Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MORMONS ARE NOT CHRISTIANS BECAUSE...?


As I was reflecting on some of the reasons why our Evangelical Christian critics insist that Mormons are not Christians, I began to realize that many of the issues raised ultimately boil down to how all-powerful and all-loving we really believe Christ is. When put in that perspective, it seems downright ridiculous to dismiss us as Christians for some of these things. Consider five here…

1. Salvation for the Dead

Critics: Mormons are not Christians because they believe that even after death we have a chance for salvation, and so they perform baptism for the dead so that their ancestors can be saved. 

Response: You mean that because we believe that Christ’s atonement is so powerful that He can – and that His love is so great that He will – even save those who could not accept Him in life (but then did accept Him in the life after), we are not Christians?
 

Monday, June 21, 2010

WHY DID JOSEPH SMITH NEED THE GOLD PLATES?


While a few LDS scholars and apologist have clung on tight to the traditional perceptions of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon with the Gold plates set out before him, and only by the means of the Urim and Thummim; most seem to have conceded that (at least for a portion of the translation process) he translated using a seer stone in a hat, without having the plates physically present, or at least without him looking at the plates. While I have not yet studied any of the eyewitness accounts for myself, nor have I seriously read and studied any of the scholarly studies on this topic, from the little reading I have done it seems to me that this is an inescapable conclusion.

With that said, the question has naturally arisen from the critics “What was the point of having the Gold Plates at all then, if they we not really needed for the translation process?” 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

HONEST COMMUNICATION: CHRISTIAN OR NON-CHRISTIAN?


LDS apologist Jeff Lindsey quotes an email received once from someone who was questioning the LDS Church’s right to claim the label of Christian. In that email, the unidentified critic says:

“The beliefs that you profess are not commonly considered ‘Christian’.... Let us not care who's theology is correct, if in fact either one is. My thought is, simply, that people have ideas that they instinctively associate with the word ‘Christian’ that members of the LDS church do not. A few examples would be their version of the trinity, works not being necessary for salvation, and not being able to achieve Godhood because of the uniqueness of their God. If that is the case, then isn't presenting yourself as a ‘Christian’ to someone who is uninformed of LDS beliefs deceptive?”

They then go on to say,

“Please understand that I am only concerned with allowing truthful communication between members and non-members of the Church to occur. Honestly, I think that the LDS church as a whole needs to stop trying to apply the term 'Christian' to itself and invent a new one, just for the sake of honest communication.”

Lindsey, of course, offers his own response to this question[1]. But, since reading this question several months ago, I have wished to express a few thoughts on it. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CATHOLIC MASS AND LDS TEMPLE ORDINANCES[1]

As I was reading in Daniel C. Peterson’s and Stephen D. Ricks’ Offenders for a Word , I read the following quote, which is in response to the accusation that it is unchristian to have “secret rituals:”

“The very word from which ‘mass’ may be derived, missa (in the phrase missa est), appears to have been the point in the Christian worship service when those who were not yet members in full standing were ‘invited . . . to leave the church building. Then the doors were closed, and the ushers assumed their placed in order to inquire of anyone who still desired to entire if he was baptized.’”[2]

This struck me as rather fascinating, since when I was on my mission in Virginia, my second Easter out in the mission field, my companion and I had agreed to go to an Easter Vigil with some recent converts who were formerly Catholic. This was a positive learning experience for me. Afterwords, my companion pointed out several parallels to the LDS Temple ordinances. While I haven’t been to an actual Mass, I have discussed this with some members and missionaries who have, and they have all pointed out parallels in Mass and the Temple ordinances as well. Some have also told me that a Vigil and a Mass are quite similar.

In light of the quote above, perhaps many of the rituals preformed in Catholic services are traces of the long since lost “secret” (sacred) ordinances which have now been restored to modern temples? I don’t know if this is really the case, just something I thought was interesting and so decided it would be worth sharing.

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Notes:

1. While this posting mentions the Temple ordinances, I do not discuss what goes on inside the Temple. The internet is not the place for that, as I hold these ordinances to be very sacred. I respectfully ask any and all commenters to please be respectful and not discuss the details of the Temple ordinances here, or anywhere else on my blog. Thank you.

2. Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word (1992), response to Claim 10. Peterson and Ricks have a citation in this quote which I have omitted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

MORMONISM: A NEW RELIGIOUS TRADITION OR APART OF CHRISTIANITY?


Many scholars and historians who have studied Mormonism, including Jan Shipps, have concluded that it is an entirely new and distinct religious tradition (a conclusion I do not entirely disagree with). Yet, some of them (Shipps included) still maintain that Mormonism is a form of Christianity. This seems rather confusing – how could it be a new religious tradition all its own, and yet still be a form of Christianity? Perhaps this part of the reason why Shipps views this as a complicated question, without a straightforward answer (See Jan Shipps, “Is Mormonism Christian? Reflections on a Complicated Question,” BYU Studies 33:3 [1993], pg. 438-465).

Anyway, yesterday I was reflecting on this seeming contradiction (as I personally hold a similar view) when the thought occurred. Perhaps it analogous to how Christianity sprung up out of Judaism and became a distinctly different, new religious tradition, yet both Christianity and Judaism both are Abrahamic religious traditions. Or, in other words, while they are separate religions, they are both forms of religion rooted in the Abrahamic covenant and tradition (as is Islam, another distinctly unique religious tradition). Likewise, although Orthodox Christianity and Mormonism are two separate religions, both are forms of religion centered and focused on Jesus Christ as our Savior, therefore both represent different forms the Christian religious tradition.

Anyway, just an idea which I felt I should share. More study would need to go into it before a serious conclusion could be reached.

Any thoughts? Agree, disagree? Let me know what you think.