The Nature of God and Bible Bashing Sharing

Like many members of the church, I believe that humankind is of the same species as God; that our Heavenly Parents are like us only on a higher level of development. To me, the doctrine is one of the most awe-inspiring and exciting aspects of Mormon theology.

I have heard enough slams of Mormon theology on this issue, as well as plenty bashing the idea of the Trinity in Mormon circles. Unfortunately, I have to admit I have scoffed at the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the past. I was amazed (to say the least) when I first read the Anathasian creed – unsure at how people could, or would even want to, believe in “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.” However, what does one’s belief about the substance or shape of God have to do with the purpose of religion?

I also do not think “appealing to the Bible” is useful in settling the matter of the nature of God and humankind. While I may quote a scripture like Psalms 82:6: “We shall be even gods, if we shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, ‘I have said, Ye are gods.” Someone might retort, “that is misinterpreting the scripture, it actually means ______.” Then they may quote from Deuteronomy: “To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.” Debate over which belief is Biblical will not achieve much in the way understanding or respect.

If one believes in the Trinity, derives motivation from that doctrine to live his religion more fully, and if I get the same from believing in a Mormon concept of God as I do, why does it matter that we do not agree? Does one of the many Christian conceptualizations of God inspire more visits “to the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” or keep one “unspotted from the world?”

I think one of the keys to this is giving up on the idea of debating for the purpose of trying to win. Understanding each other is much more important, especially on a site like this. There is a lot we can learn from each other, and through my association with a Catholic friend I have come to respect and understand better Christians who believe differently about God than I do.

In the spirit of understanding and inquiry:

  • What do you believe about God?
  • Where does your belief come from?
  • What scripture(s) or teachings best describe you belief?
  • In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life?
  • Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like?

Comments

comments

82 comments for “The Nature of God and Bible Bashing Sharing

  1. May 3, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Please forgive me for not answering in detail all your questions, but I have hands and arms that don’t work well anymore and typing is painful. So I’m just going to post my basic thoughts. I am a convert to LDS for 4 1/2 years and have studied LDS extensively.

    If we don’t accurately discern who God is, we can’t possibly understand who WE are as His children. When I was a member, for 20 years, of various other churches, I always had the feeling I was like an adopted pet, much like a beloved cat or dog. But my initial experience with my Heavenly Father left me knowing that He was my real Father, that Jesus Christ was my Savior and brother and that I had a Heavenly Mother too. So I was always a bit uneasy in the other churches because that knowledge was said to be false by the other people I attended church with.

    The only possible way for us to be true children of God, as HE calls us, is to be of the same species with the ability to grow up to be like Him. Not replace Him, but be like Him. That knowledge is the most important knowledge we can have. It effects how we believe in every way.

    Cool website by the way. I’m new here.

  2. Aaron S
    May 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Adam, I find that most Mormons misunderstand what traditional theists mean by calling God “incomprehensible”. If I may quote from an article on a site I founded, Theopedia:

    “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” -Deuteronomy 29:29

    The knowability of God is a topic in Christian theology that deals with the degree to which God can be known by mankind. Some contend that he cannot be known, sometimes arguing that God is so unique from humanity that it is absurd to think that limited humans can relate or know him in any significant way. On the other hand, it is argued that although we cannot know everything about God, he in fact has chosen to reveal himself to his creatures in a variety of ways. Even Augustine contended that, “If you can understand it, it’s not God!” God cannot be known fully, but according to the Scriptures, He can be known in significant, although limited ways.

    Scripture does reveal that God can never fully be known. The Psalmist tells us that “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable,” (Psalm 145:3). Paul adds to this idea, observing that “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God,” and later notes that, “no one comprehends the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). David further emphasizes this when he says that, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6; cf. 17). This idea is ultimately summed from the very mouth of God,

    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    Although God cannot be known completely, we can know true things about him. For example, we know that God is love (1 John 4:8), God is light (1 John 1:5), God is spirit (John 4:24), and that God is just or righteous (Romans 3:26). These aspects of God have been revealed to us in Scripture. However, more than mere facts can be known about God.

    “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

    Scripture tells us that we can know more than facts about God – we can actually know him as a personal being! Even more, what this passage tells us is that our source of joy should come from knowing God and not from our riches, wisdom, or might. Another significant passage comes from the Gospel of John, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (John 17:3). John later writes in his epistle, “I write to you, children, because you know the Father,” (1 John 2:13). God can be known, and in knowing God we should take great joy, for by knowing God, we can pray to him, hear him, and commune in his presence.

  3. Aaron S
    May 3, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    The wiki article had that misleading and unhelpful Augustine quote, so I removed. I also reworked the intro:

    The knowability of God is a topic in Christian theology that deals with the degree to which God can be known by mankind. Some religions contend that he cannot be known, sometimes arguing that God is so unique from humanity that it is absurd to think that finite humans can relate or know him in any significant way. Christians, however, contend that although we cannot fully know everything about God, since he has chosen to reveal himself to his creatures in a variety of ways we can know him personally, meaningfully, and significantly, in a limited but ever-increasing way throughout eternity.

  4. Ray
    May 3, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    “I think one of the keys to this is giving up on the idea of debating for the purpose of trying to win. Understanding each other is much more important, especially on a site like this.”

    Amen.

    Each of those questions is worthy of a discussion all on its own. I’ll try really hard to be concise – in the beginning, at least.

    * What do you believe about God?

    That it is a title denoting perfection (completion and full development – the attaining of ultimate growth)

    * Where does your belief come from?

    My heart and my study of others’ beliefs, especially those recorded in religious canons

    * What scripture(s) or teachings best describe you belief?

    The Sermon on the Mount is the best one in my experience – and the temple

    * In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life?

    In my effort to internalize the characteristics of Godhood recorded in scripture

    * Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like?

    My last answer kind of answers that question. I want to believe He looks generally like me; I choose to believe He looks generally like me; it doesn’t really affect my testimony in the slightest. I am trying to become like God in His character; what I end up looking like in the hereafter is totally beyond my concern.

  5. Bruce Nielson
    May 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    “If one believes in the Trinity, derives motivation from that doctrine to live his religion more fully, and if I get the same from believing in a Mormon concept of God as I do, why does it matter that we do not agree? Does one of the many Christian conceptualizations of God inspire more visits “to the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” or keep one “unspotted from the world?””

    Great post. I would like to say that while I do not believe doctrine is anywhere as important as practice, I do think doctrine does matter, at least somewhat. Also, I am not so certain that all other types of Christians would agree that practice is more important than doctrine, thus it may not really be about “the debate” for them, they might really be trying to save others through that debate.

    I think at one point I came to realize that a creedal Christian friend of mine did indeed believe that his view of the Trinity really did matter and that he really did fear that an incorrect view of the Trinity really just might damn me or others. His reason seemed to be that if I didn’t really except the truth about God I was either erring and not believing Jesus was REALLY God and thus Jesus couldn’t save me, or if I thought of them as three Gods then I was no better than a polytheist and thus God would damn me for my heresy.

    Since he is also overly strong in his believe that “works do not save at all,” I honestly think he’d look at your post — particulary the quote I selected — and really think to himself, “gee, this guy missed the point of Christianity entirely!”

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, that to some degree, even your idea that your exact beliefs about God’s nature don’t matter as much as how it motivates you is a Mormon idea that not all expressions of Christianty would necessarily share with us. (Though perhaps many forms would.)

  6. May 3, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Why does it matter that we do not agree? While I agree that there is much good done by the many religions of the world, and many of them do bring many people closer to God, if one does not have a correct understanding of the nature of God then one does not have a correct understanding of themself and their ultimate potential and purpose in life. If our brothers and sisters only understood that they are literally children of God, I think their outlook on life would change dramatically. Our entire existence rests on understanding the true nature of God.

  7. SingleSpeed
    May 3, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I struggled for a long time to try and make sure I believed in the “right” God. But I couldn’t make sense of so many scriptures that seemed to portray a God that I was uncomfortable believing in (Old Testament anyone?) I found that as I would read the scriptures, I would fully embrace the scriptures that seemed to support how I WANTED God to be, and just sort of ignored the others because they didn’t easily fit into my idea of what God *should* be. So then one day I just sort of decided, “Ok, if that’s how it’s going to be, then I’m just going to believe whatever I want about God.” My vision of God is still heavily influenced by the Old and New Testaments and I try to sort out the *truth* from *whatever sounds good* as best as I can, but ultimately whether my source was my own thoughts or the scriptures, the end result of the God I worship was pretty much the same.

  8. Ron L
    May 3, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Hello everyone, I am a Catholic friend of Adam’s, and I was asked by him to post some of my beliefs about the Trinity from a Catholic point of view. I hope that I will not offend anyone here; I am merely trying to express my beliefs, not challenge yours. My answers to Adam’s questions are brief because I am still trying to finish up my spring term in my graduate program so hopefully, my comments will not sound too simplistic. Please feel free to ask me any questions about my beliefs about the Trinity – I am Catholic, but I respect the faith of LDS members.

    •What do you believe about God?

    My beliefs about God (not surprisingly) fall in line with all the major Creeds of the Catholic Church. I believe the Father, Son, Holy are all separate personages, and equally omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, yet are all one being. I agree it is not logical according to human reason to adhere to this belief, but I believe the Bible and Catholic Tradition promote it and I believe both to be authoritative.

    •Where does your belief come from?

    My belief comes from my parents, my elders, Roman Catholic teachings, the Bible, and is confirmed by personal revelation.

    •What scripture(s) or teachings best describe your belief?

    My beliefs are confirmed by OT scriptures, which declare that there is only one God, and the NT scriptures that suggest Jesus’ divinity like, the first few verses in the gospel of John and the many verses in the gospels that label Jesus as “The Son of Man”, and “I Am”. It seems clear to me that the Pharisees believed Jesus was equating himself with God and I think their fears have been confirmed. The Early Church, which considered itself to be Jewish/Christian (they continued to worship in the Temple until they were kicked out several years before it was destroyed in 70 AD) had to reconcile the fact that God is one, yet Jesus and the HS both share divine attributes of God. They did so by developing the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, which became the definitive line between Christian and heretical belief systems.

    I am not trying to argue or promote my point of view; I am only stating my understanding of Church history.

    •In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life?

    God is manifested in every aspect of my life. I consider myself to be a Catholic Christian; interested in practicing the example of mystical prayer laid out by St. Teresa of Avila, Metchild of Magdeburg, and St. John of the Cross. My spiritual relationship with God provides me with purpose and the love to live life to the fullest.

    •Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like?

    The doctrine of the Trinity goes far beyond what God looks like. It defines His very nature and encompasses His personal characteristics. Even before I converted to Catholicism as an adult, I believed that God is Triune because I could not reconcile the one God in the OT with the divinity of Christ and the HS in the NT. For me it makes sense.

  9. Ray
    May 3, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks, Ron.

  10. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Ron says: “Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like? The doctrine of the Trinity goes far beyond what God looks like. It defines His very nature and encompasses His personal characteristics. Even before I converted to Catholicism as an adult, I believed that God is Triune because I could not reconcile the one God in the OT with the divinity of Christ and the HS in the NT. For me it makes sense”

    Ron, let me reask that question in a more straight forward manner:

    How do feel about the Mormon belief about the Trinity that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are all separate personages, and equally omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent, but have a oneness of will and purpose so complete that they can fully represent each other and would never make an act that the other wouldn’t.

    Do you personally believe, or do Catholics generally believe (those two might not be the same thing) that this difference between Mormon and Catholic belief on the Trinity is more or less important than the personal characteristics of God? (i.e. God is merciful, just, good, loving, equitable, kind, no respector of persons, etc.)

    Just a few vocabulary definitions in case I said something confusing —

    First, Mormons do believe in the “Trinity,” but we downplay that word to avoid confusion between our concept of it and the more traditional concept of it. We prefer to word “Godhead” nowadays, which of course really means the same thing. But we do not shun “Trinity” as a word completely. I believe Mormons might rightly be called “social Trinitarians.”

    Second, Mormons do believe Jesus is fully God and fully Divine and that He is God the Son. There is a rumor that we don’t, and it’s not true.

    Third, Mormons do believe Jesus is equal to God in omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, though it’s possible that we define those terms differently than you do. For example, we believe Jesus was literally resurrected and is embodied now — as do many Christians — but we throw in there that the Father is emobodied too. But this does not mean we don’t see them as omnipresent. We just do not see their tabernacle as omnipresent. i.e. we believe God has a body but His body does not have Him so to speak, to quote Stephen E. Robinson. There have been various Mormon formulas to explain His omnipresence while embodied and there is no official way to go about it. So you’ll have to just accept that Mormons believe in that in “some sense of the word” God is omnipresent. It may just not be the same sense a Catholic or Protestant would think of it.

    So given this understanding of the Mormon view of Trinity, what are your feelings on which is more important, a correct metaphysical view of the Trinity or a correct understanding of God’s personal characteristics: i.e. He’s loving, just, equitable, fair, kind, good, patient, no respector of persons, etc.

  11. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I’ll take a stab at this myself –

    What do you believe about God?
    I believe the single most important thing to understand about God is his personal characteristics. As Joseph Smith (and others) taught in the lectures on faith, it is impossible to have faith in God with out a correct understanding of his character. How can one have faith in a God that lies? How can one have faith in a God that isn’t merciful? How can one have faith in a God that is unfair? How can one have faith in a God that choose capriciously who to damn or save (i.e. that is a respector of persons)? How can one have faith in a God that might be ambushed or overpowered by another God? How can one have faith in a God that migth change His mind and decide he doesn’t want to be good after all?

    I also believe that God the Son came to earth, already fully Divine, and wrought out an atonement for us and then died and was resurrected and is now physically embodied. I believe, because Joseph Smith taught it, that Jesus (God the Son) did this because God the Father had (I personally believe outside of our time and space) and thus I believe God the Father is physically embodied also. I believe the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.

    Where does your belief come from?
    My beliefs are grounded in all scripture accepted by the Mormon Church and also somewhat from the teachings of Joseph Smith such as in the before mentioned lectures on faith. However, the ideas from the lectures on faith come straight from scripture and thus they are actually the original source of said teachings.

    What scripture(s) or teachings best describe you belief?
    Two of my very favorite scriptures on the subject, and in my mind the one that makes my views the most clear are
    Deut. 6: 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:” and Mosiah 15:1-4

    I was shocked to find that some people actually think Deut 6:4 might be saying that there aren’t multiple persons that make up God. After all, the hebrew word translated “one” here is “echad” which literally means “one unity.” If “one numerically” had been intended the hebrew word “Yachid” would probably have been used. (Obviously this argument I just made has an alternative point of view… so for now, let’s just say that Duet 6:4 literally could mean either that God is one in the English sense of the word or it could mean God is one unity as in the Mormon understanding of God. That is to say, the scriptures are open to both a traditional creedal interpretation or a Mormon interpretation and insists on neither.)

    Mosiah 15:1-4 is one of the very best scriptures on our understanding of the doctrine of the Godhead/Trinity. Since I have an upcoming post on this, I’m going to not fully explain myself at this time.

    However, these scripture emphasis the oneness of God, but not God’s personal characteristics. God’s personal characteristics come from a collection of scriptures that I don’t have time to look up right now. Moreover, the real proof in the pudding is the scripture stories that demonstrate the goodness of God first hand.

    In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life?
    As I comntemplate the nature of God (i.e. his personal characteristics) I realize that I hunger and thirst (Matt 5:6) to be like He is. This motivates me to want to know Him so completely (John 17:3) that I want to be like He is: perfect (Matt 5:48). I stand all amazed as the gracious love God offers me that He can and will make me a joint-heir with His own Son! (Rom 8:17), who is indeed one with God the Father already (John 10: 30). Indeed their oneness is so complete they are literally one God! (Mosiah 15:4). And God wants me to be a joint-heir with Christ! He wants me to be one with Him in exactly the same way Jesus is one with Him! (John 17:22.) It’s impossible to fathom, but I believe God is not lying. It’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it because it’s perfect Grace.

    Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like?

    I want to rephrase this question to what I *think* Adam really meant. I believe the real question was “which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or God’s metaphysical nature.”

    I believe the metaphysical nature is really not that important to understand. Joseph Smith did not bother to teach it until the end of his life and let countless Mormons believe otherwise until then. Thus I take this as a sure sign that while God’s metaphysical nature may be somewhat important it is utterly secondary to understanding His personal characteristics.

  12. May 4, 2008 at 9:19 am

    #1 – Jayleen – Welcome! And thanks for your comment despite the typing difficulties. Believing in God as our Father who is like us rings true to my soul.

    #2 – Aaron S – Thanks for those quotes and the link. I have found in my own discussions with people of other religions that I understand little of what they believe. The same goes for people of any religion I suppose. We all talk past each other too often, without any added understanding. I appreciate your input and your perspective.

    #4 – Ray – Thanks for addressing all of the questions. Your last paragraph is particularly interesting… I believe he looks like us as well, but ultimately I suppose it does not matter. Character building is one of the main purposes of religion, imo, and we need to emulate his character.

    #6 – Bryce Haymond – “If our brothers and sisters only understood that they are literally children of God, I think their outlook on life would change dramatically” – In what ways (pragmatically speaking) would their outlook change? I agree this would be the case for many people, but for others, I am not sure that it would have a huge impact. Different people are drawn to or have their “outlook on life” changed by different aspects of the gospel, I think.

    #8 – Ron – Much appreciated to have those insights, and to lay out your beliefs on a Mormon site. Hopefully this one is friendly to you. Another question, or for anyone that wants to answer: “the Trinity goes far beyond what God looks like. It defines His very nature and encompasses His personal characteristics.” – In what ways does the Trinity have to do with His personal characteristics?

    #11 – Bruce – re: “rephrase this question” – Yeah, the way you put it sounds a lot better, lol. 😉 Thanks for answering the questions as well, with the depth and scripture references.

  13. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 10:36 am

    BN:

    How do you feel about the Mormon belief about the Trinity that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost are all separate personages, and equally omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent, but have a oneness of will and purpose so complete that they can fully represent each other and would never make an act that the other wouldn’t.

    RL: Well, I feel that LDS members have the right to believe anything they choose to believe about God. However, I believe the LDS teaching regarding a ‘oneness of will and purpose’ does not go far enough in explaining the nature of God to match the Catholic/Protestant view of the Trinity.

    That being said, when it come right down to it, I doubt God will be grading us according to our understanding of His nature on Judgment Day.

    BN:

    Do you personally believe, or do Catholics generally believe (those two might not be the same thing) that this difference between Mormon and Catholic belief on the Trinity is more or less important than the personal characteristics of God? (i.e. God is merciful, just, good, loving, equitable, kind, no respector of persons, etc.)

    RL: My personal beliefs do not always line up with Catholic teachings, but I fully admit that my beliefs may be wrong.

    It is hard for me to answer your question and I will tell you why; on one level, I think what you are really asking is akin to ‘Why does traditional Christianity focus on a tiny difference in wording about the nature of God, when we should be focusing on more important issues that we all agree on; especially since the whole disagreement comes down to an issue of semantics?” I am sure you are probably aware of a similar disagreement that C have with Ps; the issue of salvation through faith and works. Briefly, Cs think the disagreement is one of semantics; faith and works cannot be separated so we are saved though both. Unfortunately, many Reformed Calvinists want to make an issue over it and claim that Cs are working their way into heaven, regardless of our pleas toward reason. So part of me agrees with you that semantics probably does play a role in our disagreement, however, the other part of me thinks:

    1. Why are LDS concerned about being in agreement with C/Ps on the issue or any issue, for that matter? After all, the concept of the Trinity is a Catholic dogma – if LDS members are going to embrace the Apostasy; I am not sure why this doctrine even appeals to you.

    2. Also, it seems as if LDS members, in an honest attempt to reach out to C/Ps, want us to soften our doctrine on the nature of God, and this is troubling to me. An analogy might be me claiming that Catholics teach and promote the Melchizedek priesthood, just like the LDS church because we have priests too. Not only would the claim be inaccurate because Catholics priests are not in the line of Melchizedek; it asks both churches to soften their doctrine to accommodate the other.

    3. Finally, traditionally, ever since Athanasius, the Catholic Church has used the doctrine of the Trinity as a dividing line between Christianity and nonChristian thought. Based on history it has been a very accurate dividing line until the Protestant Reformation. So, since LDS claim to be the true church, I am not sure how softening doctrinal dividing lines with C/Ps really fits into the big picture.

    So, now that you wadded though all that, I will answer your question as best as I can; without the doctrine of the Trinity to define the nature of God, which includes the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, we are left without a knowledge of the Father, the Son and the HS, therefore, how can we know any of His characteristics without a new revelation? So, I am left with a choice; I either need to embrace another doctrine or create my own. Frankly, I do not believe any other doctrine to be true and I am just too tired to make up my own, so I am left with my current belief system.

    BN:

    First, Mormons do believe in the “Trinity,” but we downplay that word to avoid confusion between our concept of it and the more traditional concept of it. We prefer to word “Godhead” nowadays, which of course really means the same thing. But we do not shun “Trinity” as a word completely. I believe Mormons might rightly be called “social Trinitarians.”

    RL: Indeed.

    BN:

    Second, Mormons do believe Jesus is fully God and fully Divine and that He is God the Son. There is a rumor that we don’t, and it’s not true.

    RL: From what I know of your doctrine, I agree, but I think there is a bit more to it.

    BN:

    Third, Mormons do believe Jesus is equal to God in omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, though it’s possible that we define those terms differently than you do. For example, we believe Jesus was literally resurrected and is embodied now — as do many Christians — but we throw in there that the Father is embodied too. But this does not mean we don’t see them as omnipresent. We just do not see their tabernacle as omnipresent. i.e. we believe God has a body but His body does not have Him so to speak, to quote Stephen E. Robinson. There have been various Mormon formulas to explain His omnipresence while embodied and there is no official way to go about it. So you’ll have to just accept that Mormons believe in that in “some sense of the word” God is omnipresent. It may just not be the same sense a Catholic or Protestant would think of it.

    RL: When I first read the Book of Mormon, I misunderstood the many references to the HS. Coming from a P. background, I assumed that JS must have been Trinitarian; however, I later learned that the HS was actually the spirit of the Father. Assuming that this is a true understanding of LDS doctrine, I have no doubt that your understanding of God the Father can have a body of flesh and bone, yet still be omnipresent because His Spirit was everywhere throughout the BoM.
    I have much more of an issue with LDS understanding of ‘all powerful’ then ‘all present’; how can the Son be equal to the Father when the Father is more evolved than the Son? And how can the Father be all powerful if there are countless gods that have gone before him and are therefore, more evolved?

    BN:

    So given this understanding of the Mormon view of Trinity, what are your feelings on which is more important, a correct metaphysical view of the Trinity or a correct understanding of God’s personal characteristics: i.e. He’s loving, just, equitable, fair, kind, good, patient, no respector of persons, etc.

    RL: Once again, I fully admit, I may be limited, but I am simply unable to know anything about God, without the doctrine of the Trinity, a new revelation, or my own imagination. Since I reject the idea of new revelation; have not found a different doctrine that I believe to be true; and do not have the time to waste on my own imagination; I am left with my current belief system.

    Of course, I believe in the value of faith apart from a correct understanding of doctrine – Abraham was saved by grace through his faith, not his understanding of correct doctrine, which is a good thing for all of us who are limited by our human understanding of God. So in the end, I think all the faithful will one day sit together and have a good laugh over our former earthly limitations.

  14. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 11:18 am

    One last thought…..

    Admittedly, I have always been confused by a tension I see in the LDS Church from the outside looking in; there seems to be a drive to be included in the tradition Christian Church (C/Ps),’we are Christians too’; yet an equally strong drive to be ‘other’, ‘separate’, ‘the One True Church’.

    Protestants on the other hand, are all secretly afraid that they are too Catholic! Which is understandable since they all came from the Catholic Church.

    So I am curious; considering the fact that the LDS Church holds to the same claim of Apostolic succession as Catholics, why does there appear to be a need (legitimacy?) by the LDS Church to be ‘loosely’ associated with traditional Christianity, which JS claimed teaches doctrines that are abominations before God?

    If this question is not appropriate, or I may be derailing the topic, please disregard – the question was just on my mind.

  15. RonL
    May 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Can you tell I am supposed to be writing a paper?

    Just to let you all know, Catholics are not locked into the physical attributes of God as a Trinity; all Catholics believe that the communion bread and wine actually turns into the literal blood and body of Christ. So, the act of consuming the Eucharist is considered to be the most holy act of worship.

  16. May 4, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    RL (#14),

    if I may, I think the ‘we are Christians too’ attitude you see from the LDS community (and the Church itself) comes from a desire not to be misunderstood: for a long time there had been rumors that we did not worship Christ at all, or that we place Joseph Smith as having greater importance than Christ. We are reacting, not surprisingly, against that accusation with a degree of vehemence that makes it seem as if we are eager to embrace the C/P traditions in many respects. Of course, when you look at what’s happening along with that, you notice that we are simultaneously preaching much about how our view of the Godhead/Trinity is the original/Biblical one and how we are ‘the One True Church’ as you put it.

    Frankly, you are right–there are really only a very few churches that can or do attempt to make a claim of of Apostolic succession, and that claim is really what’s important. If you boil down the truth, the fact of theology comes down to who has the succession right in terms of administering ordinances (and in that case, the right to define doctrine). If the Catholics have it, then we LDS are sunk, as are the Protestants. But if the Catholics lost it, as we claim, then they and the Protestants are sunk, and a Restoration would be necessary. The question then becomes whether that restoration happened with Joseph Smith or not. If yes, then we have the Apostolic succession, and we have the right to define doctrine–if not, then we do not, and then we should all be waiting for a Restoration.

    Me, I’m banking on the Apostasy + Restoration scenario, but then again, I think it’s obvious why I would say that…
    ————————–

    Now as to whether or not doctrinal beliefs matter–I am going to say that yes they do BECAUSE beliefs produce behavior. It’s a motivation question. Sorry, but since I study motivation and behavior professionally, my take is simple–if you believe something it influences your behavior. What you believe about the nature of the world and the nature of God is going to have an influence on your behavior. I think this applies even to your beliefs about the nature of God. More later (maybe). Back to church for me.

  17. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Ron asks: “So I am curious; considering the fact that the LDS Church holds to the same claim of Apostolic succession as Catholics, why does there appear to be a need (legitimacy?) by the LDS Church to be ‘loosely’ associated with traditional Christianity, which JS claimed teaches doctrines that are abominations before God?”

    Ron, I wrote a whole post on this very topic precisely because people don’t seem to understand it and it’s actually quite straightforward and not a mystery at all.

    I essentially agree with and Ben O, said… but let me summarize in my own words. (Please read the whole post and I think it will be more clear.) The short version is that you have a misperception that I want to be included or loosely associated with Catholics or Protestants. I do not. You are starting with an assumption that my insistent on being called a Christian is a desire to be loosely associated with Catholics and Protestants. In fact there is no reason for you to believe this at all and it is not true. Catholics and Protestants do not own the trade mark on Christianity. (As any Eastern Orthodox Christian can tell you.)

    Thus my objection is actully rooted in a desire for others to not misrepresent my beliefs and thus be prejudice or intolerant towards me or people that believe as I do. It has nothing to do whatsoever with a desire to be loosely associated with other religions that fall under the umbrella of Christianity because of their belief in Christ. I want to be seen as distinct and different, I just don’t want to be misrepresented as not believeing in Jesus Christ. And my concern here is completely founded based on my real life experiences of people thinking I don’t because of the mispresentation of Mormons not being Christian. (I explain in my article.)

    I do see Catholic and Protestant religions as being something very different than the LDS religion (just like how I see Catholic and Protestant religions as being very different.) Admittedly there is a huge overlap between all three, but that is true between, say, Catholic and Budahist religions as well. (Or Mormon and Budahist, etc.) So I start with the assumption that the difference between religions deeply matter to the people involved or they wouldn’t actually be different religions. I think reality bears me out on this.

    Now that I’ve said that, it should be obvious that you are making a few other assumptions about Mormons that are not true either. For example:

    “Why are LDS concerned about being in agreement with C/Ps on the issue or any issue, for that matter? After all, the concept of the Trinity is a Catholic dogma – if LDS members are going to embrace the Apostasy; I am not sure why this doctrine even appeals to you.”

    I have said nothing to suggest that I want to be in agreement with Catholics or Protestants on their particular dogma and interpretation of the Trinity. You are just reading that into what I am saying. Consider my article here as an example of what I am talking about. I do believe in a doctrine of Trinity, but I do not believe in the Catholic doctrine of Trinity. (Or more specifically, I do not believe in the Catholic/Protestant explanation of how a “Trinity” is possible. Even more specifically, I believe the Catholic/Protestant explanation is in contradiction and that this alone disqualifies it as a Loving God would never require profession of belief in a bonafide contradiction to qualify for salvation. I’m not claiming you believe that He does. But you have to admit that the Trinity doctine has certainly historically been used in just that way.)

    “2. Also, it seems as if LDS members, in an honest attempt to reach out to C/Ps, want us to soften our doctrine on the nature of God…”

    Actually, I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t want you to soften any of your doctrines any more than I think Mormons should soften any of theirs. I think tolerant discussion (like we are having) requires no softness at all. I think “tolerance” simply means we don’t misrepresent each other, yell at each other, get violent, streotype, prejudge (i.e. be prejudice), or mock each other. But I think we can and should logically and rationally explain exactly why we think our doctrines are more true or superior to anyone elses in the world.

    So in other words, if there are Catholics out there that really and truly believe that Mormon rejection of substance theology in our explanation of the Trinity will mean I go to hell… I think they can and must state just that right to my face or I will consider them a phony. 🙂

    Of course I expect them to say it without yelling, mocking, or misrepresenting me as tolerance demands. In other words, I expect them to respectfully tell me that I am going to hell. I will accept no other answer as tolerant and truthful if it is what they really believe. And I expect nothing less of them and will show them the same courtesy by respectfully responding to them and explaining why such a belief is at odds with the loving God of the Bible.

    We can then respectfully (with real understanding of each other) agree to disagree.

  18. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Ron, I think the reason why you feel that I was asking you to soften your views was because I asked: “How do you feel about the Mormon belief about the Trinity …” and it must have sounded like I was trying to trap you into saying something I’d find offensive.

    (This is a standard anti-Mormon bait and trap attack, btw. “What? You’re saying I’m not going to go to heaven unless I’m a Mormon?” There is of course no good sucinct answer to such a question. And the full nuance answer, though shockingly good, is impossible to impart to someone asking such a question out of hostility.)

    Now I realize that we live in a society where actual tolerance (again that means we openly disagree with each other without mispresenting, mocking, etc.) is no longer considered a virtue. Instead our society is starting to push towards not speaking about our differences at all and letting them boil and seeth. There seems to be a sort of “gag” rule on religion where if someone tells you they disagree with your religion then you have a right to say that you are offended and that it’s the other persons fault. (Imagine how well this would go over in a political realm. Oh wait! Sometimes it does work that way in the political realm too!)

    I find this view of tolerance to be a mockery of real tolerance. I find it to be dangerous. There is no way to even come to understand one another, even to agree to disagree, if we all have a gag rule on legitimate differences of view.

    So I understand why you accidently saw my request as a way to pin you down and thus try to move you towards a softening.

    But actually, my real intent was to get you to openly explain yourself here. (I knew no one would be offended on this website, anyhow.)

    The point I was actually trying to make was to show why I disgree with AdamF’s original point, while at the same time agreeing with it. That is to say, I agree with him that the metaphysical nature of God does not matter… but that’s because I’m a Mormon and as a Mormon I believe that salvation is to know God so completely that I become like Him and become one with Him even as Jesus is one with Him. Thus obviously the exact metaphysical nature of diety means very little to me. But on the other hand, utilizing the Grace of God to change my will to match His means a huge amount to me!

    From that perspective I agree with AdamF when he rhetorically asks: “Does one of the many Christian conceptualizations of God inspire more visits “to the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” or keep one “unspotted from the world?””

    But if I were not a Mormon, and I was looking at Mormons from the outside, I am not sure I *would* agree with AdamF. I believe your post (and you must admit you do have a somewhat more progressive and liberal view of Catholicism) sort of proved my point. From a Catholic worldview, the exact metaphysical nature of God does indeed matter and maybe even more so than whether it encourages me to visit the widows and the fatherless.

    Or to put it another way, I think that from a traditional Catholic point of view, the difference between a Mormon doctrine of Trinity and Catholic doctrine of Trinity is NOT a tiny difference in wording at all. But from a Mormon point of view, that’s all it is.

    Examples of what I am saying — you said: “However, I believe the LDS teaching regarding a ‘oneness of will and purpose’ does not go far enough in explaining the nature of God…”

    “without the doctrine of the Trinity to define the nature of God, which includes the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, we are left without a knowledge of the Father, the Son and the HS, therefore, how can we know any of His characteristics”

    I think this is the crux of the matter. To a Catholic (or Protestant) Mormons rejection of substance theology (“oneness of Being”) is tantamount to saying that Jesus isn’t *really* God and thus they believe (and often misrepresent Mormons) as not believing Jesus is God.

    But to a Mormon, we DO believe Jesus is God. We just define God and God’s oneness in a different way than you do. (And yes, we believe our view is rooted in the Bible just as you believe yours is.)

    (And if you all understand what I am getting at here, you’ll realize that this does mean that what someone believes in doctrine DOES in fact matter and matters a lot. Just indirectly so.)

  19. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    BO:

    if I may, I think the ‘we are Christians too’ attitude you see from the LDS community (and the Church itself) comes from a desire not to be misunderstood: for a long time there had been rumors that we did not worship Christ at all, or that we place Joseph Smith as having greater importance than Christ.

    RL: I agreed that LDS members have been traditionally persecuted for their faith in this country. Along with the persecution, there have been groups that are not satisfied with arguing honest disagreements between LDS doctrine and their own; instead they seem to enjoy twisting LDS doctrine and distorting it into something unrecognizable; the end justify the means in their minds, and LDS doctrine must be stopped at all costs. How sad.
    What I am saying is, I see your point.

    BO:

    We are reacting, not surprisingly, against that accusation with a degree of vehemence that makes it seem as if we are eager to embrace the C/P traditions in many respects. Of course, when you look at what’s happening along with that, you notice that we are simultaneously preaching much about how our view of the Godhead/Trinity is the original/Biblical one and how we are ‘the One True Church’ as you put it.

    RL: Indeed.

    BO:

    Frankly, you are right–there are really only a very few churches that can or do attempt to make a claim of Apostolic succession, and that claim is really what’s important. If you boil down the truth, the fact of theology comes down to who has the succession right in terms of administering ordinances (and in that case, the right to define doctrine). If the Catholics have it, then we LDS are sunk, as are the Protestants. But if the Catholics lost it, as we claim, then they and the Protestants are sunk, and a Restoration would be necessary. The question then becomes whether that restoration happened with Joseph Smith or not. If yes, then we have the Apostolic succession, and we have the right to define doctrine–if not, then we do not, and then we should all be waiting for a Restoration.
    Me, I’m banking on the Apostasy + Restoration scenario, but then again, I think it’s obvious why I would say that…

    RL: Fair enough.
    ————————–
    BO:

    Now as to whether or not doctrinal beliefs matter–I am going to say that yes they do BECAUSE beliefs produce behavior. It’s a motivation question. Sorry, but since I study motivation and behavior professionally, my take is simple–if you believe something it influences your behavior. What you believe about the nature of the world and the nature of God is going to have an influence on your behavior. I think this applies even to your beliefs about the nature of God. More later (maybe). Back to church for me.

    RL: Thanks for your thoughtful post. The only thing that I would add is that I think behavior can also lead to belief; many Ps tend to criticize Cs for simply ‘going through the motions’ at Mass (often because Ps do not understand C worship), because frankly, some Cs just don’t get it. I would argue that participation in the Mass can often lead a mindless C to a deep and personal faith in Jesus Christ over time.

  20. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Ron says: “The only thing that I would add is that I think behavior can also lead to belief; many Ps tend to criticize Cs for simply ‘going through the motions’ at Mass … I would argue that participation in the Mass can often lead a mindless C to a deep and personal faith in Jesus Christ over time.”

    Amen brother! On this point at least I will happily agree to be fully associated with Catholics. 🙂

  21. Ray
    May 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Fwiw, I have said on many, many occasions that Catholics and Mormons have much more in common than Protestants and Mormons do. I have some HUGE problems with some Catholic beliefs and historical practices, but, even so, I feel much closer theologically to Catholicism than to most of mainstream and evangelical Protestantism. I have very little time right now, but I did want to make that point.

  22. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    #21, Ray, I have to confess a great deal of deep admiration for the Catholic church myself. 🙂 The last three or so Pope are my heroes to boot.

  23. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    You know, I spent quite a bit of time answering your post line by line, BN. Although, I thought your post was thoughtful and clearly stated, and I enjoyed reading the post you wrote on another thread; I decided not to post my reply. I realized that I am getting too far into a discussion that may become divisive rather than constructive and it is not my place.

    Here is what I feel comfortable answering:

    1. I agree that I do hold certain assumptions. I agree that C/Ps are not the final word on Christianity. I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity has been used by C/Ps to exclude non-believers from the Christian Community.

    2. I understand that LDS have been persecuted for their beliefs in this country and there have been some groups that have twisted LDS doctrine into an unrecognizable ‘strawman’ and then shot them down. So I understand why it is important for you to insist on being heard for what your church really teaches, rather than what people tell you that your church teaches.

    3. I see that you are claiming that your church is Christian and not C/P, which I think is a fair distinction.

    4. I think it is a bit unfair to ‘call out’ C/Ps regarding substance theology sending you to Hell – I’ve never said that, nor have I implied it.

    5. Although, I am not shy about stating that the doctrine of the Trinity does exclude non-Trinitarian believers from the traditional Christian community; I do not make any judgments about the quality of faith or obedience or the eternal destination of those who reject the doctrine.

    Here is what I see happening:

    This conversation has turned from a discussion on Trinitarian doctrine to a discussion on exclusion. I am sure that I have played a role in this transformation of the conversation and I am ok talking about it if it is appropriate.
    So, as you know, I have a dilemma on my hands. I belong to a Church that defined Christianity for 1500 years and used the Apostle’s Creed, the Eucharist, the Nicene Creed, and Baptism to place boundaries around what it proclaimed to be the true faith. EO and Ps were the first people to separate from the RCC, yet retain all of the basic doctrines so the RCC really had difficulty addressing the separation. Now, we have the LDS Church, which has broadened the definition of Christianity beyond basic doctrines laid down by the RCC, so in order for the RCC to recognize the LDS Church as Christian, a softening of the doctrine of the Trinity has to occur.

    I have no problem recognizing the genuine faith and works of the LDS Church, but according to the doctrines of my Church, the doctrines of the LDS lay outside Christianity, as I know it.

    So I have a few questions:

    1. Who qualifies as a Christian in your mind? Are JWs Christian? Christian Scientists? Gandhi (he followed Christ’s teachings better than most Christians do)? And, what is the dividing line between a Christian and a non-Christian?

    2. Where does the LDS Church end? Are RLDS members considered LDS members? Are Fundamentalist Mormons considered members of the Church? Why or why not?

    3. Finally, isn’t the claim on the word ‘Christian’ actually an exclusive claim rather than inclusive? According to the BOM and the teachings of JS, the restoration was needed because the Christian Church was taken away from the Earth during the Apostasy – it was only restored with Joseph Smith so if LDS doctrine doesn’t recognize the C/P as being Christian, how can members of the LDS church claim non-Mormons are Christian?

  24. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Ron,

    I apologize if you feel that I have shift the conversation towards that of exclusion. I did not intend any sort of shift. As I feel I clearly stated before, I am not looking for any sort of “inclusion.”

    I also appreciate your thoughtful AND respectful answers to my questions and I will try to respond in kind.

    However, I must first defend myself on one point that you make: “I think it is a bit unfair to ‘call out’ C/Ps regarding substance theology sending you to Hell – I’ve never said that, nor have I implied it.”

    I assume you are responding to my statement: “I believe the Catholic/Protestant explanation is in contradiction and that this alone disqualifies it as a Loving God would never require profession of belief in a bonafide contradiction to qualify for salvation. I’m not claiming you believe that He does. But you have to admit that the Trinity doctine has certainly historically been used in just that way

    I was not trying to be offensive when I said this and I was certainly not trying to state what you personally believed. But it is my honest understanding that I am factually correct, as is stated within the Athanasius Creed itself (see Adam’s link above): “WHOEVER wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.[And then goes on to define the Catholic doctrine of Trinity as the Catholic faith]”

    Also it states: “He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.”

    Again, if I am misinterpreting the Athanasius creed, please feel free to explain what my misunderstanding is.

    Indeed it was my understanding that there are significant examples of this in Christian history where those that disbelieved the Athanasius view of the doctrine of Trinity were in fact branded heretics and pronounced damned and anathema. (I’m not suggesting that we can’t find equivalent issues in Mormonism by the way.) If I am factually incorrect on this point, I will accept your correction (though expect me to research any sources you give me).

    But let me be plain… I was NOT talking about your personal beliefs at all. I was talking about the historic interpretation of the Catholic and Protestant churches and it is certain a view that continues to be held widely even today amongst many Catholics and Protestants as I well know through first hand experience. I have been condemned to hell over this many many many times.

    If I was factually correct, then I hope you can see that the point I made was valid and worthy of discussion. If I am factually wrong, then I will retract my statement entirely.

    (more in a minute.)

  25. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I think you may have picked up some defensiveness in my post that I did not intend to communicate – the internet is so limited in communicating tone. I am going to wait for the rest of your post before I respond fully, but for now, I will say that I was only commenting on the evolution of the topic on this thread – rather than accussing you or anyone else of shifting the topic.

  26. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Ron,

    I have given this a bit more thought and I want to add something. I can tell you are uncomfortable with my very direct approach. You are not alone. I have offended many people with how direct I am and I am really trying to not offend, but I’m trying to do it without giving up on being open and honest. I would appreicate feedback from you on this, if you think you have some helpful suggestions for me.

    However, and again, let me be plain, when I bring up strong counter points as I am doing, it is not because I want you to back down on your beliefs or because I want to be included. And I do not *want* to make you or other uncomfortable.

    To put it plainly, I feel a lot of misunderstandings fester for a long time because we as a people (Americans a least) have lost our ability to not be offended when someone has a strong but honest disagreement with us. I hope you will see that I honestly don’t care someone wants to stand up and tell me I’m hell bound on the fast train because I’m actually worshipping devils diguishing themselves as a false Christ. Such a statement I find to be perfectly tolerant and non-offensive because I see it as an honest statement of that person’s honest beliefs.

    What I am trying to say, is that as long as you are honestly stating your beliefs, I promise I won’t become offended. (Though at times my more direct approach may come across like an attack because culturally such forwardness is starting to be redefined as “attacking” rather than an honest statement of disagreement.)

    Let me answer your questions now:

    1. Who qualifies as a Christian in your mind? Are JWs Christian? Christian Scientists? Gandhi (he followed Christ’s teachings better than most Christians do)? And, what is the dividing line between a Christian and a non-Christian?

    Excellent questions. Did you read my post? I explain myself fully there. The short version is that there are many possible definitinos of the word “Christian” and under some definitions Mormons qualify and under others they do not. However, under the most commonly understood definitions, Mormons clearly qualify as Christians.

    If someone wants to call me a “non-Christian” I would be unconcerned about it so long as they tolerantly explain (for the sake of not misrepresenting) that they are using a personal and non-dictionary-standard definition of “Christian”. (Look up “Christian in dictionary.com) and that under a dictionary definition Mormons ARE Christian. This eliminates any chance for misrepresentation and thus I see it as tolerant.

    Incidently, if we can accept that the common definition of “Christian” is found in the dictionary and that we should accept this unless we take care to explain ourselves, then I would have to say that there really is no mystery of who on your list is or isn’t Christian: JW are, Christian Scientists are, Ghandi is not. I’m not insulting Ghandi when I say this, I’m simply stating a fact (and one that Ghandi would not argue with me over, btw).

    2. Where does the LDS Church end? Are RLDS members considered LDS members? Are Fundamentalist Mormons considered members of the Church? Why or why not?

    The LDS church is a well defined organization that keeps exact records on who is and isn’t a member of it. So the clear answer to your question is that the LDS chruch ends at where they say it does.

    Now if you want to rephrase the question to ask “where does the restorationist movement end?” then your point would have been valid, as the LDS Church is not the only restorationist movement or even the only one that claims Joseph Smith as their first prophet. But I hope you can also see that this would hardly matter to me. Furthermore, there are no RLDS or FLDS out there trying to claim to be LDS.

    3. Finally, isn’t the claim on the word ‘Christian’ actually an exclusive claim rather than inclusive? According to the BOM and the teachings of JS, the restoration was needed because the Christian Church was taken away from the Earth during the Apostasy – it was only restored with Joseph Smith so if LDS doctrine doesn’t recognize the C/P as being Christian, how can members of the LDS church claim non-Mormons are Christian?

    You are not correct on this. Mormons do in fact accept all Christians as Christians.

    Let me not play word games here. What you sense is correct. Mormons are exclusive and I do not apologize for that fact. In fact, that is precisely why I do not ask for inclusion from you. (Note: in many ways Mormons are actually very very inclusive… but I don’t have time to explain it all at the moment. I will simply admit that your main point of Mormons being exclusive is true in some respects and, again, I absolutely do not apologize for that fact and I do not except you to for that in the Catholic Church either.)

    But I say it again: I am not asking you for inclusion at all! I *am* demanding tolerant behavior of everyone — which includes non-misrepresentation. Any one can call me non-Christian till the cows come home if they take care to explain what they mean by that statement so that people don’t misunderstand me and I will not ask them to correct themselves. (Again, please please read my article as it explains my point of view better via actual real life experiences.)

    But if they simply call me a “non-Christian” without a nuanced explanation I will call them on it immediately and strongly as the demands of truth require of me. I will not allow such misrepresentation to go on as it does indeed lead to further persecution and misunderstanding and human pain.

  27. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    >>> I think you may have picked up some defensiveness in my post that I did not intend to communicate – the internet is so limited in communicating tone. I am going to wait for the rest of your post before I respond fully, but for now, I will say that I was only commenting on the evolution of the topic on this thread – rather than accussing you or anyone else of shifting the topic.

    Understood. And you are right about the limits of the internet. It is impossible to hear tone of voice. I will take your word for it that you were just talking about evolution of the topic. (Which, now that you say it, I can see what you mean.)

  28. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Ron,

    Let me give an example of what I mean:

    Imagine a Protestant Minister (or Catholic Priest) saying to his congregation “Mormons are Christian in that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the redeemer, and that He is fully God. Mormons are NOT Christian in that they do not accept the Athanasius Creed.”

    Here he calls me a non-Christian but took care to not mispreresent me.

    (Alternatively: “Mormons are not Christians in the sense that they do not believe in the Athanasius or other creeds. However, they do believe in Jesus Christ, that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is fully God, and that he is the redeemer, just as us Christians believe.” This is more problematic than the above, but I’ll accept it because frankly I have to start somewhere with the intolerance towards me, as a Mormon, in the world. And it’s close enough to count for now. )

    Now let’s say this same minister said: “Mormons are not Christians.” And left it at that. Presumably many (most?) of his congregation will mistakenly believe that I, as a Mormon, do not believe in Jesus Christ, not not believe Jesus is the Son of God, do not believe Jesus is the redeemer, and do not believe He is fully Divine.

    Do you see the difference? Do you see why the first (which is fully excluding me still) doesn’t bother me at all while the second is intolerant in that it misrepresents my beliefs? (Intentionally or unintentionally.)

    I don’t know how to say it plainer than this.

  29. May 4, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    RL: “I do not make any judgments about the quality of faith or obedience or the eternal destination of those who reject the doctrine.” Amen to that. I’m sorry this comment isn’t longer (to fit in with the others, lol).

    BN: “if they simply call me a “non-Christian” without a nuanced explanation I will call them on it…” I have experienced this time and again, and it does get pretty old to me. I have ran into a few who had probably not even read the creeds yet said I was not Christian, which I chuckled a little inside at.

    RL #23: Re: your question #3 “how can members of the LDS church claim non-Mormons are Christian?”

    LDS doctrine states that the authority in the church was lost, hence the apostasy, which I probably did not need to say because you may know more about it than I do, lol. We can call non-Mormons Christian because they believe in Christ as the Son of God, and they strive to follow his teachings. Now, what God’s “metaphysical” nature is, as BN put it, matters to us, but not to the point that it would negate our commonness in *following Christ* with other Christians.

  30. hawkgrrrl
    May 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Ron: “So I am curious; considering the fact that the LDS Church holds to the same claim of Apostolic succession as Catholics, why does there appear to be a need (legitimacy?) by the LDS Church to be ‘loosely’ associated with traditional Christianity, which JS claimed teaches doctrines that are abominations before God?” Not to interrupt a great dialogue between you and Bruce, but just to add another reason for this perception – there are some “anti-Mormon” attacks that are widely distributed that link us to some very “out there” occultish stuff that is not our doctrine and is off-putting to both Mormons and non-Mormons alike. This is separate from the “Mormons are not Christians” claim. We just don’t want to be considered crazy alien-worshiping freaks. I don’t perceive that there is much interest in being associated with traditional Christianity really, and I would certainly say that if you attend our meetings, most members would clearly see that it’s either us or Catholicism with the authority.

    To answer the questions posed:
    1. What do you believe about God? I believe He is the father of mankind, the organizer of intelligences, a literal glorified Person, whose purpose is to save mankind

    2. Where does your belief come from? spiritual experiences with scriptures, church, prayer

    3. What scripture(s) or teachings best describe you belief? John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”; Moses 1:39 “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”; Abraham 3: 18-19 “also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am amore intelligent than they all.”; Matt 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”; Romans 8:17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

    4. In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life? I try to improve myself to become the best person I can be and to live up to my potential, I strive to have a personal relationship with God, I try to see my children the way I imagine God sees them and to help them reach their potential.

    5. Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like? I suspect these are more intimately linked than we think they are. I have often thought that the desire to separate our physical and spiritual sides can go from the mildly adversarial “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” to the extremes of corporeal mortification too quickly. Why were the intelligences not organized into “tree” bodies or “rock” bodies instead of “human” bodies? I think there is something specifically innate in our humanness that is a critical component to our natures. We clearly know that our “personal characteristics” influence our physical appearance (I’m thinking Ekman’s face reading system here). I simply believe that there is an important connection in both directions.

  31. May 4, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I have gone to churches in the past that called Mormanism a Satanic Cult and preached all manner of lies about LDS beliefs. The smartest thing I’ve ever done was find out for myself what they actually believe and as a result I am now one of them. 🙂

  32. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Jayleen,

    I never said “hi” to you as a new member. Thanks for coming.

  33. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    BN: Once again, I understand that you do not want to have your beliefs and the teachings of your church misrepresented.

    After reading your post I have a few comments:

    1. The dictionary definition that you provided is really poor. There is no mention of the necessity for believing in Christ’s divinity as a requirement for being classified as a Christian.

    2. “Imagine a Protestant Minister (or Catholic Priest) saying to his congregation “Mormons are Christian in that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the redeemer, and that He is fully God.”

    The problem here is that we mean different things when we use the terms like ‘Son of God’, ‘Redeemer’, and ‘fully God’. I could claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and translated the BoM and once ran for the Presidency; but if I really believed Joseph Smith was a women; who copied the BoM from a man-made document; and once ran for the Presidency of his Rotary Club; I am sure you would have some questions about my belief in Joseph Smith.

    I understand that your point is that LDS can be excluded from the traditional Christian Community based on some criteria and included according to others. My point is that if you examine the apparent similarities between C/P doctrine and LDS doctrine there are still glaring differences – most noticably concerning the nature of God.

    Let me explain a bit further – JWs qualify as Christians according to the dictionary definition that you supplied, and they would qualify as Christians according to your minister/priest analogy. “JW’s follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and put faith in the ransom sacrifice he provided for the salvation of mankind.”; However, upon closer examination, they believe that Jesus Christ was created, is the Arch Angel Michael, and salvation for mankind means that (besides 144,000, which have already died) we will be spending eternity on Earth based on our capacity to share the WatchTower with as many people as possible. How is this Jesus similar to the Jesus you know? It certainly isn’t the Jesus I know.

    So, I am left believing that similar language is not guarantee that we believe the same ideas.

    Now, I am not interested in shaking anyone’s faith that might be reading this interaction. Truly, this is my biggest concern here. In the spirit of honoring the faith of the followers of LDS doctrine and Catholic doctrine, lets agree to disagree, ok?

  34. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    After re-reading my last post, I realize I didn’t edit it before posting – sorry.

  35. hawkgrrrl
    May 4, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    RL: “There is no mention of the necessity for believing in Christ’s divinity as a requirement for being classified as a Christian.” IMO, most Mormons would allow others to self-identify as Christian or non-Christian and would just accept that self-identification at face value, despite theological differences. Others on this site may disagree with me on this point (I don’t know of any official stance, for example), but that is my opinion. I do question whether someone would self-identify as “Christian” if they do not consider Jesus divine. If they merely consider him a great teacher, for example, they probably would not self-identify as Christian. In essence, even the UU would be considered Christian by us if they so self-designate (although I am aware that some UU consider themselves Christian but others do not).

  36. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    >>> So, I am left believing that similar language is not guarantee that we believe the same ideas.

    Ron, I feel like we might be going in circles now. The problem here is that I’m not suggesting that believing in similar language is a guarantee that we believe the same ideas. My point was the exact opposite, that we don’t. So that means Catholics and Protestants, when defining someone else’s faith, have a moral duty to take a lot of care when explaining and representing (or misrepresenting) someone of another faith.

    You may not feel that when I say Son of God I mean the same thing you do. Maybe maybe not. I can’t tell without finding out a lot more about what you believe. And maybe I don’t feel Jesus is God in the same sense you do. That’s possible. Again, I don’t know. Such a judgement would require you to define your terms.

    But here is the point, I’m going to state it one more time, I’m looking for some feedback from you that you understand what I am getting at: If you merely say “Mormons are not Christian” it does not matter that according to your private definition of Christian (regardless of whether or not you agree with the dictionary definition) if we are or aren’t. You still communicated something that isn’t true to your audience.

    Please read my post I gave you links too. I am basing this on first hand knowledge of real events. When Catholics and Protestants go around saying Mormons are “not Christian” and don’t take care to explain, they absolutely categorically misrepresent Mormons. This is a fact. It is not up for dispute because I have first hand evidence it’s the case. So at least in the cases I’m aware of, it’s absolute true. I ask that you acknowledge this fact.

    Your arguments that it’s a gray area simply aren’t true. There is no gray area here at all. If you aren’t taking care to explain further, you are misrepresenting, period. (Again, please please read my post. The real life examples will cement this.) (Update: what I mean here is that since I know of real life examples where Mormons being represented as “non-Christian” by Cathlolics, or Protestants, led to a real misunderstanding of what Mormons do in fact actually believe, thus it’s black and white that such language does cause many people to misunderstand what Mormons really believe.)

    Do I believe the JWs are right about Jesus? Absolutely not. Do I believe the Catholics are? Absolute not. Is any of this relevant to my concern about misrepresentation? Absolutely not.

    I’m not sure how else to phrase this, so I guess I’ll have to leave it at that. I know this is a big change I’m asking of people, but it is a moral one and it needs to happen. It is not tolerant to misrepresent Mormons by calling Mormons “non-Christian” without being careful how you define your terms is mispreresentation. This is very simple.

    Now how to properly represent Mormons, well, that’s more difficult and I think this is the path of your arguments. Mormons define terms differently and they see things differently. You made this point many times and I agree with you.

    But what does that mean? To me it means you have a moral duty to absolute always represent Mormons as Christian (for they are as per the dictionary defintion and even are if you throw in there “they believe they are saved by Christ”) UNLESS you decide it’s worth the effort to really break our beliefs down factually and accurately and fully and totally explain them.

    I know this is a huge burdern but the demands of truth or nothing less then this.

    I have a alternative for you to consider, Ron. If your real concern is that you want to communicate that Mormons are not Christians as per the “traditional” creedal definition… well, why are you mispresenting by saying “non-Christian” when you clearly could just say any of the following which I will not reject at all:

    * Mormons are not creedal Christians
    * Mormons are heretical Christians (from a Catholic point of view anyhow)
    * Mormons reject the creeds defining the Trinity
    * Mormons do not come from the historic Christian tradition. (Obivously I believe we are a restoration, but I acknowledge we are not “historic” in that we historically came from a line of succession.)

    So there is my real point. If you are sincere about wanting to be truthful (and I believe you are) please represent Mormons in one of those ways which communicates your point without offending me for the misrepresentation. There is no need to confuse the issue by saying “Mormons or not Christian” but to not bother to explain or define your terms and thus leave your audience with a false impression — as I have often found is the case.

    I am not trying to limit your ability to exclude me on any front you choose. I’m only “limiting” (so to speak) your right to leave people with the false impression they obviously come away with from an overly simplified statement like “Mormons are not Christian.”

    Does this make sense?

  37. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Ron,

    Sorry to use so many words.

    Will you do me a favor? Read this post of mine: http://mormonmatters.org/2008/03/04/religions-in-their-own-words-the-morality-of-misrepresenting-other-religions/

    When the shoe is on the other foot, are you okay with it? If so, I’ll shut up. 😛

    If you are okay with similar treatment and misrepresentation, I’ll at least see that you are consistent and I’ll agree to disagree with you.

    Of course I’ll still believe it’s wrong to call Mormons non-Christians if you don’t bother to explain what you realy meant. Certainly Mormons aren’t “non-Christians” in the same sense that, say, Muslims or Budahists are. Is it wrong for me to ask for this when it seems so obviously true?

    I do not believe I’m asking much of Catholics or Protestants here. In fact, I think I’m just asking for good old fashion respectful behavior. I do not think this is a hard thing I ask (except that there is a deeply ingrown habit to over come now) and I don’t believe it limits your self representation as being different from Mormons.

  38. Bruce Nielson
    May 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Ron,

    I am afraid my posts might come across negatively and in a way that I don’t intend them. So I apologize for that. I respect your point of view on everything you have said. I simply do not accept that this is a valid excuse to call me a non-Christian. Yes, Mormons are different. Yes, they are different in ways that matter to Catholics. Yes, Mormons are non-historical in that we have no ties whatsoever to the Catholic Church.

    As you can guess, I’ve been hit by this intolerance in my past and I’m sensitive to it now, as well I should be. Plus I have made this a “pet project” of sorts to stand up to what I see as a misrepresentation of Mormonism.

    I am hoping it shocks you a little that I don’t mind you calling me a heretical Christian. I hope you’ll really look at that and think about it. Historically Catholics called those that rejected the Trinity doctrine heretical Christians. I’m asking that you do so for me.

    You see, if a Catholic calls me a heretic, I find it non-offensive. It just means that they believe my beliefs are wrong. There is no mispreresentation going on. In fact, it’s really self representation — and it’s being done so accurately. (Update: what I mean here is that you have a right to define your own beliefs and in so far as I don’t match them you have the right to call me a heretic if you want.)

    But if you call me a non-Christian (without further explanation that is), you are mispresenting me to an average hearer. This is not a small matter to me or some other Mormons. (Though you’ll probably find I care more about it than most Mormons.)

    To be honest, I think the entire conversation we’ve had has basically been me trying to explain that I don’t care if you exclude me — but please don’t misrepresent me — and then you thinking that secretly I’m trying to use the language of tolerance to try to force you to include me. In fact, that’s exactly what it seems to be.

    To me, this itself is somewhat unfair of the Catholic/Protestant view. Catholics and Protestants have started this by calling Mormons “non-Christian” rather than “heretical Christians.” This was a misrepresentation and always will be. (Again, unless you take the time to explain it fully and completely, which is admitted a heavy burden)

    But when Mormons began to protest Catholics and Protestants (mostly Protestants actually) began to claim that this was because Mormons wanted to “desperately be included” when in fact we were simply correctly the mispresentation. I don’t know of any Mormon that I’ve ever met that wants to be included with Catholic/Protestant forms of Christianity. So I find this characterization of myself inaccurate and offensive in and of itself.

    But that line of thought is obviously very powerful. That it has kept a misunderstanding between us going this whole time is the proof of the danger of this misreprentation. And it is why I can’t and never will back down on it. It is intolerance in it’s most subtle form and I do not believe it is an accident that it’s been perpetuated on Mormons.

    So again, I will say it, and believe me I mean it: I do not want you to include me in any way shape or form. I solely and exclusively want you to NOT misrepresent me. That is all I am asking for. Please call me a heretic instead of a non-Christian and we can both accept the label as accurate from a Catholic point of view. That way we can both be happy. 🙂

  39. May 4, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Bruce, fwiw, when I was in Japan on my mission, my companion and I approached a man (who did not necessarily look like he spoke English) and before we could get more than three words out he said in English, quite firmly, “I am Catholic, and I think you are heretics.” He did not accuse us of being non-Christian. Perhaps there are more people like him who use the terms accurately. 🙂

    Ron – Thanks again for visiting this site and engaging in this thread. Your views as a Catholic are unique and welcome here.

  40. Ray
    May 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Just now catching up on this thread, but in response to #22 (Bruce):

    I really admire the last couple, but I have some serious reservations about the current one. That, however, is not a subject for any Mormon-themed blog, imho – so please, no response. 🙂

  41. May 4, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Ray – sometime back in another post you mentioned the idea of becoming a God/like God as Biblical. A common criticism of our faith is that it is not. My point in the post was that those discussions rarely get anywhere… What I am wondering now is what parts of or scriptures in the Bible suggest this to you? This is changing the topic a little I realize, but I would love to talk more about this. More relating to the post, what about the Nature of God and man’s destiny do you find in the Bible? Or even the Book of Mormon?

  42. Ray
    May 4, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Adam, I don’t find it in the Book of Mormon – other than an extrapolation from 3 Nephi 27:27 (which I think is not a valid interpretation of that verse, since I read that verse as a command relative to our actions in this life) and another extrapolation from 3 Nephi 28:10 (which I think is valid, but which is addressed specifically to the Three Nephites – meaning it could be argued as relative only to them, or only to them and John, the Beloved). When it really only appears in one verse, I can’t claim it is a “teaching” of the Book of Mormon. I think there are MANY things Mormon and Moroni didn’t address in the BofM, since their belief that “if ye believe this (the BofM), ye will believe that (the Bible)” meant that they didn’t have to waste time and space in such an abridgment recording stuff that would be taught explicitly in the Bible.

    I will type up a response for the Bible, but it will take a while. I might e-mail it to you, since you might want to take it apart or edit it into a separate post or two or three. If you read it and want me to post it here on this thread, that’s fine.

  43. May 4, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    AdamF, I really appreciate your post and the spirit in which it was written. In particular, your post has prompted me to reflect on some of the potential challenges of dialogue and I’ve written my thoughts on my blog. I hope you’ll take a look at it. Thanks.

  44. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    BN:

    Ron, I feel like we might be going in circles now. The problem here is that I’m not suggesting that believing in similar language is a guarantee that we believe the same ideas. My point was the exact opposite, that we don’t. So that means Catholics and Protestants, when defining someone else’s faith, have a moral duty to take a lot of care when explaining and representing (or misrepresenting) someone of another faith.

    RL: It seems that we are spending a lot of time at effort talking past each other. I am starting to believe that you want me to condemn you based on my Church doctrine; and you want me to use specific language when I do condemn you. I am only here to talk about the doctrine of the Trinity, remember?

    BN:

    You may not feel that when I say Son of God I mean the same thing you do. Maybe maybe not. I can’t tell without finding out a lot more about what you believe. And maybe I don’t feel Jesus is God in the same sense you do. That’s possible. Again, I don’t know. Such a judgment would require you to define your terms.

    RL: My beliefs are in line with the Catholic Church. I think I have been clear about my adherence to the doctrine of the Trinity. I believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of the Father; was born of a virgin; lived, died, and rose again for the salvation of those who believe and obey Christ; I believe Jesus is fully man and fully divine and is one in essence with the Father and the HS. If you agree with my definition than we are in agreement; if you do not we disagree.

    BN: But here is the point, I’m going to state it one more time,

    RL: This appears condescending to me. If you are tired of this discussion, please take a break; I am trying to be clear and to understand you, just like you are trying to be clear and understand me. We need to exercise patience with one another or drop the conversation.

    BN: I’m looking for some feedback from you that you understand what I am getting at:

    RL: Indeed, I have be cordial and even understanding of your position, time and time again throughout this conversation.

    BN:

    If you merely say “Mormons are not Christian” it does not matter that according to your private definition of Christian (regardless of whether or not you agree with the dictionary definition) if we are or aren’t. You still communicated something that isn’t true to your audience.

    RL: Once again, I came here to talk about the Catholic view of the doctrine of the Trinity. I adhere to the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, which happens to be a defining view of Christianity, based on the Catholic point of view. It seems self-evident that based on my understanding of Christianity (which is hardly a private definition), non-Trinitarian believers fail outside the definition.

    Although you seem to avoid the many attempts I have made to clearly state that I respect the faith and the obedience of LDS members; I have not been shy about talking about my admiration in this area. Honestly, I am starting to feel pressure to renounce all the great attributes I have about Mormons and condemn you according to Catholic doctrine in a way that does not misrepresent your beliefs! That just seems silly to me.

    BN: Please read my post I gave you links too. I am basing this on first hand knowledge of real events.

    RL: I heard you, and I read your post the first time you asked me to read it; and then I read it again the second time you asked me. I think I am going to decline your request this time.

    BN:

    When Catholics and Protestants go around saying Mormons are “not Christian” and don’t take care to explain, they absolutely categorically misrepresent Mormons. This is a fact. It is not up for dispute because I have first hand evidence it’s the case. So at least in the cases I’m aware of, it’s absolute true. I ask that you acknowledge this fact.

    RL: It is clear that you have believed this for sometime and I am certainly not going to influence your opinion in this area.

    Once again, C/Ps exclude LDS from the larger community of Christianity because LDS teachings on the nature of God do not match up with C/P teachings. I am not sure I can get much clearer.

    BN: Your arguments that it’s a gray area simply aren’t true. There is no gray area here at all. If you aren’t taking care to explain further, you are misrepresenting, period.

    RL: Purposely misrepresenting a church’s teachings or a person’s belief system is akin to perpetuating a lie. Not only have I denounced such behavior in my earlier post, I have certainly not been guilty of it on this site. Frankly, I am insulted that you are accusing me of such behavior.

    BN:

    (Again, please please read my post. The real life examples will cement this.) (Update: what I mean here is that since I know of real life examples where Mormons being represented as “non-Christian” by Cathlolics, or Protestants, led to a real misunderstanding of what Mormons do in fact actually believe, thus it’s black and white that such language does cause many people to misunderstand what Mormons really believe.)

    RL: This is the 4th time you have asked me to read your post. For the record, I have read the BOM, the PoGP, the majority of the DoC, the entire history of JS, a great deal of President Hinkley’s writings, A Rough Stone Rolling (thanks Adam), and many, many other Mormon publications. I reject all anti-mormon literature including Chick tracts, and David Hunt, James White, Ray Rhodes articles and books. After all the effort I have put into understanding the LDS religion, and never claiming any expertise; I think it is a bit outrageous for you to suggest that I am misrepresenting your religion – unbelievable.

    Finally, if you have put half the effort into understanding Catholicism as I have LDS doctrine, I will be more willing to continue our discussion. As it stands right now, I refuse to be forced into condemning you or your church, despite your insistence – it is one thing for Mormons to endure persecution, it is another to go looking for it; and I will have no part it.

    BN:

    I’m not sure how else to phrase this, so I guess I’ll have to leave it at that. I know this is a big change I’m asking of people, but it is a moral one and it needs to happen. It is not tolerant to misrepresent Mormons by calling Mormons “non-Christian” without being careful how you define your terms is mispreresentation. This is very simple.

    RL: Ok, so I am not being tolerant or moral and I’ve missed even the simplest courtesy – ugh

    BN:

    Now how to properly represent Mormons, well, that’s more difficult and I think this is the path of your arguments. Mormons define terms differently and they see things differently. You made this point many times and I agree with you.

    RL: I don’t even know how to reply to this…..

    BN: I have a alternative for you to consider, Ron. If your real concern is that you want to communicate that Mormons are not Christians as per the “traditional” creedal definition

    RL: Actually, I am not here to talk about whether LDS members are Christian or not, despite your insistence.

    BN: … well, why are you misrepresenting by saying “non-Christian” when you clearly could just say any of the following which I will not reject at all:

    * Mormons are not creedal Christians
    * Mormons are heretical Christians (from a Catholic point of view anyhow)
    * Mormons reject the creeds defining the Trinity
    * Mormons do not come from the historic Christian tradition. (Obivously I believe we are a restoration, but I acknowledge we are not “historic” in that we historically came from a line of succession.)

    RL: Well, not that I ever said Mormons were non-Christian, but rather that Mormon doctrine and Catholic doctrine on the Trinity do not agree; however the reason why I would never use the labels to describe Mormons that you suggest is because based on the teachings of my Church they are all oxymorons. Describing yourself by using any of those terms is akin to saying, “I am a non-Christian.

    BN:

    So there is my real point. If you are sincere about wanting to be truthful (and I believe you are) please represent Mormons in one of those ways which communicates your point without offending me for the misrepresentation. There is no need to confuse the issue by saying “Mormons or not Christian” but to not bother to explain or define your terms and thus leave your audience with a false impression — as I have often found is the case.

    RL: Point taken. I will only refer to LDS members as LDS members, but I will not shy away from discussing the differences between LDS doctrine and C/P doctrine if someone asks me to or invites me to a board.

    BN: If you are okay with similar treatment and misrepresentation, I’ll at least see that you are consistent and I’ll agree to disagree with you.

    RL: Ugh….

    BN:

    Of course I’ll still believe it’s wrong to call Mormons non-Christians if you don’t bother to explain what you realy meant. Certainly Mormons aren’t “non-Christians” in the same sense that, say, Muslims or Budahists are. Is it wrong for me to ask for this when it seems so obviously true?

    RL: Ps who care about the difference between LDS doctrine and their brand of Christianity do not see a difference between LDS doctrine and Buddhism or Hinduism – believe me. Don’t worry; they do not see a difference between Catholicism and non-Christian religions either. Don’t waste you life jousting after windmills over this issue – they will never be convinced.

    Wrong? No. A wasted effort? probably. You appear to be on a quest to convince people who disagree with your doctrine to classify your belief system in a manner that is less upsetting for you – good luck with that! Don’t you think that your effort would be much better spent on developing your relationship with Christ? Or developing your prayer life? Or engaging in Holy reading? Again, why do you care what non-LDS call you?

    BN:

    I do not believe I’m asking much of Catholics or Protestants here. In fact, I think I’m just asking for good old fashion respectful behavior. I do not think this is a hard thing I ask (except that there is a deeply ingrown habit to over come now) and I don’t believe it limits your self representation as being different from Mormons.

    If you think that Cs and Ps that do not comply with your classification system are automatically being disrespectful you are being too idealistic and you are setting yourself up to be bitter and disappointed.

    BN:

    I am afraid my posts might come across negatively and in a way that I don’t intend them. So I apologize for that. I respect your point of view on everything you have said. I simply do not accept that this is a valid excuse to call me a non-Christian. Yes, Mormons are different. Yes, they are different in ways that matter to Catholics. Yes, Mormons are non-historical in that we have no ties whatsoever to the Catholic Church.

    RL: Thank you for the clarification – I was really starting to lose hope for our discussion.

    BN:

    As you can guess, I’ve been hit by this intolerance in my past and I’m sensitive to it now, as well I should be. Plus I have made this a “pet project” of sorts to stand up to what I see as a misrepresentation of Mormonism.

    RL: As far as intolerance – you are preaching to the choir! We live in a P nation and the loudest, most intolerant Ps are the most active against LDS and Catholics. So please recognize me for what I am – LDS-Friendly. Yes, I disagree with your doctrine, but I respect your faith and obedience – that should count for something.

    BN:

    I am hoping it shocks you a little that I don’t mind you calling me a heretical Christian. I hope you’ll really look at that and think about it. Historically Catholics called those that rejected the Trinity doctrine heretical Christians. I’m asking that you do so for me.

    RL: Actually, they called them heretics before they disemboweled them – there was no Christian label attached. I think I’ll just call you Bruce, if you don’t mind 🙂

  45. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks Adam – I think we will continue to have great discussions about faith issues in the future.

  46. May 4, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Ray – sounds great (via email would probably be the best–and then I’ll post something–with proper credit noted, of course!

    aquinas – thanks for the link–I can’t look at it right now as I’m going to bed, 🙂 but I’ll check it out as soon as I can.

  47. RL
    May 4, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Jayleen, Hawkgrrl, and Ray, I appreciated reading your posts.

  48. May 5, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Adam, great post as usual.

    In answer to your questions:

    # What do you believe about God?

    He is our parent and He loves us.

    # Where does your belief come from?

    Personal experience with praying and feeling God’s intense love through His Spirit.

    # What scripture(s) or teachings best describe you belief?

    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39.)

    Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 Jn. 4:7-8.)

    # In what ways are your beliefs about God manifested in your life?

    Hopefully, by being a loving person.

    # Which is more important: the personal characteristics of God, or what God looks like?

    Obviously the characteristics of God, which we naturally seek to emulate, although the doctrine that God has a body helps me to relate to Him better than I imagine I would if I believed He were an intangible force.

  49. Bruce Nielson
    May 5, 2008 at 12:38 am

    RL,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I sometimes forget that when I write a lot it seems like I am upset and I think my side of the conversation suffered from this. Again, I apologize for the fact that it didn’t come across well. I wrote post #38 backtracking a bit so I hope you will at least give me the credit of the attempt.

    Also, I hope you’ll realize that misunderstandings are bound to happen on the internet and that backtracking is inevitable if real understanding it going to happen. I am imperfect and thus incapable of understanding your underlying meaning in all cases.

    Also I made a huge mistake in wording when I started saying “you” which you took to me “you personally” when I was actually using it in the (ungramatical) “generic you” sense. I should have been saying “one” or “a C/P” or something like that.

    I have no concerns with you stating your understanding of orthodox or historic or traditional Christianity leaves Mormons outside the label. In fact, I completely agree. You actually don’t even go this far when you say “Well, not that I ever said Mormons were non-Christian, but rather that Mormon doctrine and Catholic doctrine on the Trinity do not agree.” I did seem to misunderstand your previous posts as saying that you felt it appropriate to refer to Mormons as “non-Christian.” Please forgive me. Internet postings are a difficult medium.

    My sole concern is that I’ve seen people believe Mormons are some variant of Muslim or Jew or whatever because they have been told by their Catholic priest (or whoever) that Mormons “aren’t Christian” and no attempt was made to clarify what they meant, thus leaving a false impression.

    If you had previously explained to me that you had read the post I would not have asked it again, so I apologize for that misunderstanding too. Also, somewhere in there the word “misrepresentation” came across as “intentional misrepresentation” and so I see why this offended you also. You have said your against misrepresentation, and I agree that you clearly are based on your writings.

    I am/was really asking for clarification against two points:

    1. Do you believe that some or possibly even many C/Ps are told Mormons aren’t Christian and mistakenly understand this to means that Mormons do not believe in Jesus at all or that He isn’t the redeemer of the world? Do you feel I’m off base on this? Or do you believe this really does happen?

    2. If you agree that many people are coming away with a false understanding, do you feel this is an issue? If you don’t agree, I’d appreciate an explanation rather than just a statement that you are against misrepresentation. I’m hoping to understand why you might disagree with my belief that this issue matters. What I don’t necessarily understand is why you might feel this doesn’t qualify given the real life examples. Is it just that you think it’s a minor nit and I’m over-reacting? Is it because you think such misunderstandings are really rare?

    Also, do you think the above questions are worthy questions at all? Are they worth a Mormon asking a knowledge Catholic about?

    Again, if you DO agree with me, that C/Ps should not merely call Mormons “non-Christians” without a real attempt at a nunaced explanation of what that really means, then I respectfully retract every question I have asked you as none of it matters and we were just talking past each other.

    Also, if you are uncomfortable answering a question like this I’ll understand. (Didn’t really occur to me that I should worry about this until now.)

  50. Bruce Nielson
    May 5, 2008 at 1:02 am

    >>> As far as intolerance – you are preaching to the choir! We live in a P nation and the loudest, most intolerant Ps are the most active against LDS and Catholics

    I hear you on this… 🙂 I have to confess, I think the treatment of the more fundamentalist Protestants of Catholics is intolerant and misrepresents them too. I actually have strong feelings about this and I quickly jump in and defends Catholic teachings from Protestants that try to say they believe they have to work there way to heaven or that they save themselves.

    I also really dislike it when Protestants (again some, not all) say things like “Biblical Christianity vs. Catholic” or even “Christian vs. Catholic.” I feel this misrepresents Catholics. However, there is a bit of difference here. Catholics are a large enough organization that everyone knows they are in fact really Christians. So this is less a hurtful misrepresentation and more a hurtful pejorative in this case. (Both are wrong, of course.)

  51. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Hey don’t worry too much about it Bruce – I agree with you that misunderstandings are bound to happen on the internet. I think it is important to try and give each other the benefit of the doubt regarding our intentions. We are actually agreeing quite a bit and in fact, we are even agreeing on the areas where we disagree – that is pretty good for just meeting each other yesterday!

    1. I think there has been misinformation communicated to Cs and Ps members about the LDS Church. Just like I believe there has been misinformation about C/Ps spread around LDS circles. Am I going to get upset about it – probably not – it happens.

    Why? I think many mainline Ps, and Cs are worried about losing members to the LDS church and the fear drives them to exaggerate LDS teachings. I also think it is often times based in ignorance of the LDS faith. On a different note, I think many Fundamentalist Ps tend to attack what is “other”; their form of Christianity thrives on fighting against an enemy – perceived or otherwise. Cs and LDS make good targets. They also tend to believe that the end justifies the means – and will do whatever it takes to squelch out the opposition. Of course I am speaking in generalities, but I think there is a core of truth in what I am saying.

    Admittedly, when I first attended a LDS service when I was a kid, I was shocked to hear a RM talking about Jesus in front of the other members because I was told by my youth minister (incorrectly) that the ‘powerful name of Jesus’ was never spoken in the LDS church. Of course, I later found out that he had never been inside a LDS church. The fact is, there is ignorance about different faiths in all churches (mine and your included). I am sure you have heard many of the Catholic myths out there – that we worship statues and believe Mary is divine (neither are truly Catholic teachings). Only civil cross-religious dialogue will clear up these misconceptions.

    2. Despite the fact that LDS teach the importance of believing in Jesus, the Son of God, in a social Triune relationship with the Father and the HS; many Ps and Cs have been taught that LDS are teach about another God named Jesus (to put it bluntly, and simplitically). The God that LDS teach about is the first born of all mankind, rather than the Only Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary; who is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit – and the differences continue from there.

    So to answer your questions, I think misinformation mixed with actual diffences between LDS and C/P doctrine are spread throughout C/P churches. I am not sure you can stop these ideas by demanding that people who hold the ideas use a specific term to label you like ‘herectical Christian’; instead, I think the best way to combat false ideas is the same method best used to promote your religion and relationship with Jesus; simply create real, quality relationships with those who are attacking your faith and engage in meaningful dialogue with them. Heck, I once befriended the most intensely anti-catholic I had ever met previously; it took a year and a half of deep conversation before he was willing to admit that his previous ideas about the Catholic Church were false and that Christians do exist in the Catholic Church. Now, he never became Catholic, nor did he even believe it to be a Christian Church, but his mind was opened a bit wider than before I met him. The funny thing is that he actually ended up adopting the Catholic teaching on birth control (I was more shocked than anyone because it was the last thing I was trying to promote). All we can do it promote dialogue whenever we get the chance.

    So to answer your question; should C/Ps refer to LDS as non-Christian only if they provide a detailed explaination – once again, I think your are asking a lot. I think you have the right to ask them why they think you are non-Christian; the average C/P will probably not know or may give you an inaccurate answer – so don’t fly off the handle – simply educate them instead. I think expecting them to have a good reason for why they believe before you educate them is totally unrealistic, however. In my experience, most people accross all religious faiths have little or no clue about what they believe, let alone why they believe it!

    Hope that helps.

  52. Bruce Nielson
    May 5, 2008 at 6:36 am

    RL,

    Thanks again for the thoughtful response. Yes, it did help this time. I think maybe we are really agreeing but I see it as a large issue and you see it as a small issue (and thus our disagreement is on amount of impact, not on whether or not the impact has taken place.)

    I try to be even handed about this. I have heard Protestants call Catholics “non-Christians” and I correct them and ask them to please not misrepresent Catholics like that. 🙂

    For the record, I do NOW think I understand where you are coming from, but didn’t up until that last post.

    That being said, I certainly did not mean or imply that I “expect them to have a good reason for why they believe before [I] educate them.”

    Understanding that calling Mormons “non-Christian” causes people to think we’re a variant of Budism (just an example) is not something that is all that difficult to understand and a single example should suffice to explain the point. My question to them isn’t why they think I’m a non-Christian (which to them probably actually means “unsaved”) so that I can educated them on why I am saved, it’s why they feel such a misrepresentation isn’t that big of deal and why they don’t use language that states their beliefs without misrepresenting me since such language is available and easy to use.

    Why they believe I’m “non-Christian” in the sense of (from their point of view) being unsaved is a completely different question, though also valid to ask. But that WOULD require education of a lot of beliefs on both sides. And of course I probably AM a non-Christian from their point of view in that sense of the word. 🙂 That’s just a non-standard use of the word “Christian”.

    I am, unfortunately, out of time and can’t comment any more.

    Thanks for the exchange. I’m sorry I caused a lot of misunderstandings.

    Most people are like you and don’t really understand why this means so much to me. And so I have to admit that most people, since they feel it’s not that important, will think I’m demanding a lot or am being silly. I suppose I should just get used to that fact, though to be honest I still consider it very important even if the rest of he world considers it silly.

    I see this as being the same as politically correct language. Many people think politically correct language is just being overly sensitive or silly. It gets mocked all the time with words that are never actually used (“horizontally challenged” for example.) But in fact a change of our use of language was key to overcoming sexism and the gender bias built into it. (And other types of bias as well, of course.) I feel just as strongly about Mormons being called “non-Christians” as I do about gender-biased language. I think of it as religiously-bias language. It leaves false impresssions and I believe is the starting point towards other kinds of discrimination.

  53. Benjamin O
    May 5, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Wow! This got active!

    Can I just pipe up again and say that I really appreciate that we had an outside perspective on this? Thanks!

    I served my mission in Portugal (what was at the time Lisbon North Mission, but that’s no longer around 🙁 ). I worked with a lot of our good Catholic friends, and I admire that there is a strong loyalty to their faith. We need more of that, and I suspect that in another three or four centuries we might develop it, if we have that long.

    Me, I’m going to say this again, because it got lost between RL & BN: The nature of God is extremely important from a motivation/behavior point of view. Think about it like this: I believe I have the potential to become not just another servant of God in the eternities, but to become like God in the eternities. To become a joint-heir with Christ (how’s that for Biblical language that indicates the divine potential of man to become like God?). To inherit what Christ inherits. Whatever that may be.

    The trick is, we don’t know exactly what that entails. We are extremely short on details. We have generalities, but few details. This is why continuing revelation is so important. But having an idea of the nature of God tells me what I am working for, why grace is important, why works are necessary, and why other things are necessary. It makes the the entire plan play together more cohesively and gives the entire theology a type of complexity and richness that I appreciate.

    All of which is tangential to behavior. I argue that the Trinitarian view encourages a very different set of behaviors with regard to a relationship with deity than does a Godhead view. An embodied view of deity changes how we behave. That’s my thesis, but the data collection has yet to occur, as I lack funding for the research. Now if anyone cares to pay my salary, provide other funding and otherwise assist, I’ll be glad to set up a 2-3 year program to study the question (should run more than a few million). Any takers?

  54. May 5, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Good Questions. Heart issue questions.

    Adam, I will share my own post in regards to this.

    Thanks.

  55. May 5, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Benjamin: “An embodied view of deity changes how we behave.” I am curious about this. An “embodied view of deity” certainly affects how I personally feel about and view God, but I need to think more about it having an affect on behavior. Does believing that God is a person with a body, and literally our Father have more influence on our behavior than say, a belief in God a la the Trinity?

  56. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    BN; You are a good soul and a man after God. I will continue to pray for you for God to increase your faith and obedience to Him (notice that I am not being manipulative by praying that you seek the truth of the Catholic faith) because I truly believe that God will lead you into His presence, based on desire, faith and obedience, rather than doctrine.

    Thank you so much for your willingness to talk and provide education to me.

  57. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    You know Ben,

    I can see why the potential to be deified is both humbling and inspiring from a LDS point of view; however, have yo ever considered it from a C/P point of view?

    To C/P, deification is simply terrifying. The fact is, deification of humanity is the whole issue behind the concept of Original Sin that C/Ps teach, promote, and bundle up in the concept of Pride.

  58. Ray
    May 5, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    RL, the point to me is that I believe becoming like God is a central Biblical principle – written in hundreds of verses throughout the Old and New Testaments. I realize that I read these verses through the lens of my theological understanding, but I have a benefit you might not have – a Topical Guide that lists nearly every reference in our scriptures to certain words or topics. When you see dozens of passages that very clearly, in full context, explicitly speak of our potential to be like the Father and equal with the Son, it is hard to see our view of deification (that never places us “equal” to the Father) as the result of pride.

    Again, I think this is a classic case of seeing what we believe, ironically with the Mormons being the Bible literalists in this discussion.

  59. Bruce Nielson
    May 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    RL,

    I’m not supposed to post during weekdays… but wanted to say things again for the exchange. I feel the same way about you too.

    I know it didn’t really come across in our exchange, but I can’t begin to express my gratitude for the Catholic Church and all the good it does/has done. I’ve always felt a certain closeness to it despite the “alien” (I don’t mean this in a bad way) trappings that I’m not so familiar with.

    Here are my beliefs, btw: (modified from yours intentionally)

    I believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father; was born of a virgin; lived, died, and rose again for the salvation of those who believe [have faith] and obey Christ; I believe Jesus is fully man and fully divine and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God.

  60. hawkgrrrl
    May 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    RL said: “On a different note, I think many Fundamentalist Ps tend to attack what is “other”; their form of Christianity thrives on fighting against an enemy – perceived or otherwise.” This is a well-stated thought that I think merits further discussion, possibly in a future post. I’m going to tuck that idea away in my treasure box.

    I agree with those who have expressed an affinity with Catholicism. There is much to admire, and conversely we are often attacked equally vociferously by the same groups. Today McCain’s pastor is being excoriated (in the media anyway) for calling the Catholic church the whore of the earth. In my experience, most LDS have believed that either we or Catholicism have the truth because Protestants are the apple that denies the apple tree (to paraphrase BY). What I find interesting now is the trend away from authority entirely (a la the megachurches, and even the fundamentals of Protestantism which relies on “traditional” authority – which is code for no authority at all or “if I have a Bible, read it, and imitate what it says, I have authority to do so.”) Some of the critics of LDS and Catholicism share an anti-authoritarian bent that is in vogue in religion right now.

  61. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Bruce,

    I am in full acceptance of your admiration of the Catholic Church,

    I appreciate your last post, very much, Admittedly, I am left confused about your understanding of the virgin birth of Christ and the fact that you belief of the nature of the Father is of flesh and bone?

    How do you reconcile this idea?

  62. hawkgrrrl
    May 5, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    RL: There is no official LDS doctrine on how Jesus was conceived, if that is your question. We do absolutely consider it a virgin birth, and Mary’s status as a virgin is also referred to in the BOM. Since Mary “kept these things and pondered them in her heart” we don’t have any specific insight from her vantage point. Alma 7:10 says “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.”

    Given our current scientific knowledge of in vitro fertilization and other conception methods, it could have happened in a variety of ways that do not necessitate “human/Human” sexual intercourse.

  63. Bruce Nielson
    May 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    RL,

    Sorry, can’t really respond now. (Weekends only for me) Would you mind if I emailed you? I really can’t respond again for this week. I think I can get away with email though. I promise to keep it short.

  64. Rl
    May 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    BN: I welcome an email exchange – [edited]

  65. Ray
    May 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    RL – what Hawkgrrrl just said.

    In a related rant, it always bugs me when Mormons say we teach that we will have sexual intercourse in the afterlife. NOTHING in our canon makes that claim. We simply teach that we will be able to create spirit children, as an integral part of becoming like God. We have NO IDEA whatsoever how that will happen – and NOTHING in our canon says that’s how we were created as spirit children or how Jesus was conceived. It is no wonder those outside our church think we teach that, when some members can’t stop saying it.

    (Everyone else, don’t throw out the “after the manner of the flesh” phrase from the BofM. The actual verse – I Nephi 11:18 says, “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.” That says NOTHING about the role of the Father in the process; the only thing that it says for certain is that Mary gave birth to Jesus in the same “manner of the flesh” as all mothers do. Everything else is speculation, even if it was the speculation of certain priesthood leaders. Such speculation is not obvious or even consistent with the text, since the verse says *explicitly* that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth.)

  66. Rl
    May 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Hawkgrrl – I would like to respond fully to your post, but I have to put it off for a couple of hours – I will resond to you as quickly as I can.

  67. Just for Quix
    May 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Re Hawkgrrrl’s post #60

    Smith’s earliest claims to authority follow the Wesleyan argument and modality of being called out and authorised by the Spirit. If any group shouldn’t be “denying the apple tree” (to paraphrase BY) — if such an argument even mattered more than hyperbolically — it is any of the branches of Christian Restorationism. This aspect of LDS history is well documented in Quinn’s Hierarchy series. The LDS church’s more enduring claim to revealed and restored priesthood authority and governing hierarchy isn’t proved nor a historical restoration. (It is a new modality that is more antagonistic to RC than is Protestantism in my view). The “it’s either us or the Catholics” argument of LeGrand Richard’s Marvelous Work and a Wonder just isn’t an accurate trifurcation when it comes to Christian religious studies.

    Authoritarianism and authority are different matters entirely. As to the latter, there is valid New Testament scriptural and early Christian church historical basis for Protestant interpretation of calling and ecclesiology. There is a unity of faith — at least since Vatican II — with Protestants and Catholics on matters of foundational Truth and where authority ultimately rests: in God. Quibbles over manifestation of His authority — to the extent the Richards quote reflects and defines the LDS position — is not quite the way that RCs and Ps see their differences. There are ecclesiological and, especially, sacramental theology and liturgy differences among the denominations of Christendom, sure, that probably still shouldn’t divide the way they do. And especially so considering the religious wars of the past. However, defining or explaining Christendom’s intramural divisions through the LDS lens and world-view of “the problem of authority” and “Great Apostasy” isn’t very illuminating, historical nor useful line of argument toward addressing or healing Christendom’s divide(s).

  68. Just for Quix
    May 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Ray (65): You are aware that there is valid debate over the issue of “virgin” birth, yes? I don’t think any traditional Christian will deny its miraculous necessity, especially considering we don’t believe in an embodied Father God, but many Protestants, and even many Catholic scholars, have tried to temper the interpretation of the Greek word parthenos — and especially the pre-Septuagint Hebrew word almah — into not becoming the Mary-as-lifelong-virgin doctrinal litmus test many Catholics consider it to be. Whether Mary was more than a “young maiden” before or after the miracle, or not, whether Jesus’ historical brothers were literally his half-brothers or not, I think one only parts company with foundational Christianity when one forces interpretation of Jesus’ birth to not be miraculous. Here I think Cs, Ps, and Mormons mostly all get along. 🙂

  69. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Q: Smith’s earliest claims to authority follow the Wesleyan argument and modality of being called out and authorized by the Spirit.

    RL: Granted. How did Wesleyan determine the difference between the Spirit’s callings and indigestion? The same question applies to LDS members today.

    Q: If any group shouldn’t be “denying the apple tree” (to paraphrase BY) — if such an argument even mattered more than hyperbolically — it is any of the branches of Christian Restorationism.

    RL: The incident was not only unnecessary, but condemned according to Matt 16:18.

    Q: Authoritarianism and authority are different matters entirely. As to the latter, there is valid New Testament scriptural and early Christian church historical basis for Protestant interpretation of calling and ecclesiology.

    RL: I am not following……

    Q: There is a unity of faith — at least since Vatican II — with Protestants and Catholics on matters of foundational Truth and where authority ultimately rests: in God.

    RL: Authority has always rested in God – pre-Vatican II and Post Vatican II.

    Q: Quibbles over manifestation of His authority — to the extent the Richards quote reflects and defines the LDS position — is not quite the way that RCs and Ps see their differences.

    RL: C/P differences are well documented.

    Q: There are ecclesiological and, especially, sacramental theology and liturgy differences among the denominations of Christendom, sure, that probably still shouldn’t divide the way they do.

    RL: Explain…….

    Q: And especially so considering the religious wars of the past.

    RL: Between the Danites and the Missourians or the C and the Ps?

    Q: However, defining or explaining Christendom’s intramural divisions through the LDS lens and world-view of “the problem of authority” and “Great Apostasy” isn’t very illuminating, historical nor useful line of argument toward addressing or healing Christendom’s divide(s).

    RL: Huh?

  70. Just for Quix
    May 5, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    RL: When I mentioned Vatican II I was meaning that ecumenical progress was made, at least, for those Cs and Ps who saw in such an olive branch. Affirming the value of God’s authority in the brotherhood of Christ’s church, while certainly softening, but not refuting, the classical Catholic position, was and is a good way to affirm unity within Christianity, in God’s authority that transcends the divide created by the debate over apostolic succession. (Granted not all Protestants and Catholics agree with such ecumenicism.) Yes, there still is divide over communion: is it trans-, con- or cosubstantive; whether one leans prima scriptura or sola scripture, and more. Well documented divides. Yet, I think there is much foundationally common in faith between Cs and Ps, even with valid scriptural and historical reasons for division. I suppose if we can be nice and not kill one another (my reference to wars) then it’s okay to agree to disagree, and find places where we can bridge a la Vatican II. 🙂

    My summary point is that I don’t think that “the problem of authority” as defined by the well-established Mormon position (like we see with LeGrand Richards) is a very useful perspective for historically, ecumenically or scripturally bridging the divisions within Christendom. (In other words as a Restored church I’m not persuaded that much was ‘solved’ as much as a new modality, take it or leave it, was introduced to the world.) I think we Christians should find bridges to Mormonism, but I don’t think the “authority issue” is the most promising either to RCs or to Ps.

  71. Ray
    May 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    #68 – JfQ, just catching up, but the “lifelong virgin” concept and the “Mary was conceived immaculately in order to avoid any taint of original sin” concept (just to name two of the more common “mutations” – my bias, I know) are every bit as unsubstantial to me as the concept of actual physical intercourse. I might be wrong, since it’s all speculation in the end, but I just can’t conceive of the validity of any of those options. The artificial insemination analogy is the best one I’ve heard, since it doesn’t limit how that would occur.

  72. Just for Quix
    May 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Ray (71) agreed. There are several folksy (and sometimes not so folksy) ways among faiths to try to materially explain the miracle of Christ’s birth. We’ve certainly heard Brigham Young’s position, which, thankfully, never really made it into LDS canon or even soft canon. But I agree that the “lifelong virgin” position is also scripturally questionable, especially where it blossomed into a full-blown Mariology, bringing into question the preeminence of God, Jesus Christ and His Word. But then, that should follow. I am a Protestant. 🙂

  73. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Wow Q,

    I know I have misinterpreted posts in my day, but I have never messed up like I have with your post. Thank you so much for clarifying. I am so glad I got a chance to re-read your former post in the light of your latest post. You have a lot to offer – thank you!!

  74. Ray
    May 5, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    RL – To avoid a lengthy response, I am going to reference each of your statements in #68 with a response – by numbering them in the order you typed them.

    1) and Catholics and all others who rely in any way on spiritual manifestations – This isn’t a “Mormon” thing.

    2) Matthew 16:18 doesn’t necessarily condemn it. That is one interpretation, but it’s not the only reasonable one.

    3&4) Protestants don’t see a necessary positing of authority in mankind; they can posit that God is the authority, so what he says (His Word) is seen as having more intrinsic authority than what man claims. You and I disagree with that position, but it’s the only logical one that was and is available to Protestants – especially given their founders’ statements about knowing they did not have “invested authority” from God. Their authority was seen as the Word of God, meaning if you challenge that authority, you challenge the very foundation of their claim. Frankly, I believe the Book of Mormon is a MUCH more serious “attack” on Protestantism and was the biggest reason for the rejection of Joseph’s claims – not his claim to be a prophet. That claim would have made him nothing more than another Pope-wannabe, in their minds. They reject Catholicism; they revile Mormonism.

    5) Correct.

    6) This one is for JfQ to answer first.

    7) Only the ones between the C’s and P’s qualify as wars in the sense that JfQ used. The Danite/Missourian battles didn’t rise nearly to the classification of “war”, but I have no problem classifying them in the same broad category of regrettable religious conflict that caused death.

    8) Mormons claiming to be the Restoration of true Christianity, necessitated by Catholicism’s apostasy and Protestantism’s lack of priesthood authority does little if anything to unite Christians. I can’t disagree with that, but I would add that the only way to unite Christians without requiring some of them to give up their beliefs is non-doctrinally. I am fine with that. I would love to see all Christians, including Mormons, work side-by-side in true Christian charity to address the “temporal salvation” of mankind while admitting and allowing doctrinal differences.

    “By their fruits ye shall know them.” “Not everyone that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord . . .” I can work with those whose specific ideas of salvation I don’t accept. That’s the unity I would like to see.

  75. RL
    May 5, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Ray, I am intrigued and inspired by your response, I need time to process the information you have provided in order to respond appropriately – thank you for your response!

  76. Rigel Hawthorne
    May 6, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Ray…thanks for your post in #65. I want to rant when I hear that one too.

  77. May 6, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Ray/Rigel – I agree to some extent–I would not call it doctrine, but we can’t really say either way, can we?

    “It is no wonder those outside our church think we teach that, when some members can’t stop saying it.” LoL, maybe they can’t stop saying it because they can’t imagine a world without it. Really, when people have attacked me on this issue, I want to respond by saying, “yeah, and your point is? Isn’t sex a good thing?” Without it being “Doctrine” perhaps we should not be teaching it, but honestly, I don’t see what is offensive about the idea.

  78. Ray
    May 6, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Adam, I didn’t say it’s offensive; I said it’s not doctrine, so members shouldn’t say we teach it.

    Just for the record, I hope that’s part of eternity – only that, as with all other things, we’ve perfected it by then. That’s a life I can look forward to living. *grin*

  79. May 6, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Ray–Oh I see now. And I completely agree with you, it’s not doctrine, just speculation.

  80. May 30, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Nice post! I agree with you. To me it makes sense that if we believe we’re from God and He is our father that we would be in His image. That just makes sense. I agree with comment #1 in the sense that we don’t really know fully who we are if we don’t understand this.

    However, because I believe this doesn’t give me a right to bash what others believe or to try to prove them wrong.

    I just wrote a post entitled “Bridging the Mormon/Evangelical Divide” that addresses some of the ideas you bring up here and more. I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

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