Funnelling us all through

James Culture, Mormon 64 Comments

Many Mormons that fall away do so after they do the maths. They become conscious that 13.5 million isn’t a huge number and its even smaller if you consider the world wide activity rate is around 33%, which gives the church about 4.6 million active members. The world’s population is 6.7 billion now and approximately 106 billion people have live on the earth before us.

Their Possible Thoughts:

  1. If this is God’s work how could he be so inefficient?
  2. Why doesn’t the church tell us that when we say 13.5 million that less than half that figure go to church?
  3. If he loves all his children why are there so few who get to hear the Gospel?
  4. In their heart of hearts they can’t see God funnelling all the worlds population that have ever lived through a narrow stem – The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.

Active Member Possible thought process:

  1. God’s purpose may not be for all of us to hear the plan in this life. “Gods ways aren’t our ways”.
  2. God never intended for the church to be all encompassing or for all of us to hear the Plan of Salvation in this life. He knows most of his children will hear it and accept or reject it in the millennium.
  3. God loves all of his children. This life is specially planned for us individually to learn and grow and for many of us it doesn’t include hearing the gospel at this time.

What are your thoughts?

Peggy Fletcher Stack Keeping members a challenge for LDS church

Comments

comments

Comments 64

  1. For me the universalism of Mormonism is one of its greatest doctrines. If someone leaves the church based on the numbers, they will have a difficult time remaining substantively Christian (as in the totality spoken of in John 14:6). Most wandering Mormons I’ve met (in various stages of inactivity up to and including removal of records) end up going with some kind of “all roads lead to Rome” approach where they still want to believe in a heaven, a better place after this one, but can’t imagine it only being reserved for those who don’t drink coffee.

    I think the teachings of Joseph Smith, found in Doc. and Cov. 76 and in many of his best sermons, point out that there’s quite a wide gradation of “salvation” out there, and it’s not for us as individual members to use the general apostasy of the world to somehow justify it for us as individuals.

    As my (still active) mission companion was fond of saying, “follow your God and you’ll get your Heaven.”

  2. “God’s purpose may not be for all of us to hear the plan in this life. “Gods ways aren’t our ways”. . . [and] “God loves all of his children.”

    I think these are sympathetic points. I also think we should seek not to be reckless and arbitrary by judging God only by our individual or cultural standards of fairness. Of course, we all have this propensity. But I think we should be self-aware enough to question it. And we must concede that even for biblically-rooted positions on this subject, there is some room for valid differences of opinion.

    Therefore I don’t think universalism is a de-facto virtue we should accept without question. Certainly New Testament teachings make a strong case that Jesus’ is the only way to Salvation. It also teaches that God desires and reaches all those who are His. It also teaches that His children become His children by adoption, not by nature — something that is hard to reconcile with LDS’s “children of God” doctrine. The Gospels also affirm that God’s Kingdom or Reign will be enjoyed by some and not all.

    Biblical teachings on Election are not always comfortable; at the root they affirm that some will not have Him as their Lord. The New Testament teaches of sheep and goats, of wheat and chaff, of hell and damnation, and our need to choose God in this life.

    This can be an uncomfortable view that I think LDS theology seeks to solve. The assumption behind the LDS solution is not so much about the universalist-like virtue that is assumed (and with which I am very skeptical). What is most significant is the perspective that God’s way to salvation through Christ is denominationally and sacramentally exclusive to the LDS church. If this were true, then, of course, the more strict of biblical teachings of Election would seem to make a very narrow case for God loving His creation. Hence, my view is that after death conversion and salvation made effective through LDS temple work becomes a solution for the strictness LDS theology creates for itself more so than a solution to any weakness of traditional Christian doctrine.

    For example, one perspective is a more Reformed view that God’s work to save His Elect is sovereignly and completely His own to save some and damn others. This is a bit of a characterization of the Reformed position. It’s the “Unfair Traditionally Christian God straw man” that I have often seen the LDS theology presented as the solution to.

    However, for my part, I see a traditional and biblically Christian position that makes more sense to me than the LDS one. Yes, it appears stricter and “unfair” compared to a liberal universalist position. Yet I see hope and a reason to be confident in God’s Work — in His justice, mercy and complete power to reach and save all who will be His.

    I see that a strong thrust of the New Testament is that God sent Jesus Christ to save the world. So I don’t think an extremely strict view on Election is the most reasonable. I also don’t think that this is just an invented warm and fuzzy perspective, as we also have Paul’s early, robust and significant Grace Christology. We also have the testament of Acts that demonstrates how God reaches His own through varied ways. We also have Peter’s and Paul’s teachings of the unified church, the new and royal priesthood, and Body of Christ that existed even when there was some diversity of practice among local churches within the early church. Therefore this doctrinal and historical example begs us to interpret sacramental teachings through a light that acknowledges God’s Work of Redemption through Christ is broader than the interpretation of any one Christian or Christian-leaning denomination.

    Our allegiance and unity is not to be found in one denominational church that proselytizes itself throughout the world, but as adopted children in God’s Church, saved through His Work.

  3. “Many Mormons that fall away do so after they do the maths.”

    I’ve never met an ex-member who gave this as their reason for leaving. It’s a stupid reason anyway, since it basically argues that truth is found by popularity. I call BS.

  4. Orson F. Whitney once noted that the work of the Lord was too vast for the Latter-Day Saints to handle alone. Believe it or not, an orthodox Mormon can accept that there are things the Lord wants doing that Mormons simply cannot do for various historial/social/cultural reasons.

    And plus, to be a touch more doctrinaire, how many people were right in Noah’s day? (even if it was a limited flood)

  5. James,

    For me, the question is “what is the alternative being proposed.”

    It’s so easy to poke a hole in a certain way of thinking. It’s so hard to come up with an alternative that doesn’t have worse holes.

    If the LDS Churches belief that all people must at some point (usually after this life) pass through certain ordinances if they personally choose to achieve becoming like God is problematic, I’d like to see the alternative first, please.

    I had a conversation not long ago with someone here that believed that all religions taught morality and thus ‘saved’ everyone via these moral teachings. This certainly resolves the funnel problem because now all religions ‘save’ equally well. So score one point that way.

    But it opens a slew of new problems that are far more difficult, not the least of which is that it completely removes the concept of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and relies on ‘salvation’ through one’s own works instead — a literal impossibility as our Evangelical neighors are so found of logically pointing out. (They just don’t realize we agree with them on that point.) Just how many works do you need to do to be saved? How many sins unsave you? if you believe in an afterlife, what is God’s basis for judgment and how could it ever be considered “just”? And if you don’t believe in an life after death, why does it matter at all except in so far as we decide to make it matter. (i.e. it’s just a personal preference and nothing more to be moral.) The list could go on and on.

    You’ve effectively replaced one problem, as you outlined, with overwhelming worse logical problems.

    Again, if you see the LDS doctrine on this point as an issue, please try to come up with an alternative and present it for equivalent vetting. It’s not as easy as it first seems. In fact, I would dare say that the LDS view on this might well be the most the most logically resilient possible position for a person to hold once it’s compared to all the alternatives. (Though I admit there are a few alternatives out there that might be equally resilient.)

  6. #3 – Believe it. I’m there. Maybe not many, but definitely some. James did an excellent job capturing my feelings. And your logic is flawed – how could it be a popularity contest if 99.999% of the population never even has a fighting chance of understanding the Gospel?

    As for some of the Active Member Possible thought processes, I’m not sure #1 and #2 fit so well with the Plan of Salvation, even though I realize this is how we’re taught. Why even bother spreading the Gospel at all if this is an acceptable outcome?

  7. Cicero (3) — Thanks for calling out that red herring.

    Bruce (5) — Good comments. I would say logical resiliency is not the penultimate for weighing an alternative to the LDS view. Logic is important, but ultimately faith, I think, is also a bit of a sweet irrationality. Therefore, for my part, I think biblical resiliency is the highest value to seek toward after which we can weigh other useful things like logic, spirit, theology, pragmatism, mythic value, cultural value, etc.

  8. #5 – You really want to know? There is no God. There is no afterlife. I choose to be a moral person because it makes the world (and my life) better. Live for the moment, it passes quickly. Btw, I’m an active, recommend-holding member.

  9. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 7:14–

    “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

    So we should never be surprised that we’re small in number when compared to the rest of the world. That said, I think the church is still in its relative infancy…I’m not sure we’ve yet filled “the whole earth.” The numbers will continue to grow, and in the aggregate will be quite large, but will always be relatively few. As to why that is, we can only guess.

  10. #7: JFQ – Yes, if you value biblical resiliency more than logical resiliency (I honestly see nothing wrong with this, actually) I can see your point that logical resiliency would NOT be the penultimate by comparison.

    However, bear in mind that my comment was in the context of Jame’s logical argument, not a biblical one. So I was making certain assumptions about what he considered the penultimate.

    On a related topic, JFQ, I have noticed that you’ve made a series of comments about what we can learn from contradictory beliefs. It’s actually a point worth considering and I have no issue with it, particularly coming from you, since you don’t try to then turn around and be hypocritical and use logical arguments to “disprove” others beliefs right after claiming logic isn’t the penultimate. Thank you for being consistent with your own beliefs and not holding a dual standard.

    #5: Joe, to each their own. But that being the case for you, then you must realize that James argument was pointless to begin with and thus there was no reason to answer at all. So let’s at least keep this in line with the question that James is posing here, which seems to assume the existence of a God.

    Also, Joe, it must also logically follow that if you had chosen to not be a moral person (or selectively moral person) because you had concluded it made your life better (which I might add, it really might have), that it would have been just a valid an argument as the one you just made.

  11. Joe – just wondering how you classify saying you believe in God and Christ in your temple recommend interview, in light of the moral life you are trying to live?

  12. Elliott (9): Why is it so common for Believers to tribalize/denominationalize Kingdom teachings like this in Matthew (or the other Gospels)?

    Well, it might be because this habit started early; Matthew was arranged for a community that was trying to create a meaningful holiness/apart-ness norm from the Jewish culture in which they lived, reeling from the sack of their holy temple site by the Romans and further stigmatized and rejected by the ruling pharisaical Judaism.

    While the Matthew author did not invent Jesus’ saying, it is quite probable that the “few who find the gate” is not exclusively denominationally contained. Consider that this teaching was not included for the Gentile audience the same way in the same Jesus sermon taught to the Lucan community (Sermon on the Plain: Luke 6-7). But the teaching does appear later in Luke 13, extracted from precisely the same context. For the Christian Jews the Kingdom gate defined life and living; for Christian Gentiles it defined salvation that was not nuanced the same way as Jews saw it. The similar teaching, therefore, can be observed in these Gospels informing faith practice very similarly, yet distinctly, among different communities of Christian Believers.

    If such a Kingdom of God teaching is not denominationally nor culturally exclusive — transcendent, if you will — then it begs us to discover how is God’s Reign “housed” such that few will find it.

  13. What if we view our church participation as a method to drive self-development and progression rather than a series of “rites of passage” requires to “enter God’s presence”? What if instead it is a method to “becoming”? How does it do at that compared to all the other methods? Perhaps that is subjective from person to person, but in my experience, the LDS church has several key ways it is superior to creating personal progression in us as individuals:
    – lay clergy provides opportunities for growth
    – membership having the priesthood provides opportunities for service (for men at least)
    – family focus fosters supportive environment for growth
    – high standards take us through the refiner’s fire
    – covenant-making and keeping creates character

    Just some food for thought. The issue is problematic if you focus on “saving ordinances” and universal salvation while doing the math. It’s not as problematic if you consider our time on planet earth as a very small portion of our eternal existence and that the purpose is progression and growth. Maybe it’s better to consider the church “the most efficient” (for the 99 at least) rather than “the only true.”

  14. What I find interesting:

    1) JfQ essentially is arguing core Mormon doctrine.

    2) “The math” can be a real problem for someone who understands the deepest implications – that all will have a chance at some point. In order to square this, imo, there has to be an emphasis on the importance of one’s actions and spiritual condition in this life simultaneous with a de-emphasis on one’s denominational or religious choices. That’s a difficult path to navigate, and I’ve never seen a better cosmology than that of Mormonism to handle it. Ultimately, however, it probably is one of the unanswerable mysteries.

    3) Bookslinger’s response about total membership is spot-on. There MUST be more to any argument than the size of the membership.

    4) What I find most fascinating is that many (if not most) Christians in this day actually believe much more core Mormon doctrine than they did 100-150 years ago – partly because the Church has weeded out much of the earlier speculation that was (and still is) a residual result of developing from apostasy, but also because they are rejecting much of what used to be believed. They would deny this vehemently, but it is fascinating to watch. Personally, I think people are funneled all the time through the Gospel, it just doesn’t all happen within the Church.

  15. I agree with Joe. I’m also a TR holding active-in-the-church unbeliever. There are more of us than some would want to admit.

    The math wasn’t a major issue for me–just one more thing on a very long list.

  16. Ray (15): Coming from you I’ll take that as a compliment. It’s nice to think we have some places of similarity. I’m not sure I entirely agree on what’s “core” to Mormon doctrine that I’d say I’m arguing for it. I feel that the LDS benefit, the “more universal” Plan of Salvation, stems from defining the New Testament gospel more strictly than I think is warranted from exegesis. IOW, it solves it’s own world-view “problems” as opposed to solving any weaknesses (real and perceived) with traditional interpretations of the New Testament.

    I think the same could possibly be said of some criticisms of LDSism by trad. Christians. The only way to solve that is to find an authority to which we can pursue and hold each other accountable. Sometimes we try that to sufficiently be rationality and logic. But as I said to Bruce, since faith involves some irrationality, then what is the ultimate authority to which we can agree to best hold each other accountable?

    Hawkgrrrl (14): Astute observations. It is really hard to imagine how the LDS church could sever its focus on saving ordinances because its benefits and criticisms proceed directly from this view of exclusive authority.

    At any rate your focus on becoming is positive and interesting. I don’t want to criticize that but want more to add my observation that traditional Christians are quite focused on becoming, too. Perhaps some differences lay in defining what one is to become, and whether one’s church is a means or an end. I perceive the “becoming” to which to aspire is what we become when we submit to what God desires to make us, more than what we or our church would facilitate or choose for us to become. When my focus is placed on God’s Work involving yet transcending the local church expression, then I’m not sure “most efficient” is really the greatest virtue to which a church should aspire. Still I don’t know for certain that’s a fundamental difference between our traditions or just a different way of nuancing it.

    Bruce (10): Good observations. Thanks for the compliment. I try to not hold dual standards. When I fail I can depend you will work to keep me honest. Cheers.

  17. #12 Alex – not a problem there. The “alternative” I proposed in #8 was theoretical, yet something I definitely think is possible. At the same time, I am still open to the possibility that God does exist and that Christ is our Savior. And I count that as belief, while not absolute, which isn’t a lie or even a half-truth when I’m asked in a TR interview. I would argue that agnosticism is inherent in any kind of faith.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_theism

    #16 Bill – always nice to be understood.

  18. “The math wasn’t a major issue for me–just one more thing on a very long list.”

    I’ve been down the road of doubt myself, so this isn’t outside of my experience. And I find it really really difficult to believe that this was originally one of the big issues Joe or James.

    Here is my thinking: My suspicion is that one has to have a long list of issues *before* “the math” could ever actually become an issue — at least for most people.

    It’s a big world, so there probably are people out there that simultaneously are able to see the math problem, see it as a serious issue, while simultaneously lacking the ability to see that all the alternatives they can think of are worse. But it’s probably a pretty small crowd. Most people intuitively get things like this without much thought.

    The more likely scenario is that you see a bunch of other problems and basically reject the truth claims of the Church and start to develop a personal belief system and then, once you’ve basically abandoned all the building blocks that require the Mormon solution to the problem in the first place (say, no longer believing in God, for example), you then are free to see the math as an issue too.

    If someone really did have “the math” as an initial concern, one would expect them to try to come up with an alternative they were more comfortable with, which would then require them to analyze that alternative the way they just analyzed the Mormon doctrine. (This is what I did.) At that point, one realizes that “the math” wasn’t actually ever an issue to begin with, so long as one accepts the basics of Christianity: God’s existence and the need for Grace through a savior. Indeed, the Mormon solution isn’t just good given those assumptions… it’s literally impossible to improve upon.

    But if you starts with a different set of assumptions, such as there is no God, or that God needed no atonement to save us, or that we are saved by our works, not Grace, then I can see why “the math” is an issue. (Though as I pointed out, you just opened up a bunch of additional issues no matter which way you go, all equally difficult if not more difficult to resolve.)

  19. I’ve been a member for over 40 years, and I’ve never known anyone who fell away because they ‘did the math’. Beyond that, your math is a bit misleading. When the Church was founded with 6 people in 1830, there were roughly 1 billion humans on the earth. The world population has grown by just under a factor of 7 in those 180 years. The LDS membership has grown roughly a factor of 2 million (6 people to 13+ million) in that same time period. Even if you pick the membership at the end of 1830 (230 members), you still have a growth factor of roughly 50,000. So, the LDS church membership has grown roughly 7,000 times faster than global population in the last 180 years.

    Right now, the world population is growing 1.15% per year and is projected to drop down to 0.5% per year by 2050. LDS church growth, though it has slowed down in the past decade, is still well above world population growth, ranging anywhere from 2% to 9% per year during the past half-century. Also note that this isn’t the first time that Church membership growth has been this low; it tends to go in cycles. (For example, Church growth was generally very low during the period from 1911 to 1939.) ..bruce..

  20. Joe in #18.

    I apologize, but it was not clear to me that your #8 was intended to be a theoretical only. You stated it as if you believed it and then followed it up with reference to your temple recommend.

    You also didn’t quote what part of my #5 you were referring to, so I didn’t realize you were trying to suggest a theoretical alternative.

    For what it is worth, your alternative has massive possible issues. Obviously, if one does believe in God, it’s a non-starter. If one doesn’t believe in God, then the question of why morality matters in the big scheme of things isn’t resolved by your answer either. (Though the person saying it could themselves be fully moral.) In other words, that answer has its own problems and to me, at least, they are by far worse than the math problem we are considering. Can one really resolve a matter of why morality matters solely on your assertion that it makes the world better (who cares if I’m immoral!) and it makes my life better (unproven and likely not true in many cases)?

    Everyone will have to address this for themselves, of course.

  21. “I think the same could possibly be said of some criticisms of LDSism by trad. Christians. The only way to solve that is to find an authority to which we can pursue and hold each other accountable. Sometimes we try that to sufficiently be rationality and logic. But as I said to Bruce, since faith involves some irrationality, then what is the ultimate authority to which we can agree to best hold each other accountable?”

    JFQ, I think this is a good point, actually, though, I think it’s ultimately a dead end.

    First of all, you are making a “logical” argument that we should eschew logic and go with the bible as the main authority. Okay, fair enough.

    But then is Bible exegesis really comparable to logic here at all? Logic, and I mean deductive logic, is something everyone can agree upon. But how to go about doing an exegesis is not. In fact, I think for all intents and purposes deciding that Bible exegesis is our sole source of authority is “logically” equivalent to saying “it’s all a matter of interpretation, so it’s just an opinion and all are equally valid.”

    Lastly, I have to point out that the New Testament authors did not believe in modern Christians styles of biblical exegesis — after all, they freely misquoted the OT or took it out of context — and if we hold them to that standard, they all fail and we must dismiss Christianity lock stock and barrel.

    In fact, if I am going to “use the Bible” as the basis for authority, the first thing I must ask is if the Bible supports the concept of modern Biblical exegesis as the basis for authority and the answer is a resounding “NO”

    What does the NT (and OT) support for authority? Current revelation. Nothing else.

    So I purpose that all of Christianity turns to current modern revelation as the basis for authority and we all hold each other accountable to that! 😛

    Okay, one other point, JFQ: You make a good point that a contradiction can teach something worthwhile. I just can’t argue with that point. So the fact that many Christians, say, interpret a contradictory Trinity doctrine out of the Bible isn’t necessarily a problem.

    However, I’ve never had a concern with the fact that most modern Christians interpret a contradictory doctrine out of the Bible and actually learn something useful from it. My concern is only when they try to hold others accountable to that intrepretation (by say determining if one is “a true believer” or not based on it.)

    Now we have to resort to logic here: would a loving God require his children to find and deduce a contradictory doctrine out of his authoritative revelations? It’s impossible that he would expect this, because there are any number of possible contradictions we could have “deduced” from said authorative revelations! (In fact, you can’t strictly speaking “deduce” anything contradictory ever! Techincally all you can do is “fail to deduce” the Trinity doctrine from the Bible.)

    So we’d never actually be able to know if we deduced the one possible contradiction that God wanted us to deduce. He’s either have to a) tell us directly what contradiction he wants us to believe in (in creedal like fashion), or b) not hold us accountable for it, even if it’s true.

    Either way, I can be 100% certain that no matter how true the traditional Trinity doctrine turns out to be, God won’t hold me accountable for not believing in it.

    But can the reverse be said to be true? Will God not hold those that use the doctrine of Trinity as a basis for judgment accountable, even if they are right? Well, we know the answer to this question too, because he says so in the Bible: he *will* hold them accountable (judge not… for what measure you mete, etc…)

    All in all, this doesn’t strike me as a small problem for Protestant Christian beliefs.

  22. “What does the NT (and OT) support for authority? Current revelation. Nothing else.”

    Bruce, I agree completely that “current revelation” always trumps “prior revelation” in the Bible whenever there is a contradiction (which happens a lot), but I can’t agree that current revelation is the ONLY source of authority in the Bible. This is a bit of a nit-picky twist, but I would say that “new application and practice based on current revelation” is what the Bible uses as the proper support of authority – that the current revelation provides access to the authority-supporting “ordinance” or “physical practice”.

    Iow, it wasn’t just the current revelation that circumcision was no longer required that constituted the new Christian ordinal authority; rather, it was the replacement of circumcision by baptism (the new application and practice of an anciently revealed concept) that was the real support for authority. Likewise, it wasn’t the current revelation to Jacob eliminating his belief in multiple, localized Gods that constituted his authority; rather, it was the application and practice of praying to a geographically-unrestrained God that provided that authority.

    Even those within Judaism in the centuries leading up to Jesus’ time who added rules upon rules to keep people from even coming close to violating the law who didn’t claim current revelation based their authority on their ability to create practices the people would accept and follow. One of the brilliant aspects of the Restoration, imo, was the introduction of the endowment – the new application and practice of an anciently revealed concept.

  23. Bruce — as the Man in Black said to Vizzini: “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.” 😉

    Tradition behind Christian Biblical exegesis is not a modern convention, though certainly it hasn’t stayed static throughout the centuries. So we have strong tradition that informs interpretation even if we don’t grant such as authoritative as the primary source. The more rooted interpretation is in the Bible the more seriously we should weigh its merit, in my opinion.

    Still your criticism is a valid one. I don’t think it follows at all, however, that “it’s all a matter of interpretation, so it’s just an opinion and all are equally valid.” Some opinions/positions/interpretations can and may be stronger than others. We are called to study and consider in whom and what we place our trust.

    I think you have a valid point to argue that the authority testified by the New Testament is revelation, even if you term that “modern revelation.” A closed canon is a difficult case for dismissing out of hand what Joseph Smith brought to the world. I think a stronger case, and one that is not uncommon at all, is to look at how Smith’s revelations accord with the revelatory thrust of the New Testament. On that basis I think it is quite fair that this accountability is a reason many traditionally-aligned Christians reject the efficacy of what he did. (That doesn’t mean that I think what Smith did, in some respects, doesn’t have qualified value; I just don’t see a persuasive case to trust my salvation in what he claimed.)

    “Now we have to resort to logic here: would a loving God require his children to find and deduce a contradictory doctrine out of his authoritative revelations? It’s impossible that he would expect this, because there are any number of possible contradictions we could have “deduced” from said authorative revelations!” Your interpretation of how a loving God should act and construct a case for how to interpret and deduce from scripture based on that is not logic, it is your imposition upon God for how He should behave. You reject paradox (for ex, in the case of Trinity doctrine) in favor of something you consider more clear and uncontradictory (LDS theology). This is neither logic nor exegesis, though you’re always free to choose in what you will trust.

    I think you are fair to question how we treat and judge one another, and what accountability we carry for that, especially when it is negative. I think it more reasonable to follow from scripture that Grace extended to us through complete submission, faith and trust on His Work and Atonement is a more dependable gospel than to get overtly legalistic in interpretation and practice and become confounded when it doesn’t seem He has given us clear direction on how to act or believe. I agree that it is a tough case to make when a gospel is works/individual merit based, since He hasn’t given us a gospel that makes an unequivocal case for how good is good enough. But I do not think it reasonable to assume all matters are equally unclear. And I don’t think it confounds the issue of that which he has asked us to trust.

    I see that we are called to judge in whom and what we trust, and with whom we closely associate in faith. If our faith is placed rightly in Christ then we are justified. I am not called to judge on behalf of others their faith and standing before God. That is God’s Work to save His own. I may question institutions, theology or positions in what others may trust, but I cannot judge for certain whether or not their faith is rightly placed, and whether they are saved.

    If I have a relationship of accountability with someone and they manifest suspicious behaviors or beliefs, I may call into question the strength and solidness of their beliefs and faith. I would hope such others to do so with me. But I completely share the chagrin I perceive you are expressing: that Believers so often assume God’s Work is their own and end up assuming their cultural/denominational expression of faith as the one true way, spending more time judging the hearts of others rather than watching that their own heart beats with faith, hope and charity in Him.

  24. “Why doesn’t the church tell us that when we say 13.5 million that less than half that figure go to church?”

    James, the Church doesn’t tell us what our activity statistics are? Then how did you know? Why is it such common knowledge?

    I cry foul on this point. I recommend this article by Ray to give some broader context to this point.

  25. #23: I agree with your nuanced point there, Ray.

    #24: “Some opinions/positions/interpretations can and may be stronger than others. We are called to study and consider in whom and what we place our trust”

    Yes, you are getting at what I am saying, really, JFQ. It is true that all not all opinions and positions are equally “strong.” But what do we mean by “strong”? I believe what is meant is “probable.” If I interpret a verse one way and you another, we can appeal to exegesis as way of building up our probabilities of our interpretation being the intended one. But proof is generally outside our grasp.

    Yet, this point, true though it is, doesn’t undermine my point. The fact is that if there is a 99.9999% chance that you are interpreting something from the bible correctly compared to me, that still leaves a 0.0001% chance that I am right. No matter how you care to slice that, it means we are only expressing “opinions” and mine is “valid.” It’s just less probable and thus “weaker.”

    “I think a stronger case, and one that is not uncommon at all, is to look at how Smith’s revelations accord with the revelatory thrust of the New Testament”

    Okay, I just have to ask again here: how does the NT survive such a statement, particularly in the eyes of a Jew? I guess I’m not convinced that the “revelatory thrust of the New Testament” you are refering to isn’t really “the traditional interpretation, wrong though it may be, of modern Protestantism and it’s history.” Do we have a basis for determine one from the other?

    I’ll address the rest in a different post.

  26. “Your interpretation of how a loving God should act and construct a case for how to interpret and deduce from scripture based on that is not logic, it is your imposition upon God for how He should behave.”

    No, it’s faith that God has certain characteristics in which one can place faith. It is my first hand experience with God, and one that the vast majority of Christians, presumably including yourself, can equally testify of. It is faith in God through experience. It is faith in the God you know as well as I know.

    You don’t really disagree with the point I made here, per se. I happen to know that you agree with me that your fellow Christians are wrong to judge Mormon’s salvation based on whether or not they believe in the Trinity doctrine.

    “You reject paradox (for ex, in the case of Trinity doctrine) in favor of something you consider more clear and uncontradictory (LDS theology). This is neither logic nor exegesis”

    I think you misunderstand my point here, JFQ. My concern really isn’t about trying to find a more clear and uncontradictory (LDS) theology, JFQ. You are imposing that thought on me and I didn’t say it.

    I only have a concern for the fact that non-Mormon Christians judge people’s salvation using the Trinity doctrine. You agree with me they shouldn’t. The difference here is that I think this is so deeply intertwined into Protestantism that you can’t really extract it any more. Put another way, we have identified a fatal flaw with Protestantism because they are unable to disengage themselves from a false doctrine (that you must judge others based on the Trinity doctrine) and it’s long since become a core doctrine that would fundamentally redefine their religion if they gave it up.

    That was the only point I actually made.

    But now that you mention it, I want to get this off my chest: paradox vs. contradiction with the Trinity doctrine.

    Great minds, like Craig Blomberg, often turn this around and say “well, you can’t prove the Trinity doctrine is a contradiction.” Of course, he’s right… and it’s logically besides the point.

    Let me explain: Let’s take a statement that could be paradoxical or could be a contradiction

    “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

    Using Craig Blomberg’s logic (and the common logic used by Protestants) I am now being told: “You can’t prove this statement is a contradiction.”

    Of course I can’t. It could be either a contradiction or a paradox, depending on how you interpret it. The statement itself has no quality, in and of itself, of being either a paradox or a contradiction. Only an individual’s interpretation of the statement could ever be a “paradox” or a “contradiction.”

    My question, for you JFQ, and for the rest of non-Mormon Christianity, is very simple: how do you interpret the Trinity doctrine in a now contradictory way?

    Just like the statement above, it is a small matter to explain that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” could mean, for example, that those that put themselves first shall be the last in the next life and those that put everyone else first shall be the greatest (or first) in the next life. (Or use any other possible interpretation.) This statement thus becomes a “paradox” because I can clearly articulate how the words are non-contradictory in the way I interpret them.

    Can the same be said for the Trinity doctrine? Perhaps. All I know for sure is that the burden isn’t on me to prove it a contradiction (that’s impossible) but is on you to explain what you mean by those words and demonstrate that it’s not a contradiction. If you can’t, then you need to either a) accept that it’s a meaningless statement to you you aren’t really interpreting either, b) accept it’s a contradiction.

    There *are* ways to interpret the Trinity doctrine in non-contradictory ways. Wikipedia talks about some of the attempts. For exampmle, Richard “Swinburne has suggested that ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be thought of as numerically distinct Gods.'”

    If you can accept this as a true statement, then the Trinity doctrine is indeed a paradox, not a contradiction. But now you are using the Mormon solution to the problem.

    There’s the problem I have with this, JFQ, it just simply is a valid expectation for me to be able to ask you, “JFQ, please explain to me in what sense you personally interpret the Trinity doctrine as a paradox.” How you do so is valuable & useful information that can then be used to build a bridge of understanding, now matter how you go about it.

    But can you guess how many Protestants I’ve had dialog with that were willing to actually answer such a blatantly valid question? I’ll give you a hint: it’s whole number great than -1 and less than 1.

    Can you see why I not only don’t see this as invalid for judging others but invalid for even holding a real dialog?

    Yes, I understand it’s more comfortable to call the Trinity doctrine a “paradox” rather than a “contradiction.” But if you aren’t going to even attempt to discuss in what sense it’s a “paradox” then my holding that you have no right to claim it came from the Bible and that the loving God I know through personal experience would NEVER judge based on it is 100% valid and is worthy of my asking the questions I am asking. Why isn’t it also worthy of a serious attempt to answer those questions?

    And why isn’t this approach to the Trinity doctrine considered “valid” across the board for Protestants?

    Pretend, for a moment, that you are reading the Bible with no precoceived notions (i.e. no traditions) at all. Would you have actually come up with the modern Trinity doctrine? Of course not. You would have found some non-contradictory or comprehensible way to fit the facts together. (And there are many ways to do so, Mormon doctrine of deity being only one.)

    How useful would the bible be if we simply took every data point in the Bible, contradictory or not, and called them all “paradoxes” without trying to determine in what sense they are a paradox? Would there even be a point in reading the Bible at all?

    And lastly, I just have to ask this: is it really so wrong, even if we are ultimately incorrect, that we Mormons tried our darndest to understand the Bible and come up with a non-contradictory way to interpret doctrine of deity? Of course not. It’s as sincere a form of worship as could have been imagined.

    I’m not trying to say I see no value in the Trinity doctrine. Far from it. I think there are many “truths” that can even be found in it. But it’s an incredibly weak basis for starting with a disprove of Mormonism, as Evangelical just did, or a proof that your tradition is “more bibical” than Mormonism. In what sense could a contradictory or nonsensical (or at least uninterpretable) set of statements ever have really been said to be “more bibilical”?

  27. Post
    Author

    Sorry for not responding sooner to your excellent comments- I thought I posted this for Sunday!! 🙂

    Its 2 in the morning here so will have a look at Saturday

    25 Bruce James, the Church doesn’t tell us what our activity statistics are? Then how did you know? Why is it such common knowledge?

    In the mean time Bruce have a look at http://www.sltrib.com/lds/ci_2890645

    It was written in 2006 the link is also in my article Keeping members a challenge for LDS church – which you can click on as well

  28. James, did you read the post linked in #25? It really is interesting for those who think what the Church faces is unique – or that the Church is disingenuous with regard to membership.

  29. Whether you’re asked to be the 7th member, or the 70-millionth member, once you have a faith in God/Jesus/Atonement, then the only question that really matters is: “Which church does God want _me_ to be in at _this time_?”

    If you, as a potential convert, agree that that is the question, then the question can also be reduced to “Was Joseph Smith a prophet?” And if you’re real analytical (like I was for a while), you might find yourself asking, “Ok, JS Jr was a prophet, but who held the prophetic authority the moment at his death?

    Since the vast majority of the Apostles (except two I believe) went with Brigham Young to Utah, one may make a deduction from that.

    But all the really necessary answers are available through personal revelation.a

  30. JFQ, in #27, I went off on why it bugs me when people call the Trinity doctrine “paradoxical”. That word means something specific and the Trinity doctrine, for most people who claim to believe in it anyhow, it is not “paradoxical” at all. They either don’t attempt to understand it, or they do and arrive at some untraditional view of Trinity (often modalism or sometimes literally Mormonism). I find it disingenous to call it “paradoxical” while not accepting that the burden is on yourself to explain in what sense it is “paradoxical.”

    That being said, you, JFQ, may well have a way of dealing with this issue personally. I don’t want to rule that possiblity out. I’ve met more than one “Trinitarian” that could deal with the potential contradictions. However, the way this has always been accomplished is by partially abandonding the traditional view of Trinity.

    One lady I discussed this with went on to explain to me her view of how the Trinity was not a contradiction and it turned out it wasn’t for her. It was a merging of modalism and Trinity doctrine. It wasn’t really fully either. She explained that in a sense Jesus was in fact the Father and they were, in a sense, the same person and that it was the Father Himself that had come to earth and became Jesus (or at least a piece of the Father). I know enough to know this isn’t the traditional Trinity doctrine. But it wasn’t really fully modalism either because she still accepted that, in a sense, they were different “persons” as the creeds taught.

    But once I knew this, I could start to explain to her that we had common ground. We both understood that the words in use had different senses possible. I, just like her, felt that Jesus could rightly identify as the Father, though I didn’t see this as a merging of person like she did. I saw it as any member of the Godhead, who all shared one moral will, as being able to represent the whole of the Godhead because whatever one said or did fully represented all the others.

    We didn’t agree, but it would be difficult to say we weren’t a lot closer in our beliefs than what we thought when we started out.

    But I have real concerns over the fact that most Protestants I’ve talked to simply clam up when asked to explain themselves. This suggests to me that they know they have no response and would rather not explain further and prove they are just believing in a contradiction. They’d rather just stay silent and not explain what they believe any further.

    Which brings me to my next thing I need to get off my chest, and then I’m going to bed and I’m done for the weekend…

  31. I’m sorry to unload all at once, JFQ, but frankly I know you can take it because you are so incredibly open minded and willing to discuss things even when you strongly disagree with them.

    Here is my concern: I have a really strong negative view over how Protestants rely on “it’s in the Bible” to the exclusion of reason when it’s convenient for them but rely on reason alone when that’s convenient.

    Now I know, I know… Mormons (and all religions) do this too. But it’s different there. If a Mormon tries to appeal to scripture over reason in one case but reason over scripture in another, they are just being stupid. They don’t have to do that to affirm their faith since the prime authority for Mormonism is derived from personal revelation and experience with God, not any book of scripture or even any modern living prophet.

    So Mormonism does not have a burden of proof that they need to demonstrate that their reading of the Bible (or other scripture) has to be the only reasonable reading.

    Protestantism does!

    Let me use your own words as an example: “Trinitarian doctrine sets the biblical statements about God’s nature as the paramount expression of God’s authority. In sum they compose a paradoxical testament for the believer, a contradictory one to the disbeliever.”

    This is the basis for Protestantism, JFQ. We both know it. The Trinity doctrine is not logical, it’s a traditional reading of the Bible. It’s based solely on the idea that “the Bible teaches it.”

    But is that true? Does the Bible really teach the Trinity doctrine? Or more to the point, is it really true that the Trinity doctrine is *objectively* a “best fit” with the Bible and no other interpretation is reasonable?

    Let’s take Evangelical’s statement that Jesus is “uniquely God” as an example. Does the Bible teach that Jesus is uniquely God?

    Well, the Bible teaches: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Using a rational reading of this, we can now establish that the Bible does NOT teach that Jesus is uniquely God because there are two beings or persons (and let’s admit that outside of Christianity, those words are always synonyms) that are both called God.

    So the idea that Jesus is “uniquely God” is clearly contradicted by the Bible and we can now use the Bible as our proof that Evangelical and all Protestants believe something “unbiblical.”

    But wait! What about “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:”

    So using equivalent logic, I can now say that the Bible says there is exactly one God and thus if Jesus if “fully God” (an assertion both Mormons and Protestants agree the Bible clearly teaches) I can thus conclude that Jesus must be “uniquely God” because there is only one God.

    Now it might be tempting here to say “well, the Trinity doctrine teaches that there is one God-being of three persons so the Trinity doctrine encompasses both of these teachings.” And from a certain point of view, I can see that point.

    But is that really the most viable way to look at this? After all, I’m not arguing whether or not there is one God. There is only one God to me. Nor am I arguing whether or not there are three persons in that one God. There are three persons in the Godhead.

    The key point here is that the phrase “Jesus is uniquely God” is problematic because it’s not just a contradiction within the Trinity doctrine, it’s also a contradiction to Biblical teachings in John 1:1, unless you work around what it honestly seems to be teaching.

    In other words, it’s not really true that “the Bible teaches the Trinity doctrine.” The Bible contradicts the Trinity doctrine as much as it teaches it: as it must — because the Trinity doctrine is a contradiction. So half the Bible teaches it half of it (if you read it the way Protestants do) and half of the Bible contradicts half of it (if you read it the way Protestants do) and vice versa. Could this really be the best definition of a best fit to what the Bible teaches? I assert it never could be.

    Now let’s compare this with the Mormon view point. Mormons would say “yes, Jesus is uniquely divine in the sense that he is part of the one Godhead (i.e. divine nature) and shares one moral will with them. So in this sense, there is one God and Jesus is part of, but fully represents, that unique God.”

    “But in another sense Jesus, as an individual person or being, is not uniquely God. He is just one person of three (and potentially more) that is fully God and fully represents the full Godhead.”

    Now it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Mormon doctrine here matches both verses of the Bible without contradicting either. The Traditional Trinity doctrine matches both also, but also contradicts both because it’s itself a contradiction. (This is my point about there being an infinite number of ways to contradictorily reconcile a set of data points! Which contradiction were we expected to derive out of all the possible contradictions!?)

    Protestants are free to say “that’s what the Bible teaches” till the cows come home, and I might even agree with them. But the real question isn’t if this fits the Bible in some sense. The real question is if God would reasonably expect me to come up with it if I am using the Bible without Protestant tradition as an authoritative guide. (And if I was supposed to use Protestant tradition as an authoritative guide, why didn’t He just say so?)

    And this is what I was really getting at back in #22 when I asked: “would a loving God require his children to find and deduce a contradictory doctrine out of his authoritative revelations?”

    You seem to be assuming that the Bible teaches the Trinity doctrine clearly, not the Mormon Godhead, and so reason doesn’t matter because anyone who reads the Bible can see that’s a true statement. But that is a false dichotomy because the Bible does not clearly teach the Trinity doctrine. Only the creeds clearly teach the Trinity doctrine.

    Further, the Mormon Godhead can be derived from the Bible without any contradiction to the Bible. The Trinity doctrine can’t, as I just demonstrated.

    So there is a fair question I am raising here: how could God’s love ever be reconciled to a God that plop down a solely authoritative Bible that literally contradicts the very doctrine he expects me to believe or else I’m damned? It really is a fair question that I’ve seen no Protestant attempt to address thus far. They simply go back to “well the Bible teaches it.”

  32. Post
    Author

    Sorry just woke up and will Start to look at responses.

    Ray 29

    If you look at the article below of how many people have lived on the earth till about 2002 which was approximately 106 Billion people with about 6 Billion people living on the earth now it looks like in the millennium will only be doing work for our ancestors and building temples on a scale we can’t even imagine.

    Hopefully will have there will be amazing missionaries. I know a number of people can really only cope with just doing one session a month- and that’s their lot!

    http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

  33. #35: Sorry, James, but I think there is something wrong with your math here.

    If during the millennium, everyone is converted (or nearly everyone) during the first 100 years of the millenium, and if near the end of the millennium there are 5 billion people that are Temple worthy (that’s probably a conservative number after 1000 years!), then all of them only have to do 20 or so temple sessions in their life time and the whole world is taken care of up through 2002.

    And that’s ignoring all work done prior to that final generation in the Millennium, which is hardly insubstantial.

    Now redo those numbers and assume that nearly everyone converts at the beginning of the millennium (let’s say 2.5 billion convert out of 3 billion, with the other 3 billion destroyed at the second coming) and they all end up having Mormonsized families. We’ll actually run out of temple work long before the Millenium is over.

    The existence of 1000 years post Jesus’ coming easily resolves this issues numbers-wise.

    That’s why I say this issues could normally never be a reason why someone left the Church. It’s really only an issue once you’re actively trying to disprove this aspect of the Church. It only becomes an issue if you intentionally make up numbers that make it an issues.

  34. #34: Sorry, Ray, I know the internet is hardly the best place to go on long explanations like this.

    But you have to understand, these aren’t small issues for me. And JFQ is the only Protestant I’ve ever met in my life willing to engage me on issues like this, so I “pick” on him only out of sincere compliment to him.

    If there is some way to blunt my criticisms of Protestantism via a new way of thinking, I sincerely want to understand that and “get in their heads” better so that I can see where they are coming from.

    But these really are serious questions worthy of a serious response. And they do drive at the heart of soul of the Protestant belief systems.

    And it’s not like we don’t ask (and resolve or at least seriously attempt to resolve) equally serious questions about Mormonism here on a regular basis. Isn’t that that this thread by James is really about? Whether or not belief in the need for everyone to receive ordinances makes rational sense or not? If it doesn’t, then James is correct, this principle can’t be true.

    (Oh, and James, one more thing to consider with your numbers, you have no way of knowing how many of that 106 billion are even going to ask for vicarious ordinances during the Millenium once we are openly talking with angels. Maybe only 5% will ask to have their work down. Who knows.)

  35. Post
    Author

    Thanks Bruce 36

    It’s as difficult as getting your head around the 700 billion dollar bail out –but I think I hear what your saying 106 Billion will be converted from us 4.6 million the first 100 years because theoretically with nothing else to do (no earthly pressures of making a living) We can spend all our time on spiritual matters which could explode.

    “ It’s really only an issue once you’re actively trying to disprove this aspect of the Church.” Do you feel Peggy Fletcher Stack and Cumorah.com are actively trying to disprove this aspect of the church?

    “It only becomes an issue if you intentionally make up numbers that make it an issues.”Cumorah.com have been trying to help the missionary work of the church but from an honest base. I wouldn’t think he is intentionally making up numbers to make it an issue.

    “That’s why I say this issues could normally never be a reason why someone left the Church. “ What would you say to those who have left the church because it was their number 1 issue in leaving the church – I don’t think I would have the guts to tell them they were silly!

    It just hit me how ludicrous it is trying to speculate what is going to happen to 112 billion of us after this life is over.

  36. “It’s as difficult as getting your head around the 700 billion dollar bail out –but I think I hear what your saying 106 Billion will be converted from us 4.6 million the first 100 years because theoretically with nothing else to do (no earthly pressures of making a living) We can spend all our time on spiritual matters which could explode.”

    James, this isn’t what I am saying.

    I’m saying that 4.6 million could easily balloon to a much much larger number during the millenium.

    Look at my example in #36: Let’s say Jesus shows up tomorrow. According to Mormon (and other Christian) belief, the wicked are destroyed. To non-Mormons, this often means all non-Christians are destroyed. To Mormons, that means only the Telestial. To Mormons, all good people of all religions are spared according to our beliefs. (This is part of our universalist leaning.)

    So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that out of 6 billion people on earth, 3 billion are Telestial and are destroyed. The other 3 billion are either active Mormon or are “Terrestrial” i.e. good people of other religions.

    So we have, tomorrow, 4.6 million people that are active Temple Worthy Mormon, and 2.9+ billion people that are good people of other religions.

    Now here is the question: how many of that 2.9 billion convert to Mormonism that day since Jesus is now here and claiming it’s true? Some might say very nearly all of that 2.9 billion.

    So suddenly we — tomorrow — have 3 billion (or thereabouts) active Temple Worthy people.

    Based on these made up numbers, there is no issues with the math. We’ll be able to lazily work on temple work for the next 1000 years and may only be able to do one in our life time to save work for future generations.

    Again, this is assume we even do have to do temple work for all 106 billion that have lived. And according to Mormon doctrine, we DON’T have to perform ordinances for all of them. We only have to perform ordinances for those that ask for it. (Remember, we can talk with the dead during the Millenium, so this isn’t a rediculous thing I’m suggesting.) What percentage of 106 billion is that? Is it, say, 50%? Is it, say, 5%? I just don’t know.

    Again, I’m just not sure how we won’t run out of temple work within a single generation if I assume these numbers are valid.

    “It just hit me how ludicrous it is trying to speculate what is going to happen to 112 billion of us after this”

    Yes, I suppose, that’s sort of my point. 😛

  37. “James, this isn’t what I am saying.”

    Okay, actually, that IS what I was saying. 😛 I actually used both examples.

    Both are obviously just made up numbers built on assumptions that may or may not hold true. We just don’t know how the Millenium is going to work.

    What if, for example, out of 6 billion, only 50 million are spared? What if 5 billion are spared? what if only 1% decide to convert? What if 50%? We just don’t know.

    But since we don’t know, and it’s just as easy to make the case that it’s a non-issues as make the case that it’s an issue, the rational thing for a believer is to assume it’s a non-issue and not worry about it.

    Conversly, it is NOT rational for a non-believer to assume it’s an issue and not worry about it. The believer is defining their own beliefs, the non-believer is defining someone elses. So the believer has a right to assume a best case scenario but the non-believer rationally must be open to any rational possibility since they are the ones trying to produce the disproof.

  38. “What would you say to those who have left the church because it was their number 1 issue in leaving the church – I don’t think I would have the guts to tell them they were silly!”

    No, actually, that is exactly what I would tell them… only politely. I would lay out just what I said and show that there is no reason to believe it’s an issue. If they *still* had an issue (following my logic, which is valid, at the end of #40) be certain that they are being irrational. I woudldn’t tell them that, of course, but I would point out that their view is not logically valid.

    If they *still* have this as an issue, I’d just agree to disagree with them.

    But that’s just it, James, I have never met someone with this as their number one issues for leaving the Church. While I don’t rule out the possiblity someone exists like that, I can be reasonably sure that they are a very very small miniority. Probably zero.

    I can be that certain precisely because anyone that had an issue like this has to have a certain level of intelligence. And that level of intelligence would normally always be enough to allow them to make up numbers that make it a non-issue. If this were their number one issue, it wouldn’t be their number one issue for more than ten or fifteen minutes, normally, before they resolved it themselves.

    So an issue like this would normally only come up after various other issues were fully raised and accepted that undermined the core tenets of their faith. Only then can it really become an issue worth mentioning at all.

  39. The main issue the numbers point up is exclusivity.

    It’s not really a rational argument, but it makes faith in one church more difficult, the same way realizing just how many galaxies likely exist in the universe and how few of the planets in them are likely inhabited by sentient beings can make faith in our planet’s central place in the scheme of things more difficult. These realizations are cognitive, perhaps not fully rational in a lockstep way, but nonetheless quite powerful.

    The biggest argument against LDS exclusivity for me here is that we as LDS often make “this-life” claims about the gospel. “One can only be truly happy when following the teachings of the restored Gospel”. If this is true, it does strain credulity if one has a certain conception of the nature of God.

  40. Post
    Author

    41 Bruce

    “So an issue like this would normally only come up after various other issues were fully raised and accepted that undermined the core tenets of their faith. Only then can it really become an issue worth mentioning at all.”

    I agree with you here – in what I have seen its a lot more than one issue- but for many thinking the plan of salvation is only heard by a selective few of heavenly fathers children is hard for many to cope with. That he has gone to a huge effort to make this world, for us to prove our selves to see if will accept the gospel in this life and for so few to hear it.

  41. Bruce said: “The believer is defining their own beliefs, the non-believer is defining someone elses.” I like that thought. I also think your theoretical view of what could happen during the millenium is interesting. I have a hard time imagining the millenium as a reality, but if we still to the realm of theory, yours is as good as any. Although part of me disagrees that there will be a miraculous “Jesus says Mormons are right” missionary program. It took a while to build steam the first time around. I realize this time there would be the benefit of people knowing about it for the past 2000 years, but still, won’t some people say things like, “Maybe that’s not Jesus. Maybe that’s just a false Jesus, because obviously the real Jesus would say [insert religion of your choice] is the correct one.” Even good people are capable of dismissing spiritual experiences.

  42. I think John and James just nailed the central issue with “the numbers” for a lot of people. They said:

    1) The biggest argument against LDS exclusivity for me here is that we as LDS often make “this-life” claims about the gospel. “One can only be truly happy when following the teachings of the restored Gospel”

    2) but for many thinking the plan of salvation is only heard by a selective few of heavenly fathers children is hard for many to cope with.

    A) That quote is uttered my too many members and, in my mind, simply is ludicrous. Our scriptures say that “true happiness” comes from living the **principles** of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, NOT the “teachings” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. Someone who is a moderate social drinker can be just as happy (in this life and the next, according to Mormon theology) as a temple-attending Mormon. The distinction generally made is that one must live consistent with the dictates of his or her own conscience, according to the understanding they possess throughout their lives. If that were not so, all of temple work would be completely meaningless.

    B) That leads to the second statement: If someone doesn’t believe that all will hear the plan of salvation (if that isn’t part of their paradigm), it is easy to see why they reject Mormonism’s claim.

    The two difficulties are tied together quite well. An over-emphasis on accepting the Gospel in this life leads to an inability to understand and accept chances in the next life, while an under-emphasis on responsibility in this life can lead to a procrastination complex that thwarts spiritual growth and can harden hearts – thus, in our perspective, lowering the chance that one will accept the Gospel in the next life.

    My personal solution: Believe that God will work it all out in the end, probably in a way that would blow our mortal minds now but seem perfectly reasonable then, and focus strictly on trying to be happy and help others be happy by living and teaching the principles of the Gospel to the best of my ability. I’m content to do my best and believe that I won’t be dismayed in the end – even though I’m fairly certain I’ll be surprised by the view I obtain from the other side.

  43. Oh, and Bruce, I included the 🙂 in my comment about your passion largely because the comment was being typed by someone who is not exactly reticent to post consecutive comments on any given thread. Yours might be a bit longer on average than mine, but I make up for it in sheer cumulative volume. 🙂

  44. #44 – Hawk, truth be told, my “personal” view is closer to yours. But since I don’t know, I am open to what I gave too and decided to use that approach to skew the numbers in my favor. (I hope it was clear I wasn’t advocating that position, just showing how easy it is to over come this objection rationally.)

    #42, 43, 45 –

    Okay, NOW we are down to the real issue. And, note, we have now admited it’s emotional not rational.

    The truth is that all arguments for or against the LDS Church (or any religion) are “non-rational” (not, irrational — counter to reason, but non-rational, that is to say, reason plays no role.) All arguments for and against the Church come down to “what we feel.”

    YES, I can completely see how someone that grows up in the Church might pick up a view that God created the universe for the purpose of having the LDS church convert everyone in this life. THAT really is an issue worth discussing (as Ray did so capably.)

    This is exactly my problem with so many discussions we have here: they really seem besides the point to me. In this case, we started with a numbers game that we have now demonstrated is really a post-facto psuedo-rational explanation for another concern.

    We should just identify that real concern, and discuss it. (I know, easier said then done.)

    I can’t remember when I discarded the idea that God created the universe so that the LDS church can convert everyone in this life. Rationally, this really is impossible and so there is no possiblity it’s true. Searching through teachings of the Church, I simply couldn’t find it. It turns out it’s just a cultural thing. So I ended that way of thinking.

    Once I discarded this idea, certain logical conclusions followed:
    1. It is not God’s desire or wish that everyone be converted in this life.
    2. Life must then have other purposes that overlap with but are not the same as accepting the gospel. (Ray’s explanation of “accepting true principles” is an example of this.)
    3. The creation of, say, Venus, must have no connection at all with the idea of accepting the gospel in this life. Indeed, it must have very little connection to our lives. So it’s creation must serve another purpose. (C.S. Lewis attempted to address this in Perelandra. His solution was that creation has it’s own purposes.)

  45. John and James, let me ask you a counter question. I “get” that the LDS exclusive claim can stick in a person’s craw (that much is obvious) and that it “feels wrong”. I also understand that part (but not all) of the reason it’s bothersome is a false doctrine that the Church doesn’t teach but we seem to pick up inadvertently. (We are all human, after all.)

    But I also understand that there is a real concern here even once you discard the numbers game. It really does “feel wrong” in a way, that God would declare some sort of exclusive truth (no matter who we decide has it) and inefficiently let it spread in this life. (And all religions, even really large ones like Catholics, would still be “highly inefficient” if we accept this point of view.) The LDS church answer that there is no need to have the gospel spread to all in this life is a good answer (as I’m about to argue, it’s actually the best possible answer) but I can see why it would still bother people: especially if they grew up in a protestant culture were we tend to think of “accepting the gospel” as the purpose of life.

    But here’s the rub: every attempt to be “unexclusive” just turns out to be “exclusive” in an equally bad or worse way. I know I’ve argued this over and over, but let’s take the most common way people try to get around the exclusivity problem: by declaring ‘salvation’ to come through ethical teachings. Thus all religions that have ethical teachings are all “equally true.”

    But you immediately bump into all of the following problems that I’ve raised elsewhere, but no one has cared to tackle so far:

    1. You are now teaching an exclusive truth claim that denies all unique truth claims of other belief systems, save only your own. Besides being inconsistent, you are literally remaking the very problem you are trying to solve. Now there is greater happiness in this life if people will JUST discard their exclusive truth claims and accept yours. (And let’s be honest, this is exactly what many people — Matt Thurston for example — have argued with me here.) You now have exactly the same exclusivity problem you started with only worse.

    2. You need to logically deal with the Christian argument that salvation can’t ever come through works. This is no small matter: just how good do you have to be to be saved? To say nothing of the much bigger problem that teachings never save anyone. They just damn us because we are all sinners. I need a savior, not a teacher that teaches the impossible.

    3. A possible response to #2 is “there is no afterlife” you decide, during this life, if you are “saved” or not through your ethics. But this response has massive problems. For starters, not everyone has ethics in this life and it isn’t always a choice. To say nothing of the fact that this means God really is unjust since unjustice often wins the day here in this life. An afterlife is required for God to be the being we believe Him to be.

    My point is that you can’t fix the exclusivity “problem.” You can only remake it in a new and worse form. The exclusivity problem isn’t a problem at all. It’s a reality that exists and must be dealt with. It’s like seeing a mountain as a “problem” and instead of climbing it to get over it, deciding it isn’t there. It doesn’t help.

    The LDS Church is the only religion in existence (that I am aware of) that simultaneously accepts the reality that there can be only one “truth” while also accepting that God works through every religion with every person in a meaningful way. I would challenge everyone here to try to improve upon the LDS model. You might be able to match it, but you can’t improve upon it.

    The LDS Church tackled this mountain and climbed it in a unique way. Its critics have yet to start climbing because they are too busy pretending the mountain doesn’t exist.

  46. yes. i think it is wrong that the church tells us that there are 20 people in the church but only 15 are active.

    if god got us all to hear the gospel it would defeat everything. god’s not just going to hand the gospel to us.
    if we deserve it or want it then it will come to us or we will find it.

    if we all turned up to earth and all heard the gospel don’t you think that would be pointless?

  47. Post
    Author

    Bruce your intellect is on another planet!

    This won’t answer your number 48 completely but it will maybe make clear a number of peoples positions.

    From a missionary perspective we strongly teach about the apostasy and the need for a restoration.

    1. Do you think that God has the power to restore his church back to the earth?
    2. Do you think we need God’s influence in our day?
    3. Do you think he is a god of confusion, and would want us to go around to all the religions to collect the truth?
    4. Do you think he would want us to have the complete truth just as it was taught when Christ was on the earth in his day with apostles,teachers etc?

    Then you teach about how all the above was solved through Restoration. Maybe I am naive but I always felt that our church taught that our world was really meant and designed especially for that process –Gods church.

    We learn in the temple and through the teachings of the church why the earth is here it’s a testing ground and a huge part of that is too see if will accept the Gospel. ( I think most the church thinks of course their will be some that will slip through in this life but when they do the maths and realize we haven’t touched the surface – there lies the problem!!

    I know you have figured out at the end how 5 million of us will teach 112 billion – kind of the Amway principle. (Didn’t mean that in sarcastic way)

    But I can also see where some members would think – I don’t buy it I can’t see how god would make our planet and our universe and then be so inefficient! That most of his children won’t get a sniff of the Gospel and will all have to do the work in the millennium.

    I wrote that article Walking and a Talking like a NOM and I guess that’s my thing right now is for us to really feel and try to understand where people are at.

    Did you read Bushman’s article recently the one it was Notes from all over. These issues are it sounds like creeping into BYU.

    I’m trying to be careful how I word things I don’t want to make the dialogue seem final where it shuts people down. These are only thoughts which are very susceptible to change for me as I get more knowledge.

  48. “The truth is that all arguments for or against the LDS Church (or any religion) are “non-rational” (not, irrational — counter to reason, but non-rational, that is to say, reason plays no role.) All arguments for and against the Church come down to “what we feel.””

    Bruce, you’ve said things like the above before, and since you and I don’t share the same assumptions about the nature of truth nor the methods by which truth can most reliably be apprehended, it makes discussion difficult. While the proposition “Yes or No on the LDS Church” as you frame it above looks and sounds like a political proposition, not a factual one, the sub-claims that the existential Yes or No on the LDS Church rests are, many of them, and in the case of the LDS Church, more than other Christian religions, testable by the scientific method.

    Given your assumptions about truth, there is no universal means by which truth can be communicated nor discovered and hence the teachings of Christ in the vein of “let every man who is warned warn his neighbor” make no sense. There is no basis for a religious community in an intentional sense, just an accidental one of those to whom God sees fit to bestow extrarational experiences which bind that group together.

  49. “I think most the church thinks of course their will be some that will slip through in this life but when they do the maths and realize we haven’t touched the surface – there lies the problem!!”

    James, I believe about 99.95% of the members of the Church understand the math (at least the concept inherent in the math) and have no problem with billions not hearing the Gospel in this life. In fact, I believe that about 99.95% of the members of the Church use the math as one of the foundation reasons to believe the “Restored Church” over more orthodox, Protestant churches – many of which preached as core creed salvation only for those who hear of and accept their narrow version of Jesus in this life. (Some still teach that, but many are moving away from it, btw.)

    These members of the Church “do the math” and reject other theological constructs that do not allow for “conversion” of good people after death. “Doing the math” is one of the things that brings people into and keeps people in the Church, in my experience.

  50. These types of discussions are always intellectually stimulating but tend to fail because human nature can’t be figured into a calculation or a formula.

    On the surface, every major religion is a failure because it can never live up to its promises, not only its own members, but also to the world at large in bringing peace, some form of enlightenment and a nice ending to it all.

    In fact, the chosen people, the Jews, are a great example of God’s own apparent failure. Their population is dwindling due mainly to their own lack of reproduction, as well as, intermarriage and being killed by their enemies. The world, in general, hates them, even though their religion is the basis for the Judeo/Christian/Islamic world and they are among the world’s most accomplished people.

    Looking at Jesus and his ministry, He was also a failure because He was unable to convince the Jewish Leadership and thus, the majority of Jews, that He really was the Promised Messiah. Now, His success appears to be the million of followers He now has, but even they don’t really agree on much of His teachings. And even when some groups of followers generally agree, they ignore that agreement to kill off or marginalize those who don’t agree with them specifically.

    the best you can really hope for is that we catch the vision of Jesus and try to pattern our own lives to it. If each of us do that and strive with our best effort, I think the rest ultimately takes care of itself. How? Well, I think that is called a miracle. And that cannot be measured or calculated.

    “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)”

  51. Bruce, I agree that your what-if scenarios work well with whatever numbers one wants to assume about the living being converted during the millennium, and the dead hearing and accepting the gospel at some point from the time they died up to the end of the millennium (which could be thousands of years depending on when they lived), and about whatever number of Latter-day Saints there are being able to do all temple work for 100 billion souls during the millennium.

    My take on James is that he’s coming at these questions with a less-than-complete undersanding of what the possible scenarios are for people after they die, and what the possible scenarios are for both the living and the dead during the millennium.

    You two were just talking past each other. I could tell that you and I have the same basic general assumption of what will, or will likely happen. James just doesn’t have those same beliefs or basic assumptions. So when you described a scenario (with sufficient detail to invoke a similar mental picture in the mind of someone like me, with similar assumptions) your description was insufficient to paint the same scenario in James’ mind. He was envisioning a different scene because he has different underlying assumptions of what can happen.

    The bottom line is, no matter which extremes of numbers you use, there are a sufficent number of deceased “true believers” (Nephites, plus believers of the 1st century from the middle east, plus some lost tribes and others mentioned in 2nd Nephi, plus modern day “Mormons”) currently residing in the spirit world who can preach to the other 100 billion dead people who didn’t hear the gospel during their mortality.

    And, I think we can logically assume that once someone has accepted the gospel in the spirit world, they likely have the ability to teach the gospel to more people over there, even if they have to wait to have their temple work done.

    And given reasonable conversion numbers, a few million Mormons who survive the 2nd coming will convert (and procreate) enough to create sufficient temple-goers to do 100 billion or more temple ordinance sets in 1000 years.

    With almost 1000 years of no wars (there will be one final war at the end of the millennium according to the book of Revelation) and no one leaves mortality (as in death) until somoene is “changed in the twinkling of an eye”, the rate of population increase will be truely geometric.

  52. ‘Although part of me disagrees that there will be a miraculous “Jesus says Mormons are right” missionary program. ‘

    That’s an interesting issue. Will the Lord and the angels who return to earth with Him be as blunt as the cruise-director in that South Park cartoon about hell who says “‘The Mormons’ is the correct answer.”

    My take is that the Lord only gives out truth as fast as people are able to receive it. So my personal belief is that no, there won’t be a general authoritative announcement that “‘The Mormons’ is the correct church.” However, believing mortals will still be able to bear testimony. I don’t know what detail the resurrected beings (angels) who visit the earth will be allowed to go into, or who they will be allowed to contact.

  53. Bruce,

    I didn’t intend to avoid your questions. I’ve been swamped with real life this last week, and well, you had a TON of material there potentially to respond to.

    I will say I appreciate your perception that I’m open to critical questions. I wish you were available to participate in our real-life interfaith meetings. That way you could get more of my attention — if you wanted it. 🙂

    I regret that in your experience you haven’t found Protestants willing to engage and acknowledge that culture, theology, etc., inform interpretation of the Bible. I think a great deal of Protestant theology can be exegetically argued from the content of the Bible, and in sum forms a traditional heritage and interpretive thrust that should be consider edbefore dismissing its value. Nevertheless, differing interpretations can proceed exegetically from the text. It chagrins me that there isn’t more charity among the Body regarding this.

    It often does make it hard to find common ground with LDS interpretations. First, some of those interpretations are shaped by a trumping appeal to extra-biblical scripture authority. Where LDS differences to traditional interpretations occur there is a greater willingness to disregard them as mistranslations. Of course, your critique that trad. Christians appeal to scripture authority when it suits and reason when it suits can also be a valid one. But LDS can do this too. So this really isn’t the dividing issue, as I see it, but that the authority perceived behind the Bible is viewed quite differently in our traditions. It is extremely hard to bridge that difference.

    You ask why I see Trinitarian theology as paradoxical and not contradictory. Probably the first is formed by a very different view of who God the Father is. Obviously there is nuance on this matter within Christian tradition, but in sum, there is an extra-rationality that God is accorded as the Sovereign creator. He is not subject to natural laws, He is natural law. He was not at some time exalted above his original nature, He IS His original, exalted nature. He is a semi-abstract spiritual entity that may seem quite “imaginary” and “invented” when compared to an LDS Father God who is an exalted homo sapiens. All that is affirmed about His nature in the Bible is accepted as Truth — worthy for weighty theological grapple such as was seen at Nicaea when the dominant interpretation was challenged. In sum, the Bible, well, makes God a rather complicated and poetic entity compared with the approach LDS theology takes.

    The other argument for seeing paradox over contradiction comes from a consideration that the Bible is God’s word. For many there is a debate over what “inerrancy” exactly means, but regardless of how abstracted or literal one plays out there is a general thrust that accords the Bible — even where it may be deliberated upon — as God’s manifestation of authority for His creation. This does not mean that revelation to us today is not embraced. It is, and by some denominations, what appears radically so. But for many within the Body if what seems as revelation, if it is not rooted in the New Testament gospel, then it is suspiciously viewed.

    However, if one finds trad. Christians willing to be open-minded in approaching the discussion over what biblical inerrancy means — for example those who define the Bible is inerrant in its original forms — then there must be some common ground, I would hope, that could be carved out together with Mormons who are willing to depart from the LDS trad. interpretation of what “as far as it is translated correctly” means. In my view we must be willing to be radical and flexible in theologically proceeding foundationally _in and from_ the Bible. Yet we cannot deny that we all bring a lot of “scripting” to the table formed by denomination, culture, commentaries, intellectual and spiritual traditions, what leaders have said or do say, etc. The challenge is to stay self-aware of that. And to be willing to come back, time and time again, generation after generation, culture after culture, to the Bible and be willing to be changed or refined by it.

    Therefore, this choice to view the Bible with this kind of authority shapes God’s nature as complicated and mysterious. At worst it definitely can be seen as contradictory. Trinitarian tradition proceeds from the hope that even in mystery that the Bible is fundamentally true. Non-trinitarian traditions like modalism, for my part, seem to deviate too far, yet I believe there should be some sympathy and charity toward how believers arrive textually at these positions. It grows more difficult to find empathy for LDS theology — at least that of the Nauvoo period forward — that is more greatly shaped by post-Enlightenment thinking. As I said, I think this is due to the Bible being accorded in value distinctly different. But even more I think it is a radical difference in the view of God the Father’s nature that is fundamentally bolstered not from biblical exegesis — even if viewed fringe and heretical — but because it rests on claimed prophetic authority that is unabashedly extra-biblical.

  54. “But even more I think it is a radical difference in the view of God the Father’s nature that is fundamentally bolstered not from biblical exegesis — even if viewed fringe and heretical — but because it rests on claimed prophetic authority that is unabashedly extra-biblical.”

    JfQ, are you referring in that quote to Mormons and their modern Prophets or Protestants and their Early Christian Fathers? Just sayin’, it fits each group equally.

  55. True. Not quite the same, Ray, because the Patristic Fathers weren’t seen as ushering in a New Testament v2 or Restoration, if you will. But in terms that their statements can or are considered weighty that’s a fair critique that cuts both ways.

  56. I know I am very late to return to this conversation, but I am just reading it right now.

    JFQ, thanks for the thoughtful response. I wish I could continue this conversation further. Perhaps we will on another thread.

    I believe I understand what you are saying in the paragraph that ended with “In sum, the Bible, well, makes God a rather complicated and poetic entity compared with the approach LDS theology takes.”

    However, I think you are more comparing the views that you held of God when you were a Mormon than really an “LDS theology approach.” Needless to say, a great many LDS people do have a insufficiently simplicitic view of God… but the same is equally true of traditional Christians (who often just turn out to be very simple modalists.) So while I don’t disagree with what you are saying for yourself (when a Mormon) as well as many Mormons, I do disagree it’s fully representative of Mormon beliefs any more that I feel modalism is fully representative of traditional Christian beliefs.

    Also, you seem to misunderstand my real point about “contradiction.” The contradictions in Trinitarianism are very straightforwardly:

    1) that there are three persons that are one being but no one cares to define those terms because they are functionally the same.
    2) there are three persons that are fully God but in no sense whatsoever could this be thought of as three Gods (even numerically speaking.)

    My question was really, “please explain logically how to reconcile these points.”

    While there is more than one possible explanation here, my feeling is that traditional Christians refuse to even try to answer the question because all possible answers, at some point, become one of the “heresies.”

    But if traditional Christians refuse to answer the question, what is their basis for denying the Mormon formula of three persons that are one God? Aren’t we really comparing undefined to defined?

  57. #51: “the existential Yes or No on the LDS Church rests are, many of them, and in the case of the LDS Church, more than other Christian religions, testable by the scientific method.”

    I wish I knew what you meant here. A positive disproof of the LDS church by the scientific method would be very valuable to me. I guess I seriously doubt you actually have one. Indeed, I suspect if one existed, we’d all know about it.

    “Given your assumptions about truth, there is no universal means by which truth can be communicated nor discovered”

    I’m sure I didn’t say this. I think all I said was that there is no scientific proof or disproof of the LDS Church.

    I do think you make an interesting point here: there does seem to be a strong “political proposition” element to the question and I don’t seem to have differeniated on this front, so your point is valid. The LDS Church may be “true” in that it’s true for yourself and it may be “true” in an absolute sense.

  58. #60: John, let me put this another way.

    You either do have a “scientific disproof” (this means 100%) of Mormonism, or you don’t. If you don’t, then my statement is factually true. It really does come down to a gut feel on evidence that can be interpreted either way.

    If you *do* have a scientific disproof (100%) I insist you give it to me as such knowledge is valuable and I don’t currently poses it.

    The problem is that you don’t have a scientific disproof. What you (most likely) have is a set of evidence you find convincing. We human creatures have a really difficult time telling the difference between evidence we find convincing and “proof.” But these two concepts are not the same.

    I suppose you could argue with me that this collection of evidence of the truth of untruthfulness of the Church is compeling or more probable, etc. But the reality is that different people of equivalent intelligence will interpret the evidence in very different ways and thus see the probabilities differently. They might even see the probabilities in quite opposite ways and both be “right” from their point of view based on the heuristics they are personally using.

    So perhaps I go too far to say “reason plays no role” in the discussion, since “reason” might simply mean “my heuristics that I feel are correct in this case.” But it still comes down to a “feeling.” And that was my point.

    On the other hand, you say this about me: “There is no basis for a religious community in an intentional sense, just an accidental one of those to whom God sees fit to bestow extrarational experiences which bind that group together.”

    I accept this as somewhat accurate to what I am saying. I just reject the word “accidental.” On the contrary, I believe it is God’s intention to send or not send experiences of a nature a person personally needs and a person’s desire to have those experiences that create religious groups. (I suppose I believe this is just one source, not every case. But I find it to be the ideal source of religious identity.)

  59. JFQ: “I will say I appreciate your perception that I’m open to critical questions. I wish you were available to participate in our real-life interfaith meetings. That way you could get more of my attention — if you wanted it.”

    JFQ, please tell me more about this, btw. I’m interested. My time is not my own right now and I probably couldn’t participate for the moment. But this will eventually change. Where are you even located?

    And no worries on not always responding. Me calling that bad would be like the pot calling the kettle black. 😛

  60. I’m shocked that there are Temple Recommend holders who deny Christ  & Heavenly Father. So you lied at your recommend interview?! Shame on you! Why?

    K Harding

    1. Hi Kharding,

      This thread is so old, I’m not sure anyone will really encounter your note. (As the current site administrator, I get alerted to all activity, that’s why I saw it.) 

      If you’re interested in really exploring and discussing the temple recommend issue and how non-traditionally believing Latter-day Saints still choose to get recommends, there is a recent Mormon Matters podcast that has a good section on it. And it’s there that you might be able to find a more current and active discussion of this issue that you can join in on. 

      Here is a link to it, Episode 60: “Matters of Integrity” 
      http://mormonmatters.org/2011/11/15/60-matters-of-integrity/ 

      Cheers,
      Dan Wotherspoon

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