What is “The Church”?

I know the church is true. I love the church. They are disaffected with the church. We go to church.  I discovered that the church was not what it said it was. What exactly, does ‘church’ mean? Where is ‘the church”? Who does it belong to? What does “church” mean? Is it a place, a set of beliefs? Is it an organization? A corporation? 

Bruce recently said that Mormons often use ‘church’ and ‘religion’ interchangeably.  When you think of “the church,” are you actually thinking “religion”?  Is it the leadership?  When a General Authority, Bishop or Relief Society President does something a member does not like, is it accurate or is it misplaced for a member be upset with the whole church?

Where exactly, is “the church”:  James E. Faust gave a great talk on this a few years ago. He rejected the idea of the church being in the buildings, because buildings “will get no one into the kingdom of God,” and the “temple buildings alone do not bless.”  He said families are a better answer, but still only part of the church.  The best answer, although not necessarily a tangible one, is that the church is in our hearts: “for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  We go to a church building or a temple, but ultimately, the “church” is something we take with us.

Whose church is it?  The short answer here is, “duh, it’s the Church of Jesus Christ.”  But more pragmatically, it is also the church of Latter-day Saints, i.e. we the members.  It is my church just as much as it is any apostle’s or rank and file member’s.  To illustrate this, my mission president once told us how he was asked by man on temple square, “if the prophet committed adultery, would you leave the church?”  Many would, for sure.  But he said that it would not make a difference in regards to his membership.  It is not the President’s church.  I believe it is the church of Jesus Christ, as well as our own, and it will be what we make of it.

I like to think of the church as a vehicle for our progress.  Whether the church is true compared to other churches does not matter to me.  What matters is, if being an active member will help my family and I progress.  Which, I assert, is and has been true for me.  

 

Comments

comments

252 comments for “What is “The Church”?

  1. March 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Great post and questions, Adam. It seems to me that those who label themselves as “disaffected” with the “church” tend to focus on the institutional church, the corporation and its highest leaders, as opposed to the regular folks in their ward who are flawed but more often than not are generous and sincere and trying to do what they believe is right. It is impossible for me to become disaffected with the “church” when I am surrounded by so many of those kind and generous “regular members.”

  2. John Nilsson
    March 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Andrew and Adam,

    You’re so right. Most of the time when I am feeling alienated from some of the directions a lesson or discussion is heading in my ward, some kind person redirects it to something important, like families, charity, peace, and Jesus Christ. I like to think of the Church as a family, as I indicated in a previous post.

    The Greek word translated as church in the New Testament is ekklesia, which in secular terms means the assembly, the arena in which political decisions were made.

    According to the Catholic theologian Hans Kueng, the English word church probably derives from the Byzantine word Kyrike, and means “belonging to the Lord”, kyrios. The Hebrew word kahal was translated into the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, and meant the assembly of Yahweh. This is assuredly where the Assemblies of God denomination gets its name.

  3. March 10, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    John, what you’ve said also seems to concur with John the Revelator’s reference to “seven churches,” all of which presumably would have been part of the same Church of Jesus Christ. I thought John the Revelator’s use of the term “churches” to refer to different congregations within the same overarching “church” was strange when I first read it, but it makes sense if you’re using the word “church” to refer to a congregation or “ward family” as many like to call it.

  4. March 10, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Andrew–it’s interesting to bring up the “seven churches”. All of them had their particular struggles, not unlike our ward/stake system we have now.

  5. Bruce Nielson
    March 10, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    My favorite Mormon line: “The Church is true even if the people aren’t.” But wait! The church IS the people! 🙂

  6. hawkgrrrl
    March 10, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I love this concept. I often have this exact discussion at work. People who complain that “the company” doesn’t care or what is “the company” going to do about something that bothers them, but in reality, those of us who choose to work there are all “the company,” and we create the culture of our workplace. It’s the same with “the church.”

    We also talk about the difference between employee engagement (active involvement and contribution) vs. satisfaction (passive contentment) at work. Like acting vs. being acted upon. Again, just like at church – we are all members, but contributing or engaged to varying degrees.

    The real issue for the church right now is to increase everyone’s engagement in the church. There are many members, but a lot who are inactive, less active, or going through the motions. It seems that this falls into Perfecting the Saints rather than Proclaiming the Gospel, but if we could approach the task the way missionary work is approached, maybe it would be more impactful.

  7. March 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Adam…thanks for that uplifting and inspiring post. Very straight whilst being pragmatic and moderate. Cheers mate. Very well said.

  8. March 10, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    What the the Church???

    Why not go to the scriptures and get the answer?

    Here is a good place to start, D&C 10:67-68:

    “Behold, this is my doctrine – whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.”

    That seems to me to be a very straightforward answer; one that doesn’t leave a lot of room for alternatives. We belong to the church of Jesus Christ when we ‘come unto Him’ no more, no less. There is a good description of the church according to the scriptures found at http://www.fulness.com under church.

    Spek

  9. Bruce Nielson
    March 10, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Spek,

    I’m certainly not going to argue with the sciptures on what the definition of the Church should be. But that still leaves open the question of how the word “Church” is used by Mormons. There seems to be several different ways we use it. We use it to mean “the building”, “the brethren”, “the inspired organization”, “our religion”, “the congregation” etc. We use one word to mean all of these and we rarely try to differentiate between differences of use. I think this can lead to confusion, as AdamF’s post suggests. But it seems like, in general, we sort through it without too much problem.

  10. March 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I agree that the church is a vehicle for our progress, and we will get out of it what we put in (we’ll actually get much more than we put it, but the point is, we do have to put forth effort).

    I’ve really been struggling in my new ward and with my new calling. There are so many children (and I’m only adding to the problem) that it is so noisy. Even during prayers.

    I’m a sunbeam teacher (there are 4 sunbeam teachers- 2 per class) and 11 kids in my class, by the time primary is over and we go to sacrament meeting I often feel so frenzied that I really struggle to pay attention to the spirit of the meeting instead of the noise.

    I’m really trying to remember that I will get out of the meeting as much as I put into it, and last sunday I had a bit of a tender mercy. Sac. meeting wasn’t any less noisy, but I was able to listen to the speakers and feel renewed. It’s taken prayer and effort on my part, and I’ve thought how easy it could be to just stop going.

    But it’s unfair for me to expect the “church” (or in this case a ward) to meet my needs when I am not willing to make an effort to make sure my needs are being met- whether that be through prayer, scripture study or anything else to help me have a good experience at church.

  11. March 10, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    On an only slightly related note, have you ever noticed that Church publications fairly consistently capitalize Church when referring to Christ’s true Church (the organization and the people) but lowercase church in the phrase “go to church”? Also, you’ll note that Church publications fairly consistently use the word meetinghouse when referring to the building that Church members meet in to go to church.

    By the way, the Doctrine and Covenants refers to the “church of the Firstborn,” meaning those who are begotten through Christ and heirs of celestial glory (see D&C 76:54, 67, 71, 94; 77:11; 88:5; 93:22; 107: 19). It’s also referred to as the “general assembly” and the “elect of God.” The Church’s goal is to help people qualify for this group, so I would agree with hawkgrrrl’s comment on the Church’s current challenges.

  12. March 10, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Spektator: “Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” So does this mean that the church is much larger than Mormonism? Definitely something I could believe (maybe related to Andrew’s post), but many would have a hard time taking that scripture as the sole definition of “the Church”.

  13. March 11, 2008 at 4:21 am

    Is the church larger than Mormonism? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were so. In the D&C 10 quote, Christ made it clear that anything more or less than this definition was not acceptable. Does the corporate church maintain the one and only path to ‘come unto Christ?’ I think we each need to answer that for ourselves. I have come to the conclusion, as Andrew indicated, that the corporate church is not the same as this spiritual church that is defined in the D&C 10 quote. Can it span beyond the Mormon sphere?

    I am reminded of the experience of Cornelius, the first ‘gentile’ convert in Acts. It was tough for the primitive church leaders to accept the fact that Cornelius has received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost just as they had. Can a similar situation exist today? I think so. God has the right to accept anyone who repents and comes unto Him.

    Spek

  14. March 11, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I would argue that the Church is larger than Mormonism, but that those who are part of the Church would accept Mormonism as a given when they encounter it, although not necessarily to subject themselves to it.

    Let me speculate just a bit, if you would. Let us suppose that we suddenly discovered a neat technology that expands our understanding of physics greatly, allowing us to travel to the furthest reaches of this galaxy, and even perhaps other galaxies, taking only a moment to do so. Think perhaps in the manner of Stargate (I’m being very speculative, but this is fiction for the moment).

    We get to another distant location and discover that there are humans there, or rather, intelligent creatures that look very much like us. We speak with them and discover suddenly that they have extremely similar beliefs about salvation, exaltation and the like. Supposing that they had Temple rites that resembled the LDS rites and ordinances (who would ever know, how would we find out?).

    Obviously we would not expect, in our pride, for them to become Mormon, but neither would we expect to join completely with them. On the other hand, we might completely agree that their faith and authority is completely valid.

    Now the above is purely speculative, and while I’m certain there are those that will find good reason to scoff, the point is valid I think. If we would accept it as valid at such a distance, why not closer to home? The only reason we as Mormons in the current time frame think of a global unified Church is because we have the modern technology to do so, but in times past such a thing would have been ill-considered. We know that in the time immediately after Christ’s death and Ressurection there were at least three organized and separate churches (a careful reading of the Book of Mormon text indicates this), and likely more.

    Of course, D&C 1:30 might be interpreted as indicating that the LDS church is unique at this point in history, and that is certainly the way I tend to read it, but I can see where another reading would be possible:

    30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
    31 For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
    32 Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;
    33 And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.
    34 And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh;

    With that in mind, however, I concede that there is some ambiguity, but my personal interpretation leans toward no other organization or priesthood authority outside the mainstream of the church except for a few minor exceptions (three Nephites, John the Beloved, and possibly some others that are still around, but who knows what those are really up to?).

    I leave further speculation in your capable hands.

  15. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 8:16 am

    #10 Allie

    In sacrament meeting we usually are seated behind a young couple with a child under the age of one. This darling, little girl is a ball of energy and is prone to loud outbursts. After one particular raucous sacrament meeting, the grandmother apologized to our family for her granddaughter’s loudness. I explained to this sister that there was no offense and that I actually enjoyed the sound of small children and I would never want the child to be stifled. What I didn’t tell the grandmother is this: I was left completely sterile due to cancer surgery over eight years ago. While I am grateful to The Lord for our three children, my wife and I thought we would have several more over the course of our marriage. I miss the sound of small children in our home and in our pew.

    As far as church and children are concerned, consider this example and statement The Savior gave us about the “kingdom of God”.

    Mark 10:13-15
    13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
    14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
    15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

  16. March 11, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Ammon (#15)

    Thanks for your input, and I’m sorry about your inability to have more children. I have several good friends who have desparately wanted children, while my wife and I are blessed to have 4 wonderfully rambunctious boys. My wife feels the strain of their noise quite a bit, but I personally don’t mind that much, and notice that no one in the ward really seems to mind. Which is a good thing, because if they did, I’d have a few words to say about that! I am a very protective father, when it comes to my children.

  17. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 8:53 am

    #15 Benjamin O

    I rarely have to remind myself how blessed we are for the three children we have. My heart aches for those friends and family we know who struggle or who are not able to have their own children. Thank God for adoption!

    As far as the noise, it doesn’t matter if it’s laughing, crying, shouting, etc., the sound of a child’s voice is a song to my heart.

  18. March 11, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Spektator: “I have come to the conclusion, as Andrew indicated, that the corporate church is not the same as this spiritual church.”
    –I agree with this. The corporate church is a temporary organization, compared with the spiritual church, IMO. We have been told we have not been given everything, with much to learn in the future or in the next life. As for the scripture you quoted, I am sure there are plenty who are members of the corporate church who have not repented or come unto Christ, so spiritually in this sense, they would not be members. Maybe we all get too comfortable “knowing” we are in the true church, when we really need to worry about repentance and coming to Christ. Spiritually speaking, I have left and come back to the church quite a few times. Thanks for your comments! They have provided some great new insight for me.

    Benjamin O: “immediately after Christ’s death and Resurrection there were at least three organized and separate churches”
    –On my mission I was reading (maybe in the old Missionary Guide) about what to say to an investigator who notices that and tries to suggest that there is more than one true church, lol.

    According to LDS belief, ultimately everyone will need the ordinances by the proper authority, but I think that is only a small part of exaltation. There could definitely be a lot of religions or “churches” in the world that offer paths that lead to these ordinances, now or in the next life. At a stake conference telecast in Japan, a GA even said that Buddhism in Japan had prepared Japanese people for the gospel and compared it with the teachings of John the Baptist. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit (maybe not), but I believe that whatever is good and elevates people is part of the plan, and is from God. I don’t mean to steal Andrew’s post here though…

  19. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 9:33 am

    #18 Adam F

    “At a stake conference telecast in Japan, a GA even said that Buddhism in Japan had prepared Japanese people for the gospel and compared it with the teachings of John the Baptist. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit (maybe not), but I believe that whatever is good and elevates people is part of the plan, and is from God.”

    If what was said about Buddhism is true, then why isn’t there a separate “Preach My Gospel” manual for missionaries in “non-Christian” lands? A young man from our ward recently returned from a mission in Japan and talked about teaching Joseph Smith from that manual. (Which makes sense; “Preach My Gospel” starts with the JS story.) I remember thinking to myself, “How stupid to teach the Japanese people about Joseph Smith BEFORE they have at least an elementary understanding of Jesus. How can a non-Christian hope to put JS in context without understanding the life and mission of Jesus?” IMO the “Preach My Gospel” manual needs to be revamped and properly ordered. God first, man’s relationship to God second, repentance as the only saving principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ third, and all other things related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as “only appendages” as Joseph Smith himself put it.

  20. March 11, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Ammon-I see your point here… maybe I can add some more personal insight. While I was in Japan (before “Preach My Gospel”) our mission President had us teach about the first vision at the beginning, and then what we learn about God from it. I think your ideas are well reasoned, but teaching about God first often led to unending chats with people that ultimately went nowhere. Interesting, for sure, but not effective missionary work. I rarely, if ever, asked people about their beliefs in God, because it was SO different, and we would not get anywhere. Teaching the first vision first really helped to set the stage for the rest of the discussion about God, Jesus, and the gospel.

  21. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

    #20 Adam F

    “Teaching the first vision first really helped to set the stage for the rest of the discussion about God, Jesus, and the gospel.”

    And what version of the first vision would be taught to the people of Japan?

  22. March 11, 2008 at 9:59 am

    🙂 lol. The one I liked best, obviously.

    I imagine though, once it is translated into Japanese, it’s a new “version” in and of itself.

    More sincerely though, If I had of known about the other versions at the time I would have incorporated them (that is, if my Japanese skills would have good enough). Definitely fills out the story more, which is something that could have been beneficial. A lot of people would hear it and then say stuff like, “Oh yeah, that kind of stuff happens all the time. Tanaka san had the same experience a few years ago.” More detail would have helped.

  23. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 10:06 am

    #22 Adam F

    “:)lol. The one I liked best, obviously.

    I imagine though, once it is translated into Japanese, it’s a new “version” in and of itself.”

    My concern is this: I have a son who will be missionary age in 2.5 years. He will be asked to preach the “official version”. He will bearing false witness if he testifies to the truthfulness of the “official version” of the first vision.

  24. March 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

    “He will bearing false witness if he testifies to the truthfulness of the “official version” of the first vision.” So, you’re saying the “official version” is false compared with the other versions?

    I guess this is a threadjack, not that my post is long enough to warrant using such a word. Either way, I don’t have a problem with it. If anyone still wants to talk about “the Church”, the main thread is still open.

  25. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

    #24 Adam F

    I will bring it full circle for you. We will be condemned by our words. We are commanded to live by faith and faith is NOT knowing. (No matter what the Primary song says.) For a person to say they KNOW the church is true is bearing false witness.

    All I’m saying is, before you take Joseph’s word for it, you better be sure your “feelings” aren’t deceiving you. We are taught in the OT that the heart is most deceitful.

    If you want to BELIEVE the church is true, go for it. If you want to witness that you KNOW the church, the first vision, the book of mormon, the doctrine and covenants, the pearl of great price, etc. is true, then be absolutely sure of yourself.

  26. March 11, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Well said. I agree completely. There are many things in the church that are only on the “belief” level for me. Part of the motivation for this post is if I (or anyone else) is saying “I know the Church is true,” I think it is important to know exactly what “the Church” means in that sentence.

    Feelings can be deceiving. There are very few things I would say I “know” (church-related and otherwise). Now, what “know” means, is another discussion. Maybe Jeff Spector’s post addressed this already…

    “Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church” – I like this definition the best. I have no problem at all with the phrase “I know the church is true” in this sense.

  27. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 11:34 am

    #26 Adam F

    “’Whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church’ – I like this definition the best. I have no problem at all with the phrase “I know the church is true” in this sense.”

    I like to think your quote may be related to the following:

    John 17:3
    3 And this is life eternal, that they might [KNOW] thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    John 8:32
    32 And ye shall [KNOW] the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

    We can KNOW Jesus and if we come unto Him, we can “know” His church. I like to think His church is the whole body of believers, not the followers of Joseph Smith or any other man.

  28. March 11, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Ammon, Adam:

    Actually, (and this is something of a threadjack, so I apologize) I’ve always been a bit bothered by the way members of the Church (not to mention non-members) talk about the relationship between faith and knowing. I think the two are somewhat orthogonal to each other, and while faith can lead to knowing, and sometimes we have faith in things that we don’t know, and that faith can be supplanted by knowledge, the need for faith in general is universal.

    It brings me back to the whole emotion/cognition/spiritual divide as well that I’ve brought up before in other posts/threads. There is an emotional recognition that we like the gospel–that’s where it starts for MOST of us. Or that we need something we don’t have, or something. If things go according to the Moroni 10:3-5 plan, we then pray about it after some cognition, and then have a spiritual experience. That’s where faith comes in. But in the church we seem to have this idea that the cognition part is somehow more important than the spiritual aspect, and I suspect its because we tend to conflate the spiritual and emotional. If we can keep those separate, however, we understand that the spiritual is actually more accurate than the cognitive in most ways, but we have a hard time understanding it because of the imperfections of our bodies.

    But the scriptures do a poor job of delineating this, I think, because they use the same word, faith, to refer to numerous concepts. Thus we have faith as motivator for behavior, we have faith as belief, and we have faith as spiritual power.

    In this sense, we can have faith, and that faith can lead us to [KNOW] that the Church is true, that Christ lives, etc, even if we never have a theophanous moment in our lives. The lack of physical evidence is what bothers most intellectual/atheist/agnostic types, but from a philosophical point of view, its hardly bothersome. Now, at the cognitive level, I have a different level of proof that I would require, but I have no problem indicating that the spiritual or emotional can inform the cognitive (or vice-versa). What I do have a problem with is this: expecting that we can have immediate and complete spiritual understanding when all the evidence indicates that it takes most of our mortal life to simply can gain understanding of our own cognitive and emotional patterns.

    Of course, the more narrowly one defines the church, the more difficult it is to state “I [KNOW] the church is true.” Conversely, I would argue that if one defines the church too broadly, this is also the case. In the broad middle ground, however, there is a vast area that makes it all too easy to say “I know the church is true”, and yet have this phrase have no practical significance. In order for this statement to have any value, it must be a statement of some sort of value. Of course here, I think most of use would be comfortable including that statement mean some sort of belief in God, while a bunch of Unitarians might not. Of course they wouldn’t utter such a statement, but that’s another story. But even for a believer, that statement needs to have a bit more meat to it in order to require any faith (motivation) at all. Or faith (belief). Or faith (power).

    The statement “I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is led by a prophet of God and he is a fallible but divinely inspired spokesman for Jesus Christ on earth today” requires more faith (belief), and may provoke (in my mind at least) more faith (motivation). Its impact on faith (power) is indeterminate.

    The statement “I believe that TCoJCoLDS is led by Jesus Christ through modern living prophets and he has granted them priesthood authority” is similar, and has similar implications and requirements of faith.

    Whether or not these are valid statements I leave to the reader, and whether or not one can make the transition from faith (belief) to knowing is only a valid question if the statement is indeed a true statement. If the statement is true, then faith (belief) may then become cognitive knowledge in my opinion, but faith (motivation) and faith (power) are still very much necessary.

    Of course, it still has nothing to do with what is meant by church. I’d still argue that what I said earlier is true: if we met a group of extra-terrestials who had priesthood authority, we’d have absolutely no qualms about accepting them as members of the ‘Church’, but with no need to baptize them as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I can even see them being allowed to use our Temples without any baptism on this earth! Of course, we’d probably get a shock if we went to their temples! The core of the temples would be the same, but the form might be radically different, which might prove quite a shock to some people.

  29. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    #28 Benjamin O

    Anyone who affirms any knowledge of anything Joseph Smith advanced as divine truth is bearing false witness because there is no way to know something to be true that is born out of falsehoods. The history of the church demonstrates that it is more probable than not that JS and his contemporaries made it up as they went along. I can’t say for sure what their motivations were, but it is likely it had little to do with God’s will and more to do with man’s will.

  30. March 11, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Ammon: “Anyone who affirms any knowledge of anything Joseph Smith advanced as divine truth is bearing false witness because there is no way to know something to be true that is born out of falsehoods.” That is a big statement. 🙂 I don’t agree, though, that “anyone” in this case would be “bearing false witness”. A spiritual witness is an entirely subjective experience, thus making it impossible, IMHO, to know if another is bearing false witness, or not.

  31. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    “A spiritual witness is an entirely subjective experience, thus making it impossible, IMHO, to know if another is bearing false witness, or not.”

    Why would God cause His Spirit to be experienced differently from person to person. God is supposed to be no respecter of persons. This idea of subjective spiritual experience is a devious trick played on those who admit they have never had a spiritual confirmation of mormon “truth”. I don’t buy it and I wish members of the church would quit trying to sell it because it has made people feel inferior or not worthy of God’s Spirit.

  32. March 11, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Re: devious trick:
    Whether that is devious or not, is subjective. As for selling the idea, maybe they do, but I’m not selling it here. All I am saying is that no one can convince another of a the veracity of a spiritual witness. No one can convince me by any logic or reason or science that God exists. It is a subjective (i.e. personal) spiritual matter.

    “God is supposed to be no respector of persons”
    Why would God cause anyone to have any different experience of Him? Why would he allow people to believe in Buddha? Why does he allow one person to suffer greatly and another to live in prosperity, unrelated to personal righteousness? I appreciate your question.

  33. March 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Bruce, I appreciate your comment as well. You always provide substantial input that deserves its own post. Thanks for your thoughts.

    “The statement “I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is led by a prophet of God and he is a fallible but divinely inspired spokesman for Jesus Christ on earth today” requires more faith (belief), and may provoke (in my mind at least) more faith (motivation).”

    That statement would be more powerful to me than an “I know the church is true” because it is well thought out, and more specific.

  34. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    #32 Adam F

    “No one can convince me by any logic or reason or science that God exists. It is a subjective (i.e. personal) spiritual matter.”

    I understand now what you mean by subjective. I was thinking you were advancing the idea that when a person prays to know whether the BoM (or some other aspect of mormonism) is true, that each person may have a difference experience which points to the “answer”.

    As for the other questions, people will believe what they want to believe. Some believe is cultural (mormonism not excluded), some believe is subconsciously coerced, but belief (whether backed by a subjective spiritual experience or not) does not define or point to truth.

    I was having a discussion with someone who asked me how is it that all 13 million members of the church in the world have been deceived if the church is not true? My response was, “13 million? That’s nothing what about the 1.2 BILLION that follow Islam?” God may be a poor planner if the LDS church is the only true church on the earth and is to prepare the world for the second coming.

  35. March 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks for clarifying. That makes more sense now…

    Re: “God may be a poor planner if the LDS church is the only true church on the earth and is to prepare the world for the second coming.”: That is why I don’t believe that The CoJCoLDS is the only true “church” (using the definition of “those who repent and come unto Christ”). Everything that is good and uplifts people to grow towards their potential is true to me, in that sense.

  36. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    #35 Adam F

    Thank you Adam F. I think you and I may agree on a number of matters of a divine nature. I have enjoyed this very stimulating exchange of ideas.

  37. March 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you too! It’s nice to find common ground, as well as hear some new insight.

    Re: “subjective”: I believe that “God is no respecter of persons”, but I do think that He can speak to people in different ways, e.g. some people experience God in nature, some in prayer/reading the scriptures, some in meditation, etc. So, “Why would God cause His Spirit to be experienced differently?” IMO, people are not experiencing his spirit differently, but they are using vastly different language to describe it. Often, spiritual experiences cannot be put into words very well. I tried once (related to an experience with the Book of Mormon) and was mocked (by a daughter of a friend). Maybe that’s the whole “pearls before swine” principle. I now try to be more careful to whom I describe my spiritual experiences to.

  38. Jeff Spector
    March 11, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    The other thinking about the fact that the majority of the world has never heard of the church or Jesus Christ is that it is not “their” problem, but “our” problem. While God is no respecter of persons, he will not let those who didn’t have a chance to hear the Gospel in this life go astray.

    But, what of us, we have the great commission to “go ye unto all the world….” How are we doing with that? The Lord will hold those who “know” accountable for what they do and not do.

  39. Jeff Spector
    March 11, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    On this statement, “I know the Church is True.” Many members say it because they are expected to say it that way. What they are really saying is “I believe this church is true” or even “I hope this Church is true” Some say it because they have had a spiritual experience powerful enough to convince them that they do “know.”

    It is a legimate phrase and a correct stateement if it is based on the latter.

  40. Ammon Rye
    March 11, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    #37 AdamF
    You make a strong argument about the way the spirit is perceived differently by different people, but I believe people and leaders and teachers take it to the extreme to make people feel less worthy when they don’t “feel” the spirit as strongly or at all when seeking answers to questions. If we counsel with God in all our doings, we need to look for opportunities He places in our path rather than relying on a feeling that is not conclusive or reliable.

    #38 Jeff Spector
    In the D&C it states that those who do not receive the (mormon) gospel in this life will have the opportunity in the next life. We also understand that if a person would have been of the mind to reject the (mormon) gospel while on earth, the same spirit will possess them in the next life and they may not accept it there either. So why all the fuss about missionary work? Jeff, the stuff you and I are quoting came from man. Just because Joseph Smith said he received these things from God, doesn’t mean he ACTUALLY did. We should not put our trust in the arm of flesh.

    #39
    I can accept I “hope” the church is true. Even though the evidence is strong against it, I myself hope the church is the correct way. After a life-long adherence to the (mormon) gospel, I’ve been considerably let down to say the least.

  41. March 11, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    #31 said:
    “A spiritual witness is an entirely subjective experience, thus making it impossible, IMHO, to know if another is bearing false witness, or not.”

    Approaching this subject using just our ability to reason still leads the reasonable man to the conclusion that it is wiser to believe in God than it is to disbelieve. If there is no God and we elect to believe then when we die it doesn’t matter, because that would be the end and we would have lost nothing by believing. However, if we elect to believe and there is a God, we will be far better off than those who elected to disbelieve. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe in God.

    Regarding spiritual experiences, there is a whole spectrum of them.

    On one side of the spectrum are people who believe they have had spiritual experiences when in reality they haven’t. They might be liars or just deceived.

    On the other side of the spectrum are people who have had spiritual experiences of the highest order, Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow, for example.

    And of course, there are all the others in between these extremes with all there varies hews and shades of experiences.

    Is it reasonable to conclude that all these witnesses are liars or deceived?

    Lastly, I will share with you that I process a witness of the truthfulness of the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith of an order that allows me to say that I know it is true, nothing doubting.

  42. March 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    #38 Jeff – I agree, and “with great power, comes great responsibility.” See Spiderman movies 1-3. 🙂 I think we will be held accountable for what we have been given that we do not share in a material sense as well.

    #40 Ammon – It is unfortunate that some of us make others feel less worthy for not receiving spiritual confirmation to their questions. As for “conclusive or reliable,” I have wondered at times whether something is just my anxiety acting up or if I am being prompted. The few times I was sure it was the Spirit it was a vastly different experience. Once again, it is a personal matter for me. I’m not someone who is consciously led day to day by spiritual promptings, but the times that were significant proved to be conclusive and reliable.

    As for being “considerably let down,” by whom are you speaking about here? I think this is one of the things I was getting at in the post. In what ways have you been let down? I would (sincerely) like to know. I understand that people can place too much trust in man and be let down, but I don’t see how one could be let down by “the (mormon) gospel”. Please fill me in. 🙂

    #41 Jared – I see your reasoning there (and I believe in God), but I don’t think it is reasonable for everyone to believe in their respective version of God. Much of it has caused all kinds of problems. Granted, my belief in God has only led to peace in my life, but I don’t think that is true for all. I appreciate your witness as well. 🙂

    And I need to stop using so many smileys. Or maybe just some variation would be good. 😉

  43. Ammon Rye
    March 12, 2008 at 10:10 am

    #41 Jared
    “Lastly, I will share with you that I process [possess] a witness of the truthfulness of the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith of an order that allows me to say that I know it is true, nothing doubting.”

    Please read Joesph’s varying accounts of the first vision with no commentary from either the apologists or the “antis” (I hate the term “anti-mormon”). Then draw your own conclusion. I will freely admit, no one can prove the first vision actually happened and no one can prove that it didn’t, but as for doubt however, Jospeh’s own words seem to create plenty of it.

    #42 AdamF
    As for being let down…I wrote a really, really long rant about how the mormon gospel is not real and man-made. I also talked about some of the good fruit the church has to offer people in a daily living sense and some of the bad things the church does in a socio-political-religious sense.

    I am disaffected. I have objectively looked at the historical evidence as well as taking a closer look at scripture and my conclusion is that I cannot base my faith on incorrect knowledge (see “FAITH”, LDS Bible Dictionary). I feel like a fool for believing in an ideology/movement/religion that doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to truth. I would be a greater fool still to listen to the pap that comes from church HQ (i.e. GBH on polygamy: “It’s not doctrinal and I condemn it.”)

    I have literally shed tears over the realization that the church, BoM, first vision, etc. are not what they have been purported to be: truth, factual, the way back to God.

  44. March 12, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I appreciate you sharing that. Despite this format being a woefully ineffective means of explaining one’s beliefs in depth, it helps to know a little more about where you are coming from. While I have different conclusions regarding LDS scripture/history etc., I also appreciate that we can have different views (and some the same perhaps!) and still discuss them civilly.

    My faith in Mormon theology and activity in the church is pretty much based on 3 things: Most good things in my life have resulted from or have been related to my activity in the church, a few nearly overwhelming experiences of love while reading the scriptures (BoM and the Bible), and the fact that my personal, internalized beliefs about God and cosmology find the most similarities in Mormonism–whether that view is because it was put in my head in primary at age 6, or if I was born with it, I don’t know, but it is delicious.

    I am sorry about your (past?) heartache over matters that have been so wonderful in my life.

    Thanks again for your comments. 🙂

  45. WP Lyon
    March 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I am wondering as we look back to the First Vision. Did not the Lord tell the young boy prophet that all of the churches were an abomination? Others have written upon this and commented including Brother Bushman. Has that changed?

  46. March 12, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    What do you think the Lord meant by “churches” in this case? Also, what does “abomination” mean?

  47. Jeff Spector
    March 12, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    #40 – ammon:

    “Just because Joseph Smith said he received these things from God, doesn’t mean he ACTUALLY did. We should not put our trust in the arm of flesh.”

    I guess your and my definition of “arm of flesh” are very different. I have faith that Joseph was a Prophet, so in that case, we are not talking about an “arm of flesh” by the voice of the Lord though his prophet.

    Perhaps and from what I can gather, you do not believe that. so we see things differently.

  48. March 12, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    #41 Ammon Rye

    Elder Ballard wrote (notice the use of the word “must”):

    We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food…It is my witness and testimony that the Lord is not very far away. When Thou Art Converted, Chapter 4, by M. Russell Ballard

    Spiritual experiences anchor us so that our foundation is built on rock instead of sand. Most church members who dwindle in unbelief do so because they lack spiritual experiences.

    I know for myself of these things. I’ve studied all of the issues in church history and doctrine that can undermine our faith and testimony, and when troubled by these things, I reflect on the spiritual experiences the Lord has given me, and I am troubled no more.

    I know by scared experience that what Elder Ballard says is true. I have received spiritual experiences that are undeniable and all the fiery darts of the adversary are quenched thereby.

  49. March 12, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Jared–while on one hand, I understand Ammon Rye’s perspective that feelings can be deceiving, I agree that spiritual experiences are very important. After all, what is spirituality, without spiritual experience?

    #45 WP – To what comment(s) in this discussion were you referring to in your comment?

  50. hawkgrrrl
    March 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    WP Lyon – the quotation isn’t that the churches were an abomination. Specifically, Joseph asked which church he should join and he was told not to join any of them and that they were all wrong. He was told “all their creeds” (Nicene Creed? Apostles Creed? Creed meant more generally?) were an abomination (meaning they took people further from the truth? they changed His words?). And he was told “those professors” (the ones Joseph knew in Palmyra who gave him advice? ministers in general?) were corrupt (teaching impure doctines? lacking in integrity? hypocrits?). A lot of these words are subject to interpretation and create more questions than they answer (although to Joseph, they answered a really important one).

    Ammon Rye – there are different types of truth to consider: doctrinal truth (the church is true because the gospel precepts in action yield good fruit), historical truth (statements made by people over time seem to be accurate and consistent), and personal testimony (one has had a personal spiritual experience or witness of the truthfulness of the restoration or Book of Mormon, etc.). Most people would agree that personal testimony is subjective to individual experience, but I would posit that all these truths have subjective elements. Doctrinal truth can be clouded by misunderstanding or a desire to believe otherwise.

    It sounds as though your disaffectation is linked to historical truth. It’s easy to think of this one as purely objective – things did or did not happen exactly as JS-H relates – but historical truth is the most subjective of all because we only have what is recorded by individuals who interpreted things in their own subjective ways within a specific context, and now they are dead. Aside from the various written accounts of the First Vision (all of which were written for different reasons, different audiences, at different times, and many many years after the fact), who can really say what factually happened? Was it a vision or a visit? Were angels present? Did they speak using words or through some sort of telephathic method? Are these direct quotes or a paraphrase? What things did they say that Joseph didn’t record? Did he forget some of it or was he forbidden to repeat some of it?

    I have a personal testimony which precludes any inconsistencies in written records because it’s my personal experience. I certainly understand how difficult it is to find truth and consistency in the written historical records. I’m sorry you are disaffected and have had disappointment, but I hope you find the truth you seek. Best wishes to you.

  51. March 12, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Re: creeds: a quote from Andrew’s talk addressed this nicely: “It is their postbiblical creeds that are identified in Joseph Smith’s first vision as an ‘abomination,’ but certainly not their individual members or their members’ biblical beliefs.”

    Another nice quote from Stephen Robinson (from the same talk): “Individual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not by membership but by loyalty. Just as there Latter-day Saints who belong to the great and abominable church because of their loyalty to Satan and his life-style, so there are members of other churches who belong to the Lamb because of their loyalty to him and his life-style. Membership is based more on who has your heart than on who has your records.”

    In this sense, my membership in “the church” comes and goes. Sometimes (well, often) I am in need of repentance, and my heart is not in the right place. Other times, it is. I only hope that overall, I am progressing.

  52. Ammon Rye
    March 13, 2008 at 7:43 am

    #47 Jeff Spector
    “I have faith that Joseph was a Prophet, so in that case, we are not talking about an “arm of flesh” by the voice of the Lord though his

    prophet.”

    Just because you have FAITH that he was a prophet (of God?), doesn’t mean he was. Thank you, however, for not saying you KNOW he was a

    prophet. I believe he was a self-appointed prophet (of himself), therefore I believe the
    arm of flesh” is in play here.

    #48 Jared
    “Spiritual experiences anchor us so that our foundation is built on rock instead of sand. Most church members who dwindle in unbelief do so

    because they lack spiritual experiences.”

    What is the rock Jesus said he would build His church upon? Peter? No…Answer: Revelation. So if you are saying that revelation is the

    spiritual experience that anchors us to His church (see AdamF’s definition of church; which I like btw), then I’m OK with that. I don’t

    believe most church members dwindle in disbelief because they lack spiritual experiences. I believe it’s because they don’t have a certain

    “feeling” they have been told will come when they sincerely pray. Then they are told things like: “It’s different for each person.” “You are

    not humbling yourself enough.” “Maybe for you it comes a little at a time.” “Are you sure you are WORTHY to receive an answer.”

    I have had physical sensations that are supposed to be a manifestation of the spirit testifying of truth. I have felt it when hearing a

    talk, a lesson, watching a movie, listening to all different types of music, watching my children do something for the first time, holding

    my wife in my arms, etc., but it doesn’t mean the church is true. I believe it means The Lord is close by.

    As for M. Russell Ballard, I would rather read the words of Jesus from the Bible.

    #50 hawkgrrrl
    “Aside from the various written accounts of the First Vision (all of which were written for different reasons, different audiences, at

    different times, and many many years after the fact), who can really say what factually happened?”

    You have got to be kidding me?! Who was Joseph’s audience when he made his 1832 journal entry? Answer: HIMSELF! And it seems the factual

    accounts became much clearer and more defined SIX YEARS LATER (1838, see offical version of the first vision in the PoGP). If you are going

    to apologize for Joseph’s many versions of the first vision, you are going to have to do better than that. (I’ll save you some time; don’t

    bother bringing up Paul’s differing accounts of his “vision” on the road to Damascus. Those were written by different people, as opposed to

    several different accounts of the first vision written by or dictated by Joseph himself.)

    #51 AdamF
    Thank you for sharing those thoughtful quotes.

  53. hawkgrrrl
    March 13, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Let me elaborate on what I mean by ‘written for different reasons, different audiences at different times, many years after the fact’ using only the 1832 account to illustrate my meaning. No detours to Damascus, I promise.

    The 1832 account was written up to 12 years later in JS’s own hand (the only account that was). For whom? Was it for himself alone (“dear diary, twelve years ago something extraordinary happened I forgot to mention . . .”)? For posterity (like many journal-writers)? To defend his story? At someone’s urging? Frederick G. Williams scribed what directly precedes it and what follows, so it wasn’t just him writing his private reflections in isolation. You can look at this account as a contradiction of other accounts, or you can see it as incomplete. I see it as incomplete and possibly motivated by a desire to make it sound less controversial than it really was. You may see it differently.

    In my own experience as a journal writer, my written accounts of things that have happened in my life vary greatly depending on when I write them, why I’m writing them, and what has happened recently that brought them to mind.

    My only point is that it’s not possible to prove or disprove historical records because they have contextual components that are ephemeral (unstated motivations, influencing events, non-recorded conversations, etc.), so to a large extent, we are left to conjecture. Even if JS were not dead and we interviewed him, would we really understand why he wrote what he wrote when he wrote it or would we just have more shreds of evidence to consider? We can only conclude JS was either deluded or crazy, deceiving others for his own gain, or (as I conclude) telling the truth.

  54. March 13, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Nice thoughts, hawkgrrrl. I agree, even in my own history, I have said or written things differently at different times, not because I was trying to be dishonest, but because we always have our present filters on when we think about the past. This doesn’t mean we can’t rely at all on historical record (I love reading history) we just need to get a wide range of viewpoints and strongly consider the fact that records leave out SO much, as you said (unstated motivations, etc.)

  55. Ammon Rye
    March 13, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    #53 hawkgrrrl
    “I see it as incomplete and possibly motivated by a desire to make it sound less controversial than it really was.”

    Controversial? Let me ask you a question: If God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to you and you “had seen a vision; [you] knew it, and [you] knew that God knew it, and [you] could not deny it, neither dared [you] do it; at least [you] knew that by so doing [you] would offend God, and come under condemnation”, then why would you write or relate the account any other way? Wouldn’t you KNOW that God has your back when giving a full and accurate account of the actual events? (Sorry, that’s two questions.)

    Now read the 1838 version and study the words VERY CAREFULLY. Joesph never names the two personages, he only implies who they might be. He never uses any other word than vision to describe the experience. I believe Joseph’s words are VERY CAREFULLY chosen. Since the 1838 official version doesn’t come right out and admit seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ, I would like to see a direct quote from Joseph Smith (better if it be written by his own hand) where he says he saw God and Jesus together, in the grove, in 1820, by naming them specifically.

    In the meantime, I will leave one more thought on the first vision. Why was the account in the “History of the Church” changed from “first visitation of angels” to “first vision”?

  56. hawkgrrrl
    March 13, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Feeling like a threadjack here.

    “Wouldn’t you KNOW that God has your back when giving a full and accurate account of the actual events?” Even if JS “knew” God had his back spiritually (given all his expressions of self-doubt that’s questionable), he certainly had no reason to believe that he was immune from physical harm. He states that he had been attacked physically by persons wanting to get the plates. God didn’t protect him from physical harm or trials. Writing an incomplete rendition isn’t the same as denying it. All you or I can do is make assumptions about what JS felt or his motivations. We can’t know anything for certain, including what we would feel in his circumstances.

    “I believe Joseph’s words are VERY CAREFULLY chosen.” Maybe they were; maybe they weren’t. That’s still an assumption. You infer that he admits something by omission. I consider an omission neutral.

    “Why was the account in the “History of the Church” changed from “first visitation of angels” to “first vision”?” Who cares? It was both. The name change doesn’t imply anything specific.

    My only point is that you can neither prove nor disprove anything based on the historic fragments. It’s all conjecture. If JS had but one written account that was the one in JS-H, it still wouldn’t prove that it happened or was accurately depicted (18 yrs later). And it doesn’t disprove anything that there are several versions with varying details. It’s still either something that happened or it didn’t, and no written account will prove or disprove it.

  57. Ammon Rye
    March 13, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    #56 hawkgrrrl
    Sorry if this seems like a threadjack. It’s not. I was accused of threadjacking earlier and I brought it back full circle, so here we go again.

    I agree that the first vision cannot be proven or disproven. I will say that it is more likely than not that the first vision never happened; there is too much evidence against it and very weak apologetics for it. If GBH is going to shift the members from the BoM as the keystone of our religion to the first vision being an indicator of the work being the greatest the world has known or a complete fraud, then the church is on extremely shaky ground.

    What does “church” mean? If you believe in and come unto Christ, then you are of His church and belong to the body. I’ll put my faith in that long before I take the word of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Gordon B. Hinckley, et.al.

  58. Just for Quix
    March 13, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Ammon #27:

    As a Christian I like your perspective and fervor. However, in John 8:32 the knowledge is not necessarily epistemological knowledge that would replace faith. It is a more practical knowledge of which Jesus speaks, gained by continuing in His word. The Greek word translated into “continue” here is “meno men’-o: to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy) — abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), thine own.” (From Biblos.com Greek Lexicon)

    In context: John 8:31-
    31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” …

    Furthermore I would argue your use of John 17:3 is also an experiential knowledge not achievable by mortals through the application of faith. But to have faith is to receive eternal life is to abide with God, and by the experience to [know] Him.

    Re: your comment #57: Praise God! Amen. 🙂

  59. March 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Ammon Rye, Re: threadjack–I’ve been enjoying the conversations here, and I think (unless anyone else has any new insights on the original topic) it’s fine to let them take us where they may. I’m just glad it’s going somewhere.

    As for the earlier accusation, it wasn’t. What I meant (in #24) was that I was joining in the tangent, thus encouraging the shift in topics. Thanks for always “bringing it full circle,” regardless. 🙂

  60. Ammon Rye
    March 14, 2008 at 6:50 am

    #59 AdamF
    “As for the earlier accusation, it wasn’t.”

    AdamF, you are correct. I’m sorry. When hawkgrrrl brought out the threadjack word, I overreacted. Why raise the threadjack flag instead of reinforcing one’s argument? Why not take on Joseph’s 1838 account that states that he dare not deny his vision or come under the condemnation of God? Well, he did deny it, as it was put, to avoid controversy. Jesus said He came into the world not to bring peace, but a sword pitting father against son, mother against daughter, etc.? I don’t know why Joseph would be worried about physical harm, Jesus suffered intense brutality for the cause of Salvation. None of us should exalt ourselves above the Savior in any way, shape, or form. (Oh, that’s right, Joseph did. See “History of the Church”, Vol. 6, pp. 408-409.)

    As for this comment from hawkgrrrl (#56): “‘Why was the account in the “History of the Church” changed from “first visitation of angels” to “first vision”?'” Who cares? It was both. The name change doesn’t imply anything specific.”

    Who cares?! I care! The name change doesn’t imply anything specific? It implies deception. If the name change doesn’t imply anything specific, then leave the statement in the original form. What was the INTENT (not the implication) of the change? Answer: Deception. To reinforce an official version of an event that, in all probability, never happened. The history of the church and some of its high-ranking leaders (prophets, seers, and revelators included) is full of deceptive statements and practices right up to the present day. Does not the BoM state that the father of all lies is the devil?

  61. March 14, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Ammon Rye #60 – I can see why you would come to the conclusions you do. Church history has not been clear, some leaders have lied or covered up things, and the history overall has been sanitized in many parts. In addition, however, there are (IMHO) just as many historical issues for the other side of the argument (e.g. that support Joseph Smith), which leaves me where I am in terms of the history… not disaffected, but certainly not with my head in the sand. That being said, the history (though I love it) never converted me to the gospel/church/religion etc. Other things did/do (#44).

  62. hawkgrrrl
    March 14, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Ammon Rye – I apologize for the “threadjack” word. I felt complicit in threadjacking, so I meant the word more as an acknowledgement/apology to the moderators, if that makes it any better to you. If I wasn’t enjoying the conversation, I wouldn’t have continued.
    But that was my intent. My words were not chosen carefully enough. I can see why what I said was easily construed differently.

    So either that really was my intent (it was; I swear!), or it wasn’t but I have convinced myself it was, or I made the whole thing up to deceive those reading this board that it was my intent. See how easy it is?

  63. hawkgrrrl
    March 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Ammon Rye – Like AdamF, I am not in the church because of the history, nor would I leave because of it, although I certainly find some of it unsavory. If leaders have lied to cover things up they felt were damaging, that says more about their own standing with God than mine. There isn’t a church on the planet that doesn’t have that issue. On that front, only atheism can stand on its merits because atheists don’t have an official organization with which they affiliate.

  64. Ammon Rye
    March 14, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    #63 hawkgrrrl
    “only atheism can stand on its merits because atheists don’t have an official organization with which they affiliate.”

    Have you never heard of the Democrat Party or the ACLU? LOL

    You said, “There isn’t a church on the planet that doesn’t have that issue.”

    I agree with that statement 100%. I have said to my friends and family that the LDS church is the best religious organization out there. However, the church shoots way wide of the mark when it comes to doctrines of salvation and then it sprinkles in junk like becoming a god of our own world. Where does my salvation lie other than love God, love your fellow man, repent of your sins (receive Jesus as your savior and redeemer), and receive sanctification through personal righteousness? Why would any church insist on more than that?

  65. March 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    “it sprinkles in junk like becoming a god of our own world”

    Junk? I’m rather fond of the idea. Not becoming a “god of my own world” per se, but cosmologically speaking, one of the main things that attracts me to Mormonism is salvation being viewed as eternal progression. Honestly, I don’t see why becoming like God is a “junk” type thing. I think it’s inspiring, and it motivates me to help others progress. Also, just one world? How about a thousand, or a million? 🙂 I’m offended when people say I’ll only have one world. lol.

    Also, why stop at “sanctification” (not sure what your definition of that is, but that’s okay)?

  66. Ammon Rye
    March 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    The idea of becoming a god is junk, because it is not Christian doctrine, it’s mormon doctrine. God declared many times to his prophets that there is no other “God” like Him, beside Him, before Him, or to come after Him and he knows of no other. I take that to be true, because God does not lie. (Mormonism takes that and twists it to say there is no other god with which, we on this earth, have anything to do.)

    I believe that there are other worlds in the universe and the one and only God, who created everything (see John 1:3), rules and reigns over all his creations. Just because you are fond of an idea or you think a man-made doctrine is inspiring, doesn’t make it reality. Sorry.

  67. March 15, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Ammon–so you’re Christian, but not Mormon. Okay. I understand your perspective better.

    “Just because you are fond of an idea or you think a man-made doctrine is inspiring, doesn’t make it reality. Sorry.”
    Richard Dawkins would say the same thing about the existence of God. There is absolutely no more proof for the existence of God that you believe in than the idea that man can become like God. Both ideas are utterly preposterous, as far as proof is concerned. I am not using this argument to say there is no God, but rather, to express that anything that is not scientifically proven is equally unprovable. I can’t say that the God I believe in is more probable than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    “God declared many times to his prophets” So, you appeal to the Bible here? But, I’m assuming, modern prophets are not real, but biblical prophets were? Like I explained, this is the flaw in your argument, and also why it is somewhat pointless (although interesting and fun to talk about) to have two believers debating about spiritual things. You can’t prove any of it. Anything not proved by science is equally unlikely. Can man become a god? Is Christianity true? Is there a china tea cup out in space orbiting the sun? No one can say they “know” these things in any way beyond the personal sense, i.e. they cannot prove it to someone else. I think Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and Moses were all prophets, but can I prove any of it? Of course not. Therefore, whether or not my beliefs are “man-made” as you say, is not an answerable question in a debate setting. Nor is the question of the divinity of Christ, or the existence of God(s). It’s all spiritual here. Ultimately there is no sound logic or reason involved with religion. When I talk with an atheist, I agree with them on that point.

  68. March 15, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    BTW, I appreciate your comments here. It is surprising that you keep coming back. 🙂 I thought you would get a little tired of this after a while.

  69. Ammon Rye
    March 15, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    #67 AdamF
    “Ammon–so you’re Christian, but not Mormon.”

    But I am a mormon. A member in good standing. BIC, baptized at eight, deacon & teacher quorum pres., priest quorum first assistant to the bishop, returned missionary, married in the temple, BYU grad., father of three, former financial clerk, ward clerk, exec. sec., second counselor to a bishop, currently I am serving as a high priest instructor. All that is part of what makes this so difficult.

    About a year ago, I came to an understand that no matter how obedient I was the to the “laws and ordinances of the gospel”, I never felt like I could do enough to satisfy the demands of LDS theology. So I considered what it means to be saved from and evangelical perspective. I read what Paul said to the Romans, prayed to The Lord for forgiveness of my sins, and I accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. As a result, I guess you could say I’m a “Born Again Mormon”.

    You’re right about being tired. I am tired of all of it. I wish the first presidency and quorum of the twelve would come clean about the history of Joseph Smith and LDS church origins, tell ALL they know. I wish they would commit to taking the church in a more traditional Christian direction. Until that happens, I feel something is being hidden, covered up, or withheld from the members.

  70. March 15, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, that is not an easy life to live. I don’t know how you do it. I am glad you have found peace at some level, despite your other aches. I am impressed that you are able to continue your church calling to teach and bring people to Christ. I wish you the best in your journey.

    “I wish the first presidency and quorum of the twelve would come clean about the history of Joseph Smith and LDS church origins.” Do you think the JS Papers are a positive step in this direction? I do. They said they want nothing left out.

    “I wish they would commit to taking the church in a more traditional Christian direction.” I think there are definite positive aspects about other forms of Christianity, some that we could learn, for sure. (On this topic, some have complained that the church is going to far in that direction, so it is interesting to hear you yearn for the opposite…) However, if this happened too much I think I would end up in a place you are now.

  71. March 15, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    “tell ALL they know” Hey maybe you did it again! Brought the conversation back to the original topic. 🙂 Is the church the first presidency and the 12 in this case? To me, historical issues are every bit a personal responsibility as they are the first presidency’s (at least now that things like Rough Stone Rolling are being sold in Deseret Book stores). I.e. I am the church just as much as they are, or any other member.

  72. Ray
    March 15, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Everyone, Fwiw, it might be helpful to post a new thread specifically about the concept of becoming like God as a BIBLICAL standard. I believe it is Bible-based and, in fact, Bible-foundational. It is NOT taught in the Book of Mormon, but I think it is one of those things that is hinted in Mormon 7:9 – that the primary reason for the Book of Mormon is to give people an ability to understand and believe what the Bible actually teaches, including that we are born to be gods.

    As to “know” verses “have faith” and people saying, “I know the Church is true”: I have no problem with that statement IF it is interpreted by Nephi’s personal definition in 1 Nephi 1:3. (my words according to my own knowledge) We live in a hyper-sensitive world when it comes to distinguishing between “think”, “believe”, “hope” and “know”, but it wasn’t always so. As long as the statement means, “I (for myself) know (as much as I personally am able to know) that the Church is true (since I can’t fathom any other way to explain my impressions and experiences),” I am totally fine with it. Having said that, my concern is that others feel pressure to say “I know” amid their own doubts or, even worse, they feel like a lack of such certainty somehow is not good enough – when our own scriptures say that some have a GIFT to believe but not know.

    Finally, I belong to three different churches: 1) the global one that teaches the broad Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) the structural corporation that administers the temporal affairs of the organization; and 3) the local one that fills my daily life and brings sweet communion with my fellow worshipers. I appreciate the first for the general outline it provides, even though that outline is evolving continually; I suffer the second one as a necessary evil given our existence in this world; I live and breathe and find my joy in the third one. I think, FAR too often, people get so caught up in the impossibility of perfection (completion) in the first two that they lose sight of the one that truly can animate and energize and and fulfill and “fatten” their actual lives – the one that, imo, provides the real pathway to perfection and godhood. (to bring this comment full circle)

  73. Ray
    March 15, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    know “versus” have faith, not “verses” – Yikes!

  74. Ammon Rye
    March 15, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    #70 AdamF
    “Do you think the JS Papers are a positive step in this direction? I do. They said they want nothing left out.”

    I do think it is a step in the right direction as long as the church and its leaders allow the members who read them and the members are provided the freedom to come to their own conclusions about them. If the church and its leaders try to spin what’s presented in the JS Papers or offer an interpretation that the members are expected to accept as truth, then I think we have a continuation of a long and storied problem. I also don’t want apologetics as most LDS apologetics are weak and require a long stretch to be believed.

  75. Ammon Rye
    March 15, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    #74 *correction*
    allow the members [to] read them not “allow the members who read them”

  76. March 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Ray – “it might be helpful to post a new thread specifically about the concept of becoming like God as a BIBLICAL standard.”

    That sounds like a good idea! Do you mind if I do that? Probably a few weeks away, but interesting nontheless.

  77. Ray
    March 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I can wait a few weeks, Adam. *grin*

  78. March 15, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Ray – Just with the posting schedule and all, I don’t have a morning slot until Mar. 30th.

    “FAR too often, people get so caught up in the impossibility of perfection (completion) in the first two that they lose sight of the one that truly can animate and energize.” – This is a great insight, imo. I like the way you put it belonging to three different churches (the Holy Trinity? lqtm). I might even add a fourth, one that is intensely personal and mostly unrelated to the ward–more of a spiritual relationship with God.

  79. Doug G.
    March 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Ammon Rye,

    Just a quick note from a guy who’s been away for far too long on this board. I’m grateful for your insight and posts on this topic. I, like you, have spent all of my life in the church and served in many different capacities. Even today, despite my understanding of our history, still consider myself a Mormon in good standing although that may change soon. I believe your statements about the problems of the First Vision accounts are valid and deserve a better answer then what is commonly produced from apologetic sources. In support of the 1832 account, members of the church should realize that Joseph and leading brethren were all teaching a monotheistic view of the Godhead until at least 1836 which would make what Joseph wrote fit in perfectly with the doctrine of the time. Some, like you and I, find it problematic that he would add a second Being to the vision once he decided on a polytheistic view of the nature of the Godhead.

    Please continue to post as you find time, there are many folks reading these blogs who see the history for what it is without the mental gymnastics to try and fit it to a particular paradigm. They just don’t always post…

  80. March 16, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    “see the history for what it is without the mental gymnastics to try and fit it to a particular paradigm”

    I agree with that Doug. I think it goes both ways as well. Historically speaking there is a lot of stuff that points to the prophetic calling of J.S., as well as to fraud. Looking at EVERYTHING, I don’t think the beginnings of Mormonism fit well into either paradigm. Both conclusions require “mental gymnastics,” IMHO. Therefore, I try to approach history with some humility, not coming to definite conclusions, as do many who are apologetic or disaffected, like you may be, or Ammon. Like you said, a lot of us like to “see the history for what it is,” and I agree. I do not understand very well, however, when people try to strongly assert that the first vision did not happen, for example. I try to approach faith AND doubt with humility and curiosity.

    Hence, I focus spiritually and religiously on what I personally feel to be good and true, from whatever the source. But I’ve already explained that. 🙂 I think we can transcend our earthly faith/religion and nurture it to the point that it becomes intensely personal, beautiful, and inspiring.

    Really, I think the only disaffected people I truly understand are those who become agnostic or atheist. There are just too many problems historically and otherwise with every religion that none could be held to this kind of scrutiny.

    Thanks for continuing the discussion! I hope I can add to friendly discussion, despite our different conclusions (or lack thereof).

  81. Doug G.
    March 16, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Adam,

    Thanks for your thoughts… I am not an atheist nor do I think that those who find themselves leaving “the church “of necessity need to become atheist. I also don’t fit into the category of thinking JS was a fraud or a con-man. I think anyone who has studied Joseph’s history comes away with the feeling that he believed in what he was doing and was sincere. Unfortunately being sincere doesn’t mean that God and angles are really visiting you. It just means YOU believe they are.

    I know a man who is about to be excommunicated from the church who feels very strongly that the Lord is fine with what he has done to his children. He will soon be convicted of child molestation and sent to prison for what I hope is the rest of his life. Interestingly, he claims to have received a spiritual witness as strong as his testimony of his innocents. Despite his sincerity, I don’t believe for one minute that the Lord is fine with him sodomizing children nor do I think that he’s been forgiven. So how do I account for his “spiritual witness”? The same way I understand JS spiritual experiences…

    That’s not to say that I don’t think sincere people get inspired at times and in certain places. I actually enjoyed sacrament meeting today and felt a good spirit there. The talks were on the atonement and the speakers did a very nice job of explaining why we all need the Savior. So you see, some of us actually do still believe in God and find spiritual comfort in participating in a good religious service. I’m just not going to drink the Kool-aid anymore with this almost referent worship of JS in our meetings. He was not everything he claimed to be nor was God or angles speaking to him on a regular basis. He was just like all the rest of us, trying to find his God and believing he was being inspired by him. Sometimes he may have been, and other times he obviously wasn’t.

    Adam wrote: “Really, I think the only disaffected people I truly understand are those who become agnostic or atheist. There are just too many problems historically and otherwise with every religion that none could be held to this kind of scrutiny.”

    Your statement above is a cop-out IMHO. If you would look at the bigger picture, I think you could get past this black and white dichotomy…

  82. March 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Doug–thanks for your thoughts as well! Part of the reason why I love these discussions is they open my eyes to new understanding of people and their faith. As for the “cop-out,” I don’t know exactly what you mean, but I for one am not a huge fan of dichotomies and I would like to get past it. I do not like putting people in categories, nor do I like being in them myself, so I appreciate you calling me out on that (sincerely). What I was trying to say was not that a disaffected member SHOULD become an atheist, rather, I just did not understand them, personally. I am beginning to understand a little better, thanks to you and Ammon. I am glad that there are places like this where these things can be discussed. I am also happy that you had a nice sacrament meeting today.:) As for the bit about religion and scrutiny, what I meant was that we could all become disaffected with our religion if we get too hung up on interpreting historical issues in one way or the other.

  83. March 16, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Doug/Ammon – What I am really interested in understanding better is how one can be converted to Christ, yet discount “spiritual witness.” Maybe I need to ask other Christians about this–it is something that I have not understood. Maybe that’s what I was getting at with the atheist comment. My question is, how is one converted to Christ without a spiritual witness of some sort? And if one does claim a spiritual witness for that, how can one discount a witness for other things as well? I welcome your thoughts.

  84. Doug G.
    March 16, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Adam,

    In a previous post over at Mormon Stories I addressed this very topic on spiritual witnesses and truth. http://mormonstories.org/?p=397#comments, comment # 25. If you read some of the discussion I think you’ll get the gist of what I’m driving at. Spiritual witness combined with a well studied out search for the truth yields fairly reliable results. In other words, I used to take everything at face value and assume the good feelings I had were directing me to truth. I now understand that the process takes considerably more work with my mind with all the information I can acquire and then reaching a conclusion based on that information. Once I think I know the truth, a spiritual witness helps confirm the rest. Skipping a step here can lead to all kinds of false positives in the spiritual witness category.

    Once I understood this process, I received considerably different answers to some of my prayers. I have fairly strong convictions about the evils of polygamy and polyandry as well as some of the senseless killing described in the Old Testament and BoM. I choose not to accept that my Savoir was actually a party to any of that. That understanding comes from study with my mind as well as “spiritual feelings in my heart. To many times members of the church have turned off the brain part of the equation and just went with the spiritual witness. We’ve all seen the results of this kind of programming, evils of every kind, dishonesty, lying, etc. all in the name of God. As in the case of the person I described in comment #81 above.

    Hopefully this makes some kind of sense to you; it’s led me down an interesting path of discovery and eye opening astonishment at some of the things I’ve taken off my shelf. Your faith journey may lead you to different conclusions and I accept that. I don’t believe God is near as interested in one religions dogma over another as He is in how we treat each other. Good luck to you my friend…

  85. Bruce Nielson
    March 16, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    >>> I just did not understand them, personally

    I have much the same confusion, AdamF. You are not alone here. I think the issue is that if someone is “disaffected with” “part of what the Church teaches” what you end up with is a private belief system. Presumably every individual that fits this description has to come up with their own ways to work out the seeming contradictions that exist in their belief system. (Just as all religions do, of course.) But because it’s a private belief system, it’s not like you can go down to the store and read a book about how a member of that religion sorts through it all.

    >> Spiritual witness combined with a well studied out search for the truth yields fairly reliable results

    Doug G, the concern I have with this statement is that almost every person I’ve ever met in my life both believes (on any subject they feel passion about) a) they have reseached their position very well, b) everyone that disagrees with them hasn’t.

    Furthermore, just about everyone I’ve ever met believes that there is a higher truth that they are in tune with and those that they disagree with aren’t in tune to.

    Since this happens to people of mutually exclusive belief systems (political, religious, or otherwise) I can only concluded that one or both of them hasn’t researched it very well or is not in tune with a higher power/truth, even if they think they have. That or else researching it doesn’t play the significant role they both think it does.

    In other words, my experience is that ” a spiritual witness combined with a well studied out search for the truth” is what everyone believes they are doing. Even die hard atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins seem to believe in what I would characterize as “spiritual witnesses” and clearly base their life around them and actively work to show everyone else that they are wrong and evangelize them to the “right way view of morality.”

    Yes, you occaisionally get lip service to “relative morality” or “morality is in the mind” or “everyone having equal truth” but my observation is that people do not seem to generally live their lifes as if they actually and truly believed this. Does Richard Dawkins live his life as if it doesn’t really matter if you believe in God or not? Does Richard Dawkins live his life as if morality is all up to the individual with a “live and let live attitude?” Can you think of many people that consistently live their life that way? I can’t think of any, to be honest. (I certainly don’t. But also don’t pay lip services to the idea.)

    On the other hand, what other approach is there but to study it out and pray really hard (or seek a higher truth for those that don’t believe in prayer)? So I’d say that we are all at least correct in that this is the only realistic approach.

  86. Doug G.
    March 16, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Bruce,

    To be honest, I don’t understand your post. You seem to be talking both sides of the issue although you admit the very point I’m making. Spiritual witnesses are not a good measure of truth on their own. Didn’t JS even say that some inspiration comes from God, some from the devil, and some are the imagination of our own heart? He went on to explain that he had a very hard time telling the difference at times.

    You and your kind, (if you’ll permit me that characterization) are sure that everything the church teaches is directly from God if it’s contained in the scriptures or from the mouth of the living prophets when they’re speaking for the Lord. I obviously take everything with a grain salt and claim the right to choose what I believe. Do I think that I am always correct? No, but then you don’t believe your always right either, or do you?

    Recently I lost my mother to a stroke. When the stroke first accrued my mother was rushed to the hospital where the emergency room doctor told us and the Bishop (who came to administer to her) that she was responding well to the medication and her vital signs looked good. He went on to say that she would have a long recovery but he felt sure she would fully recover. The Bishop then proceeded to give her a powerful blessing promising a full recovery and the ability to resume her duties as the Stake RS President. Later the same day a neurologist performed a CAT scan and then called us together and explained how massive the stroke was and that her chances of survival were minimal. She died the very next day. Had the Bishop came after my mother’s CAT scan and heard the neurologist prognosis, I think she would have received a completely different blessing. At her funeral, the Bishop expressed his dismay as he felt very sure he was speaking for the Lord when he pronounced the blessing and even on the drive home felt comforted that he had spoken correctly.

    I don’t share my mother’s story looking for sympathy. I do it to illustrate my point of knowledge effecting spiritual witnesses and promptings. I don’t claim to have all the answers; I believe we as Mormons are looking through a glass darkly just like all the other religions. Our particular brand is no better or worse than any of the others except we seem to be more judgmental. As I stated before, I think God is far more interested in how we treat each other than the particular religion we belong to…

  87. hawkgrrrl
    March 16, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    “I believe we as Mormons are looking through a glass darkly just like all the other religions.” I agree with this statement, although if your religion does not believe in ongoing revelation, I don’t think you see the same things through the glass–in some cases, maybe you aren’t even looking in the glass, just reading the thoughts of those who did. Each religion interprets things differenty that they see through the glass. I would also say that in receiving revelation, each person receives it limited by their own understanding and will communicate it according to their own flawed powers of communication. But it’s the best the Lord has to work with here on earth.

    “Our particular brand is no better or worse than any of the others except we seem to be more judgmental.” I don’t think that is a precise enough description for me. I don’t see Mormons as particularly judgmental of other religions, comparatively, mostly because we are a proselyting faith (recent CO incident notwithstanding). I don’t see ex-Evangelical Mormon converts creating anti-Evangelical movies to share with other churches, for example, or practicing Holy War against infidels. There are no links on lds.org to anti-sites for other churches. And Mormon guilt is certainly rivaled by both Jewish and Catholic mothers’ guilt. The distinction, IMO, is that our church membership is subject to more oversight and expected obedience and orthodoxy in all aspects of life than many other religions are at this current point in time, and that more is required from us in terms of time, money, personal sacrifice, etc. due to a lay clergy. All religions at one point required this same level of orthodoxy from its members, in many cases even more (inquisition, anyone?).

  88. Ray
    March 16, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I think nearly everyone sees through a glass darkly; we just can see a little bit more clearly and more of the big picture darkly. (Just because we see more of it doesn’t mean we see that “more of it” clearly.) The problem comes when members assume we can see all of it clearly, not just some of it more clearly and more of it darkly. We’ll see all of it face-to-face someday; until then we have to settle for the obscured glass.

  89. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 8:56 am

    >>> Our particular brand is no better or worse than any of the others except we seem to be more judgmental

    It shocked me that you said that, Doug G. It seems to me that the evidence contradicts this at every turn. I think Hawkgrrls response to this was spot on.

    That being said, I would have agreed with you if you had simply said “Mormons are human too, thus they are judgmental just like everyone else.” I could have backed that completely. But the idea that Mormons are more judgmental… well, I just can’t agree with that statement at all.

    >>> You and your kind, (if you’ll permit me that characterization)
    Thank you for acknowledging it was just a label for the sake of discussion. I have no concerns with using labels in such a way. It allowed you to express your point and it allowed me to understand where you were coming from.

    >>> To be honest, I don’t understand your post. You seem to be talking both sides of the issue although you admit the very point I’m making

    Yes, perhaps I am. I was just trying to join in a discussion. I wasn’t trying to particularly agree nor disagree with what you were saying. You said “Spiritual witness combined with a well studied out search for the truth yields fairly reliable results.” I suppose what I am saying is that everyone seems to believe that and they believe they fit that description. Thus they believe their results were fairly reliable. You obviously believe your results were fairly reliable or you wouldn’t have said this.

    But of course two people with mutually exclusive views will both believe they got reliable results, thus either it doesn’t provide fairly reliable results or it’s easy for a person to think they fit the description (of well studied and having a spiritual witness) when they don’t.

    But then it sounds like I’m just saying what you just did. Yet I sense that you believe that I’m actually meaning something very different than you. (And I sense that too.)

    I think the point I’m *maybe* disagreeing with you over is that I believe answers to prayers are indeed more important than self study, though you have to have both. My sense is that you might weigh that the opposite direction. (If you don’t, I don’t mean any offense, I’m just exploring here for the sake of discussion.) But I don’t necessarily believe that “spiritual witnesses” and “answers to prayers” are one and the same. (Though obviously God can and does sometimes answers prayers via a spiritual witness.)

    My stance has always been that we mortals, in general, have too much faith in ourselves and that it’s generally misplaced faith. What I am saying it little more than that. This may or may not be at odds with what you are saying. It might even be exactly what you were saying. I don’t know.

    I try not to judge (and fail miserably most of the time) other people’s answers to prayers unless it affects my own and I’m forced into a judgment. I believe God can and does lead us to varied answers based on the individual. I believe we are accountable for what we believe our answers to prayers are.

  90. Ammon Rye
    March 17, 2008 at 9:48 am

    #88 Ray
    What do you mean we (I assume you mean LDS church members) see more of the big picture darkly?

    Just for fun, let’s say JS and his contemporaries made it all up or were deceived by demons posing as angels of light. Then what worth is the “more” we think we see (through the glass darkly or otherwise). If that “more” causes The Lord to say depart from me, I never knew thee, then what value is there in it?

  91. March 17, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Doug #84 –

    the process takes considerably more work with my mind with all the information I can acquire and then reaching a conclusion based on that information. Once I think I know the truth, a spiritual witness helps confirm the rest. Skipping a step here can lead to all kinds of false positives in the spiritual witness category.

    I fully agree with you on this. I may have good feelings at the grocery store but that doesn’t mean I should buy 2% instead of skim. We do need to study it out as much as possible, I think. Just look at Pres. Kimball and the Priesthood revelation. He was mulling that for quite a while before he received a confirmation.
    As for the “senseless killing” I agree with that as well! Both our mind and our heart (i.e. the spirit) are important. I’m surprised that anyone thinks differently. People do get in trouble when they rely solely on the spirit, at the expense of the mind.
    “I don’t believe God is near as interested in one religions dogma over another as He is in how we treat each other.” I agree with that too! Wow, we agree on a lot. Ultimately, what is the purpose of religion? A change of heart, I think. You’re statement sums that up well.

    Doug #86 –

    You and your kind are sure that everything the church teaches is directly from God if it’s contained in the scriptures or from the mouth of the living prophets when they’re speaking for the Lord.

    I don’t know Bruce personally, but I think this is somewhat of a mass categorization (but I still permit you to use it. :)). While there are those who think whatever is written or said is Truth, there are plenty of us orthodox members who don’t believe this, and seek to make up our own mind (as well as receive a spiritual confirmation) on what is true. Church leaders have even told us to do that numerous times, although often we don’t, (Andrew wrote about that a while back, can’t remember the title).

  92. March 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Bruce #89 –

    “I was just trying to join in a discussion. I wasn’t trying to particularly agree nor disagree…”

    Thanks for joining in again! I think these are the types of input that we can all work on to use better. We probably all agree on the fact that vehemently debating these issues really leads to nowhere, while discussing them, considering multiple viewpoints, etc. is more often enlightening, and people don’t get defensive this way, which is more effective. That was a bit wordy…

    “I believe answers to prayers are indeed more important than self study, though you have to have both.”

    This is an interesting thought. Maybe there is a spectrum in the membership of the church of people on one side who rely solely on study, and on the other side are those who rely solely on “answers to prayer.” I think most of us here would fall somewhere in the middle, either a little more to the right or left (no political pun intended).

  93. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 10:49 am

    >>> Maybe there is a spectrum in the membership of the church of people on one side who rely solely on study, and on the other side are those who rely solely on “answers to prayer.”

    Yes, I think this spectrum exists. But I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. I think in the LDS church we place a large emphasis on answers to prayers culturally. I think some people do interpret this as downplaying rational thought and study. However, my observation is that this is generally not the case.

    Being human, we all place high value (and I mean HIGH VALUE!) on our own rational thought and study. Even when I’m speaking to someone that claims they get all their information from answers to prayers, they can’t help but slip into “rational proofs” every couple of seconds.

    I think learning to place value on answers to prayers is hard and people are more likely to pay lip service to the idea that to actually incorporate that idea into their lives. (Note: I’m speaking of my own personal experience and stuggles here. I’m assuming others are like me, but regardless, it’s true for me.)

    I think the label of “others aren’t being rational and they are just paying attention to spiritual witnesses” is mostly just a conspiracy theory to explain away the fact that rational thought and study has such low value over all in finding truth in many cases – specifically “political” or “religious” truths. The real truth is that rational thought and studying things out leads to indecision because you never actually have enough facts to make a decision. Thus at some point you are forced to make a logical leap of faith.

    So if I place low value on stuyding things out, why do I believe in it? Because God rewards the seeker. Plus, what else is there besides studying things out and praying really hard for answers? I just would like to see us err more on the side of praying and seeking answers from God and less on the false rational proofs we all seem to relying on. (Again, I speak for myself and assume others are like me. If I’m wrong, then it’s just me 🙂 )

  94. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 10:52 am

    >>> Just for fun, let’s say JS and his contemporaries made it all up or were deceived by demons posing as angels of light. Then what worth is the “more” we think we see (through the glass darkly or otherwise).

    Answer: It has no value at all.

    That was easy. Any other questions?

  95. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 11:12 am

    “Just for fun, let’s say JS and his contemporaries made it all up or were deceived by demons posing as angels of light.” If they made it all up, they weren’t looking in the glass, so it’s not relevant to the metaphor.

    As to the second possibility of being deceived by demons posing as angels of light . . . Really? This idea just seems so far-fetched to me (farther fetched than the first vision). There are 3 basic arguments:
    1 – So, if the first vision really happened/was from God, JS had an important mission for God (we could quibble about what that was, but it’s not material to this premise).
    2 – If JS was mentally unstable/impressionable/snacked on some funky mushrooms and deceived himself, then he didn’t have a significant role and Mormonism was an accident. 3 – If demons deliberately deceived him into believing he had a vision, then he must have had an important mission that they were trying to thwart – right? Otherwise, what is their demonic motive, if not to frustrate God’s plan? And how successful were they with only 13 million church members (currently), deceived by Mormonism into serving others and trying to live a morally clean life? Insidious!

  96. Ammon Rye
    March 17, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    #95 hawkgrrrl
    Satan has many counterfeits. The closer the counterfeit appears to be like the truth, the easier it is to deceive people. BTW – The truly insidious thing is believing you can diminish the work of The Savior and work your way back to God.

    I wish you weren’t trying to be cute with the language and consider the argument. If you can divert a person from returning to God by even 1%, then over the course of a lifetime, you will miss the mark. “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way.”

    One more thing. Did Gabriel appear to Mohamed or was he snacking on funky mushrooms?

  97. March 17, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    “believing you can diminish the work of The Savior” — Do people in the church believe this? I don’t. Maybe this comes down to a different view of “salvation.” Some people view salvation solely as being in the presence of God again. Others see it as that AND progression. This is the key issue in this argument, I think. Otherwise, we end up talking past each other.

    “Did Gabriel appear to Mohammed?”

    I believe he did.

  98. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Ammon Rye,

    You said: “BTW – The truly insidious thing is believing you can diminish the work of The Savior and work your way back to God”

    Would you be interested in posting the bible verses you feel say this?

    As someone that believes very strongly in grace and not the merrit of works, I have to say that I find that statement above at odds with the God I believe in. I’ve always felt that the Born Again Christians were spot on in their assessment that one cannot merit salvation and that salvation is only of the grace of Christ. Indeed I believe that so strongly that I’ve been accused of being a Born Again Mormon.

    My argument and concern with Born Again Christians has always been that they take that concept to a (in my opinion) scary level where God will damn you if you think maybe you did anything that played any role at all in your salvation — even a non-meritous role. Do I, as a parent, get bent out of shape when my little children think they did something I really did? Of course not. They can’t help it, they are just children. This is all part of their learning experience.

    Learning to truly understand the Grace of Christ and our total dependence on God is not an easy thing. I agree with C.S. Lewis that anyone with a certain type of religious training can say the words, but to really understand it and comprehend it you have to experience it by attempting your hardest to do the right thing and then fail. I do not believe Born Again Christians, religious training aside, understand that they don’t merit their salvation any more than the average Mormon does — that is until they really go out and try to be good and fail and learn their dependence on God through experience.

    But going back to your statement: “BTW – The truly insidious thing is believing you can diminish the work of The Savior and work your way back to God” Where does it say this in the Bible? I’ve really done my best to study this very issue out. I’ve gone through the entire New Testament reading various translations, looking up greek words and made my own translation, I then studied the early Christian writings to see how they understood grace and faith. And you know what, I found nothing that equated to the modern Born Again Christian concept that God feels denigrated if you think you did something good or think you can please God via doing something good. (And what type of parent would He be if he wasn’t pleased by sincere efforts? Again, I agree with lewis on this: God is pleased by all effort, satisfied with nothing but full maturity like He has.)

    My studies made me realize just how “works oriented” *all* early christians were for the first 4 or 5 centuries. I’ll have to post a few examples of early Christian understanding of faith and grace, but I’m telling ya, it will make Mormons blush. (FF Bruce, a famous Evangelical scholar, even went so far as to say no Christians except the antinomian gnostics understood Paul’s teachings on grace until Augustine. So I’m not the only one that has noticed the huge gap between modern and ancient Christians on the subject of grace.)

    So I find it hard to believe that the Bible really does teach such a thing or even that any Christians did at first. I think that idea comes from Augustine and he is the inventor of that doctrine. I don’t see it in Paul. Paul’s teaching seem to me to match the Book of Mormons teachings: we can’t merit salvation, but God cares about our efforts and is quite pleased with sincere seeking. Obedience, in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, please a non-meritous role in salvation. But obedience definitely plays a role of sorts.

  99. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Hawkgrrrl,

    You hit on a point that I have made for years. In the worst case scenario, we will have done a bunch of stuff for nothing, but could easily qualify for what typical Christians call “salvation.”

    This is a position they would not be happy with so they use this “different Jesus” argument against us. But what we do as LDS is clearly a significant superset of Christian belief and activity.

  100. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Jeff,

    Actually, take a look at my post on #98. I don’t think the issue here is that in their view “we will have done a bunch of stuff for nothing.”

    I think in their view the very fact that we believe we have freedom to choose and that God wants us to play a role in our sanctification (which to a Mormon is synonmous to the salvation process) that, in their view, we are denigrating God’s act of grace.

    This is what I just understood Ammon Rye as having said.

    I think that is a serious difference between Mormon Christian and Born Again Christian beliefs. And frankly, I think it’s one where the Evangelical Christians come down hard against the idea of a loving God. (Thus the point of my post.) They are also at odds with historical Christianity on this. (And they are at odds with the Bible, but that’s a bit harder to prove since the Bible has been picked over so much and there are hundreds of now legitimate ways to interpret it.

    That being said, I’d love to see a Born Again Christian try to show me in the Bible where it says “If you think you can please God with your sacrifices, repentance, and obedience, God will damn you for denigrating his Grace.” It just isn’t there. The bible I read says: “22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his ccommandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” or “Heb. 11: 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

    It seems to me where Mormons and Born Agains differ is the Mormons believe obedience and repentance play a non-meritous role in salvation, but still a crucial role. Born Agains believe it plays no role at all and if you think it plays any role at all, it’s the same as if you thought it was a meritous role and thus you are denigrating God and you are damned.

  101. Spektator
    March 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    According to the definition of the gospel found in 3rd Nephi 27, we are required to be ‘sanctified.’ I believe that this differs from the Christian perspective of being born again. Accepting Christ as our savior is good and meaningful to the Christian but His restored gospel teaches the following:

    “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.”

    As we know, no unclean thing can enter His kingdom (3 Ne. 27:19). That is what sanctification brings, we are cleansed from all sin through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 31:17). Sanctification through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost represents the gate by which we enter the strait and narrow path to eternal life (2 Ne. 31:18). Not quite what is preached from the standard Christian pulpit but that is what I think it means to be a ‘saint,’ one who has been sanctified. How many who claim membership in His church have actually been sanctified???

    Spek

  102. Just for Quix
    March 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Bruce (#98): I have really like your thought process throughout this thread.

    I really became convicted to become a practicing Christian when at a low and brutal point in my life I reached out to God and felt the strength of Grace, and knew I would not hold on to this transforming state remaining a Mormon. Nevertheless, I’m with you: the harping from grace-oriented Christians that sometimes go so extreme as to condemn the righteous desire to do good, really alienates me.

    I’m definitely no believer in foundational Mormon doctrines. However, I believe the way many Mormons practice their faith is out of a sincere desire by doing good. If we look to Acts 10 at the pagan Cornelius the Greek word to describe his righteous obligations is the same Greek word in Romans 5:1, when Paul is preaching about justification before Christ. It seems obvious to me that good works can justify us a righteous before God, as can faith. This dual path fits, I think, very well with Jesus’ action-oriented teachings contained within, especially, Matthew and John.

    This is different that Pauline lectures on salvation, where different Greek words are used than for justification, and it is clear this salvation only comes through faith as a gift of Christ. But still, why all the Born Again harping on works?? From my experience I hear some interpret Ephesians 2:9 to an extreme saying our salvation is not of works, lest we should boast. Ergo if we desire good works then we are apt to boast, hence such is sinful. I just don’t see how this interpretation can be argued. If one does good works and boasts, I think scripture is clear that such will have their reward. (And perhaps one could go so far to say that ‘reward’ is damnation.) The sin is boasting not doing good works. Nevertheless, I think scripture is clear that works done in true righteousness with an eye single to God are counted as righteous justification.

    Yes, more NT scripture argues justification in favor of faith than works, but this is largely a manifestation of Paul’s perspective after having been converted the way he was, and that His writings do represent a majority opinion of Christian oral instruction in early Christianity. I think scripture outlines the proper place of good works; ideally they come as “fruit” of a transformed heart, but in the case of some, they can clearly come in preparation for truly receiving Christ. And as a part of practice of “pure religion.”

    That the Mormon cultural manifestation of a legalistic oriented doctrine so often beats people down into thinking that have to meet some standard of performance before God will love them, accept them or count them as His I get the beef about that. I felt that way once. I think the LDS temple practice is a waste of time and unscriptural. I think all the pressure Mormons can put on one another in their ritual “purity” practice is stunting. And, I think it is a frequent issue that Mormons truly haven’t been transformed by the free grace of Christ…

    Nevertheless, there are Christians, like the C.S. Lewis statement you allude to, that haven’t been transformed either. And, there are Mormons who get around their common culturo-religious limitation, and do exhibit justifying righteousness, IMO. There’s no productive reason to call such people misguided, evil, damned or of Satan, as Evangelicals sometimes are wont to do. To those who have discovered the Grace of Christ that exists beyond works-oriented justification, I think it is clear from scripture that such believers would do better, like Peter did with Cornelius, to invite with love and passion for all to take the next step to accept the free gift of salvation. Salvation that only comes thru the Grace of Christ. (And I like to believe practicing Mormons can also reach this step, too.)

  103. March 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Re: temple being “unscriptural” – What is scripture? Thanks for the idea for a new post! “What is scripture?” So often people say this or that is/is not scriptural to support their opinion, but what does that really mean? There are so many issues involved, especially interpretation. Thanks for the idea!

  104. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    AdamF,

    Quix is just saying it’s not “scriptural” *to him* (in his opinion). I.e. he only accepts the bible and you can’t possibly pull from the bible the full temple practice. I don’t think you should read in more than that. He’s expressing himself as a member of a different faith. I would have to agree that the temple practice is “not to be found in the Bible in its fullness.”

    Quix,

    Excellent write up. I’m stunned that we are so theologically close. I didn’t expect that.

  105. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Bruce,

    We agree.

    I think that church members tend to give a short shrift to the Grace of Jesus and the fact that we cannot work our way to heaven no matter how much we do. The fact that we Love Him drives our desire to serve Him and keep His commandments. Otherwise, why are there even commendments to keep if there is no good reason to keep them?

    There is a danger that we become too Pharisaical in our practices whereby we do it to check off a box rather than for its real intended purpose.

    I think we show our love for God by our actions which should rightfully be a reflection of what is in our hearts. In my mind, saying you’re born again is not enough. Since we are not the One who decides it.

  106. March 17, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Bruce – “I don’t think you should read in more than that.” Your probably right. 🙂 I have a tendency to want to define everything extensively–hence this post, lol.

  107. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    >>> There is a danger that we become too Pharisaical in our practices whereby we do it to check off a box rather than for its real intended purpose.

    I know this is going to sound funny, but this is my main complaint with “Born Again” Chrisitianity. I have long felt it a work oriented religion instead of a Grace oriented religion (which I understand Mormonism to be) because there is sooo much emphasis on a single work that saves: being born again. (i.e. “getting saved.”)

    But Quix just proved that there is a lot of different “Born Again Christians” and not all agree. (Just as not all Mormons agree.) The truth is that my view of “Born Again Christians” is based around my own associations, which realistically may or may not be representative of the whole. But what else do I base it on?

    And thanks, Quix, for the reminder to not assume my Born Again christian friends represent everyone.

  108. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    >>> have a tendency to want to define everything extensively–hence this post, lol.

    I have the same tendency. In fact, I’m going to have to do a post on what I see as the Mormon scriptural understanding of salvation and grace. 🙂 (And see how many Mormons agree or disagree with me 😛 )

  109. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Jeff Spector: “I think we show our love for God by our actions which should rightfully be a reflection of what is in our hearts.”

    This is why I am concerned by emphasis on seemingly superficial things, like no tats, one pair of earrings, skirts vs. pants, etc. I suppose my standard would be if it’s in the temple recommend interview (WoW is), it’s significant, but if not, it’s a request. I do comply with these well-intentioned requests, I’m just wary of a focus on obedience to outward-manifestations of obedience rather than on our inward understanding of and acceptance of the atonement.

    Ammon Rye –
    “BTW – The truly insidious thing is believing you can diminish the work of The Savior and work your way back to God.”

    I didn’t take this statement to be about works vs. grace, but perhaps I was mistaken. I assumed you were referring to JS believing he could diminish the work of the Savior (by deceiving others) and then still work his way back to God. Perhaps I misunderstood. In either case, if that is what you meant, then I’m confused because I thought you posited that JS was decieved by demons posing as angels of light, in which case, is he fully complicit in following their wrong counsel or were his intentions OK, therefore, he’s OK, kind of like how someone who is mentally infirm doesn’t need baptism?

    “I wish you weren’t trying to be cute with the language and consider the argument.”
    I hope I was doing both. I just don’t see the demons argument as sound for the reasoning I gave above. I am also probably one of those less prone to believe in demonic influence as a great tactic on Satan’s part. I think C.S. Lewis points out much better methods to get people’s hearts in the wrong place in Screwtape Letters than by deceiving someone into forming a religion that will do much good.

    “If you can divert a person from returning to God by even 1%, then over the course of a lifetime, you will miss the mark.”
    Now, on this point, I disagree. This sounds like Cheney’s one percent doctrine to me–a misapplied premise based on scare tactics. I can’t believe that God is so unforgiving as that. For example, I believe that the billions of people who never heard the gospel or even about Christ can choose to follow Christ and partake in the atonement, and that individuals from many religions who are earnest followers of Christ will be able to add to their initial acceptance after death and be in the celestial kingdom.

    “Did Gabriel appear to Mohamed or was he snacking on funky mushrooms?”
    My short answer is I don’t know, but I wouldn’t rule out that Gabriel appeared to him. The funky mushrooms seem less likely given the desert climate in Mecca, whereas there are many varieties of funky mushrooms and toadstools in upstate NY.

  110. Just for Quix
    March 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Adam F.,

    Bruce got it right, it is my opinion– my opinion that the definition of the body of Christ and the new temple contained within Paul’s teachings, primarily, are undermined by the Mormon temple practice, which I find neither Christian nor biblical. But you’re right: there is some material for a further post in there on what it means to be “scriptural.” Good luck; I look forward to reading what you create.

    I know quite a few active Mormons who don’t (or rarely) attend the temple because they don’t enjoy it, don’t get it, don’t agree with everything required in the interviews, don’t feel worthy enough, etc., or those which only go for family functions. So I know, as a former Mormon, to go a step further to articulate my opinion a little more boldly to reject Temple Mormonism can be polarizing.

    But let me also say that I think the LDS temple can function as a beautiful collective rite to bind individuals to their faith and the faith of their family and community. And I think such Mormons, esp. those who never find themselves on the fringes of belief or practice, feel they are drawn closer to God by participation. I can grant that import, even if I don’t get it. I will affirm that I don’t believe anything contained in the rites is salvific, and it’s a major stumbling block to the church ever being embraced even loosely and moderately as a “Legalistic Christian” church. Nevertheless with Mormonism as its own faith, with temple adherents trying to reach unto the transcendant and holy face of God, I hope I will always be able to accept the beauty that has for them.

    ====

    Bruce,

    It is nice to make your virtual acquaintance. I know very few Mormons, who don’t also count themselves as heretical or cultural/buffet Mormons, who share community with us on this issue. But in fairness, I still know there is a contingent at my church, which is still a pretty moderate, non-denominational church for Christian practice in Utah, who bristle to find anything positive to recognize in Mormonism. I regret this. While I found in my experience Mormonism is generally more unfriendly an environment to growing in Christ’s grace, than is Christianity, this is what makes me count so priceless a treasure to know a few practicing Mormons (of whatever degree) who feel this way and still make Mormonism work for them. Plus I still have Mormon family with whom I’d rather find some points of commonality rather than complete division.

    So, for what it matters, thanks for being so articulate in your perspective. I look forward to reading more.

  111. Jeff Spector
    March 17, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Hawkgrrrl,

    “This is why I am concerned by emphasis on seemingly superficial things, like no tats, one pair of earrings, skirts vs. pants, etc. I suppose my standard would be if it’s in the temple recommend interview (WoW is), it’s significant, but if not, it’s a request. ”

    Some of the things you mentioned like Tattoos and ear piercings are in fact not just superficial but a reflection of what you think of your body. After all, our bodies are temples and we should not defile it. The problem with the tattoo and earring thing is that most people in the church will be conservative about them but some will not. By setting a standard, you know when it is overboard. Having said that, people are free to choose. They can look like pin cushions or comic books if they like. They just can’t choose how they are viewed by others.

    The pants things I agree with you. And, there are many things that were are asked to do and not do that is not contained in the temple recommend interview. But we are expected to uphold.

  112. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Jeff Spector, I agree people are free to choose, and I do comply with these things. I am concerned by the emphasis for a few reasons:

    1 – as a missionary and reactivation church, I hope we can appeal to people who have tats and multiple earrings without making them feel turned off or like they just can’t fit in culturally. Removing earrings is pretty easy; removing tats is harder. The connection to “the body as a temple” is tougher to make on this one than it is on modesty, IMO. There are cultures where tats and piercings have different significance than in downtown SLC (tats related to military service might be an example of this).

    2 – it implies (to some) that through our outward appearance you can tell if a person is inwardly righteous.

    3 – it takes an assumption that a few judgmental individuals might make and legitimizes it for all–now these tat & earring people are actually being disobedient whereas before they were just assumed to be by the clucking old ladies of the ward (that’s a stereotype).

    I’m not trying to jack the thread. This just seems relevant to the works/grace question.

  113. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    >>> Bruce, it is nice to make your virtual acquaintance.

    Yes, you too Quix.

    >>> I know very few Mormons…

    Your experiences aside, which I don’t wish to deny, are not my experiences. I consider myself a fully orthodox Mormon and I consider my views of grace the only orthodox Mormon position 😛 (I am only partially joking. I do feel there is more than one way to think of a profound truth: http://mormonmatters.org/2008/01/19/what-is-mormon-doctrine/ but I don’t think it’s possible to differ from my view much and still be in alignment with Mormon scripture.)

    Of course I haven’t explained my/the Mormon full view yet, and I *do* believe the Mormon view of grace and salvation differs from the Protestant view in key and important ways. However, it doesn’t seem to differ as much with the way you just explained it as it does with a close Born Again Christian friend I am thinking of.

    But the gist of how I understand grace as an orthodox Mormon is that obedience plays a non-meritous role in sancification. I’ll do a post sometimes explaing what I see as the Mormon view of grace and salvation and give more details.

    >>> Plus I still have Mormon family with whom I’d rather find some points of commonality rather than complete division.

    Actually, tell your family to contact me and I’ll set them straight. 😛 (Just kidding.)

  114. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    By “see more darkly” I meant “See more of the big picture that is covered for others (that they just don’t see), but still see that extra stuff darkly (not understanding it fully).” The glass through which we see darkly shows us more, but we still see through it darkly. (perhaps not *as* darkly as others, but still not *clearly*)

    Fwiw, Mormon theology is centered on grace, we just don’t use that word much – not enough, imo. We believe it completely, but we don’t believe in effortless exaltation. Bluntly, we believe the preponderance of the Biblical canon, not just the few verses that seem to imply our effort is pointless.

    I approach this topic in a very Biblical way – by distinguishing between “works” (the action of following the dictates of the Law of Moses without any conscious thought – “blind obedience” to what you are told to do) and “fruit” (actions motivated and energized by a connection to the Vine). Our actual theology does NOT preach “works”; it preaches “fruits”. We generally do a lousy job understanding and explaining the difference. We hear “works” and think “fruits” – so we struggle to address the central distinction properly.

    Iow, we “waste our lives working” if those works are not what He would want from us and if those works do not lead us to become more Christ-like. However, if we truly are connected to Him through His Spirit (the Holy Ghost, in this case), our effort to become as He is will transform our actions from “dead works” to “living fruits”.

    When it is phrased that way, we aren’t that different than many evangelicals on this issue.

  115. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    BTW, if anyone is interested, I have written extensively about grace and becoming more Christ-like on my own blog. It has been my central focus for the past few months.

  116. Just for Quix
    March 17, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    hawkgrrrl (#112),

    You raise excellent points. At our church we have people of many cultural and social backgrounds. Things like tats and piercings do associate oneself with different groups & cultures than what might be mainstream. But we not only officially preach that there should be no division of the body on matters like this, but we work to practice it, too, enough that it is our church culture. As best we can we’re trying to do as Paul admonished in Romans 14, etc.

    It might be funny that I seemed more an outsider the first week we attended with our Christian friends, I in a suit and tie, and my wife in a dress, than it would be if I had an earring and my wife’s navel ring had been showing. Still we’re still pretty “mainstream” in what most choose to wear. It is evident from all who attend that we are working to accept them in Christ. We work to help others feel comfortable to worship differently–some dress up more than others; some might sing and some may not; some may like to pray with accompaniment from the band and others may not; some may want to have a soda or coffee to drink while we worship, others may not; some may smell of cigarettes, others may not. I count it an honor to have a friend at church who teaches a 12-step group for young people, helping them to beat addictive behavior, who is, himself, an open, recovering weed addict. Where else better to heal than with others who will more lovingly accept you, even when you fall?

    I don’t say this to be bragadocious, because obviously some of what we do is a big leap for Mormons to practice. But you’re right, if Mormons wish to be a proselytizing church they need to take Romans 14 to heart and stop making issues of ritual obedience things that are “disputable matters”. We aren’t losing kids like LDS wards are; we are bringing in people –not uncommon those with LDS backgrounds– who haven’t felt accepted at church before; we have open 12-step-like or helper programs that don’t make it embarrassing to acknowledge or attend. It’s okay to say you’re struggling with some sin, and openly seek healing and prayer with fellow believers. Why do Mormons feel they have to be so perfect in front of each other? There’s definitely more we could do better, but we have a great start at creating a healthy and uplifting church in Christ by working hard to not make issues of things that shouldn’t be issues.

    I definitely have visited uptight Christian congregations that are trying to do what we do. So I don’t want to only pick on Mormon wards. Hawkgrrrl, I agree with what i think you are saying: an environment of acceptance is a reflection of real, grace-oriented worship.

  117. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Quix, fwiw, you just described many Mormon wards and stakes – minus the coffee during worship and wildly varying attire. There is more to Christian worship than appearance – which is what you are saying, but which your comment doesn’t allow in groups that *appear* more “uptight”. “Sunday best dress” doesn’t automatically equal “uptight” and un-Christlike – and casual dress and apparent acceptance doesn’t automatically equal better. Sometimes it is an indication; often it is not.

    So, I agree in spirit with everything you said – except that it is an issue more indicative of Mormonism than other religions.

  118. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    >>> Our actual theology does NOT preach “works”; it preaches “fruits”.

    Excellent differentiation words Ray. I’m going to use them from now one. 🙂

  119. Doug G.
    March 17, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Hawkgrrrl wrote:

    ““I believe we as Mormons are looking through a glass darkly just like all the other religions.” I agree with this statement, although if your religion does not believe in ongoing revelation, I don’t think you see the same things through the glass–in some cases, maybe you aren’t even looking in the glass, just reading the thoughts of those who did”

    My religion is the same as yours my friend and I fully admit to seeing through the glass darkly…

    ““Our particular brand is no better or worse than any of the others except we seem to be more judgmental.” I don’t think that is a precise enough description for me. I don’t see Mormons as particularly judgmental of other religions, comparatively, mostly because we are a proselyting faith (recent CO incident notwithstanding)”

    I spent two years of my life going door to door in Australia telling those good people (within the first 10 minutes of our discussion) that God had once again appeared on the earth and the first thing out of his mouth was all the religions of the day were an abomination in his sight. Hawkgrrl, you may think that’s not very offensive and judgmental, but the rest of Christendom certainly does. You see, if I show you bible verses and try and convince you that your way of thinking is wrong, you can pull out your own bible verses to defend your beliefs. Most other religions see this as missionary work. As Mormons, we play the ultimate trump card right off the bat with” God said”. No one can discuss this so most just nicely show you the door. In my mission I believe I averaged around 30 “C” discussions a week. Multiply that by the 30K missionaries all doing the same “C” discussion and you start to understand why I think we’re judgmental of others beliefs. Kind-of, in-your-face even…

    Bruce,

    As usual, we are at a stopping point again. I do enjoy the interchange and you nor I still haven’t quit going to church so we must be doing some good… When you say “spot on” you remind me of my mission to Australia, you didn’t serve there did you?

  120. Just for Quix
    March 17, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Fair critique, Ray. I agree that stricter dress codes doesn’t necessarily mean a less accepting atmosphere. Though I have difficulty agreeing that it is not more uptight, especially from the younger gen POV. 🙂

    What makes for a special quandary in Mormonism is if your local ward worship, culture or leadership style doesn’t suit you? It’s harder to do something about it. Go inactive? Attend some meetings and not others? Sooner or later, in all but the most progressive wards, at least from what I’ve seen in Utah, you’re going to be taken to task for not conforming with the norm. Or denied a place to serve if it isn’t one’s home ward. Christian fellowship does make it easier to seek out a place that feels more like home. But certainly, no matter where one goes, Christian or Mormon, it’s important to make sure one’s local church atmosphere helps nurture one’s or one’s family’s path to God rather than merely being a social club.

    That’s a good task for any follower.

  121. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    >>> When you say “spot on” you remind me of my mission to Australia

    No, Detroit.

  122. Ammon Rye
    March 17, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    A lot of discussion has transpired since 9:48 this morning and it’s been a long day. Post #102 from Quix certainly made number of points a lot better than I could have. Some posts have commented on the mormon view (or lack of emphasis) of Grace. This is a problem for members of the church. Members of the church love to show that we are saved by Grace AFTER ALL WE CAN YOU by referring to 2 NE 25:23. This is a poor scripture to use if you want to show that we have to work our way back to Heaven and THEN Grace fills in the rest. (If anybody on this thread repeats the bicycle parable, I will scream. The missing element in that parable is that the bicycle must have an infinite price, hence the need for an infinite Atonement.)

    If you read the entire chapter, Nephi is addressing his people at his time. (Before anybody responds to that, I know we are to liken the scriptures unto ourselves.) Nephi is talking about how they are subject to the Law of Moses and how they look forward to when The Savior will come. He talks about believing in Christ and that in spite of their hope in Him, they keep the Law of Moses because it is ALL THEY CAN DO at that point in time. Christ came and fulfilled the law and we are no more subject to it and we are not justified in the law (see Galatians).

    If you don’t like that, try this. The BoM provides a definition of what ALL WE CAN DO means. Alma 24:10-12.
    “10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might REPENT of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, THROUGH THE MERITS OF HIS SON.
    “11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been ALL THAT WE COULD DO, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to REPENT of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was ALL WE COULD DO to REPENT sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—
    “12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.”

    All we (and those who are the most lost of mankind) can do is repent of our sins. The BoM defines “all we can do” in very simple terms. So I will go back to what I said in post #64: “Where does my salvation lie other than love God, love your fellow man, REPENT OF YOUR SINS (receive Jesus as your savior and redeemer), and receive sanctification through personal righteousness?”

  123. March 17, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Just for Quix #116: “Where else better to heal than with others who will more lovingly accept you, even when you fall?” This is something that I think Mormons could definitely work on. For example, a lot of problems are made harder to overcome or deal with due to the shame involved, and needing to appear perfect, as was said. Why do we feel the need to look perfect around each other? I don’t know. That is a great question though. Any ideas?

  124. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    So I will go back to what I said in post #64: “Where does my salvation lie other than love God, love your fellow man, REPENT OF YOUR SINS (receive Jesus as your savior and redeemer), and receive sanctification through personal righteousness?”

    Ammon Rye: You just summarized the 4th Article of Faith. (Have faith, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost) What you just said is perfectly consistent with about every talk I’ve heard in my multiple decades of Mormon Church attendance. That’s the Gospel; everything else is just cultural application.

    I posted a long treatise about 2 Nephi 25:23, so I won’t paste it here. If anyone wants to read it, go to:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/11/embracing-grace.html

  125. Ray
    March 17, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    #123 – Adam, because “perfection” as a scriptural injunction is so badly misunderstood – and translated as if we were still living under the Law of Moses.

    I really do apologize for posting more links, but it’s easier than pasting long answers:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/12/problem-with-popular-perceptions-of.html

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/10/wonder-of-warts.html

  126. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Ammon Rye,

    Why do you equate “grace after all we can do” to “that we have to work our way back to Heaven and THEN Grace fills in the rest?” I feel you are misjudging Mormons here. I certainly won’t argue with your personal individual interpretations of Mormonism, but you are going way to far to suggest this was ever officially taught, taught today, or frankly ever taught widely or as acceptable.

    I think there are plenty of Mormons that would agree with the idea that we have to “do our part” and then “grace fills in the rest” and this is what I think you were thinking of. But I’ve never heard “do our part” equated to “working our way back to heaven.” I believe you are forcing this upon other Mormons and I feel that is unfair.

    Not that long ago I gave a Sunday school lesson where I mentioned that repentance is “our part.” I immediately, and overwhelmingly got feedback from the class that “repentance” and “obedience” and “keep the commandments” were the same concept to them. I’m not sure that is entirely true technically speaking, but that sure would seem to be the way most Mormons understand this verse: that all we can do is repent and sincerely try, and then repent when we fail again, then sincerely try again, then repent again, repeat.

    I will accept that you personally struggled with the concept of grace in Mormonism. I will not accept that you are in a position to judge any other Mormon on this issue.

  127. Bruce Nielson
    March 17, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Interesting side note:

    Since we are already talking about Born Again Christians a lot, I once asked a group of Born Again Christians this question:

    Do you have to have good works to be saved?

    The answer was overwhelmingly NO WAY!!!

    Later I asked a group, many of them the same people, actually:

    Will any Christian in a saved state bring forth good works in their life?

    The answer was now overwhelmingly ABSOLUTELY!

    What’s interesting, is that those two questions are really the same question.

    Born Again Christians have been condidtioned to see the first question as a question of cause and effect, which is not actually implied. If you say you have to have good works to be in a state of being saved (which many and even most do in fact believe) they are conditioned to see it as good works causing salvation and they answer “no.” But the question did not imply that one way or the other. It was just a correlation question. Do the two go together? Nothing more.

    But the second question, which is indeed the same question, has no conditioning, so they answer it differently.

    Mormons strike me as the same on the issue of “grace after all we can do.” Mormons are conditioned to never admit that we are saved regardless of whether or not there is a real change of heart. This verse certainly implies this, so I do not see this as a misuse of that scripture. But I don’t believe Born Again Christians believe that either, so I’m not sure why we make such a big deal of it.

  128. hawkgrrrl
    March 17, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Doug G. 119 – “all the religions of the day were an abomination in his sight” is not what it says in JS-H, and I think the distinction is important. Precisely what JS-H says is that “their creeds” were an abomination in his sight and “those professors” were all corrupt. That, IMO, is quite different from the frequent misquote that the other churches or religions were an abomination–that’s just not what it says. A body of people worshiping together are not an abomination, even if some of their creeds are errant or some of their professors are corrupt. I have often also wondered how specific the criticism of “those professors” was – was it just the ones JS knew in Palmyra? Maybe.

    AdamF 123 – “a lot of problems are made harder to overcome or deal with due to the shame involved, and needing to appear perfect” – The perfect image turns off as many people as it attracts. And spending any time and energy focused on “looking” perfect takes time away from actually perfecting the saints (ourselves). Perhaps the allure is that it is easier to “look” perfect than it is to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit and come unto Christ. So, it’s a distraction.

    All this talk about grace vs. works reminds me of Dennis Miller’s joke that the reason all the people in prisons were finding Christ was that no one down here would talk to them anymore.

  129. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Just to echo Hawkgrrrl, JSH 1:19 is probably the most frequently and badly misquoted and misinterpreted verse in all of our canon – both by critics AND members. When you stick strictly to the words that actually are recorded and assign only the meanings that actually are attached to the words, it is FAR less offensive than generally believed. Of course, it upsets those who disagree, but it is not “harsh” at all. Compared to what is said about us by our critics, it’s downright gentle.

    Here is a summary example:

    “I was answered that I must join none of “them” (the religions about which Joseph was praying – which, in and of itself, is a fascinating point),

    for they were “all” (those about which he was praying, NOT necessarily all universally – although I won’t argue with reading it that way from a practical perspective, given what happened later)

    “wrong” (NOT evil, bad, abhorrent, abominable, contemptible, disgusting, laughable or any other derogatory description – simply “not right”);

    and the Personage who addressed me said that all their “creeds” (NOT teachings, doctrines, sermons, understandings – simply “creedal assertions” [NOT specifically or – in my mind primarily – addressing the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicean Creed, but rather the Athanasian Creed and Protestant versions like the Westminster Confession that formed the foundation of the creeds of “them” about which Joseph was praying])

    were an “abomination” (something that, having been **defiled**, is “abhorrent” (e.g., the Trinitarian creed that effectively killed the Father as a separate Being)

    in “His sight” (from His viewpoint);

    that those “professors” (NOT ministers, priests, pastors, priests, etc. but any who “profess / teach”)

    were all “corrupt” (NOT evil, bad, abhorrent, abominable, contemptible,disgusting, laughable or any other derogatory description – simply “not pure”);

    that: “they draw near to me with their “lips” (”preach of me” – with NO denoting hypocrisy or intentional misleading or any other bad motive),

    but their hearts are far from me (since their creeds corrupt and make impure, but, again, NOT addressing motive or sincerity at all),

    they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a “form” (appearance, perhaps, OR “structure / framework”, but NOT addressing motive or sincerity at all) of godliness,

    but they deny the “power” (”capability of doing or accomplishing something” – think of what we teach as our ultimate goal as being the true “power” of godliness)

    “thereof” (”of God, NOT denying power TO God, but just denying the power OF God [i.e., they teach that God is indescribably powerful as man would define it, but deny that He has the power that we understand as belonging to “Godhood” – the power to make us godly. They do NOT deny that He is powerful; they literally deny His ultimate power.]).”

    I hope that isn’t too confusing in that form. It’s very abbreviated, but it points out, I think, some of the terrible potential consequences of misstating what Joseph was taught in the vision.

  130. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 6:49 am

    #126 Bruce Nielson
    I wish I could have been in that class. In a recent GD class we were discussing 2 NE 25:23 and participants in the class were responding to it by stating all the works they could perform to get back to the presence of God. I brought up Alma 24:10-12 to provide a definition of “all we can do” showing that it means repentance. Then the little girl and the bicycle parable was brought out. A number of folks in the class latched onto the flawed analogy and ran with it, totally ignoring the scriptures. I just sat there shaking my head.

    I hope you are right Bruce when you say you don’t think most member think they “work” their way back to God, but my experience in the church and within my extended family (most are lifelong members) tells me otherwise.

  131. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Ammon Rye,

    I think what I am saying is that we are trapped by vocabulary. What matters, of course, is not how we say it, but what it means to us in our life.

    If you’ll pardon me for a moment and indulge my attempt to read your mind and those in the class (which obviously is really just a wild guess) I would venture a guess that you at one time understood grace in a certain way contrary to what the church actually teaches so you went out and relearned it in a more “Born Again Christian” way of thinking. But in doing so you also picked up their idioms and ways of speaking. (Nothing wrong with that by the way.)

    But now it’s harder for you to see that many of your Mormon friends aren’t necessarily thinking different thoughts than you, they are simply saying it differently.

    Consider this: I just explained “all you can do” as: that all we can do is repent and sincerely try, and then repent when we fail again, then sincerely try again, then repent again, repeat.

    But how does that differ from “work”? Guess what, that’s a lot of work! Repentance is a lot of work! Sincerely trying is too. It’s not unpleasant work if you really love God and your goal is to know Him, but I’d be hard pressed to not call it work.

    You threw in there “work their way back.” I’m willing to venture a guess that this phrase either wasn’t used or was used rarely in that class. I’m willing to guess that this is how you understood it, not what was actually said word for word. (I may be wrong here, but I really really have never heard a Mormon use that exact phraseology despite having heard many many Evangelicals claim it for Mormons.)

    The reason my class so readily understood “our part” as repentance was, to be frank, because I was the teacher. I can easily rephrase things to avoid “conditioning” (as per my 127 post) and easily find what people are really thinking without them relying on stock phrases. (Just as I was able to do with the Born Again Christians by rephrasing the question for them.) Do not make the mistake of assuming that everyone in that class of yours misunderstood grace but you just because they didn’t “say it right.” With a little practice, you will soon find you can dig under our vocabulary conditioning and find what people really think in their hearts. And you may be shocked to find how similiar it is to what you currently believe.

    The parable of the bicycle is an excellent parable in my mind. It helped a real woman grasp at grace at a moment she needed it, just as is necessary in all religions. How can you argue with a working parable that served it’s purpose? Does it really matter that it’s an imperfect parable, as are all analogies? Does it really matter that the bike wasn’t an infinite cost? Doesn’t the idea that it was completely out of range for a child more or less capture that same idea? I feel you are being too nit picky here.

    Craig Blomberg, an Evangelical scholar, attacked the bicycle parable of Robinson by saying that in Evangelical Christianity the parable would have ended with the father asking the girl to buy him an ice cream with her money on the way home. He thought it cleverly showed the difference between the Mormon concept of “works” and the Evangelical concept of “showing love through works.”

    If I were present I’d ask him the obvious question: “what if the little girl said NO! I’m keeping my money!” Would the parable still be an appropriate analogy to salvation from an Evangelical point of view? The answer is, no, it wouldn’t not. So I’m afraid his revision of the parable collapse down to be exactly the same as Robinsons, complete with imprefection.

    Incidently, if I were to compare the parable of the bicycle to more commonly used Born Again Christian analogies, such as “grace as a gift and you have to accept or reject it” or “It’s a transaction, once it’s done it’s done” I’d dare say that those analogies, which are perhaps appropriate to some degree, are far less accurate than the parable of the bicycle. For example, what type of gift comes with such a vague notion of how to accept it complete with a million variants of how to appropriately do so? (Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.) Oh, and what type of gift comes such that you have no idea that you even received it most of the time?

    And is there really a transaction that takes place when you accept Christ? It might be okay to think of it that way, but really no transaction takes place there. The real transaction was when Christ died on the cross.

    So it’s easy to nit pick any analogy. You really have to make an effort to try to understand what is meant to be learned from it. In the case of the parable of the Bicycle, Robinson himself says it just means you are willing. I think it captures that nuance very well. Let’s not read more into it than was intended.

  132. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 8:03 am

    All I’m saying about the bicycle analogy is that I believe it gives many members a false sense of work for a reward and THEN Grace is available at some future point in time. (The little girl works and saves and works and saves and does all she can do. Then the dad picks up the difference.) I like the link Ray put up for post #124; very insightful and presented well.

    On a more positive note: I am getting many insights from this group that harmonize with the way I’ve been thinking about these issues over the past couple of years. Thanks.

  133. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I have never, ever, ever heard anyone in church say they were working their way to heaven or that they could work their way to heaven. Having said that, I will agree that Grace is not taught enough in our church. That there is no way to do enough to even begin to replace the Grace of Jesus which saves us.

    It is common for those critical of the church to say that we “work our way to heaven.” By it would come as a complete shock to most members to know that others thought that about us. Most are also mindful of having to be follow the laws and ordances of the Gosepl. but in the proper context.

  134. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Ammon Rye,

    Let me meet you half way here. Yes, it seems likely that some members (maybe even many) get a false sens of work for reward out of the bicycle parable that wasn’t intended by it.

    As I mentioned before, I do not believe any group of religious people really understand grace until they go out and work really hard to be perfect, fail, and then try again, and fail, repeat. (Yes, this is the C.S. Lewis formula.) As such, it does not shock me that people don’t really understand a profound truth like “grace.” On my mission I met a lot of Born Again Christians that did not really understand grace either. All too often, they were trying to work out their salvation. It was my joy to explain to them that with God all things are possible through His grace. So my experience suggests that Mormons not understanding grace makes them the same as other religions not understanding grace.

    (By the way, Ray, I really liked your view of the inappropriate understanding of perfection in other religions.)

    I also have found that if you are going to err on one of the two false views of grace: working it out yourself vs. antinomianism, I think these two heresies are not equally wrong. Working it out yourself comes complete with a feedback cycle that forces you to learn grace. (As it did with you Ammon Rye). Antinomianism does not. Err on the side of working. (Obivously it would be better to learn your lesson and learn to relying on God, but the truth is we can’t just decide to do that, we have to learn it through experience.)

    Ammon Rye, let me make a final suggestion. Here are some tips on how to phrase things to avoid Mormon conditioning:

    1. Ask a Mormon if God could ever “owe” someone salvation. Unlike “works” we have no conditioning on the word “owe” so you quickly find that Mormons do not believe God owes anything to anyone. (You might occaisonally get someone smart enough to realize that God might “owe” in the sense that he is a truthful God that does not lie and keeps His promises.)
    2. Ask a Mormon if other Christians really believe they can be saved if they are willfully sinning. This avoids the conditioning of “grace alone” (which in my view other Christians don’t really believe in, they just use it as a catch phrase to express their views of grace.) I think this forces Mormons to really understand that other Christians are usually not antinomians.
    3. Ask a Mormon if “works” have value if done with the wrong intent. All Mormons are conditioned to say “no” to this one. But then ask them if it’s the work that mattered or the desire and accompaning change of character that mattered. I find Mormons do in fact understand that works have no relevance in and of themselves.
    4. Ask a Mormon if they are judged by what they did in life, or by what they become at the end of life. This one might be harder, because we all know the scriptures say we are judged according to our works. But Dallin H. Oaks informs us that judgment is actually on what we become, not our “works” per se. (Though obviously those two concepts are highly overlapping.)

  135. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 8:58 am

    #133 Jeff Spector
    “Most are also mindful of having to be follow the laws and ordances of the Gosepl. but in the proper context.”

    Doesn’t the second AoF state that we are SAVED by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel? Sounds like work to me. Where is Grace to be found in the church’s creed ah, er I mean AoF?

  136. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 9:05 am

    #134 Bruce Nielson
    I like your four points at the end. I just don’t know if the majority of the members are as conscious as you would like them to be. I think asking questions may help them to become more conscious, but I do believe there has been some conditioning within the mormon culture that is detrimental to our spiritual understanding. I my case it certainly was (and probably still is); but I hopefully continue to learn and grow.

  137. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:09 am

    >>> Sounds like work to me.

    Ammon Rye,

    Now you’re just playing word games. Of course one can define principles and ordinances of the Gospel as “work”. One can define “getting saved” as a “work” too. One can define “accepting Christ” as a work. You’re reacting to a word and it’s not going to help you understand what Jeff meant at all.

    It might be helpful to know that AoF 3 and 4 were originally linked. It read:

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

    4: These are namely 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.

    Talmage changed the wording (with permission of the 1st Presidency of course) because we no longer called faith and repentance “ordinances” and prefered the term “principles” instead. I also suspect they wanted to leave room for a broader view of the word “salvation” that included exaltation and temple ordinances, but that’s just a guess.

    In short, yes, faith is a work. Yes, repentance is a work. Yes, baptism is a work. Yes, you can’t be “saved” in the Celestial Kingdom without doing these “works.”

  138. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:10 am

    >>> I just don’t know if the majority of the members are as conscious as you would like them to be.

    Be a part of the solution. 🙂

    >>> but I do believe there has been some conditioning within the mormon culture that is detrimental to our spiritual understanding.

    Is there a religion out there that that wouldn’t have been a true statement about? If so, you should go join it. Oh, and take me, please.

  139. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Thanks, Bruce, for the assistance.

    Ammon, please let’s not get ridiculous here with the words. It is the Atonement that saves us, period. I don’t think you can dispute that. Our part of that, our small part is the obedience to the laws and ordnances.

    Bruce did a very good job explaining that.

  140. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Jeff,

    One way I tried approaching this with Born Again Christians was to point out that if they really believed in salvation by “grace alone” that salvation from spiritual death would be the same as salvation from physical death: it would just happen. You wouldn’t need to do anything, even accept Christ.

    This went over like a lead balloon. One tried to claim the resurrection wasn’t actually salvation from physical death (this despite my assurance from other Born Agains that they do indeed call the resurrection salvation from physical death.) I’m going to have to figure out a better way to get around their conditioning on this. Getting around conditioning is very hard. We are trapped by the words we use because we also use them to think. “Grace Alone” is a catch phrase that Born Agains do not want to give up, so statement like the above caused them to become defensive rather than really try to understand what I was saying.

  141. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 9:32 am

    #137 Bruce Nielson
    “Now you’re just playing word games.”

    I was just following your lead when you said repentance is work in an earlier post.

    #138 “Is there a religion out there that that wouldn’t have been a true statement about? If so, you should go join it. Oh, and take me, please.”

    I have said previously that there is no perfect religious organization out there and the LDS church is probably the best when it comes to principles of daily living, serving others, family unity, etc.

    #139 Jeff Spector
    “Let’s not get ridiculous here with the words.”

    I didn’t write the AoF. Go talk to JS about the words. Or Talmage or McConkie or the next prophet, seer, and revelator to trump those who came before. What was JS trying to say? I guess it depends on what day or year you are talking about. The JS theology of 1820 was certainly not the JS theology of 1830 or 1834 or 1844.

  142. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:42 am

    >>> The JS theology of 1820 was certainly not the JS theology of 1830 or 1834 or 1844.

    Well, we’re off topic now, but I beg to differ. Of course I can’t realistically respond to an accusation like this without, um, *a lot* of writing and evidence. And I don’t have time right now. 🙂 So for now, we’ll agree to disagree. Well, unless by “not the same theology” you mean he learned more… in which case you’re right…

    See http://mormonmatters.org/2008/02/11/the-book-of-mormon-paving-the-way-for-the-doctrine-covenants/ for an ealier discussion on this. But I have a lot more to say on this subject. This is one of my hobbies, to trace the things Joseph taught that he didn’t understand that ended up folding right into something he learned later. It’s cool stuff.

  143. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Bruce,

    I know we are off topic, but “What is the church?” encompasses a lot, especially JS. When you say he learned more, do you include shifting from monotheism to polytheism, when he supposedly encounter the “reality” of polytheism in the grove from the inception?

    I want to know this: If Joseph’s mission was to, in part, restore the plain and precious things removed or lost from the Bible by bringing forth the BoM, then why aren’t his “revelations” not more PLAIN? I feel many people have to twist themselves into an intellectual pretzel to allow themselves to continue to believe in JS and mormonism.

  144. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 10:20 am

    >>didn’t write the AoF. Go talk to JS about the words. Or Talmage or McConkie or the next prophet, seer, and revelator to trump those who came before. What was JS trying to say?>>

    Go talk to JS? I don’t recall having that ability. Besides, what is the point here? Show me where Joseph ever said we have to “Work our way to Heaven?” Other than that, misreading the AofF just doesn’t do it for me.

  145. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I’m getting back to this after much discussion, but let me add the following about grace and the Atonement and interpretations of perfection:

    I use the song lyrics (“little Lord Jesus no crying he makes” and He never got vexed when the game went wrong”) simply to illustrate the tendency for people (especially the Catholic twist on paganism that became popularized early on) to deny, in practical terms, His humanity – His mortal half. I also use them to highlight the way that “perfection” is interpreted now as opposed to in the scriptures themselves.

    Just to consider: There is a difference between “sin” and “transgression”. One is a willful choice; one is a mistake made in ignorance or without real choice. The latter “transgression”is MUCH broader than most people realize.

    As an example of something pretty serious but done in ignorance, think of a child born in a home where terrorism is taught as a way of life. Great rewards are promised for suicide death in the name of God. If that young boy grows up and carries out a suicide bombing that kills people, is his action a “sin” or a “transgression”? How can we really know for sure – seeing only the result and not what caused it? If he were mentally disabled, we would understand and allow for an exception. How can we be sure exactly what constitutes “mental disability” in God’s eyes?

    Another example – a very emotional one: We are commanded to abstain from sex with anyone who is not our spouse. In the case of rape, there is a sin (the one who rapes) AND there is a transgression (the one who is raped). The victim does not sin, even though the commandment truly is broken – since sex outside of marriage has occurred. The Atonement covers that “technical violation”, since it was not done intentionally or willfully. Therefore, the victim remains “clean” in the eyes of God.

    Now, turn to the example of Jesus. We know he was subject to the Fall because of his mother’s fallen status. This means that He inherited from her the ability to “sin”, but it also means He inherited from her the same type of weaknesses and inclinations and tendencies to “transgress” as we do from our mortal parents. ***This means that he very well might have had to go through the process of overcoming His “natural man” exactly like we do, while never “sinning”.***

    Have you ever considered that Jesus was acting in His role as Redeemer not just for everyone else, but also for Himself? Lest I be called a heretic, remember, I also believe He never “sinned” – acted in opposition to what He understood and knew. I’m just saying that we are not held accountable for our transgressions; the Atonement paid for them. Therefore, I believe, the Atonement also paid for His transgressions, as well – those “innocent” mistakes He made as a child and as He was learning and growing from grace to grace. He probably was a more naturally obedient child than most, but I think it’s instructive that, like other prophets, He was not accepted “in His own country” – by those who watched Him grow up as just a normal child in their eyes.

    When He condescended to come to earth, He agreed to do so in a way that put Him in subjection to the Fall – so He could experience EVERY aspect of mortality that we do. I believe that in doing so there had to be a way provided for *all* of us* to be freed from the effects of the Fall – including He who condescended to become as one of us and become subject to those effects.

    In the end, I return to how “perfection” was applied under the Law of Moses (and in Lucifer’s plan) – never making a mistake and following everything with exactness, generally at threat of punishment. I then look at Matthew 5:48 and see that Jesus defined it as “complete, finished, fully developed” – covering lots of mistakes by allowing for repentance and focusing on spiritual growth toward an eventual completion of character. If we understand this difference, I believe it can change the way we look at our children and our friends and our fellow saints and our leaders – **and ourselves**, making us much more able to “have joy” in this life and in the life to come.

    We need to quit using “perfect” the way the world uses it and start using it the way that our Savior and Redeemer did.

  146. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Jeff, a friendly word of advice offered by someone who has had to learn what I’m about to say the hard way:

    A gentle answer is almost always better than one that carries a tone of confrontation.

    Ammon Rye, a different frienddly word of advice:

    I agree that some members tie themselves up in knots over this type of discussion, but I don’t think it]s because of JS and his teachings. I know way too many people who are able to reconcile everything that is out there without tying themselves in knots. Each person is bound, to a degree, by their own natural personality and perspective and upbringing and blind spots. None of us are immune to that, including out prophets.

  147. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Ammon Rye, I stand corrected. This isn’t off topic. What this is is a situation where it’s far easier to throw stones than to explain comprehensively what I believe (See http://mormonmatters.org/2008/02/21/the-improbable-versus-the-nearly-impossible-the-existence-of-jesus/)

    In other words, I can easily respond to your proposed concerns as I’ve had plenty of time to think them out and I have, what I feel, are great explanations to your questions. But those explanations take a lot more effort than asking the question.

    Let me ask you something, Ammon. Do you want answers to your questions? I mean, are you pretty happy with where you are at in your understanding of Joseph Smith and the restoration? If you are, no answer I give you will matter. For you to get inside my head and understand how I see it requires you to want to get inside my head and understand how I see it. And to be honest, that probably requires you to have incentive. Incentive like actually wanting to see the teachings of the Mormon church in a more postive light (compared to how you currently see it, that is.)

    Were Joseph Smith’s teachings plain? Absolutely they were. Plain as day… oh, unless you meant beyond the basics of salvation (See http://mormonmatters.org/2008/02/05/the-book-of-mormon-keystone/ ). When it comes to basics, you can’t beat Joseph Smith’s teachings for plainness. When it comes to profound truths beyond human comprehension, well, you still can’t be Joseph Smith for plainness… but only relatively so. It’s not possible to teach an incomprehensible idea with complete plainness, so we are forced to wrap our minds around it by approximating it. (See http://mormonmatters.org/2008/01/19/what-is-mormon-doctrine/) But I’d gladly compare our plainness in the Mormon church to, say, Trinity doctrine theology any day of the week. There is no comparison. Yes, Joseph Smith was very plain whenever it was possible to be so.

    Also, your ability to understand his teachings depend heavily on your desire to understand them. You used the example of monotheism and polytheism. But frankly Mormons do not characterize themselves as polytheist and no informed person would do so. The very fact that you use such a characterization implies a certain level of hostility. The doctrine of the plurality of gods is not synonymous to polytheism any more than the orthodox-Christian doctrine of Trinity is synonymous with polytheism. (See http://mormonmatters.org/2008/03/04/religions-in-their-own-words-the-morality-of-misrepresenting-other-religions/)

    If you read through my posts, you’ll have the potential to learn a lot about how I have learned to understand Mormon theology without hitting all the pot holes you have. But you really really have to want to understand or you just won’t. That’s the way things are, I’m afraid. If you are happy with where you are at, you won’t want to change and you’ll want to see Mormonism as confusing. So you will.

    Also, if you were really interested in learning how I view Mormonism from a (hopefully) faithful point of view, I’d be happy to go off line with you and discuss it in depth allowing you to ask questions. But as I said, you have to want to understand or it will do no good and it would just be a waste of both of our time.

  148. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I need to put on my glasses. There are too many mistakes in that last comment. Sorry.

  149. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Bruce,

    Of course I am hostile. In a relatively short time, my life-long investment in mormonism crashed. I’ve tried to take John Dehlin’s (and others) words about remaining after being disaffected to heart, but it’s difficult “to get back home again” (my apologies to Lennon and McCartney) when there are so many historical, doctrinal, and administrative problems to deal with.

    I really don’t know how to be teachable in my current state. I would rejoice if the “truth” WAS The Truth. I appreciate your offer to go offline; maybe someday.

  150. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    >>> Of course I am hostile. In a relatively short time, my life-long investment in mormonism crashed

    This may sound strange, but I’m glad you said this.

    And believe it or not, I understand your pain. Directly. I am not sympathetic, I’m empathetic.

    If you ever decide that you’d like to take a more believing course than permanant partial disaffection as John advocates, let me know. But a choice like this is solemn and serious and ultimately yours.

  151. Kent
    March 18, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I just wanted to link what I feel is the most important presentation given on interpreting spiritual experiences. In his presentation Spiritual Experiences as the Basis for Belief and Commitment Blake Ostler replied to the question, “What should you conclude when your spiritual experience conflicts with logical and tangible evidence?”

    A: This is a very good question. First I would suggest this, there’s nothing more immediate than your own experience. Only you know what your experience is. If it conflicts with logic? Trust me, I’m very good at logic and I know there are a lot of ways to do logic to make it conflict with just about anything I can come up with, that’s what I do for a living {laughter}. And tangible evidence? We don’t know what evidence is until we have all of our basic premises and axioms in place to begin with. You see, when I see through the lens of faith what counts as evidence is different than when I don’t see through the lens of faith.

    In fact, I found something very interesting among people who have lost testimonies. Almost invariably they will say, “I had a testimony and then I decided, ‘I’m going to take a look at this without relying on spiritual experiences or the way that I see things when I trust the Spirit. I’m just going to see what logic or evidence provides.'” The fact is that evidence isn’t self-interpreting, and logic is only a very useful tool for arriving – and I am very “Humean” about logic. All logic is ex post facto to prove what we already feel is true; how’s that?

  152. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Ammon,

    I am also sorry for your situation. But what I cannot understand is how you cannot just see the whole point of the Gospel in favor of some issue with history, administration or some doctrinal issue. Those seem such a small point to me in comparison to the great grandeur of the Savior and His Gospel and our true purpose on this earth.

    It is as if you have laid before you a wonderful sumptuous feast and it is all ruined because your water glass has a chip in it.

    I try to understand and put myself in a position to see your’s and other’s issues, but nothing seems important enough to abandon the idea of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer who atoned for our sins that me can live with Him again. Everything else takes a back seat to that.

    While there are many things in and about the church that disturb me, I just don’t want to let it get in the way of my salvation.

    Help enlighten me here, please.

  153. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    My two cents’ worth: It would be best for Bruce and Ammon to take this off-line. It appears that they are a perfect match to have this conversation, and I think it is a conversation best had privately. That would allow it to be MUCH deeper and more personal than in a public forum like this – and I just get the feeling that would be best in this particular case.

  154. Doug G.
    March 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Ray wrote:

    “Just to echo Hawkgrrrl, JSH 1:19 is probably the most frequently and badly misquoted and misinterpreted verse in all of our canon – both by critics AND members. When you stick strictly to the words that actually are recorded and assign only the meanings that actually are attached to the words, it is FAR less offensive than generally believed. Of course, it upsets those who disagree, but it is not “harsh” at all. Compared to what is said about us by our critics, it’s downright gentle. “

    Now you’ve gone and done it. Both you and Hawkgrrrl don’t believe in the story of the First Vision or you’re deliberately twisting the message to win the argument. I guess its par for the course and why I have problems with the church. The whole purpose of missionaries teaching the First Vision story in the very first and second concept of the “C” discussion was to firmly set the foundation of the investigators church being wrong and therefore the need for a restoration. How you can twist something as simple as this message is beyond me…

    From the “C” discussion page C-11:
    Mr. Brown, do you remember what Joseph Smith’s question was when he went to the grove of trees to pray?
    Response
    Answering his question, * the Savior told Joseph Smith that he should join none of the churches and explained why. He said they had a form of godliness but taught the doctrines of men and not of God. Mr. Brown, how does this help you to understand why the churches today teach so many conflicting doctrines?

    From the notes on page C-10 and C-12:
    (If negative, try to understand his feelings. You might use some of these questions:)
    -Do you feel, Mr. Brown, that it would have been wise for Joseph Smith to join a church that did not teach the true doctrines of Christ?
    -Do you feel that all churches can be teaching only the truth, even when they teach conflicting ideas?
    Mr. Brown, we didn’t come into your home to offend you nor to argue. We came with a divine commission to give you this sacred message. We would like to share with you and your family some other important things that the Savior told Joseph Smith. May we?
    (If absolutely necessary, go to the Truth vs. Error discussion and give the section referring to the Apostasy. This should not be the normal procedure. Go to concept three when you feel they are ready.)

    Ray, you and Hawkgrrrl would have much more credibility if you would own your doctrines instead of this constant dodge to lawyer up what was said. Intelligent people see right through the smoke screen…

  155. March 18, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I see your point here Doug, but I see theirs too. So you disagree. But the “intelligent people” comment was unnecessary.

    Thanks for the continuing discussion, however. 🙂

  156. Doug G.
    March 18, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Sorry, that was kind-of a cheap shot although what they did goes to the heart of why I find myself a NOM these days…

  157. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Doug G,

    Doug, the fact that a religious belief system (i.e. a religion) believes itself to be right does not make it any more or less judgmental than every other religion out there — including your own personal (religious) beliefs.

    Doug, if this is a problem, you are guilty of the same with the post you just made. You are clearly proclaiming your own beliefs to be superior to Ray’s and Hawkgrrls (and mine, and every believing Mormons.) You are clearly claiming that our beliefs are incorrect and your own to be correct. What you are doing is of the same nature and kind and even the same degree that you are opposing in Mormonism. If we are guilty, you are equally guilty, for you are doing the very thing you are accusing us of.

    If this isn’t a problem to proclaim what you believe is the truth and to do missionary work amongst believing Mormons to what you see as a superior way, than Mormons believing God restored Christianity to Joseph Smith and so they have greater truth isn’t a problem either. I do not see how you could ever reconcile this position you are taking logically.

    For the record, I believe all religions/belief systems can and should teach that they are right and others, in so far as they disagree, are wrong. This is the only way to hold a serious discussion of beliefs and to let truth rise to the top. You seem to me to be claiming the right to do this yourself but labeling Mormons judgmental if they do exactly what you are doing.

  158. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Doug, I have to also add that you did misrepresent their position. No one is claiming that Mormons don’t believe that in so far as their beliefs and another religions beliefs differ that they believe theirs is right. (Parse that carefully, for it’s true of all religions and must be always true for there to in fact be two religions.) And if those diference exist, let me assure you that the people who have the difference will think they matter — as you clearly do here too.

    While we are on the subject, I feel you are misrepresenting Mormon beliefs in another way. Mormons are strongly universalist. The Christian religions they preach to (that you are defending) are not.

    Compare two religions:

    Mormons –

    Believe all Christians religion they preach too teach good things and because of that all will go to the very heaven they believe they are going to. Believe that by teaching other Christian religions (or other religions) about additional truths revealed to a modern prophet that these people can learn about a higher degree of glory and a higher reward that they didn’t think was possible and then attain to it.

    Other Christians –

    Believe all that don’t believe in their religious belief system go to hell forever, including Mormons.

    You are claiming the the Mormons are more judgmental here. I don’t get it. I don’t even see where you are coming from to be honest.

  159. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Doug: This is going to be difficult to say gently, but I will try.

    You said, “Both you and Hawkgrrrl don’t believe in the story of the First Vision or you’re deliberately twisting the message to win the argument. I guess its par for the course and why I have problems with the church.”

    1) I believe the First Vision deeply and passionately, and I believe completely in the central message it taught Joseph. The last phrases, especially, contain the most succinct summary of the apostasy I have EVER read from anyone.

    2) If you think I am twisting it just because it doesn’t match what you think or have heard others say, give me specifics – not just a broadside swipe with no detail.

    So, what EXACTLY do you find objectionable about my comment, and how in the world do you read my comment as denying the apostasy or claiming that a restoration was not necessary? Give me an exact quote that even implies that, and I will respond. It just isn’t there.

    In a nutshell, I said, “God told Joseph not to join any church because they were wrong and their creeds were abominable, but he said NOTHING about the motivation of the believers and did NOT speak disparagingly of them as people.” I backed that up by including the actual, dictionary definitions of the words He spoke. I couldn’t care less if it matches what others have said about it; what I care about is how it fits the actual words that Joseph recorded. Before you call me a liar or claim I am why you can’t accept Mormonism, at least be specific in why you feel that way.

    Again, give me an ACTUAL QUOTE from my comment that bothers you.

  160. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Doug, I need to say one more thing, and it’s going to be even harder to say in the way I want to convey it. Please, read this slowly and carefully and with a sincere effort to understand what I am trying to say.

    “you and Hawkgrrrl would have much more credibility if you would own your doctrines instead of this constant dodge to lawyer up what was said. Intelligent people see right through the smoke screen…”

    There simply is no way I can address this adequately. It is the quintessential dodge, masked as a complaint about me dodging something. There was NO DODGE WHATSOEVER in what I actually wrote. NONE. I took a verse and laid out what the words themselves say – by parsing strictly what they actually mean. That is the very opposite of “dodging”; it literally is “owning” the actual statement itself and what it means.

    By calling my comment a “smoke screen” that “intelligent people see right through” you avoided completely any need to actually address what I wrote. You DODGED it totally by disparaging it and not addressing it at all.

    I have experienced this same tactic (subconscious, unconscious and conscious) for decades, and it drives me nuts. I have spent years discussing these issues with people of every religion, denomination and perspective imaginable; I have studied theology and comparative religion formally; I have worked HARD to understand others’ views and grant them the courtesy of taking their statements seriously. I have not done so to be dismissed casually just because my views aren’t consistent with a stereotype held by someone that isn’t presented in a clear and reasoned way.

    If you can give me some constructive criticism, I will respect it; if not, I have had these conversations too many hundreds of times to care to have it with no solid critique.

  161. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Doug,

    First of all, I do very much believe in the First Vision (you have to go way back in this post to see where I stated that). I merely corrected your misquote of the first vision in JS-H (when I “lawyered up” and twisted something). I do believe the word choice is significant, and he did tell JS not to join any of the churches; he just didn’t call “religions” an abomination.

    “The whole purpose of missionaries teaching the First Vision story in the very first and second concept of the “C” discussion was to firmly set the foundation of the investigators church being wrong and therefore the need for a restoration.” I strongly disagree that this is “the whole purpose” of sharing the First Vision. Sharing the First Vision illustrates many concepts – the nature of God, God’s love, answer to prayer, and obviously the restoration. On my mission there was no C discussion and we did not have the level of Q&A you describe above; the first vision was the second discussion of six. We mostly taught Catholics, and the discussion usually focused on revelation being ongoing, God speaking to the humble (and we would encourage them to pray about what we were teaching), and living prophets. The discussion might have gone differently with a protestant investigator; there weren’t any where I was.

  162. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    #152 Jeff Spector
    “…but nothing seems important enough to abandon the idea of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer who atoned for our sins that [we] can live with Him again. Everything else takes a back seat to that.”

    Who says I’ve abandoned Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer? By “losing my religion” (my apologies to Michael Stipe) I’ve gained a deeper understanding and a more personal relationship with the one person who has given everything for me. He lives and I look to Him to be my living Prophet, Priest, and King.

    What I’ve abandoned is any faith in man (i.e., Joseph Smith, Jr., Brigham Young, Spencer W. Kimball, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson). If I can’t trust these prophets, seers, and revelators to get their story straight and be consistent, then I have to make sure my faith is anchored in Jesus.

  163. Doug G.
    March 18, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Ray, Bruce

    I think if you re-read post 128 and 129 again in perspective of what I wrote in 119, I think you’ll get the gist of what ticked me off about the lawyer type answer Ray came up with. I have no idea what position you think I’m taking here that is so superior to yours. I have merely tried to show that we as Mormons are very offensive in our efforts to convert the world. I don’t know if we still use the JS story in teaching the first discussion or not. If we do, and we do it the same way I did it 25 years ago, then I don’t see how you can argue with those kinds of facts. If you’re agreeing with the First Vision message and somehow don’t think that people of other faiths should be offended. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine someone coming to you with a story about a miraculous vision of Mary who told the world that the Mormon Church is teaching false doctrines and their beliefs are an abomination before her.

    One more thought while you’re all riled up. This site used to be open to some fairly passionate discussion from both sides of the equation. If you folks have decided to make it another MADB type blog then God bless you. It certainly didn’t start out that way and I for one am not thrilled with the direction it’s taken of late. If my insights and perspective isn’t appreciated then I bid you all good day.

    Just one more thing-
    “Doug, I need to say one more thing, and it’s going to be even harder to say in the way I want to convey it. Please, read this slowly and carefully and with a sincere effort to understand what I am trying to say. “

    I think this fairly offensive statement makes us even…

  164. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Doug, I am asking for passionate discussion. I just want to know exactly why you objected to my comment. You still haven’t answered that question. You called it “lawyerly” – when all I did was lay out what the verse actually says.

    If you don’t want to show me how what I said was wrong, that’s fine. If you want to continue to dodge my very simple request, that’s fine. If you can dish insults (and there is NO way to deny that’s what you did) and not respond to my attempt to understand why, that’s fine. Just please understand why we can’t understand how you can see us as the judgmental ones.

    Again, all I asked is that you go to my comment and show me how it is wrong. How is that an objectionable request that would make you leave? I just don’t get it.

    How is what I wrote incorrect?

  165. March 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    164 comments? I dont know how you do it adamf…You get great responses whereever you blog mate 🙂

  166. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    >>> Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine someone coming to you with a story about a miraculous vision of Mary who told the world that the Mormon Church is teaching false doctrines and their beliefs are an abomination before her

    If a person sincerely believed this, then I would never find it offensive. How could I ever be offended by it? It’s just them explaining their honest beliefs. I would be offended if they didn’t tell me what they honestly believe.

    Doug, I hate to see you go if you feel you must. I hope you will reconsider. I’ve really appreciated your discussion and point of view.

    But perhaps it’s not possible to have honest and open discussion between differing points of view. I guess I fear this is the case. I’ve always feared that this was the case.

    In the end, I suspect that people do get riled up over the mere fact that someone else thinks they are wrong. This is your point I think, and I think you might be right. We, as humans, do not like to be told we are wrong, even in a really nice way. But what other choice is there if we have mutually exclusive beliefs? How could we ever find the best belief if we didn’t allow open discussion?

    This was the point I was makng to you. You find the Mormon approach to prostelying judgmental. But this is a belief of yours and it is inconsistent for you to call Mormons judgmental but not yourself judgmental.

    It’s interesting that many Christians do in fact find the 1st vision story very offensive. I have a Born Again Christian friend that once told me that as far as he is concerned, Mormons “attacked Born Again Christains first” with that Joseph Smith story.

    And yet, he has no problem at all saying my religion is an abomination before God and the doctrine of demons.

    I need to be blunt here: it’s wrong to insist on a different standard for oneself than for others. This is immoral. My friend is dead wrong to act offended for Mormons believing something that is no more offensive than what he believes about Mormons. (I’d say more offensive since Mormons believe he will attain to the very reward he seeks.) It is unfortunate he was not able to realize his hypocrisy in this and accept that Mormons do in fact have a much right to exist as a religion as much as his religion does.

    I do NOT find it offensive that he believes I’m going to hell nor teaching the doctrine of demons. This is merely the truth of what he believes. I DO find it offensive that he tries to hold himself to a different standard that he holds me.

    And the Mormon religion, as a restoration of Christianity, could NEVER exist except under the condition that all other forms of Christianity are in some way wrong enough that God needed to restore it again. I’m afraid that if Mormons didn’t believe in the 1st vision story, they would have no grounds for existence at all. What would be the point of having a restoration of Christianity if it was unneeded?

    I can’t help that my existence offends my friend. I literally can’t help that. It’s something that he has to deal with, for my only other choice is to cease to exist as a belief system. (Which, to be frank, is what he is really saying: that he will be offended until I stop believing that which is different than what he believes.)

    Doug, I honestly see no way through this mine field but for everyone to stop being offended when people believe something different from them.

    Yes, I would agree that it’s different if there is some sort of misrepresentation, mocking, or lying going on. I find it very offensive when Mormons act like Born Again Christians think they can sin as much as they want once they are “saved.” But I also find it very offensive when other Christians imply that Mormons believe Satan is a begotten Son of God in the same sense Jesus is.

  167. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Doug,

    One more thought. (I hope you realize I’m trying to engage in dialog respectfully here.) Is there such a religion out there that isn’t offensive in it’s attempts to convert or even just to believe?

    I think of the Bahai faith as an example. They tell me that they believe “all religions are true.” But in reality what they actually mean is that all relgions have truth that can bring about their views of salvation. (Which, note, Mormons believe that too.) In fact the Bahai very much believe they are the one true religion. Their views of Christ would be very offensive to a Christian. Their views of Mohomed are very offensive to Muslims. Their views of Budah very offensive to Buddists.

    But then again, the Christian views of Moses and Jews are very offensive to Jews. The Muslim views of Christ and Christians are very offensive to Christians. The Christian views of Muslisms are very offensive to Muslims.

    As I said before, it’s time we all grew up and stopped being offended just because someone has a belief different than ours and thinks we are wrong.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to come up with a way to explain objectively why Mormons are “more offensive” or “more judgmental” than every other religion in existence.

    Doug, I hope I have not driven you away be coming on too strong. I’ve worked hard to keep a respectful tone as best as I know how. But I need to be true to my beliefs to and I need to be free to openly talk about them just as you do.

  168. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    From “Preach My Gospel”, page 31, Lesson 1 “The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” the order and names of the subsections in this lesson are: “God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father”; “The Gospel Blesses Families”; “Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel in Every Dispensation”; “The Savior’s Earthy Ministry and Atonement” (a very short section); “The Great Apostasy”; “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith” (by far the longest section – “PRAISE TO THE MAN!”); “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (oh look, there’s a picture of Joseph and one of his scribes translating the plates; no sheet between them, no urim and thummim held in bows, no breastplate, and the plates are open in front of Joseph and he appears to be reading the reformed Egyptian as a man might read a printed book…and the church owns the copyright for this image…I wonder what Russel M. Nelson and David Whitmer might say about the absence of a hat with a stone found while digging a well in the bottom of it with Joseph’s face buried in the hat?); and the final section “Pray to Know the [TRUTH] through the Holy Ghost”.

    Let me share two sentences from the last section about KNOWING truth through the Holy Ghost.
    First sentence, first paragraph: “This message of the Restoration is either true or it is not.”
    Last sentence, first paragraph: “No one can [KNOW] spiritual truths without prayer.” Really? Doesn’t D&C 29:34 say that ALL things unto the Lord are spiritual and in D&C 77:2 that temporal things in likeness of spiritual? So the fact that we all exist is temporal and spiritual. Do I need to pray to know that I exist?

    The New Testament mentions a number of times that the just live by faith. Not by KNOWING. Pray about that.

  169. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Doug, one more point:

    I am not offended at all by what you have written here. I have heard FAR worse too many times to get a wedgie over this. (I was called a serpent once, for example, by an evangelical co-worker.)

    I just want to know exactly what I said in comment #129 that set you off – that was “twisted” and disingenuous and somehow denied the centrality and power of the First Vision. I honestly don’t know.

  170. March 18, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Thanks for the challenge, Missionary Stu. But you forgot to BRT… are you going to do follow up? lol.

    More seriously, I don’t agree with you on some of your points, but that’s okay! Cool eh! I DO agree that “the Church” should print ostensibly more accurate portrayals of the translation.

    Steven #165 – Thank you, thank you. What can I say? I’d like to thank God, John Gault, Ammon Rye (Ham on Rye?), Doug G., Bruce, hawkgrrrl, ray, and even missionary stu… Really though, I’m glad this conversation has continued, meandered, and occasionally come back to the original topic.

    Doug G – You’re still welcome here from me, and I think from everyone else. There are limits to this method, but I hope that we can turn towards each other here rather than away–we each bring unique insights and perspectives, and it is certainly okay that we feel different about things. Let us all press on!

  171. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    #168 – To borrow from Doug, “you’re deliberately twisting the message to win the argument.” According to the implications of your comment, the section on Christ appears to be abnormally short, while the section on the Restoration appears to be unjustifiably longer than any other.

    I am looking at “Preach My Gospel” as I type this response. The smallest section is “The Gospel Blesses Families” (12 lines); the next smallest is “God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father” (13 lines); the next smallest is “Pray to Know …” (4 full lines and 14 lines that are 1/2-2/3 line each — essentially the same length as the other two); next is “The Savior’s Earthly Ministry and Atonement” (14 full lines and 9 half-lines); followed by “The Book of Mormon …” (12 full and 16 half); “The Great Apostasy” (24 full lines); “Heavenly Father Reveals …” (34 full and 12 half); finally, “The Restoration . . .” (46 full and 15 half). In actual size, the longest is about 1 1/3 pages, including a picture and extensive quotes; the shortest is about 1/3 page. In “unfamiliarity to the hearer”, the four longest are the most unfamiliar; the most familiar are the three shortest, with the section about the Savior being the longest of those – almost identical in length to the section on the Book of Mormon.

    I am a former school teacher. If you are introducing a new concept to a student, a good teacher ALWAYS will spend more time on that new concept than on one with which the student already is familiar.

    Straw man argument, dude, even though my approach can be condemned as “lawyerly”.

  172. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Sorry, should have been “the most familiar are the four [not three] shortest.”

  173. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    It’s difficult to have any kind of dialog with you AdamF if you don’t express the specific things you disagree with me about.

  174. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    #173 – Wow, Missionary Stu and I are saying the EXACT same thing from opposite ends of the spectrum. Hos cool is that? *grin*

    Fwiw, I also wish the picture of the translation process was accurate – but, since there were multiple methods, I’m not sure which one I would include. Probably the hat.

  175. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    #170 AdamF
    Did it really take you this long to decipher my nom de plume? However long it took, you go it! Ham on Rye is the correct answer! Johnny, tell him what he’s won!

  176. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Ray, There may have been “multiple methods” written about, but I don’t recall any of them stating that the records were open in front of any scribe. The scribe was either behind a partition or the plates were covered or the plates were kept in an enclosure nearby, but not actually in front of Joseph and of course there’s the wellstone in the hat.

    But here is the rub for me: JS-History in the Pearl of Great Price says the urim and thummim were prepared for the work of translating the plates. I know they were supposedly taken away for awhile, but why have plates, bows, stones, breatplates prepared for translating the record if they are not even necessary for translation. In other words, if God can give the words to Joseph with out the physical objects, why create the objects?

    Hey Adam, when it comes to going off topic, Ammon can’t touch me.

  177. March 18, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    “It’s difficult to have any kind of dialog with you AdamF if you don’t express the specific things you disagree with me about.” True. Sorry about that.

    Here goes:
    “Do I need to pray to know that I exist?” This was probably rhetorical, but maybe it is a good question, in the context you put it in. Maybe we do need to pray to know that we exist spiritually, if we’re not sure. That sounds a little funny, but I mean it sincerely.

    “The New Testament mentions a number of times that the just live by faith. Not by KNOWING.” An appeal to verse(s) of scripture while discounting verse(s)? There are many seemingly contradictory verses in the Bible itself (not to mention all scripture/teachings) that just taking a group of them doesn’t work for me in this argument. For example, “God is a spirit” and “body of flesh and bones as ye see me have” can be used individually to help an argument. One must consider both of them though.

    Please forgive me for the momentary helium balloon sucking. I felt that the conversation was getting a little touchy and I wanted to repair it with a little humor. Maybe I’m uncomfortable with conflict?

    Either way, I hope the points I made above add to this conversation. I am eager to hear more of your thoughts. 🙂

  178. March 18, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Ham-on #175 – I began to suspect somewhere around comment #19, but didn’t want to say anything, you know, let some other people figure it out first–didn’t want to spoil it.

    Stu – you do have the powers of threadjacking! (Are you a mutant? Your X-Man power?) This thread has taken on it’s own life form, I love it! Anything is welcome! (well, not quite everything. I may regret saying that.)

  179. Kent
    March 18, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Is everybody just going to ignore Blake’s article here?

    “Q: If the experience of the Spirit gives us knowledge (say, that God is real), then it follows that what I know is true. Knowledge entails justified true belief, so how could I possibly be wrong about what I know to be true as you seem to suggest?

    A: Well, first of all, knowledge as justified true belief is a very difficult thing, because if anything is justified, that means it has to be true. There are long philosophical arguments about justified true belief. How could you be wrong about what you know? You can’t, but you could be wrong about what you think you know; that’s the simple answer. {laughter}”

  180. Doug G.
    March 18, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Ray wrote:
    “Doug, I am asking for passionate discussion. I just want to know exactly why you objected to my comment. You still haven’t answered that question. You called it “lawyerly” – when all I did was lay out what the verse actually says.”

    Ray, Do you believe the point I was trying to make in post 119 about the First Vision story being offensive to most non-members? Can you see that if 30K missionaries preach 30 times per week, as I did, adds up to around 46 million people a year being told that their creeds and basic beliefs are an abomination. In my opinion that dwarfs any other Christian religions efforts to tell Mormons how biblically they’re not Christian. When you take what seems horribly offensive to me and try to say, as you did in 129, that it seems gentle and fine when you actually look at the words, I call that lawyered up. The message was clear and nothing about it set very well with most of the people I tried to teach the principle to. Perhaps your experience was different…

    Look, I have nothing against you personally and although I think your part of the group think of Mormonism, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a good discussion without talking past each other.

  181. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Adam, The point of my first post was to answer Doug about what the current missionary lessons cover in lesson. Of course I took the oppotunity to add some commentary.

    The line from that book that reads: “No one can know spiritual truths without prayer.” seems a little too broad and ignores manifestations of the spirit in the absence of prayer. (They do happen you know.)

    I guess whoever wrote and approved this book as a missionary tool, just wants investigators to get some kind of answer in the context of the way mormon beliefs are presented. I don’t know.

  182. Nm Tony
    March 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Coming in waaay late, but…

    First off, I agree with Bruce when he says that every religion has there own ways to offend and that Mormonism has no monopoly on the “our church is true, join it if you want eternal salvation” motto. I have moved beyond the supernatural belief, so I really have no stake in the argument. Nor do I think that my arguments are better than anyone elses; they just fit me and my way of thinking. Anyway…

    Hmm, Ray,

    After reading over your commentary from 129, I have to agree that you are kind of playing a semantical game, giving the whole “their creeds are corrupt/abominations” a cushiony slant. Creeds by definition are beliefs and doctrines; whereas corrupt means change or debase by making errors or unintentional alterations, in harsher language it can mean morally depraved, or even putrid. Then the idea that abomination is some how soften by the word abhorent seems naive, if you are in fact suggesting that abomination really isn’t all that bad because you’ve inserted “defiled,” which means desecrated or profaned (something sacred). Now, I agree that some evangelical folk tend to be a bit more vitriolic when it comes to their evaluation of Mormonism; however, calling another’s religion and their “professors” corrupt, abominable, abhorent, defiled, and hypocritical is still rather offensive. The general rhetoric of the church has soften with regards to other denominations, but the LDS still hold to the idea that we are right and they are wrong (or in softer terms, less right). That may not be true for many on this board, but it is definitely the vibe I get from many members around my area.

    So, again, I don’t see it any more offensive than any other religion’s attempts to tell everybody else how wrong they are.

  183. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    M Stu, I know this answer will drive some people up a wall, but I have no idea – and I don’t really care. They were used occasionally and not usually. I’m fine with that – since I absolutely love the finished product.

    I see it much like the beheading of Laban. Why include that account (those translation details) and cause such heartburn among many, when it would seem so much more convincing if that story (those details) were left unrecorded? I can understand completely people being concerned about these things and not being able to accept the overall story because of them. I really can, which is why I don’t get offended when people don’t accept it. However, I can’t understand charges of nefarious and clandestine “concealing” going on, since those details were recorded meticulously. (not that you made those charges – just riffing on a theme I’ve heard many, many times)

  184. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    #178 AdamF
    “Ham-on #175 – I began to suspect somewhere around comment #19, but didn’t want to say anything, you know, let some other people figure it out first–didn’t want to spoil it.”

    That’s cool. I’m glad I didn’t go with Ammon Wheat. I think that might have been TOO obvious.

  185. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Ray, you are “lawyerly” but believe me when I say I like you that way. Keep it up.

    Missionary Stu,

    If you can, with a straight face, tell me that you put this kind of effort into correcting art like Washington crossing the Delaware, or, um, any artisic representation of, um, anything, than you have a point. Otherwise you are straining at gnats.

    By the way, I’ve seen several DAMU representations of Joseph sticking his face in a hat and unless Joseph really and truly dictated the Book of Mormon with his mouth in a hat, I’m afraid the DAMU representations aren’t any more historically accurate. They are using artisitic license, of course, to make a point, as are the more traditional Mormon artwork. I would appreciate it if you’d at least equally critize “the other side.”

    And would it really be any harder to make fun of use of the Nephite interpreters? How hard would it be to draw a funny looking picture of Joseph looking through really large spectacles? I’m really don’t understand the DAMU fixation with hats. It’s just strange, my friend.

    The truth is that it would be pretty easy to take a bit of artistic license and draw a picture of Joseph translating from a seer stone, with or without a hat, (which by the way the sources only say sometimes was in a hat when Joseph’s eyes got strained) that would be respectful of Mormon beliefs. It’s time to put the hat fixation aside and get some new material. This one’s been done and it’s a dead horse.

  186. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    >>> First off, I agree with Bruce… So, again, I don’t see it any more offensive than any other religion’s attempts to tell everybody else how wrong they are.

    NM Tony, thank you for saying that. I am probably fixated on a point here (just like Stu and his hat 😛 Just kidding) but learning to be consistent in application of critism matters a lot to me. (Not that I’m perfect at it, by any means, but I really try.)

  187. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    nmTony, that’s my point precisely – that “I don’t see it any more offensive than any other religion’s attempts to tell everybody else how wrong they are.”

    This has been said already, but it is worth repeating:

    The context of the overall theology is important. Mormonism teaches that good, sincere Christians will inherit the Terrestrial Kingdom – along with MANY good, sincere Mormons. Our description of that kingdom is an unimaginable degree of glory – a reward – a “rest in the presence of God, the Son.” That is exactly what those good, sincere Christians claim as their reward. Therefore, **we agree with them** – and it is in that light that I interpret JSH 1:19. I choose the more gentle interpretation specifically because it matches better the overall theology we preach. Meanwhile, many other Christians condemn me to everlasting torture in the bowels of Hell. Seriously, which one is harsher and which one is gentler? That’s my point.

    Fwiw, I think other Christians have a hard time seeing the verse as I do, explicitly because their eternal perspective is much more black and white (Heaven and Hell) than mine. They see two alternatives, so if THEY call my creeds an abomination, they have no alternative other than to assume that I will end up in Hell as a result. Therefore, they project that meaning on JSH 1:19 and read it as harshly as it would be within their theological perspective.

  188. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Ray said: “They see two alternatives, so if THEY call my creeds an abomination, they have no alternative other than to assume that I will end up in Hell as a result. Therefore, they project that meaning on JSH 1:19 and read it as harshly as it would be within their theological perspective.”

    Ray, this is a really good point. I think you are right. I think it’s hard for people to translate beliefs across religious boundaries. We could all use more practice doing this.

  189. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    #183 Ray
    “I see it much like the beheading of Laban. Why include that account (those translation details) and cause such heartburn among many, when it would seem so much more convincing if that story (those details) were left unrecorded?”

    In your answer post to Stu, you kind of stepped into something I think would make for an interesting entries for one of the permabloggers to tackle.

    Nephi was commanded to kill Laban. Nephi resisted. Nephi reasoned that there were three reasons he could think of to justify doing it. From 1 NE 4:11 “Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.” We don’t know if these thoughts were put into his mind or if he came up with them himself. We also don’t know if he continued to hesitate, but he was told the following in verse 13: “Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” This last justification is a very utilitarian viewpoint.

    So here is the interesting part (at least I think so): Would Nephi be justified in offing his brothers Laman and Lemuel for the same reasons to off Laban? Nephi’s brothers did physical harm to him and possibly sought to take Nephi’s life. They certainly valued their riches more than living in the desert or giving them up to Laban and they definitely had trouble with keeping the commandments. But here’s the kicker: since Laman and Lemuel were the genesis of a nation (recent BoM Introduction re-writes not withstanding) dwindling in unbelief, better they should die (Laman at least since the scripture says better that ONE man die) then cause so many North/Central/South American Indians to walk in darkness.

  190. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Bruce, Artist license aside (which is el toro poo poo btw) The LDS Church owns the copyrights and they use the images to promote an idea that is not even close to accurate. Go to http://www.josephsmith.net, a chruch-owned website, and tell me if you see one image of Joseph Smith doing a face plant in a stovepipe lid. Geez!

  191. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Doug said, “Do you believe the point I was trying to make in post 119 about the First Vision story being offensive to most non-members?”

    Yes, I do. I can understand completely. I didn’t say it wouldn’t be offensive to others. I actually said it would upset them. Here is my actual quote:

    “it is FAR less offensive than generally believed. Of course, it upsets those who disagree, but it is not “harsh” at all. Compared to what is said about us by our critics, it’s downright gentle.”

    So, what I said, to go all lawyerly again (*grin*):

    “It is not as offensive as most believe believe.” – “Not as offensive” means “offensive to a lesser degree”.

    “Of course, it upsets those who disagree,” – It offends them.

    “but it is not ‘harsh’ at all.” – Alone that sounds incorrect. I should have given the context of #187. In that light, it really isn’t harsh, since the final “reward” for the believers is exactly what they preach.

    “Compared to what is said about us by our critics, it’s downright gentle.” – I think that is indisputable, given what our critics say about us.

    We probably reacted more to what we thought the other was saying than to what we actually meant by what we said. I apologize for my part in that.

  192. Doug G.
    March 18, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Ok Ray, I agree we both did kind of a knee jerk reaction. I’m sorry for not seeing your point. To you, this may seem gentler than the evangelical group sending you to hell. Interestingly, don’t we believe only Mormons will actually end up in hell? Maybe those ministers are onto something…

    Thanks for the posts…

  193. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    “Interestingly, don’t we believe only Mormons will actually end up in hell? Maybe those ministers are onto something…”

    That cracked me up. Thanks.

  194. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    The comma messed up my link in my last entry. I’m sure most of you would have figured it out, but here it is again: http://www.josephsmith.net

  195. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Ray,

    a little friendly advice. You would be much better off being a little nicer to those that disagree with you…. 🙂

  196. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Missionary Stu,

    The truth is that I don’t believe you are even attempting to be fair here.

    Let’s say you are a believing artist. You want to capture and display the feelings you have for the Book of Mormon in your art. You want to do this by showing the translation. You know you can’t show a picture without the plates present and uncovered because otherwise no one will know what the picture is about. So you are forced to use artistic license. You either have to cheat by having Oliver seeing the plates or you have to invent a curtain or something (which may or may not have been used.)

    Will the end result be “historically accurate?” No, of course not. Is Washington crossing the Delware historically accurate? You ignored that analogy last time and I believe it’s because I’m right about this and you have no valid response. All art takes artistic license and is rarely historically accurate.

    Are pictures of Jesus historically accurate? Why don’t you give me a nice big list of historically accurate artwork that doesn’t take equivalent artistic license, Stu? This should be easy for you.

    I fear that at the heart of your argument is basically the thought: “I’m going to find critism of anything that doesn’t look silly and support my preconceived notions.” If this is so, this is unfair and it’s an unworthy argument.

    Considering the myriad of sources, often contradictory, I think we can guess that you don’t really know what it was like much either. There are several sources that claim the Nephite interpreters and breast plate were used. I know of one from Oliver that claims they were used while he transcribed. There are sources that claim Joseph only put the stone in a hat when he got eye strain from closing one eye to look at the stone, suggesting that it made a memorable moment, but was not necessarily common. (This perhaps contradicted by other sources.)

    To be honest, I don’t think you are particulary informed on this issue and I don’t think you are trying to be fair so I see no reason to discuss it further with you.

  197. Jeff Spector
    March 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Ammon Ham:

    “What I’ve abandoned is any faith in man (i.e., Joseph Smith, Jr., Brigham Young, Spencer W. Kimball, Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson). If I can’t trust these prophets, seers, and revelators to get their story straight and be consistent, then I have to make sure my faith is anchored in Jesus.”

    Thanks for answering my question. But you answer intrigues me. Did you previously think that it was more important to have faith in man, as you call it, than faith in Jesus Christ? I suspect the answer is no, but I don’t see how the Prophets “need to get their story straight.” After all, the first principle is Faith in Jesus Christ. We sustain these men as Prophets, but we do not worship them.

  198. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    #195 – That also cracked me up. Two in just a couple of minutes. This has been a good night.

  199. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    OK, I’ll post comment #199. Who gets the coveted #200?

  200. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Group hug. Doug G, glad you are still here.

    Loving Ammon Rye’s question for someone to put in a future post, btw. I am always troubled by the beheading of Laban, but then I can’t watch ER without getting squeamish. I’m glad Nephi hesitates first, but he’s so stiff and just . . . well, he’s just not my kinda hero.

  201. Missionary Stu
    March 18, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Bruce, I didn’t address the George Washington analogy because George Washington isn’t asking me to believe he translated an ancient record that presents two major groups of people, possibly of Hebrew origin, who may or may not have lived in a limited, or not limited, geographical area in this hemisphere.

    For me this issue is about what message is the LDS church trying to communicate to the world and whether you want to discuss it further or admit it, the LDS church doesn’t give the full or accurate story.

  202. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    My 200 was luck of the draw – total accident. Sorry!

  203. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    #197 Jeff Spector
    You may not worship them, but there are plenty of members who appear to. We sing “Praise to the Man” and GBH was practically deified during the week after he died. (Yes, I understand why.) I’m just saying I think we all get caught up in extreme admiration of men who attain a high rank in church, as well as within our broader culture.

  204. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    “I’m just saying I think we all get caught up in extreme admiration of men who attain a high rank in church, as well as within our broader culture.”

    Amen. That is too prevalent in any society and group – and definitely a “natural man” tendency we need to overcome.

  205. Ammon Rye
    March 18, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    #200 hawkgrrrl
    “Loving Ammon Rye’s question for someone to put in a future post, btw.”

    Thanks hawkgrrrl. That one has been one my mind for several weeks since we crossed those refs in GD class. I would be happy to collaborate with someone on that idea or maybe I’ve planted enough of a seed for one of the permabloggers to run with it on their own. Either way, I would be honored.

  206. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    >>> “I’m just saying I think we all get caught up in extreme admiration of men who attain a high rank in church, as well as within our broader culture.”

    >>> Amen. That is too prevalent in any society and group – and definitely a “natural man” tendency we need to overcome.

    I am certainly not going to disagree with either of you on this point, but I do feel the need to counter balance this point of view with scriptural teachings on the subject:

    1 Cor. 4: 16
    16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
    1 Cor. 11: 1
    1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
    Philip. 3: 17
    17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

  207. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Ammon Rye – I’m not sure I would describe people as worshiping the modern day prophets, but I do see plenty of people who either 1) don’t really know what they said, or 2) don’t consider them to be fallible in how they communicate revelations, or 3) have given it no thought whatsoever. I agree with you that a personal relationship with the savior is the only anchor you can have.

    Yet I do believe the prophets communicate with God in our day and share those revelations through the flawed means at their disposal (e.g. cultural prisms, inadequate grammar and education, imperfect contextual understanding, etc.). Perhaps the prophets fall into the same bucket as the AofF: “insofar as it is translated correctly.” Perhaps mistranslation can happen in real time, too, not just as documents are passed from scribe to scribe. Certainly since communication (prophet to world, world to prophet) is a two way street, there can be a traffic jam in either direction or both. I assume it comes from God un-jammed, but I would imagine that a prophet receiving it might say, “What the . . .?”

  208. Ray
    March 18, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    and now we are back to the foundational concept of “seeing through a glass darkly”. Everything really is one eternal circle.

  209. Bruce Nielson
    March 18, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Let’s not also forget that all knowledge of Christ is revelatory in nature. All Christianity is “revealed religion” so to speak. You either have to trust “Mormon prophets” or you have to trust “Bible Writers/Prophets” or both, but one way or the other the medium is always falliable humans. There is no way to have direct knowledge of Christ via scripture, per se, because Jesus wasn’t the direct author of any of it. (Though obviously there could be direct knowledge through personal revelation, but then you are the falliable prophet who is the medium.)

    So there is no way to “make sure my faith is anchored in Jesus” without having to also anchor it in an other mortal.

  210. hawkgrrrl
    March 18, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    “So there is no way to “make sure my faith is anchored in Jesus” without having to also anchor it in an other mortal.” This statement is true if by anchoring in Jesus one means the Jesus of the Bible versus the actual living Savior. I’m not sure which our sandwich-loving peer meant, but I meant one’s personal ongoing relationship to the Savior through prayer and supplication and accepting the atonement through regular repentance.

    But, that’s also flawed through my own personal limitations: 1) sometimes I don’t put the time into it that I should, 2) I might have forgotten to take my meds (I don’t really take meds, btw), 3) I might not be that smart (obviously that’s not the case), 4) “philosophies of men” might miscolor my perception of the savior (your point again–it keeps coming up so it must be true). In summary, my own glass could be pretty darkly, and I might be out of windex.

  211. Jeff Spector
    March 19, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Ammon,

    ‘I’m just saying I think we all get caught up in extreme admiration of men who attain a high rank in church, as well as within our broader culture.”

    OK, I think that can happen. So recognizing that that can be a problem, why would something one of them did or said, have such a negative effect on your association with the church. Given they are human, not perfect, why do you have a problem if they “can’t get their story straight?” That is, unless you no longer buy into ( have testimony of) the restored gospel. But that is a whole different issue in my mind.

  212. Bruce Nielson
    March 19, 2008 at 8:25 am

    By the way Doug (or anyone) what’s “MADB”?

  213. Nm Tony
    March 19, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I think it stands for Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board. I googled it. Totally off the subject, but isn’t it weird that the word google has become a verb, and nearly everyone understands what it means. Random tangent, sorry.

  214. Doug G.
    March 19, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Bruce,

    Nm Tony is correct. I believe they used to be part of FAIR or something like that. They have several BYU professors and alike who try and answer tough questions for believing saints. I read most of what’s written over there but I have never posted. I believe I would get banned in short order if I did…

    Thanks for tolerating my NOMness on this board, I hope we can remain productive in our discussions.

  215. Ammon Rye
    March 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    #211 Jeff Spector
    “OK, I think that can happen. So recognizing that that can be a problem, why would something one of them did or said, have such a negative effect on your association with the church. Given they are human, not perfect, why do you have a problem if they “can’t get their story straight?” That is, unless you no longer buy into ( have testimony of) the restored gospel. But that is a whole different issue in my mind.”

    Is it human and imperfect to declare polygamy to be “not doctrinal” as GBH did on Larry King? (I’ll stick to this example to make my point.) Robert Millet has a paper on LDS.org titled “What is our Doctrine?” He explains that the four standard works (the LDS canon) constitute the doctrine of the LDS church. D&C 132 clearly states polygamy is necessary and required to obtain the highest degree of glory. Since D&C 132 is part of the LDS canon, then its content IS LDS doctrine. If GBH was only giving his personal opinion and not speaking for God, then he should have said so when he was on the show. Was GBH trying to appeal to “the world”, because I don’t think he was appealing to members who believe in the principle of polygamy.

    I personally feel like a fool when I have professed belief in an LDS doctrine only to have it thrown out in the blink of an eye, on television, by GBH. The LDS Bible Dictionary states the following about faith: “All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results.” How is a member able to have true faith if the doctrines keep changing in order to look mainstream in the eye of the general public?

  216. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Ammon Rye, #215 is exactly why I have so much trouble controlling my tongue sometimes. You are an intelligent person, yet saying that “I personally feel like a fool when I have professed belief in an LDS doctrine only to have it thrown out in the blink of an eye, on television, by GBH” is simply ludicrous and unworthy of your intellect. I mean that seriously.

    Polygamy was rescinded over 100 years before Pres.Hinckley said, in full honesty, that it “IS” not a doctrine of the Church. There was absolutely no way to go into a long doctrinal discourse on the difference between mortal polygamy and polygamy in the afterlife in that setting – and that was NOT the intent of the question. The question *obviously* was intended to address the public perception that the Church practices polygamy in the here and now. Taking the question and answer completely out of context and saying GBH “threw polygamy under the bus” is hyperbole – pure and simple.

  217. hawkgrrrl
    March 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Ammon Rye: “D&C 132 clearly states polygamy is necessary and required to obtain the highest degree of glory.” Sorry, but you’re going to have to point this one out for me. I’m reading through it again, and I do not see where it says that. It says that polygamy is lawful in the eyes of God, and that marriage is eternal if both are chaste and give themselves to each other (including plural wives). I don’t see anywhere that it says that ONLY those with plural marriage will attain the highest glory. Those that have eternal (including non-plural) marriage can also. Nowhere do I see in 132 that polygamy is necessary for all nor prerequisite to obtain the highest degree of glory, nor have I ever heard that preached as doctrine.

    Moving on though, I don’t recall GBH saying “not doctrinal” on Larry King, although I watched it. It has been a while. If he was referring to current polygamy being not doctrinal, he’s right of course. Practitioners are 1) not members of our faith, and 2) committing sin (in unrecognized, illegal marriages) per church doctrine, 3) often mistaken by outsiders as being part of our faith, and 4) frequently guilty of other crimes also (statutory rape, abuse, etc.). If he said that we never practiced polygamy or that it was never taught or condoned by the church, that’s clearly not true. Without looking at the transcript I’d have a hard time determining whether he contradicted church doctrine or not.

  218. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Just to illustrate my point, I will admit my mistake on this issue IF you can show me one single quote from Pres. Hinckley where he says that polygamy was a mistake and not commanded by God. Just one quote will do it.

  219. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    hawkgrrrl, BY often stated that only those who were *willing* to practice polygamy could hope to inherit the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. Obviously, since only a small minority of members actually practiced it, there never was not a “practice polygamy or lose your exaltation” belief in the Church as a whole.

  220. Doug G.
    March 19, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    I haven’t seen a thread go out to 300 comments in quite some time but you guys may make it. Polygamy has been discussed long and hard on this site with lots of very passionate opinions both ways.

    What I find most interesting is members desire to distant themselves from the practice while claiming to believe it truly is a correct principle. For example, Ray states: “Obviously, since only a small minority of members actually practiced it” In other words, it wasn’t that big of a deal in the early church. (Forgive me if I’m making assumptions) In other discussions I’ve seen members fully admit that Brigham Young practiced polygamy in its fullness and then in the same breath state that Joseph Smith was only dynastically married to numerous women and that he actually never had relations with anyone but Emma. That’s what I call distancing…

    I’m not putting this up for argument, just interesting how each of us tries to deal with this very difficult principle. My wife, who is very devote in her faith and loves her church more than life itself, doesn’t believe in polygamy at all nor will she accept that God ever commanded the practice. Somehow she’s managed to separate the belief from the church so as not to upset her testimony.

    According to Brigham Young, she will never get to the highest level of the Celestial kingdom. And yet I will tell you that I’ve never known a better woman who exemplifies Christ in everything she does. Of course, we’ve only been married 18 years so maybe it’s just a good act. Then again, she’s put up with me all these years so she really must be Christ like.

    Good luck with your discussion and may the best man or women win!

  221. Ammon Rye
    March 19, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    hawkgrrrl & Ray
    This is the first sentence in the header for Section 132 “Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, as also plurality of wives.” Verses 1-6 of Section 132 are clear, Joseph is inquiring about OT practice of polygamy, he gets an answer and the practice is instituted. Verses 51-57 are addressed to Emma and she is told to accept those (plural wives) given to Joseph and if she does not abide by this practice she will be destroyed.

    Ray – Polygamy was never “rescinded”. Please read OD-1 very carefully. First there is a denial that the practice is taking place in the Utah Territory; then an affirmation that the church doesn’t teach or encourage the practice; then an acknowledgment of anti-polygamy laws; and then this: “And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” (I find the words “publicly” and “advice” an indictment on the idea that the practice was “rescinded”. He also uses the phrase “any marriage” instead of using the word “polygamy”. Why not be more explicit, or at least plain and direct, in this declaration?) I also find that shortly after the turn of the century, it is interesting that the church needed to affirm again publicly that the members should refrain from the practice. (I’m sorry I don’t have the exact wording, but I understand the statement was necessary.) If you want to use “rescinded” to describe this “side-step”, then go ahead, but the word is WAY TOO STRONG to use here.

    BTW – You’ll get your quote when I get mine. I’m still waiting for a direct quote from JS where he says he saw God, The Father and Jesus Christ by mentioning them specifically by name. In his own hand would be nice.

    hawkgrrrl – Not only did GBH say that polygamy is not doctrinal, but he followed that up by saying that he “condemns it”. How must have DHO or the second wife and widow of HWH felt when they heard that? GBH didn’t parse for polygamy beyond this life, he simply made a blanket statement for all the world to hear. If you like you can do a search on the internet for transcripts and video of the interview on Larry Kind Live which aired on Sept 8, 1998.

  222. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Doug, fwiw, I don’t comment anywhere to win. I really mean that.

    I also don’t “distance myself” from polygamy. I have ancestors who crossed the plains and practiced polygamy; my children are 8th-generation Mormons through my wife’s paternal line – so they are the product of polygamy on both sides of their genealogy. I admire my Mormon ancestors more than is easy to state – both those who were polygamous and those who were not.

    My point was very narrow: Ammon repeated the old statement that polygamy used to be required in this life for ultimate exaltation; I mentioned that wasn’t believed by the majority of members even during the height of the practice. They didn’t believe that statement, and they didn’t practice it as a united, collective church body. The vast majority accepted and supported polygamy, but only a small minority actually lived it. That’s all I was trying to say.

    What is “The Church”? It isn’t and never was polygamy. Polygamy was a very important part of it, and much of our eternal perspective is bound up in the implications of it, but it didn’t and doesn’t define “The Church”.

    BTW, this is why I am an obsessive parser. I don’t like arguing about what others don’t actually say, since I don’t like having to refute what I don’t actually say. (That is NOT a swipe; it simply is a soapbox.) It’s my own “Do unto others” blogging mantra and why I am compulsive about asking for specific quotes and statements.

  223. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Ammon: Again, the context of the question is beyond dispute. The asker meant polygamy in the here and now; he answered the actual question asked. We’ll simply have to agree to disagree on this one.

    Lawyer time: “Rescind” means “to invalidate (an act, measure, etc.) by a later action or a higher authority.” The Church has rescinded polygamy, since all such relationships that previously were “valid” now, by later action, are considered “invalid”.

    I agree completely that it was not rescinded by OD-1, but to say that it “was never rescinded” simply is inaccurate. Those marriages are no longer valid; the practice has been rescinded.

    BTW, there are multiple Christian churches that accept polygamous African members and yet still condemn us for practicing it in the past. I simply have no sympathy for anti-polygamous arguments, since those who make them did not live it, rarely understand those who did, and often fail to condemn it in their own CURRENT religious traditions. (Again, not directed at anyone here; just my other soapbox – double standards.)

  224. Ray
    March 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    “I’m still waiting for a direct quote from JS where he says he saw God, The Father and Jesus Christ by mentioning them specifically by name.”

    JSH 1:17 is good enough, since there is no other legitimate way to interpret it. Are you saying this was not the Father and the Son?

  225. March 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Doug: “According to Brigham Young, she will never get to the highest level of the Celestial kingdom.” If polygamy turns out to be required for the highest level, maybe I’ll settle for the 2nd highest. 🙂

    In a more serious and slightly related matter, sometimes I wonder if we will all end up in the next life basically where we WANT to be, at least in relation to the levels of the Celestial Kingdom, i.e. maybe some people won’t want all the responsibility of the highest level? Just wondering. Maybe others won’t even want that, and will be forever blissful in the telestial kingdom… Am I making an understandable point here?

    “I haven’t seen a thread go out to 300 comments in quite some time”
    I think the key here was to start out with as BROAD as of a topic as possible, lol. For my next post, maybe I’ll do “What is controversial in the church?” 😉

  226. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Ammon:

    “Is it human and imperfect to declare polygamy to be “not doctrinal” as GBH did on Larry King? (I’ll stick to this example to make my point.) Robert Millet has a paper on LDS.org titled “What is our Doctrine?” He explains that the four standard works (the LDS canon) constitute the doctrine of the LDS church.”

    Well, then if you use D&C 132 as an example of how the LDS Church has really not abandoned polygamy and that President Hinckley was not truthful with Larry King, then I suppose you have an even bigger issue with the fact that there is no specific revelation from the time of Jesus that abolishes the practices of the Law of Moses. No one, even Jesus, said, “stop doing those things.” But yet we do not. Also, In Exodus 11 and 12, the celebration of the Passover is deemed as ” an ordnance forever,” yet we are not required as Christians to celebrate it each year. Also, we are not required to circumcise even those it is related to the covenant of Abraham and Christians still believe that covenant is in force today.

    So, using your example as a model, the real problem starts with Christianity does it?

  227. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 6:51 am

    #224 Rsy
    “JSH 1:17 is good enough, since there is no other legitimate way to interpret it. Are you saying this was not the Father and the Son?”

    What I am saying is I am suspect of JS not taking the account to a definitive conclusion by declaratively stating “I saw God, The Father and His Son Jesus Christ and they both spoke to me in the way one man speaks to another.”

    JS leaves the reader to conclude for him/herself who the two personages were without having to declare it in no uncertain terms and therefore avoiding any apparent blaspheme toward God just in case he was making the whole thing up.

    BTW – As far as I can tell, the closest JS ever got to a direct statement on the matter comes from the first “Work and the Glory” movie where the JS character says to the Nathan character, “I saw God Nathan.” Of course the “Work and the Glory” series is fictitious.

  228. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 7:00 am

    #226 Jeff Spector
    “I suppose you have an even bigger issue with the fact that there is no specific revelation from the time of Jesus that abolishes the practices of the Law of Moses.”

    Then what does it mean when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law. And what did Jesus mean when He hung on the cross, He declared “It is finished.” And what is the significance of the temple veil being rent from top to bottom? Amen to the Law of Moses.

  229. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Ammon,

    He didn’t say stop doing it, did he? What about “an ordnance forever?”

  230. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 7:24 am

    #225 AdamF
    “For my next post, maybe I’ll do ‘What is controversial in the church?'” I thought I had already taken us there.

    In the future I could refrain from responding to multiple posters in the same post if that will get us to 300 faster.

  231. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 7:35 am

    #229 Jeff Spector
    “He didn’t say stop doing it, did he?”

    So are you saying that the “advice” to the LDS to follow the law of the land given in OD-1 is equivalent to the crucifixion?

    “What about ‘an ordinance forever?'” What about it. If I was an attorney/general authority, I suppose I could say that forever is the same as eternal and eternal is not necessarily related to time but the realm and sphere of God’s influence. Such as eternal punishment is God’s punishment and therefore an ordinance forever (or eternal) is God’s ordinance. If forever is NOT the same as eternal, then why are we even arguing the point?

  232. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Nope, I am just saying that things changes in the gospel change from time to time and that it is not some conspiracy of Church leaders. You cannot critize President Hinckley for saying Polygamy is not the doctrine of the Church, when we do not now practice ordnances that were given “forever.”

    Don’t beleive I mentioned cruxifiction, did I?

  233. Ray
    March 20, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Ammon, first you say that Joseph didn’t explicitly state that it was the Father and the Son (demanding that he be explicit), and then you brush off Jeff’s comment about the Law of Moses by citing other scriptures that *broadly* imply the point you want to make. You can’t have it both ways, man. That’s a double standard of the highest order – and employing it practically in successive comments only highlights it.

    As I said in #223, that’s one of my biggest soapbox issues – critics of the Church holding it and its members to a standard they don’t even try to follow. I refuse to play in that sandbox.

    BTW, your citation of “It is finished” to mean the Law of Moses is an incredible stretch. Do you really think Jesus was referring to that Law when He uttered that phrase. I have a MUCH more coherent probability: He was talking about his life and mission. If you want something to consider, try looking at footnote (b) in Matthew 5:48 in the LDS KJV and comparing that to “It is finished.”

  234. Ray
    March 20, 2008 at 7:48 am

    “So are you saying that the “advice” to the LDS to follow the law of the land given in OD-1 is equivalent to the crucifixion?”

    Come on, Ammon. That is so far beneath you that it doesn’t merit a serious response.

  235. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 8:11 am

    #233 Ray
    “He was talking about his life and mission.”

    Yes He was and that covered a lot of territory, including the Law of Moses, did it not?

    I’m sorry if you think I want it both ways, but JS had personal control over his message. Is it too much to ask that he come right out and say “I saw God and Jesus.”?

    JS mentions Moroni, Moses, Peter, James, John, Elijah, John the Baptist, et.al. by name. JS also proclaimed many things in the name of God and Jesus why not their appearance to him in the grove?

  236. Ray
    March 20, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Ammon,

    You can’t call me “lawyerly” as a criticism and then say that “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” isn’t good enough to describe a visit by the Father and the Son. That’s hyper-technical to the nth degree.

    Step back a minute and consider what you would say to me if our roles were reversed and I tried to say that to you. I *guarantee*, based strictly on what you’ve said to me about other comments, that you wouldn’t accept it from me. That is the very definition of a double standard.

    I don’t want to get into an argument about this. I see it as a simple thing – straining at gnats, and I don’t want to do it. Let’s move on.

    and inch closer and closer to 300 comments. *grin*

  237. Bruce Nielson
    March 20, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Ammon Rye,

    Hi, I missed this whole second converation, and that’s probably for the best because I’m destroying both my job and marriage by participating too much on this board. 🙂 (I’m mostly kidding.)

    Ammon, several hundred posts ago (or is it thousands by now?) I sort of came on strong with Doug over what I felt was a rather unfair way to characterize Mormons as judgmental when making comparison to other religions. I know on board like this you can’t hear tone of voice, so I know (or now realize anyhow) I might have come across as offensive. Based on Doug’s last comment, it sounds like he has forgiven me. (Thank you Doug.)

    Also, I’m really thrilled by NM Tony actually supporting my point to some degree. It was a really small thing, I know, but it it the first time I’ve seen a “cross of the border” between someone that doesn’t believe in the LDS Church’s truth claims to simply stand up for a truthful point made by someone that does. There are probably others around here that I’ve missed.

    I guess what I’m trying to indirectly say is that when I started posting on Mormon Matters I really believed in the mission of this site as a chance for some real diaglog while celebrating Mormon culture.

    I have been slowly losing faith in that mission and it really bothers me. I’ve been on the verge of apostacy from Mormon Matters several times now and last minute things (like NM Tony’s post or conversations with our chair Andrew) have kept me from leaving Mormon Matters and the whole bloggernacle behind.

    The truth is that I simply can’t wrap my mind around the types of statments disaffected or partially disaffected Mormons make. I’m just not sure what to make of it. Some seem pretty okay, some ill informed, and some come across as just hurtful or downright unjust.

    A while back I offered to, if you were interested, let you into my mind (via a private conversation). I am now wondering if you’d allow the reverse in a private conversation.

    I can’t make up my mind if I’m doing more harm or more good by being here. If I’m just doing more harm, I really should just leave and give up and find a different way to allow myself a creative outlet.

    What I’m trying to say is that I’m a generally intelligent guy, I’m moderately well informed (but could be more so), and frankly, I used to be disaffected in my heart (to borrow your words) towards the Mormon church just like you. But I can’t for the life of me make sense of what you are saying. Even in my darkest years I would never have said the types of things I see you saying.

    To use just one example: accusing the Church of not rescinding polygamy when we all know they did. True, it wasn’t until the JFS manifesto in 1910 that polygamy was finally fully rescinded. A completely fair conversation could be had about why OD-1 is in the D&C and the 1910 one isn’t. But you didn’t make that point nor try to have that conversation.

    As such, to make a claim that polygamy wasn’t rescinded is just really really odd. Even if there hadn’t been an actual point of rescinding polygamy and it had just dribbled out of existence until the LDS Church started excommunicating polygamists, even in a worst case scenario like that, it would still be wrong for you to represent the LDS church as never having rescinded polygamy. And I have a hard time believeing you don’t know that. But what really confuses me is why you’d say something like that to a bunch of believing Mormons (like Hawgrrl and Ray) that will see through what you are saying in about 2 seconds flat. I really really don’t understand. I really really really don’t understand.

    I’m saying this as someone that went through years of pain over the LDS church and it’s teachings and history. I’m saying this as someone that on the one hand completely understands your feelings, but on the other hand really and truly can’t understand why you are wording things the way you do in what I feel can only be taken as inappropriate.

    What I’m asking of you is to take this conversation offline and help me to understand where you are coming from. I just don’t undertand. It pains me so deeply to see things like this and I just can’t be sure if I’m not understand where you are coming from or not. For me, this drives at the heart of my deepest fears about my participation on Mormon Matters (or even in blogland). It drives at the “legitimacy” of the whole concept of dialog and trying to understand where other people are coming from if only for the sake of honestly disagreeing.

    I hope you will allow me to contact you offline and talk more, but I’ll only do so if you give me permission. (If you are using a real email address when posting, as a moderator I’ll be able to see it and contact you.)

    Thanks,

    Bruce

  238. Ammon Rye
    March 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Bruce,
    I said before I was hostile. I believe I also said that I don’t feel I am in a teachable frame of mind right now.

    I guess if GBH says polygamy is “not doctrinal” (if you go back to the entire interview he never said “it was rescinded”). I believe the church purposely avoids such language regarding the practice of polygamy because they don’t want to make a distinction between polygamy for this life and polygamy for the next. That way the church doesn’t have to try to explain the afterlife variety to the world. (I could be wrong.)

    Rescinded and not doctrinal are two entirely different things. So if GBH wants to announce to the world that polygamy is not docrinal, then I would like to see the church remove any and all references to the practice from modern scripture and put it up to be canonized. Otherwise, the practice has been “suspended” until some future time when it will be practiced again. Maybe the U.S. Supreme Court can help bring that about or maybe we have to wait for the return of The Savior.

    To your point about the purpose for this board, since becoming active on this thread I have learned the following about Mormon Matters: if it isn’t mormon, it doesn’t matter.

    And I make an end of my writing upon [this board], which writing has been small (as in small-minded in the opinion of some I suppose); and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren (and sisteren) may read my words. Brethren, adieu.

    -Ammon Rye (hold the mayo)

  239. Bruce Nielson
    March 20, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Ammon Rye,

    I am not asking you to be teachable. I’m asking if you will teach me. i.e. “I am now wondering if you’d allow the reverse in a private conversation.”

    I don’t think these forums are the best place for me to pursue such a course. (That and I’m spending too much time on it anyhow and thought it might be quicker offline.)

    I really want to understand where you are coming from. I’m really trying to understand. Maybe you just told me: i.e. “I said before I was hostile.” Maybe that’s the whole explanation and I’m just dense. I was reading in that there was more and I wanted to give you a chance to express yourself better privately, if only for my honest desire to understand better.

    But in any case, if you are resigning from this site, I think I probably should resign too. I drove you away, and I almost drove Doug away. And beside that, you perhaps just proved my worst fears about the legitimacy of dialog. I’ll have to think about it a bit more (and give Andrew a fair chance to talk to me again, poor guy having to help needy people like me out all the time), but I’m really feeling that way right now.

    Thank you.

  240. March 20, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Some thoughts for everyone, if I may. Maybe it’s my field of study (counseling) but I think we ALL need to be extra careful and precise about the tone we use in our comments, as well as being mindful of doing it with a spirit of love and positive regard. To me that is a way of “celebrating Mormon culture” as Bruce said. Despite the limits of blogging, I think it is possible. That does not mean we cannot share our beliefs, differing views, or even have some good 200+ comment debates.

    There are plenty of good things to fill up one’s life with, so if this site does not work for you, I wish you the best of luck elsewhere or in using other methods. However, I strongly believe that we cannot afford to turn away from each other here. When Ammon or anyone else (and I have done it too) makes a caustic or “hostile” sounding comment, we can surely disagree, but we must do so with the right spirit. Without some smidgen of a positive relationship, no one is going to learn from anyone else. As long as we operate under the guise of I’m right and you’re wrong, AND you need to change, we’ll continue to run into these walls. A spirit of sharing, celebration, and dialogue will be more effective.

    I appreciate Ammon being here, and even though it was uncomfortable at times, it was an enjoyable challenge. That being said, he (along with many of us) have been guilty at times of using some vitriol: “I have learned the following about Mormon Matters: if it isn’t mormon, it doesn’t matter.” If Ammon (or me or anyone else) cannot bridle their tone maybe this is not the best place. But I believe we all can, and STILL have some good dialogue, celebrate Mormonism, and even learn from each other.

    Bruce, you need to do what is best for you! I love your posts, and your comments, and you bring an important and insightful presence to the site. If you decide to leave, you have my support. I hope you stay, even if it has to be limited for the sake of your family/marriage. J In the case of this site, I do not think you drove Ammon away. He said himself that he is hostile and unteachable right now. I respect that he admitted that, and I for one think that this site is not for people who are hostile and unteachable.

    Thanks to everyone for the comments on this post. I regret that some of it has become a little touchy at times, but overall, I have enjoyed it. Let’s just make sure we all sing a little “kumbaya” while we discuss, okay? It is hard for anyone to listen to an opposing view when there is absolutely no money in the relationship’s emotional bank account. I hope this all does not come across as preachy. I have to constantly work at being kind and respectful when I don’t want to be.

  241. NM Tony
    March 20, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Well, I really hate to see people leave the blog embittered. I’ve been where Ammon and Doug have been and it is hard to alleviate the angry and frustration that disaffection brings, especially at the stage where they seem to be. I still have my hang ups, no doubt, but I find this blog a great place to relieve some of the pressure I can’t else where.

    Bruce,

    I’m truly glad I was able to buoy you up a little. I’ve found our occasional exchanges challenging and refreshing; in the process I’ve developed quite a respect for you and your opinions. If you need to leave and reevaluate, I wish you the best, but I do hope to see you posting again.

  242. Bruce Nielson
    March 20, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    NM Tony and everyone,

    I probably mis-spoke in post #239. Reviewing it, it makes it sound like I’m leaving in a fit or leaving because I feel bad I hurt someone. I do feel bad that I might have added to someone’s pain, but that’s not really what is going on here.

    If you read my post at #237 with my post at #239 together, it probably makes more sense. I’m stuggling with some home issues. Don’t worry, it’s not a struggle with my marriage or anything like that. I’m just having a hard time keeping up with everything. I was justifying the time by telling myself things that weren’t really true. Ammon’s last post sort of proved that I wasn’t really making the world safe for democracy and freedom or whatever it was I was telling myself. 😛 It sort of broke down my last justification for spending this much time on it.

    It it does pain me how hard it is to hold honest dialog and that frustration came through too. I’m not the master of diplomacy that some of my TBM co-patriots are, like AdamF and Jeff Spector, and Andrew. I’m sort of an ex-NOM style John Dehlin, only back when he was a complete noob, who just “just calls it like he sees it.” I hope people at least see that I’m not trying to be offensive.

    It’s weird in a way that the members of this board that have never been at all disaffected with the LDS Church are the ones best at dealing with more disaffected members. Because I’m empathetic to their pain, I would have thought I’d get along with them better. Sorry tangent.

    This blog is a great creative outlet for me and I really don’t want to give it up. So I think “leaving” is too strong. I just need to take a break for a while, particularly from getting embroiled in posting comments, to focus on some other things in my life. I already have three posts queued up that will run on their own, so I’m not really “going away” from a blog point of view.

    I’m pretty sure in a few months things will clear up in my life and I’ll have more time. If I get a chance on weekends I’ll even write some more posts and queue them up. I just don’t think I can actively participate in comments for a while.

    The problem is that it’s so addicting that I have a hard time stopping. So maybe I should just not do posts either for a while and remove the temptation all together.

    I’ve also wondered if maybe I’m more cut out to be a MADB member. 😛 (Just kidding. Had to throw my new word I learned in.)

  243. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Let’s not forget the limitations of the medium. You can write something that may in fact sound bad than if you said it, given the tone and inflection used.

    So my recommendations wold be this along the same lines:

    1. Don’t be too quick to take offense. I have spent almost 30 years conversing with people over email and such from all over the world in my job. Written words can be interpreted as being angry when it was not the writer’s intention. Words on a page are flat and without emotion and they can be taken the wrong way. I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt that they are not really as angry as their words might sound.

    2. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

    3. No one is perfect. Sometimes we just make a mistake in writing something. lightening up is the only way to deal with it.

  244. Just for Quix
    March 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Bruce,

    Your empathy hasn’t gone unnoticed. I don’t expect to be persuaded, but I like posts by people who may have seen the issues I have, but decided they can still believe. It reminds me that, after all these exclusive truth claims we all make (even if the claim is that there is no exclusive truth), we each act on faith. Even where we differ we should be able to have productive dialogue about that faith.

    Also as someone who empathizes from having “been there done that,” if you have concerns your internet use/blogging is affecting home, marriage and/or job, then it probably is. Listen to your heart in figuring out how you can keep the addictiveness of all this interesting dialogue/content in check and balance. Excessive internet attention is one thing that contributed to my marriage weakening and almost ending. (I’m not implying that is what will happen to you.) One thing I do think, though, is that this kind of meaningful faith dialogue must be able to happen on some level with one’s spouse for this internet stuff not to get too consuming and out of balance in one’s life. To what end it helps… to continued, if reduced, dialogue.

  245. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Quix,

    I think you are correct that we all have our doubts from time to time. Or else, we wouldn’t be here but hold up in our little believing bubble for those who do not want to hear anything questionable lest they disbelieve.

    We could all do a little less Interneting and a little more personal relating!

  246. hawkgrrrl
    March 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Sage words of advice about not taking offense, being careful not to give it, and not alienating your family or job due to internet time.

    I have really enjoyed the dialogue with all of you. If we all saw everything the same way, it would not be interesting and there would be no personal growth. Even if someone does not feel they are in a teachable frame of mind, the dialogue is helpful to all of us. It edifies if we want to be edified and in the way we are ready to be edified (not necessarily because someone else wants to edify). I heard someone describe a dialogue as a canvas one person puts up on which the other person can paint–so the space you are given to work with is whatever they put up there.

    I can’t imagine anyone has never been disaffected to some degree. We were all teenagers, right? We have asked ourselves tough questions about our faith at various times or been apathetic or even felt disillusioned, right? An untested and unquestioned faith is weak indeed. I assume everyone on this board has had their doubts and their disillusions.

    Ammon Rye, above you said (hold the mayo), but c’mon, ham on rye is clearly a mustard sandwich!

    And, is Ammon Rye really a guy? Please take this in the spirit I intend (with the utmost respect), but I just assumed that I was talking to a fellow woman. Am I really the only chick on this board?? What is up with that??

  247. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Hawk,

    Hold the mayo means NO MAYO, the worst substance ever created! By the FRENCH.

  248. hawkgrrrl
    March 20, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    You sure it was the French? The Spaniards are claiming it, too. And I beg to differ – fry sauce is the most vile substance ever created, although mayo was a prerequisite. Mayo + rust = fry sauce.

  249. Ray
    March 20, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    #248 – Massive spit take. Thanks for the laugh.

    As someone who contributed to the tension we are discussing, I will add only one thing:

    Everything can be worked through in patience and understanding *as long as no axe is actively being ground in the process* – i.e., as long as nobody is going into the discussion with the intent to tear down or belittle someone else. I truly enjoy discussions like these – where many different perspectives are included. I don’t enjoy attacks and broadsides, since I’ve dealt with them for decades. I sometimes react forcefully to that type of comment, simply because I have heard them all for too long to worry about counting. They weary me, and I sometimes forget how “new” they are to others.

    I apologize for whatever part I played in someone deciding to leave, but, in all honesty, I don’t want anyone to muzzle himself or hold back her honest feelings out of a fear of offending. As long as the statement is honest AND expressed in a non-hyperbolic and non-ridiculing manner, I want to hear it. If the statement is disingenuous or “twisted” or obviously inflammatory, I don’t. I will, however, try even harder to make sure my own responses are more measured – especially when I am “wearied”.

    I have enjoyed this site immensely. I hope the overall spirit doesn’t change.

  250. Jeff Spector
    March 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Mayonnaise is clearly a French word. If this was still the cold war, the Russians might have claimed credit for inventing it. Speaking of Russians, that what fry sauce is, Russian dressing! 🙂

  251. hawkgrrrl
    March 21, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Fellow Mayonnaise Haters–Apparently, we’ve accidentally stumbled upon an old dispute: France vs. Spain in the sovereignty of mayonnaise. Read on if you dare.

    One explanation of the origin of the name is that the idea was brought back to France from Mahon, Spain, after Louis-François-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu’s victory over the British at the city’s port in 1756.[citation needed] Later, Marie-Antoine Carême made it lighter by blending the vegetable oil and egg yolks into an emulsion; his recipe then became famous throughout Europe.[citation needed] If this history is correct, allioli (the Balearic version of aïoli) would seem to have been the inspiration. The name mayonnaise is generally said to have been derived either from Mahon (giving mahonnaise), or from the French word manier (meaning to stir or to blend, giving magnonnaise).

    So, I maintain that Mahon, Spain is the more plausible explanation, while the French (notorious copycats) explanation is just weak. Now, if it were called Lyonnaise, you’d have yerself a point there.

    What were we talking about again?

  252. March 23, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Wow. We started with “the Church” and ended on “mayonnaise.” I think this post has run its course. 🙂

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