Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baptists and Mormons: A Transversable Divide?

It's been a while!

I've most recently returned from the North Carolina Charlotte Mission. Many experiences that I have had over the past two years have helped me to understand the beliefs and lifestyles of millions of other faiths. Hopefully, this blog can be a tool to help others to understand the differences between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the rest of the world in terms of religion.

Ever since the creation of the church Baptists and other Protestant denominations have looked with an eye of suspicion upon the church. The perception is best illustrated by a woman that I had a conversation with:

As a missionary, I went to look for an investigator who had looked into the church some years before. A woman walked out of the apartment building. I began to talk to her and my companion in an almost tactful way turned the conversation to the church. Almost as sudden as turning a light on, she changed from cool and collected to shaking and spurting. She had said she had attended a Baptist seminary and "knew all about the Mormons" from the information presented to her there. I, being a young missionary (my first week in the field) wasn't by any means prepared or seasoned for this discussion. I expressed my love and belief in Christ and I did my best to answer with complete honesty the questions that she, and millions of Protestants ask about the church:

"Do you believe in Jesus Christ to be your personal Savior?"

Yes, ALL sincere and practicing Latter-day Saints believe Christ to be the only way of Salvation. The center of all worship and doctrine of the Gospel. Without Him all else falls. There would be no church, no prophet (since there would be nobody to speak to that prophet), no Book of Mormon (because there would be no subject for its pages), no temples, no missionaries. There would be utterly and completely nothing, there would be no earth.

"Do you believe that He was born of virgin birth?"

Yes, the ancient prophet Alma of the Book of Mormon testifies of this himself: "And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God." (Alma 7:10 pg. 224) We do not hold the view of Immaculate Conception (being that Mary, herself, was sinless at birth).

"Do you believe that He is the Son of God and is God?"

Yes. The Only Begotten of the Father who is full of grace and truth, everlasting to everlasting.

"Do you believe that He is resurrected?"

Yes. He is "the firstfruits of them that slept." His body and spirit were brought together as He only, being the Son of God, could bring them together. It is also our hope and faith in Him that we will also be resurrected.

"Do you believe the Bible to be the Word of God?"

Yes. As far as it has been TRANSLATED and INTERPRETED correctly. We believe that authority had in times past, and now in times present, had been given to God's servants here upon the Earth to receive revelation and write that revelation down. This is the source material of the Bible. Before there was ever a "Bible", God was speaking to man, His primary means of communication being revelation by the Spirit of God. In like fashion, the Bible and the Book of Mormon are essential to our instruction and learning in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Revelation that is received personally (that is also linear to the writings of these and other canonical books) and from Prophets and Apostles modern are also principle in drawing closer to God.

These being but a few of the general questions that she had, at the end of the conversation she was shaking her head saying, "I guess we don't have that much different between the two of us." That fact is true. There are many similarities between the religions of Protestants and Mormons. The most important one is the binding belief in the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind and is my personal Savior. I have accepted Him, as all Latter-day Saints do by following after Him and His example. I know that we are responsible for walking the path that He walks and as He has promised we shall be lead to the courts of our Father on high. In that day we shall be made pure through his blood and mercy and be made white and whole through the cleansing Atonement.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Clip for the Couch Potatoes

Before the 2002 Olympics the Church produced this movie and showed it to media personnel and producers of NBC, official sponsors of the Olympic games.  It's a pretty good little clip that helps to clear up any misunderstanding, featuring some Mormons that you may recognize (Steve Youngand Sharlene Hawkes). Take a look.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Are Mormons Christians?

In July of 1986 a group of Evangelical Christians held a news conference in Salt Lake City to present a petition of 20,543 individuals requesting that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "demanding" that it stop calling itself a "Christian" church.  Ever since, the question arises, "Are Mormons Christians?"

I must say that I'm puzzled.  Why would the Evangelical community put so much work in dedication to prepare a petition that they knew would not be acknowledged, after all, consensus does not create truth.  Perhaps, there is alarm of the explosive growth of the church?  Perhaps, it is simply for alienation?  Perhaps, it it simply because there is a lack of understanding? Many reasons exist amongst many people, some are deeply entrenched, but hopefully understanding can be taught.

Being very sensitive about the religion issue, I would like to place a disclaimer, that as Russell M. Ballard of the Twelve Apostles says in "Our Search For Happiness":

"[With the goal of creating understanding] That doesn't mean that my goal is to have every member of the Church, or even accept our doctrines and practices--although I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that I would be pleased to see those things happen...All of our interpersonal relationships should be built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust, and appreciation.  But that shouldn't prevent us from sharing deeply held religious feelings with each other."

This blog comes from a primary desire to create understanding, not conversion.

President Hinkley gave an awesome talk in April of 1994 called, "Our One Bright Hope"

"As our hearts and minds turn at Eastertime to thoughts of our Savior’s suffering at Gethsemane, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, I recall an experience at an open house in the Arizona Temple following a complete renovation of the building. 

"Nearly a quarter of a million people saw the temple’s beautiful interior. On the first day of the open house, clergymen of other religions were invited as special guests, and hundreds responded. It was my privilege to speak to them and to answer their questions at the conclusion of their tours. I told them that we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Many were asked. Among these was one which came from a Protestant minister.

"Said he: “I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”

"I responded: “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Jesus, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.” He then asked: “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?”I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith. I hope he did not feel that I was smug or self-righteous in my response. He was correct in his observation that we do not use the cross, except as our military chaplains use it on their uniforms for identification.

"Our position at first glance may seem a contradiction of our profession that Jesus Christ is the key figure of our faith. The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. We worship Him as Lord and Savior. The Bible is our scripture. We believe that the prophets of the Old Testament who foretold the coming of the Messiah spoke under divine inspiration. We glory in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, setting forth the events of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. Like Paul of old, we are “not ashamed of the gospel of [Jesus] Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:1). And like Peter, we affirm that Jesus Christ is the only name “given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)."

This Protestant minister does bring up a common misconception: 'Because you don't use the crucifix you don't believe in Christ.  Thus you aren't Christian.'  President Hinkley responded beautifully, we rejoice in the Atonement, in his death, but most importantly his resurrection.  I quote from Our Search for Happiness again:

"We revere Jesus.  He is the head of our Church, which bears His name.  He is our Savior and our Redeemer.  We love Him.  Through Him we worship and pray to our Heavenly Father.  We are grateful beyond measure for the essential and awesome power His Atonement has in each of our lives."

Quite simply, without tricky or deceitful definitions, by defining a Christian as:  "One who follows, believes and worships Jesus Christ as the only begotten of the Father to redeem the sins of mankind spoken of in the New Testament."  Then without doubt, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints professes a simple but beautiful belief in Jesus Christ.  For if it was not for his crucifixion and resurrection, I would be held in the power of the adversary and the grave would claim my flesh forever.  As 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."  Exaltation is possible through, and only through his sacrifice.  As Romans 6:23 exhorts:  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wow! A Pretty Well Researched News Article!

Believe me it doesn't happen often in the media, but to my delight, my favorite magazine The Economist did a pretty good job in a recent article:

But the last three paragraphs I was a tad bit uneasy.  I wish it were a bit more clear that Warren Jeffs is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (who importantly no longer practice polygamy), he is the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (who do continue to practice polygamy and arranged marriages which the LDS Church condemns).  But overall the article portrayed important secular as well as religious points of view.  I encourage you to check it out!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7

Merry Christmas! Today was an awesome day, it felt like it was another Sunday during the week which was nice. It was great to spend time with the Family, which is definitely what Christmas should be about, that, and even more importantly our Savior. Christmas is full of symbolism, my thoughts today dwelt heavily in John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
God gave the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive, his only begotten Son, who would, through his death and resurrection, break the bands of sin and death and redeem all mankind. I am grateful for that gift this Christmas, that in his blood my sins may be washed clean and become white as snow:
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
"Surely he hath bourne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Isaiah 53:3-5
Without him we cannot return to the presence of the Father, and cannot partake in our Eternal Salvation.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:10

How symbolic it was for the angels to appear to the Shepherds first, for Christ was the greatest Shepherd of all. He who would leave the ninety and nine to find me in the barren wilderness. He is my elder brother, the living and eternal Jesus Christ.

"And also that ye might know of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and that ye might know of the signs of his coming, to the intent that ye might believe on his name. And if ye believe on his name ye may have a remission of them through his merits."
Helaman 14:12-13

Monday, December 24, 2007

The 13 Articles of Faith

In describing or understanding the LDS Faith, it is essential to be acquainted with the Articles of Faith.

The Articles of Faith were written by the Prophet Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor when Mr. Wentworth asked the Prophet about some of the basic beliefs of Mormonism. Today this is known as the "Wentworth Letter". We find that they were a handy tool to have ready when answering questions about the church and are now found behind the Pearl of Great Price.

Article 1
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Explained: Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, and instead believe in three separate beings, one in purpose.

Article 2
We believe that man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

Explained: We know through modern revelation that it was necessary for Adam to fall that we might have joy. Any subsequent acts that deviate from Mosaic law or other commandments are the responsibility of each individual and for full repentance must repent through the Atonement of Christ.

Article 3
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

Explained: We believe that Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, came to earth to perform the atonement that we might not die in our sins. That through this mercy, or grace, extended by Christ we may become clean and also with works, be able to receive exaltation.

Article 4
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Explained: These are the 4 basic sections of the Gospel of Christ as is outlined in numerous places in the scriptures.

Article 5
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Explained: Any calling (that is, a position of labor or responsibility) in the church is made by careful prayer and revelation. When the calling is made it is extended and must be accepted by the individual. For most callings they must be sustained by the body of the Church involved, ward level callings are sustained by wards, stake level by stake, global callings by the entirety of the church. For some callings it is required that the individual be set apart or laying on of hands by those who are in authority to give special guidance and blessings from the Lord in performing in the new calling. This authority is the Priesthood, said authority can be traced to Christ.

Article 6
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

Explained: When the Gospel of Christ was first taken from the Earth after the martyrdom of the Apostles, the authority to organize a church in the name of Christ was taken as well. When the restoration occurred by revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith by the appearance of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove. The Prophet was then authorized in 1832 to organize the newest dispensation of the church, patterned carefully after the structure of the church when Christ organized it during his reign and ministry upon the Earth.

Article 7
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues and so forth.

Explained: The age of miracles has not come and gone. In simple every day acts each of these remarkable gifts are manifest. For example, the ability of Missionaries to improve in their respective foreign language in such a short time has been claimed by some to be the gift of tongues. There are numerous other instances that quietly occur. See 1 Corintians 12:1-12. See also, Moroni 10:8-18.

Article 8
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Explained: This is pretty self explanatory. However, I would like to deviate a bit from the Seminary Teacher explanation that somebody got a hold of the Bible and deviously manipulated some of its precious truths. Honestly, I have no way to know the intent of some of the manipulations, whether they be accidental or intentional. I think that the most widespread and common changes of the Bible happened by accident. Pre-Gutenberg Bibles were produced by learned Priests who would patiently copy line by line from an old bible to a new script. As is the case with human error, some lines are repeated, some are accidentally omitted, words are replaced with synonyms to clarify (which in translation can prove difficult to determine original meaning), and so on. Bibles are copied one from the other down and down the line with one error repeated in the next. Probably there is a mixture between intentional and accidental. We believe the Book of Mormon works with the Bible to clear up some of those issues.

Article 9
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does no reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal man great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Explained: Just as the age of miracles has not ceased neither has revelation. Individuals can receive revelation for themselves when trying to solve a problem through faith, prayer and sometimes fasting. In the instance of a leader of the church, such as a Prophet, Stake President, or Bishop, they may receive council from on high by means of divine revelation for the group they are responsible for leading.

Article 10
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.

Explained: This one I must honestly say is a big one that I have to think about for a while to get it (even more than the others). You also must realize that I am no total expert, I am only explaining these to the best of my ability. Firstly, I highly recommend referencing Isaiah 2. The literal gathering of Israel is often referred to as missionary work, that we gather back to the fold that which was lost and scattered with the destruction of Israel. It is prophesied by Isaiah in 2:2, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." In the state of Utah, the headquarters of the church were established many of the Saints were encouraged to make the trek to Utah, and thus the Pioneers. In modern day, Saints are asked to remain where they are to build Zion where they already live. In the last days, Christ will come and personally reign over the Earth, the Earth will be cleansed and will become an Eden-like place.

Article 11
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Explanation: With Mormonism as misunderstood as it is, and in some cases even persecuted, we believe that we should not engage in that practice, so we believe in tolerance for individuals of different faiths. Christ showed love to all, it didn't matter if they were Jew or Gentile, and we shouldn't change how we treat others on the basis of their faith.

Article 12
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.

Explanation: Mormonism has a definite patriotic side, especially in the United States. We believe that it is important to obey government acts and laws. The LDS faith uses the Boy Scouts of America and other programs to build patriotism.

Article 13
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things

Explanation: We rejoice in all that is wholesome, edifying and uplifting to mind, body and soul. We are a very service oriented church, and also focusing on charity. All that is good should be cherished.

The Articles are a great tool for brief explanation to a curious individual. I want you to keep in mind that they are no where close to the embodiment of doctrine. These principles become infinitely more complex the deeper and deeper you go. It is the beautiful magnificence of the Gospel. It is truly a gospel of wisdom, knowledge and understanding as well as one of faith, hope, charity and love.
How intellectually amazing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is. The gospel is truly inexhaustible. It is marvelous; it is a wonder.

Neal A. Maxwell


Thanks for visiting the blog!

My name is Isaac and I am a proud and practicing member of the Latter-Day Saint faith. Flabbergasted by all of the misconceptions floating about in the media these days, I decided to add my voice to (hopefully) clear things up! Also a note, please keep things positive, I would appreciate it.

An issue that has been heavy on my mind that many issues have been raised lately is that of basic principles that distinguish members of many different faiths: Grace vs. Good Works. A nice pastor in New Zealand was interviewing some missionaries and of course brought up the issue with the verse of Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Good place to start. For additional reference the Church provides an excellent brief of Grace.

The Pastor of course was trying to tangle the Missionaries in the magnificent web of the relationship of Works and Grace. It is true that there is an emphasis on works as the Pastor had heard about the LDS faith, but there is a necessity for grace as well. Which is it? Is it possible to achieve exaltation by mere works alone as is the conception about the LDS faith? Lets examine:

In that brief the church actually uses this passage after which it references Ephesians:
"Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives."
Lets step back and look at an Article of Faith (basically 13 brief paragraphs that are embodiments of very simplified points of doctrine):
"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."
Yes, you read right. "Atonement of Christ" (synonymous of grace), "laws", and "ordinances" (synonymous of works) all in the same sentence. C. S. Lewis compared Works and Grace to two blades of a pair of scissors. How do you decide which one you used when you cut a square of cloth? You can't, both are needed.

Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles couldn't put it better:


"After all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effect of our sins without the grace extended by the Atonement of Jesus Christ."

He continued on in an article in the New Era, a Church Periodical:
"We receive God’s grace because of the Atonement. We can’t raise ourselves from the dead, so the Resurrection is an example of His grace. We can’t purify ourselves from sin, so the Lord’s forgiveness is another example of grace. But before He will forgive us, we must repent—that’s our part, our works.

"Besides repentance, our works also include receiving ordinances, keeping covenants, and serving others. While these works are necessary for salvation, they aren’t sufficient. They are not enough because we can’t live perfect lives, but we can do our best to live righteously. By doing so, we invite the Lord’s grace into our lives and qualify for the gift of salvation."

As it says in Romans 6:14-15:

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

"What then? shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."

Simply put, grace alone diminishes the law. Works alone diminishes mercy. Both must play a part in the Judgement of the Lord.

Doctrine and Covenants 11:20:

"Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength."

We are bound to uphold the commandments of God, but as mortal children of our Heavenly Father we are not perfect and inevitably make mistakes. Man cannot be redeemed from these mistakes, save it be through the glorious and eternal Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mercy and Justice must both be satisfied. They both are through both of these principles.

The biggest error people make with James 2 is they only recite the first familiar clause in 17:

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead..."

Without stating the most important part:

"...being alone."

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren,

to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God;

for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses,

and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled."

2 Nephi, Chapter 25, Verse 23


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