endemic. Of course, when you are on the inside this is not your experience and, even after that event I related in priesthood class, I would have taken your view on things. But, having stepped outside, and looking at it from a different perspective, and having been many times on the receiving end of this attitude, I find it undeniable."


    You have failed completely to address this point and, while I understand that you wish to assert it isn't true I feel I have demonstrated it is, as has the testimony of others, and you have not demonstrated it isn't. You haven't even conceded that the infamous temple text is real and must have had a profound influence on how generations of Mormons were officially encouraged to look disdainfully on other churches.

    That is why I raised the point about "paid ministry" because it is part of the temple text and the view has always been and continues to be encouraged officially in the Mormon Church that "paid ministry" is somehow a ministry sullied by filthy lucre.

    I am glad you see the virtue of the biblical dictum that an honest labourer is worthy of his wage but it is the case in the Mormon Church that being paid and being honest is viewed as an oxymoron. There is a double standard here in that, before the world, the official Mormon position is that the Mormon Church is a Christian Church among other Cristian Churches and simply wishes to get on with being part of this great ecumene, or great house of Christian churches but within the Mormon Church there is a decidedly different and more belligerent attitude towards other churches.

    I have no difficulty with the idea that Mormons think my religion apostate. I don't agree with it but I understand it and respond with the charge that Mormonism is a cult, aberrant in its beliefs and practices. I do object to the Mormon pretense at having ecumenical sentiments towards other churches when all along Mormons look on other churches with such disdain as I have demonstrated.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Which brings us back to the point that the only reason these sorts of things are not official in Protestantism is that they have the convenient excuse of "nothing is official."

    ReplyDelete
  30. Demonstrate, don't assert! You are saying nothing because you are showing nothing. I could say your bishop was a giraffe in drag but I would have to come up with some pretty damning evidence to avoid a libel case.

    You are making the same mistake over and over. You are assuming that what you see and what you say are self-evident. This is the classic defense of the fundamentalist. But they are not self-evident and it ain't so just because you say it is.

    Demonstrate! Show why you think this is a good answer.

    Right now you sound like someone who wants to excuse appalling behaviour on the part of Mormons by citing appalling behaviour on the part of non-Mormons. I have dealt with my part of that equation and can only assume that the total lack of substantial discussion on your part means that you acknowledge the institutionalised and "official" nature of this Mormon attitude to other churches but consider it excusable since other churches, you say, do the same.

    You have not denied it but simply excused it by citing other churches. You have not defended or condemned it and so we can assume, can we, that you are happy with it?

    BTW how is the weather with you? The daffodils should be good this year.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Just pull up a copy of any of Talmage's works - like Articles of Faith, or The Great Apostasy.

    Pick a passage where he's bagging on the Catholics.

    More than half the time - he's citing a Protestant author.

    Early LDS anti-papist rhetoric borrowed heavily from Protestant sources.

    I don't really care if you want to point out LDS problems. I just don't like you pretending that they aren't equally your problems as well.

    You can say "prove it" all you want, but I think I've provided enough material for your readership here to chew on, and inspire their own independent research into the matter.

    The only place you went wrong was in trying to claim that there was something uniquely "Mormon" going on here. That's the only point I was responding to.

    You can say it's my burden of proof. But that would assume that you had established something on this point to begin with. You haven't.

    Sure, you've pointed out some polemics on the Mormon side. But you never even remotely came close to demonstrating that they were something unique to Mormonism. That is a mere assertion that you were making. I called you on it, and now you are asking me to "prove it."

    Not my burden of proof. You still haven't established the point yet.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Seth, So that's your answer? Go read a book? Well, as a bibliophile I can't object I suppose and I have read Talmage but there is something in what you write that doesn't ring true.

    First there is the assertion that these ideas were "borrowed". I thought the Mormon Church didn't reflect opinion but made it because Mormons are led by prophets.

    Then there is the problem of JSH 1:19. I know it keeps cropping up but you see it is this one verse that best illustrates the distinctive nature of the Mormon approach to the subject from all others. It is not one party disagreeing with or rejecting the views of another, not reformation, but the "official" rejection of all others by the Mormon god; Restoration.

    Is Mormonism simply aping others in indulging in the defamation of churches? Again this begs the question (as most Mormon answers do). If led by prophets that denounce "officially" other churches why are Mormons so keen to be identified with those other churches? Could it be because they seek to muddy the water where once they sought to identify clear blue water between Mormonism and Christianity?

    What on earth do Mormons see in an apostate, damnable, abominable and corrupt system that they should seek to be associated with it? The difference is that between reformation and Restoration. The Mormon Church is Restorationist in private and ecumenical in public.

    What has changed? The churches haven't. The creeds are still believed, salvation by grace through faith in Christ, the sufficiency of the Bible and the final nature of God's revelation in Christ, all damned by Mormon leaders and all still very much adhered to by Christians.

    I can account for the conduct of reformation thnking, how it starts, develops and changes but if Christianity is apostate and Mormonism is a Restoration, "What agreement has the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor.6:16)

    That distinction is always there and it is how Mormons fundamentally self-identify. So why the charade?

    ReplyDelete