Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Mormon Jesus and the Love of God

I loved this post. Loved it enough that I'm unapolegetically going to spotlight it by quoting the majority of it right here on my blog:

The Mormon Jesus and the Love of God

No [General] Conference would be complete without scary-looking street protesters, who congregate outside the Conference Center with large signs telling all the Mormons they’re going to hell, or that they’re leading others to hell, or that they’re too pro-abortion. (Those are my favorite. Dude, if you’re protesting that the Mormons are just too pro-choice, you’ve got WAY too much time on your hands.)



The irony about this is that most of these protesters hold up signs announcing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

I don’t think these people realize that there is not a single Mormon who would disagree with that. I posted this picture on Facebook, and a Mormon friend of mine likened this to a guy going to a polling place on Election Day and screaming to everyone in line, “YOU SHOULD VOTE!!!!”

I can remember on my mission coming across many evangelical Christians who condemned me to hell unless I was willing to accept Jesus into my life. Invariably, I would use the opportunity to, then and there, accept Jesus into my life. I would say whatever little prayer they had printed on their cards or flyers and then look them in the eye and say I agreed with every word in it. It still wasn’t enough. I remember talking to one family at their doorstep, who said I needed to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

“Fair enough,” I said. “I cheerfully accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I recognize that I am helpless without Him, and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I invite him into my life, and I know He is the only way to heaven.”

They stood there, flummoxed.

“Is that it?” I said. “Do I have to do anything else?”

“Yes, you do,” the mother said. “You need to repent of your Mormon faith.”

Yeah, okay.

See, that’s the problem. These guys insist that all you have to do is accept Jesus, and, presto, you’re saved. But if you say you accept Jesus and still want to hang with the Mormons, you didn’t do it right. If you press people hard enough on this, they’ll tell you you haven’t really accepted Jesus, you’ve accepted some other Jesus. The movie The God Makers, which was quite a popular Mormon-bashing film back in the ‘80s, constantly refers to Jesus as being separate from the guy the Mormons worship, who is repeatedly identified as the “Mormon Jesus.” The problem is that the Mormon Jesus is pretty much identical to the other Jesus – he was the Son of God, born to a virgin in Bethlehem; he grew up in Nazareth; he called twelve apostles and taught the Gospel, and then was betrayed and crucified on Calvary. Three days later, He rose from the dead, and He commissioned His apostles to teach his Gospel to all the world. Now, unless the Mormon Jesus did all this same stuff down the street or something, it’s pretty hard to distinguish between the two.

The problem is that Mormons believe Jesus did more than this. The Book of Mormon tells of His visit to the Lost Tribes of Israel, and Joseph Smith and other modern prophets talk of seeing Jesus on several occasions. So what these Christians are saying is that Jesus only did what is chronicled in the New Testament, and only the Mormon Jesus did all this extra, weird stuff.

So, when you get right down to it, the way to hell isn’t a lack of belief in Jesus. Apparently, the danger lies in believing too much about Jesus.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I can go into almost any Christian church in the country, and they’ll tell me things about Jesus that I will heartily agree with. I believe He did everything the Bible says He did. But I also believe Jesus is more than just words on a page. I don’t worship the Bible; I worship Jesus, who is not bound like the pages of a book.

I can recall quite vividly one of the first experiences I had that built my own personal witness of Jesus Christ. I was in a pageant at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles called III Nephi, which dramatized Christ’s visit to the New World after His resurrection. I was nine or ten years old, I think. I played one of the children who greets the Savior, and we were taught two songs to sing on that occasion – one was “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” and the other was “The Love of God.” I can recall feeling a very powerful witness that Jesus was real; that He loved me, and that He knew me by name. I can remember a testimony meeting right after the dress rehearsal, where one of the men stood up and said “That which you feel right now is the love of God.” He was right. I knew he was telling the truth, just as surely and plainly as I knew I existed.

The song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” was written for that pageant, and it has since become something of a staple among Mormon children. I’ve heard it a billion times. But I hadn’t heard the song “The Love of God” since the day I last sang it on the stage of the Shrine. That is, until yesterday, when a local choir sang it as a counterpoint to “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” And instantly, I felt that same sweet assurance, the power of the Spirit reminding me of the certainty I learned so long ago.

That which I felt was the love of God.

Maybe that means I’m damned for all eternity. Maybe the Mormon Jesus has deceived me. Maybe, maybe, maybe – but I really don’t think so. There are some things that sink too deeply into your soul to deny them. So when people yell at me and tell me that I need to believe less than I do in order to be saved, I’m afraid I can’t accommodate them.

Since when does God damn people for believing too much?

12 comments:

Untypically Jia said...

This is one of the best posts written on this subject that I've ever read! I have gone through so much frustration in speaking with my Christian friends who tell me about "the Mormon Jesus".

I really love that statement about believing too much. It's spot on!

Nathan and Valerie Coffey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papa D said...

"Now, unless the Mormon Jesus did all this same stuff down the street or something, it’s pretty hard to distinguish between the two."

Amen, brother.

The same thing frustrates me. I have done absolutely everything others require objectively, and the sheer hypocrisy of people who disagree over LOTS of points of doctrine condemning others to Hell over differing points of doctrine . . . That simply is nonsensical.

Think about that: Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians disagree over central points of doctrine - right down to what things are necessary for correct worship. It's the whole reason people have argued and fought for centuries - that they believed these differences were important enough to form different denominations to teach those differences.

Yet somehow, our teachings are so different as to disqualify us from the grace of God.

It's just ludicrous and hypocritical - and so very un-Christian.

Papa D said...

To make this perfectly clear:

We disagree with others about doctrinal issues, but we simply do not deny their status as believers - as Christians. We also do not condemn them to Hell.

Bruce in Montana said...

I wish sometimes that we had different terms than "saved", "eternal life", etc. We, as Mormons, know that these mean different things in different contexts but the mainstream Christian world has a very narrow view of what they mean. It causes a lot of confussion. They accuse us of double-talk and I guess, if I were them, I'd feel the same way.
Should we bow to their limited understanding or should we expect them to rise to our understanding?
I don't know.
Nice post and I couldn't agree more that a man will never be damned for believing too much.

trevor said...

this post remind me a lot of one of steve robinson's sections in "how wide the divide" he explained, after being told to accept Jesus as his Savior, "When i respond that i do so confess and accept him - on occasion even making confession (sincerely) on the spot, i am assured that heaven is mine. But, when i mention i am also a Mormon, things change. Then the initial promise is usually amended with either a) the confession wont work for mormon, that in our case we must not only accept Jesus to be saved, but must also reject the restoration and pass other doctrinal tests, or b) that uniquely of all human beings, latter-day saints are not able to confess Christ properly, even when we intend to."

he then goes on asking a series of rhetorical questions like, " even if the rest of mormonism, apart from our faith in Christ, is not true (though i firmly 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?"

I COULDN'T AGREE MORE.

Clean Cut said...

Great addition, Trevor. I'm glad you thought of that quote from Robinson in "How Wide the Divide?"--that too is spot on.

Richard Chamberlain said...

Very well said. Thank you for saying it. I wholeheartedly agree.

ama said...

Cleancut thanks for sharing this with us. It is excellent and spot on!

Trevor, very very good point. My mother is a born again non-denomonational ex-mormon Christian. That makes some of our conversations very intersting. Anyways, I remember one day she had me recite the believer's prayer as if it would somehow transform me. I did it to appease her but afterwards I told her I didn't need to do this. I'd already accepted Jesus a long time ago. Somehow that wasn't enough. I'm still confused with the whole thing.

In my opinion, that rational is very naiive and limits Jesus' power. Amen to the quote that I believe in the power of Jesus and not the Bible. The Bible is a book that testifies of Jesus' power...not the source of His power. We receive strength from Jesus not the Bible.

Tom said...

CC-

In light of a recent conversation at "I Love Mormons" and this post by you, I've been thinking a lot about this topic (I don't know if you noticed my comment immediately preceding yours over at "I Love Mormons").

They admit that we can be saved while in the Mormon Church, but for some reason we have to leave the Mormon Church. God didn't tell me that when I was saved. Nor has he told me that at any time since.

Clean Cut said...

I know, Tom, I know. The frustration with such arrogance was captured well by Ray/Papa D in his most recent post over at "Things Of My Soul": The Creeds: "They Are Right, 'Cause, You Know, They Just Are."

kelark said...

I know this will sound rediculus but at what point would we be said to worship a "different Jesus".

I think I asked this before CC but do you condsider BY's Adam God to be the same one you whorsip today?

Because to me they would have different origins and nature even is they share the same name.

Some of David Koresh's followers sadly thought him to be Christ was he? They could say we worship Christ.

It seems to me that for some reason it is hard for LDS to say that their Jesus is different than the majority of the Christian world. I am not saying that you can't worship him as you see fit or that you.

You seem to be saying that LDS just have fuller understanding of who Jesus is. If the current prophet told you by revelation that "hey wait BY was right about Adam/God" wouldn't you have to change you perception of who you were following?

I know that you stick strictly to the cannon but it does seem that many of your members and leadership do and have described someone completely foreign to minstream Christianity.

Diiffernt is ok. But calling disparate things the same is not.