And now for some gentle (hopefully) reprooving with sharpness: Latter-day Saints can and should do better in trying to not misrepresent traditional Christian beliefs. We often express how it feels when we're misunderstood and caricatures of our beliefs are perpetuated. But there is indeed two sides to every pancake, and we can be guilty of this too--even unintentionally.
Now it must be said that I think we generally do a pretty good job at this. Our current general authorities in particular not only strive to represent our own beliefs well, but whenever they do address other faiths, they overwhelmingly do so responsibly and charitably. Nevertheless, two recent public examples caught my attention and made me recognize that there is one matter in which we could (and should) do better.
Like many other Christians who quite unintentionally misunderstand the doctrine of the Trinity, many Latter-day Saints also often misunderstand, and therefore risk misrepresenting it. Although it happens quite often, it's somewhat understandable (and even forgivable) since this is a complex doctrine for anyone to get quite right. Nevertheless, if we expect others to be careful in understanding our doctrine, we too must be careful (especially when addressing a public audience) to make sure we most accurately represent traditional Christian beliefs.
Recent example #1: a BYU-Idaho fireside where Elder Ballard spoke. He said that "it always bothered [reporters] when we would say that we just don't believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was praying to himself when he often prayed to his Heavenly Father for guidance."
Implying that other Christians believe that Christ is praying to himself has the potential of bothering any informed Christian. Because that's not what informed Christians believe. According to actual trinitarian doctrine, Christ wasn't praying to himself. (See, for example, "That They May Be One As We Are One").
Recent example #2: At the last General Conference--while making some otherwise great points--Elder Callister didn't quite accurately portray the doctrine of the Trinity. (Although I was actually more concerned with his line at the end that seemed to suggest that salvation is found in the Church, rather than in Christ--now that's asking for misunderstanding).
Far more common, however, is an almost mocking attitude about the Nicene Creed--and this despite the fact that the only part of the Nicene Creed that Mormons would not agree with would be the statement that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are of "one substance".
While the nuances of the current doctrine of the Trinity (developed even more at the later Council of Chalcedon) are not particularly easy to comprehend, Mormons have nuanced doctrines too. More respect is called for, in both cases. The more I've learned about the doctrine of the Trinity, the more of a healthy respect I've developed for it. If we want respect from others--and better understanding--we have to reciprocate. We can do better.
Joseph Smith Papers – Journals Vol 3
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