Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reading Recommendations for Anti-Mormon Counter-Cultist Critics (aka: the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club)

Counter-cultist critics love to bring up quotes from the Journal of Discourses as if they're representative of official church doctrine, as if they represent essential doctrine, and are representative of general church membership belief. I recently came across one of these. For their sake, I'm re-recommending "What Is Official "Mormon" Doctrine?.

In re-reading the comments in that post of mine, a double standard appears even more obvious than before. Our critics insist that prophets must be held up to the standard of infallibility in every word they speak. Yet they concede that Christian theologians and reformers can disagree on non-essentials. After all they're just men. Apparently, however, the Latter-day Saints are not allowed to hold this same position.

I propose a level playing field. Latter-day Saints must be allowed this same rational, and without the double standard! When it comes down to it, most of the quotes of speculative nature that critics bring up are NOT essential, fundamental, or saving doctrine at all. (For the record, I personally reject the opinion that "God had sex with Mary"). Even prophets can have their own personal views. After all, these prophets are "just men" too.

David O. McKay wisely reminded us all that when the Lord calls a man to be a prophet, he does not unmake the man! (See "What Is Our Doctrine?").

The original post and quote by Stephen Robinson concerning what constitutes official Mormon doctrine is imperative to understand for Latter-day Saints and critics alike. To it I also recommend the article "What Is Our Doctrine?" by Professor Robert Millet.

Another thing counter-cultist critics love to do is hijack the general term "Christian" and monopolize it to mean a traditional, orthodox, nicene Christian who believes in the post-biblical dual natures of Christ and the post-biblical doctrine of the Trinity. According to them, anyone who does not believe this extra-biblical stuff cannot be considered a "biblical Christian" at all. To them I recommend reading Robinson's classic "Are Mormons Christians?".

I also recommend the following from a former counter-cultist critic who now respectfully disagrees with Mormon theology. She's an informed and engaging Evangelical Christian (and a BYU grad too!). She shares her wisdom and insight in answer to "infrequently asked questions", which I now quote from:

Question: Do you think Mormons are Christians?

I hate this question. The answer is, etymologically, Mormonism is a Christian religion. Its founder was raised in a Protestant tradition, so arguably Mormonism sprang from Protestant Christianity. If you don’t think it came from Christianity, where did it come from? Buddhism? Hinduism? No. It came from a branch of Christianity and everybody knows it.

Furthermore, Mormonism is in fact Christocentric. Like it or not, its doctrines and theology do derive from what Mormons regard as the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have as much claim to the title “Christian” as anyone. (BTW, don’t spout off to me about Mormons believing in a “different Jesus.” It means you’re probably too stupid to be reading this blog and should click away at your earliest convenience.)

What other Christians usually mean when they say Mormons are not Christians is that Mormons are not true Christians. The Christianity practiced by Mormonism is corrupt and incomplete, so Mormonism is a Christian heresy.

If you’re Mormon and what I just said offends you, it shouldn’t. You teach the exact same thing about non-LDS Christians. I say heresy, you say apostasy. It’s the exact same concept. Each of us thinks the other is not practicing full Christianity.

I think non-LDS Christians have very little to gain by igniting a semantics war over the word “Christian.” The issue should not be whether or not Latter-day Saints are Christian, it should be whether or not their theology is correct, which it isn’t. In general, I’m happy to grant the term “Christian” to Mormons as a courtesy so that we can move on to talking about things that actually matter.


Question: Is Mormonism a cult?

No. Only stupid people think this.

16 comments:

ethan said...

Thanks for the info. I am always on the lookout for insightful ways to counter anti-Mormon lit.

Be sure to check out farilds.org for more lists.

Mormons Are Christian said...

What is the denomination which has the theology and practices of the New Testament?

http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com

Which is the the denomination which has the ordinances and covenants given by Jesus Christ after his resurrection and before his ascension?

http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com

Joseph in Brazil said...

Thanks for the insight.

My personal opinion is that I cannot hold someone to perfection, because if I do, I will be judged against perfection. Or, in other words, how can I expect a prophet to be perfect when I'm not? This is the basis of Christ's teachings (Matt. 7:1-2, D&C 1:10).

We have to seek out the spirit to know when truth is taught.

Tim said...

Comments like, "It means you’re probably too stupid to be reading this blog and should click away at your earliest convenience." and "No. Only stupid people think this." really make me question the "informed and engaging" "wisdom and insight" of the comments made. Aside from that, following her logic, aren't FLDS in fact Mormons? Is it true then that LDS would rather be considered "heretical Christians" than "non-Christians"?

For LDS, it is perfectly understandable from the standpoint of seeking the religious legitimacy that the word “Christian” grants. But from the organizational, doctrinal, historical and cultural standpoint of the mainstream church, that term has long resided, in people's mind, within the orthodoxy of the Christian church. Distinctions matter, especially when a term like Christian has come to mean a very specific thing to the public. Christian is commonly used to describe a specific set of core beliefs, Christian missionaries or even Christian music. These images have long been ingrained in people's consciousness. But when the term Christian is stretched out of proportion to apply to any group, however large or small, aspiring to establish a church in the tradition of Jesus, only confusion ensues. Reduced to its lowest common denominator, the word Christian loses its long-established associations among people, rendering it unrecognizable.

Some LDS have suggested that because they may use the Bible or revere Jesus, it entitles them to be included in a broader definition of “Christians.” But by declaring that any group professing Jesus and the Bible can rightly be called Christian is akin to declaring that any group that professes Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon can rightly call itself Mormon.

BTW if you disagree with this, I simply copied language from this LDS article about the LDS church's STRONG position against polygamous groups calling themselves Mormon and simply changed a few of the words to make the point.

Tim said...

Joseph in Brazil - be careful, you are putting yourself in a very DANGEROUS position called relativism. It is not the perfection of the man, but of God that we can rely on. If someone claims to be speaking for God and prophesies something that proves to be untrue, then you know that it was not God who was wrong, but the man who was a liar. Right?

We have to seek out the spirit to know when truth is taught. Actually, isn't it just the opposite? We need to seek out the truth to know whether or not the spirit confirms the teachings from God.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Bruce in Montana said...

"If someone claims to be speaking for God and prophesies something that proves to be untrue, then you know that it was not God who was wrong, but the man who was a liar. Right?"

Well, no Tim...a person can be mistaken without being a liar. Joesph Smith prophesied that a temple would be built at Adam-ondi-ahmen in his generation. I don't think he was intentionally lying. When called upon to usher in the last dispensation, you don't get a "how to be a prophet" handbook and mistakes can be made.

"...following her logic, aren't FLDS Mormons?"

Well, yes they are Tim...more importantly, all fundamentalist mormons have the right to call themselves Mormons. Most fundamentalist Mormons are NOT FLDS however. When Brother Hinkley said that there was no such thing as a fundamentalist Mormon, he was very mistaken. If he had checked his sources before speaking, he would have found that term was first coined by Mark E. Peterson.

Clean Cut said...

Tim, the answer to the question "Are Mormons Christians?" truly depends upon the definition:

"In contrast to other religious traditions that hold Jesus to be nothing more than a human prophet, such as Islam, Mormons certainly consider themselves to be Christian in the sense that they read and believe the Bible's teaching that redemption and atonement come through Jesus the Messiah, who is the Son of God. Mormonism's unique scriptures, such as the Book of Mormon, also teach these doctrines. However, Mormonism rejects or starkly redefines several traditional Christian doctrines, interpretations, and creeds that post-date the New Testament, and for this reason has never claimed to fall within the historical tradition of Christianity, as most Catholic and Protestant churches do."

You have also pointed out a legitimate debate in Mormon circles. Do FLDS deserve to be called Mormon in any sense? Some argue no. Some argue yes. I say yes. However, I'm quick to clarify that they are not mainstream members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is what most people equate to the term "Mormons". They consider themselves Mormon fundamentalists, as Bruce pointed out. He considers himself a Mormon fundamentalist, but he's not FLDS. The fact is that there is more than one branch springing forth from the "Mormon" movement.

When President Hinckley said there's no such thing as a Mormon fundamentalist, I suppose his definition of Mormon is "a member of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", therefore he would be correct, according to his definition. But I feel the definition of Mormon can be broader than that. There are, after all, similiarities (ie: belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet and the Book of Mormon as scripture). However, there are also so many significant and fundamental differences. These can be made to understood by starting with a qualifying statement.

The same is true with LDS Christians versus Traditional Christians. I simply suggest you do the same (add a qualifying/clarifying statement) in describing your faith in Christianity as you see it and my faith as an LDS Christian. You could say that Mormons are non-traditional Christians and I'd have no problem with that.

After all, when Mormons say that we’re “Christian”, we’re not referring to being a “traditional” christian who must espouse the post-biblical Trinitarian doctrine. More often than not we’re simply referring to being disciples of Jesus Christ--our Lord and Savior. At least that’s how the Book of Mormon refers to “christians”. (ie: “And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come”–Alma 46:15).

Definitions do matter. We could go on to argue who holds the correct definition, but such discussions would probably not be very fruitful. I do recommend, however, one post in which all of our concerns (yours and mine) has already been discussed: Are Mormons Christians? Are Post Toasties corn flakes?

Clean Cut said...

Concerning the "informed and engaging" evangelical. I guess I could have also said "straightforward". :) Here's some background as to where she's coming from with some "stupid" counter-cultists. The Short Bus Rides Again

Clean Cut said...

Rather, The Short Bus Rides Again

Joseph in Brazil said...

Tim - God has given us the comforter to discern truth, and after trying different spirits we are able to identify which is of God and which is not (hence the scripture that you quoted). After identifying the spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) we are able to be taught by the spirit, which in turn teaches what is of the flesh and what is of the spirit.

1 Cor. 2:10-12
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

I have read books and have listened to talks of what some in mormonism might call "deep doctrine", and I have read books and listen to talks of principles that we need to apply in our lives. Even though I have felt the spirit at times when reading about "deep doctrine" or any type of doctrine, I feel the spirit stronger when I listen and read Mormon leader teach us to apply principles of love and service in our lives. For this I judge them men of God.

Now, I do not expect them to be perfect since I'm not (Golden Rule), but I will listen to them for the spiritual matters because of the spirit of God that I have felt. I do not understand everything, yet I strive to confide more in the spirit rather than the flesh (Col. 2:8).

Now, I wrote that because I’m afraid that the Christian world (including Mormons) are so much more worried about disputing doctrines than applying what Christ taught in our lives (I still think that understanding and seeking true doctrine is important, and that we have to defend it when others are not willing to apply true principles in their lives because of a misunderstanding of doctrine). I ask myself: Are we trying to serve our fellow man? Are we meek? Are we being an example of Christ at all times? Are we serving two masters? Do we love our enemies? Are we quick to judge others? Wouldn’t it be better for us to exercise mercy with others, in order to be judged with mercy?

If we are able to follow the Master’s teachings, than we will be guided by the spirit (John 14:26)

Jack Meyers said...

Aw, Clean Cut, you shouldn't have.

Tim ~ Well, admittedly I never claimed to be "informed and engaging;" in fact, the whole reason it's called ClobberBlog is because I aim to deliver my views with bite. But I am harsher on the usual arguments I encounter from countercult evangelicals than I am on anyone else, for reasons I tried to make clear in my IAQ.

Aside from that, following her logic, aren't FLDS in fact Mormons?

Absolutely! If members of other traditions which accept the Book of Mormon as scripture and the teachings of Joseph Smith wish to identify themselves as "Mormons," I say let 'em. The LDS church is completely wrong to try and stop them, and I've always found deep irony in the church's attempts to do so.

I'll be doing a guest post for another LDS blog soon-ish in which I'm going to expound more fully my views on whether or not Mormonism can be meaningfully considered part of Christianity, so stay tuned.

Mormons Are Christian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormons Are Christian said...

Shouldn't the denomination which bases its theology on the Jesus Christ of the New Testament be called the "authentic Christians"?

It seems to me that Catholics and Protestants should be called "Creedal Christians" because they subscribe to an adulterated form of Christianity, which incorporates elements of Hellenism, Sun-God worship, and worship of Isis, and excludes the esoteric teachings of Jesus Christ.

Hellenism caused the Nicene Council to change New Testament understanding of the Godhead to the "Trinity"

While Constantine supposedly converted to Christianity in 312, he wasn't baptized until on his deathbed 25 years later. In the intervening years he had his wife and eldest son murdered, and from all appearances he continued as a worshipper of the sun god. Long after his supposed conversion he had coins minted with a portrait of himself on one side and a depiction of his "companion, the unconquered Sol [sun]" on the other.
The "Christianity" Constantine endorsed was already considerably different from that practiced by Jesus Christ and the apostles.

The emperor accelerated the change by his own hatred of Jews and religious practices he considered Jewish.
For example, at the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), church authorities essentially replaced the biblical Passover with Easter, a popular holiday rooted in ancient springtime fertility celebrations. Endorsing this change, Constantine announced: "It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast [Easter] we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul . . . Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd" (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3, 18-19, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1979, second series, Vol. 1, pp. 524-525).

Constantine's affection for sun worship had earlier led him to endorse Sunday, the first day of the week and a day dedicated to honoring the sun, as a weekly day of rest in the Roman empire . This created considerable hardship on those Jews and true Christians who continued to keep the biblical Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (A century later the Council of Laodicea would essentially outlaw Sabbath-keeping and Christian observance of the Old Testament Holy Days.)

Constantine's merging religious practices produced a corrupted Christianity that meshed paganism with biblical elements; for example the followers of Isis adored a Madonna nursing her holy child. Many Christians did not make a clear distinction between this sun-cult [Mithraism] and their own. They held their services on Sunday, knelt towards the East and had their nativity-feast on 25 December, the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice.

" Did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire? When we consider the vast differences between the mainstream Christianity of today and the original Christianity of Jesus Christ and the apostles, we can trace much of that change to Constantine and the religious system he put in power.

Jack Meyers said...

MAC ~ I'm glad you're here. It's always great to be reminded that Mormonism has its own brand of short bus riders.

FYI, the doctrine of the Trinity was founded in Jewish Wisdom philosophy which far predated Constantine and the Council of Nicaea.

And let me get this straight: you're complaining that Christians celebrate Easter, Christmas and Sunday Sabbaths even though Mormonism does the exact same thing and has failed to "cleanse" Christianity of these pagan traditions? Makes perfect sense.

Mormons Are Christian said...

If you knew about Mormonism, you would know that the Church believes Jesus' birthday was on April 6th, not December 25th.

The Church follows established local custom for the Sabbath. In Israel Sabbath is Saturday, in Arab states it is Friday.

Let me get this straight, Jewish Wisdom philosophy said that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost were consubstantial. If your tall tale were correct, I would guess the Jews might be a little more accepting of Jesus Christ than they were.

Jack Meyers said...

MAC ~ This is entertaining. It's been a while since I've run into a Mormon who transparently bashes and misrepresents non-LDS Christian history and doctrine in exactly the same way countercult ministers bash and misrepresent Mormonism. Pretty remarkable.

As to your claims:

(1) Non-LDS Christians are more than aware of the pagan provenance of Christmas and Easter. We continue to celebrate those holidays on those dates for the same reason you say Mormons celebrate the Sabbath on days other than Saturday: it's culturally convenient.

(2) Mormons celebrate Christmas and Easter the same as we do. I don't really give a damn that you acknowledge the events being celebrated actually fell on different dates; we do the same thing.

(3) If Mormons aren't going to take the plunge and move the Sabbath to Saturday where they think it belongs in spite of established culture, you don't get to throw stones at other Christians for doing the exact same thing.

(4) If you aren't going to read the article I linked to on Jewish Wisdom literature, Wisdom Christology and its relationship to the Trinity (and it's obvious from your comment that you didn't), then sit down and shut up about the Trinity.

If your tall tale were correct, I would guess the Jews might be a little more accepting of Jesus Christ than they were.

And if Mormonism were really the restoration of the theology and practices of the New Testament, I would guess traditional Christians might be a little more accepting of Joseph Smith than they were.

See what I did there?