Opposition to the Church: A Charitable View

RayAnti-Mormon, Charity, evangelicals, families, inter-faith, Mormon 33 Comments

Just something to provide a different perspective:

Perhaps most of the vocal opposition to Mormonism is produced by those who sincerely feel like we are stealing something. From this perspective, we steal members (and their attendant money) away from ministers and congregations, but we also steal souls away from Christ or tradition or family.

I interviewed many years ago for a position of teacher at a Quaker school. The principal told me directly that he would have to defend my hiring to one board member who had “lost a daughter to the Mormons.” Money had nothing to do with that father’s emotion; he truly felt his daughter’s spiritual life was in danger.

Likewise, one of my missionary companions was a native Japanese elder. He was the oldest son of the oldest son of the town’s Buddhist priest – going back about 16 generations. When he joined the Church, his father performed a death ceremony for him – in Christian terms, letting go of a damned soul.

Finally, early converts didn’t join and stay in their home towns with their families. They joined and moved thousands of miles away to live among the saints. They said, in essence, “I would rather be with Joseph Smith and the Mormons than with you, my family.” I know that is consistent with statements in the New Testament, but it still is a brutal message to hear as a parent or sibling.

In each of these cases, these people who opposed the Church believed deeply that joining the Mormon Church was tantamount to abandoning family and friends and jumping into the flames of Hell. They felt that the Mormon Church stole their children’s eternal salvation/soul/destiny.

That underlying feeling of being robbed in one way or another can’t be ignored – and for those of us who are parents, it should be understood better. Even though we disagree strongly, we should fight the tendency to take offense and be much more charitable in our reaction to opposition – understanding how we would feel if we “lost a child” to something in which we didn’t believe and which we felt would harm her eternally.

Comments 33

  1. This is defintley how I see my grandmother fitting in. My mother converted from Church of the Nazerene when she was 18. My grandmother didn’t get to go to my mum’s wedding or mine and she constantly is calling us a cult. In fact, she has anti-mormon literature scattered around her house.

  2. Hit the return button to fast! lol.

    My grandmother has told me she is afraid for all our souls and in constantly praying for us to return to Christianity.

    It’s an interesting thing, I’m not that way for anyone who leaves the Church, should I be?

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    Becky, I think our understanding of salvation and degrees of glory blunts that feeling somewhat – although most members feel the same type of pain and anguish when a family member leaves the Church and “jeopardizes their exaltation”. I think that tendency simply is part of who we are as humans and as children of God – and it is that feeling within us that should influence our reaction to others.

  4. Ray–Your comment about our understanding of salvation reflects what Protestant scholar Craig Blomberg mentioned in How Wide the Divide? (the book-debate he wrote with Stephen Robinson). Invoking Pascal’s Wager, he pointed out that from his perspective, it was safer for him to remain where he was than it would be to join the LDS Church. His rationale was that if the LDS Church was true, then our beliefs in salvation meant that he could expect a comfortable eternity in the Terrestrial Kingdom with Jesus (which isn’t too far from the Christian view of heaven anyhow). On the other hand, if traditional Christianity is true, then millions of members of the LDS Church are damned to hell for all eternity.

  5. Money is not really a concern, that is an old wives tale told by mormon leaders to warn people away from hearing Christian witnessing. For every flashy televangelist, there are a thousand Christian minister laboring in near poverty and joy to see people come to Christ. The reason counter-cult groups and Christian churches witness to mormons is a genuine desire to see them saved. For Christians like myself, mormons are no different than a Buddhist or muslim or atheist: they are lost without Christ. The fact that they are nice people, wear ties to church, help feed the poor and have the name of Jesus Christ on their sign is irrelvant because mormonism proclaims a false god and a false gospel.

    My motivation is certainly not financial. I witness to mormons because having been a mormon I love the people and I hate the lie. I could no sooner leave a person lost in mormonism than I could leave a sleeping person in a burning building. I don’t get a nickel of support.

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    I agree, Arthur, that 99% of the time it’s not about money. That’s why I tried to get that out of the way right at the beginning.

    I think your comment is a great one to illustrate what I meant in the post. It would be very easy for Mormons who read it to get offended and start trying to “show you the error of your ways”. It is much more Christ-like, however, to seek first to understand – and to grant you the courtesy of believing your sincerity and honoring your dedication to doing what you believe to be right.

    Thanks for pointing out even more directly than I did that it rarely is about money.

  7. Since in France protestant churches are few and french not too generous I have never considered the money issue until I served my mission in the US.
    Yet, I have been aware pretty young of the “lost soul” issue. Of course for my grand mother (a devout catholic) this church was a cult but she came anyway to my baptism and not to make a scandale or ot make it hard in anyway. she had even brought a friend of hers from Lebanon.
    I know how hard it was for my grand mother and I am gratefull for the effort she has made.

    My grand father when told that I was going to the US just lost his temper over it. Come on! He knew my mom had sent me (against my will) to Utah to be the third wife of some american pervert and threatened my mother to go to SLC and to shake this whole business.
    All right grand pa.
    First I am NOT going to the US to get married.
    Second I don’t mind being the third wife but not of a perverted american and definitely after he will have divorced each of them.
    Third I am not going to SLC, I am going to Az.

    My grand father died before I came back and my mission president was worried that I was not going to be ok because my family had been through much while I was away. I was ok! I was actually happy. when my mission president asked me how I felt about his death I told him that when living he did not believe the church was true. Now he had no choice!
    My mission president gave me a look like he was not sure I was serious but then he realized I was.

    I am gratefull for grand parents who have cared so much for me whether it’d be for the wellfare of my soul or my happyness in this life.

  8. I think we (broad brush generalization of LDS folks) feel strongly in the same way when a loved one leaves our Church. Sure … I know theologically that they end up in a paradise. They will not roast in tormenting flames, tortured for all eternity to please a just and loving God (why this ever makes sense to anyone, I don’t know).

    There’s still that underlying angst that we will never see them again. NEVER! There could be some rare visiting hours allowed when we have a spare moment and can travel waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down several dimensions and across town to say hello. Maybe we’ll have to talk through glass over a greasy, static-filled, two-way prison phone.

    Same idea in Mormonism, just minus the human barbeque.

  9. great post. It’s always helpful to remember how other good people view us Mormons. When my parents joined the church, my grandparents were heartbroken. They believed strongly in their Methodist faith. I think the only people who can understand this pain are parents whose children leave the church for another church.

  10. When my parents joined the LDS church, both their families were skeptical of their new religion. Although my grandparents were Lutheran and Baptist respectively, they weren’t particularly religious. They warned my parents not to get too caught up in religion because religious fanatics are kooky and weird. Although my parents weren’t disowned and nobody specifically feared for their souls, that feeling that anyone who went to church regularly and let it influence their life was a kook certainly caused a barrier in understanding. As a result, we weren’t that close to my grandparents, and it even influenced how they wrote their wills.

  11. Thanks for your comments Valoel, this is a double edged sword. Protestants feel the same feelings for largely the same reasons as Mormons feel toward the disaffected or former members: these are people with dangerous ideas / knowledge.

  12. What if we only did missionary work because these are people we like and would enjoy hanging out with at church and after we die (rather than all this fearmongering for eternal souls)? I suppose on some level I agree with my g-parents that some of this overzealousness is a turn off, on both sides of the so-called wide divide. Can’t we just have a “you quit fearing for the welfare of my eternal soul and I’ll quit fearing for the welfare of yours” amnesty agreement?

    If someone wants to invite me to their church as a friend because they think I will enjoy it and fit in, that’s a whole different ball of wax (to me). If they fear for my eternal soul, it does seem just a little like they are off their nut. Perhaps that’s just good old-fashioned American non-secular deism rearing its head. It’s why I don’t relate to evangelicals, and why I also don’t relate to their LDS counterparts.

  13. If you expand the premise of this beyond religion, families sometime put pressure on their children to follow a particular path in life beyond religion. Going to College 9 and a particular college), joining the family business, entering a particular profession are areas where families can apply pressure and are disappointed when a child does not conform.

  14. Why do young adults have to prove to the church or temple that they are worthy of being mormon? Why cant we be mormon because our beliefs are similar? It seems like we put on a fake face to prove to everyone in the church that we are loving our life and we have no problems, when in fact everyone does but being mormon makes us feel like we shouldn’t have ANY problems. Why are we told to prey for all the other religions and hope the find the truth(mormonism). why cant they believe what they think is right. What if they are right?

    My older sister was an anti mormon through high school and she was a strong woman. when she got involved with a guy who was mormon she tried to make it work. She changed so much and isn’t even the same person. she had a full scholarship to any local university and she ended up not going. She ended up marrying him at the age of 20. he was 32 with a 12 year old son. (something she would never had done before the mormon religion.) All she does is cook, clean, and take care of the child. She acts as if she has no problems and everything is perfect. the mormon religion destroyed her life and she doesn’t even realize it. she is limited herself to so many great things in life. I personally know 3 other girls who are mormon, who were raped by their brothers and fathers. They try so hard to hide the fact that they have any problems what so ever. all three of those girls are suicidal and 2 of them succeeded. the one survivor still to this day hides her deep scratch marks all the way down her arms and her family doesn’t let her hang out with anyone. her religion destroyed her life. what do you have to say to that?

  15. I have traveled all over the United States and one thing that is different is the venality towards Mormons by “some” so called Christians. I come from 3 generations of Baptist preacher and I never heard “those damn Lutherans” or “the pope is the devil”.
    Another thing I have noticed is when someone is an apostate or knows he sins he may try to justify the sin by finding like sinners or people that think the way they do. This may make them feel less guilty?

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    #15 – That undoubtedly is true, but it could be said about us by those outside the Church – that we are sinning and “seeking our own” to justify our sin. When someone sincerely believes someone else is worshiping a false Christ and in danger of losing God’s reward, it colors their entire vision. In that regard, I think many of us are more similar than different – regardless of specific denominational affiliation.

  17. Actualy when you have a testimony of the truth you feel sorrow that others don’t have the truth as well. Not anger at them.

  18. I can’t speak for Lutherans being evil, but, If you’ve never heard anybody say “the pope is the devil” (or the anti-christ, or the messenger of satan, or what-have-you) you obviously haven’t been listening hard enough.

    Heck, I’ve even heard Mormons say it, (not many, thankfully, but a few)

    Anyway, not trying to derail the thread. carry on.

  19. AE,

    “I have traveled all over the United States and one thing that is different is the venality towards Mormons by “some” so called Christians. I come from 3 generations of Baptist preacher and I never heard “those damn Lutherans” or “the pope is the devil”.”

    Well those weren’t three generations of Baptists who were well versed in Baptist history. Meh is right, Protestants have traditionally held in their confessions that if the pope as a person is not the anti-Christ, the office of pope is.

    I am not sure what you mean by the “venality” of some Christians towards mormons, venality has to do with bribery. If you mean hostility, the obvious difference is that mormonism is not another denomination of Christianity like Lutheranism. We don’t evangelize Lutherans as a whole, because while there are plenty of lost people in Lutheran churches and we may disagree on points of ecclesiology, conservative Lutherans and Presbyterians and Pentecostals etc hold to the essentials of the Christian Gospel. One would hope that a lost person in a Lutheran church is hearing the Gospel on Sunday. Mormons clearly are not, from a Christian viewpoint.

  20. Arthur said,

    “We don’t evangelize Lutherans as a whole, because while there are plenty of lost people in Lutheran churches and we may disagree on points of ecclesiology, conservative Lutherans and Presbyterians and Pentecostals etc hold to the essentials of the Christian Gospel. One would hope that a lost person in a Lutheran church is hearing the Gospel on Sunday. Mormons clearly are not, from a Christian viewpoint.”

    That is a perfect description of what I am saying in this post. We are seen as fundamentally outside the Christian saved – and that basic perspective underlies the sincere concern when someone joins our church.

  21. Ray, “We are seen as fundamentally outside the Christian saved”

    As one who never wanted to be or would have been part of the traditional Christian denominations, that fact does not bother me in the least

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  24. Really it is not about denominations or creeds. I would be just as happy to see you come to Christ in a Presbyterian church or a Lutheran church. Jeff, you might benefit from looking more closely at the traditional denominations, you will find that there isn’t that much difference outside of worship stle and the recipients of baptism, neither of which has any impact on salvation.

  25. Arthur, Arthur, Arthur,

    Do you really think that those kind of statements hold any water? I’ve been to many other churches and am very happy with the one I have chosen. Oh, and BTW, I have come to Christ. He has accepted as his, even if you don’t.


  26. I will take your response to mean you really haven’t looked too closely at the difference in denominations, even though you have rejected them.

    But who is the Christ you have come to? That is the real question isn’t it? He cannot be both a and b, if a and b are mutually exclusive. He cannot be who He is revealed to be in the Bible and who He is claimed to be in mormonism, so one or the other (or perhaps both) are wrong.

  27. Arthur,

    Please understand that I have no desire to engage in this type of dialogue with you. I know how it goes, been through it countless times before and it is all for naught. I am not going to convince you of my position with regards to the LDS faith and you are not going to convince me otherwise. If you’d like to have a reasonable dialogue about the things we discuss here on Mormon Matters, you are most welcome.

  28. Arthur, this is my post, and I second what Jeff is saying. There is a focus and a purpose to every post, and simple civility and courtesy begs that each post be respected for its author’s intent in writing it. With that base:

    I do not want this post to turn into an argument over particular points of doctrine or practice or belief. I want it to focus on why some condemn others of differing faiths. Discussion of any reason is fine, as long as it occurs with a civil and respectful tone. Asserting in a post like this that Mormons are non-Christians who are headed to Hell for refusing to accept Christ has been accomplished already; it’s on the record; please drop it and stick to discussing the actual post.


  29. I remember well a young man in my high school who was a son of a local non-denominational Christian pastor. He was friendshipped by some of the LDS students (we were about 10% of the school pop. but a fairly visible crowd). He dated an LDS girl, joined the church, and moved out of his home and into the home of a male LDS friend. I think his father’s reaction was similar to what Arthur has described as trying to pull his son out as if he was in a burning building. (Thanks Arthur for, illustrating the meaning of the post!)

    I remember the young man visiting our seminary class and sharing his testimony and thought how powerful it was! I heard from the LDS girls that the father was NOT going to let the next younger son go to any high school dances at our school because the LDS girls would be there waiting to steal him away. I heard that the young man eventually returned to his father’s denomination and I was saddened, but understanding. I will never forget the power of his testimony though!

    My best friend in high school was a Baptist and we got along great! I would never have known that Baptists are supposed to think the way #14 describes! We had a million fun times and knowing that we were each happy with our own religion, rarely discussed it…although I did take him to the Easter Pageant at the Mesa Temple one year. When we graduated from high school and found limited options for a graduation party that we both wanted to attend, he agreed to go to the party sponsored LDS students. He even told his parents, “you don’t have to worry about me getting in any trouble, I’ll be at the Mormon’s party.” 🙂

  30. Ray

    I still hear stories of people joining the church now and are alienated from the families. But IMO opinion I think as church’s are starting to slightly blend and I think were focusing more on the bible as a church we are getting more an attitude of anything goes.I think even the Mormons are started to be more accepted in families.

  31. Pingback: Zelophehad’s Daughters | My Nacle Notebook 2008: Interesting Comments

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