Every Evangelical/Mormon Argument Goes Something Like This . . .

Over at Philosophical Fragments, my friend Timothy Dalrymple has been writing an excellent series of posts on Evangelical/Mormon relationships.  My favorite of the series begins with a decades-old exchange between Walter Martin, the famed Christian counter-cultist, and a young Mormon:

In the Q&A, a very articulate young Mormon man stood up, and they went back and forth quite a bit.  The Mormon was insisting that Walter Martin misunderstood Mormonism on the atonement of Christ and Walter Martin simply would not give in.  And they got almost into a shouting match and at a certain point the young man, with tears flowing down his face because Martin had been pretty rough on him, said, “I don’t care what you say, Dr. Martin.  I believe that my sins have been forgiven by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on Calvary and nothing that you can say can change that conviction.”  And Martin turned to the audience and said, “See how they lie?”

Nancy and I co-founded Evangelicals for Mitt more than seven years ago.  The public component of our work (our website)is now more than six years old, and we’ve thus seen innumerable arguments between evangelical and Mormon commenters — with eery echoes of the exchange above.  These newer exchanges do, however, have some modern twists (only slightly exaggerated for effect):

Evangelical: How can you support a Mormon for President?  Mormons don’t believe in Jesus and even believe [insert craziest imaginable straw man argument here].

Mormon: I most certainly do believe in Jesus, and I’ve never even heard of [insane straw man].

Evangelical: Your church also teaches [insert something about planets and Battlestar Galactica].

Mormon: I’ve been LDS my whole life and have never heard that.

Evangelical: *Frantically googling*

Mormon: *Blood pressure rising*

Evangelical: *Brings up Google results* Didn’t Hiram Jebediah Jones, the Ninth Elder of the Quorum in the Council of Provo declare in 1899: “And lo! We shall ride unicorns of deception amongst the people until they  believeth we are not cultists.”

Mormon: ???

And then the debate devolves into a comment war that collectively lowers the IQ of the Internet — driving desperate readers to kitten pictures for solace.  Enough!  In future posts dealing with Mormons, Evangelicals, and Theology, I should post the following principles for discussing religious differences:

1.  Never assume you know anyone else’s beliefs.  Yes, yes I know you earned a graduate degree in comparative religions and did your Master’s Thesis in “Christ Imagery in Early Mormon Hymns,” but that doesn’t mean you know what your counterpart believes or has been taught.  In fact, your counterpart may actually disagree with this or that point of church teaching.

2.  Don’t presume to dictate who is or is not a member of good standing of their own faith.  My favorite retort to Mormons who don’t conform to stereotype is, “Well, if you believe that, then you’re not really a Mormon.”  Last time I checked, the LDS church determined who was or was not a member in good standing of their church, while my elders did the same for my own church.

3.  Let your counterpart describe their own beliefs.  This point flows naturally from the points above.  If I am going to disagree with someone, I prefer to disagree with the best expression of the opposing view.

4.  Let your counterpart describe their own disagreements with your faith.  It’s been interesting for me to hear LDS friends describe in their own words their disagreements with Christian orthodoxy.  Often, I think they misunderstand my own beliefs almost as much as I have often misunderstood theirs.

5.  Don’t Google obscure, inflammatory quotes.  There are few things more unproductive than slamming a debating opponent with obscure, often out-of-context quotes by historical figures or church leaders.  I’m a Calvinist Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I have all John Calvin’s writings on instant mental recall, know the context of all quotes thrown in my face, or even agree with everything he said and did.  I am seeking to understand an overall world view, not to defend the particulars of any man’s biography or the totality of all their words and actions.  For example, you’re not convincing a Christian that he shouldn’t read Psalms if you say, “Wasn’t David an adulterer?”

6.  Recognize that God is in control.  This is the Reformed Christian in me, but it is of immense comfort to know that no man is going to Hell because I wasn’t eloquent enough.  I have a duty to do my best to advance the Gospel, but I’m a fallen, broken person, and my words will never be adequate or sufficient to convict the human heart of sin.  A man’s eternal destiny is simply not up to me.

I endeavor to have a answer for the hope that is within me.   But until that day, I suppose I can follow the spirit of the Internet and stubbornly mischaracterize other people’s beliefs.

In fact, that just might be easier.

  • Russell Sewell

    Mr. French. I am a lifelong Mormon who enjoys your website and posts. You actually supported Mitt Romney long before I did. (I just didn’t think the country would support a Mormon president and I didn’t want to waste my vote.) I am compelled to respond to your articles about Evangelicals and Mormons. . .

    I have had many encounter with Evangelicals throughout my life and at first, I had very similar conversations as you listed above. However, when you pull back the layers of doctrinal differences and really look at the basis of the Mormon faith, the differences are come down to three basic tenants.

    1) We believe that the Book of Mormon to be the word of god similar to the Bible.
    2) We believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet similar to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
    3) We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is where the fulness of Christ’s gospel is found.

    We never disagree with Evangelicals that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, and the Savior of the World. We may have doctrinal disagreements, but doctrinal disagreements about Christ’s gospel are found throughout all of Christianity.

    I have always been most curious why Evangelicals seem to loath Mormons with a passion that seems out of proportion to the apparent doctrinal differences. Either Mormons are right and it would benefit all to listen to our message or we are wrong and we going to Hell. Either way, most Mormons are happy with there beliefs and eagerly share with others. Most Mormons invite others to hear the message and don’t mind if other don’t choose to believe.

    I hope that all the Christian community (including Mormons and Evangelicals) can learn to appreciate the virtues of others’ faith and exercise tolerance as we encounter other who don’t believe the same way we do.

    • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

      But that is not ALL you believe, is it Russell?

      • Joe

        I’m a Mormon, and that is not “all” I believe. : ) First, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, God, The only begotten Son in the flesh. I also believe that He still speaks and interacts with His children. I believe that His Spirit communes and directs all good people, including Mr. French (I would call him brother French but that might offend some people : )). I didn’t read all of the article but I believe the parts I read are written by the light of love, which is the light of Christ. I believe the Bible is the greatest book ever written, and the Book of Mormon is a most powerful witness that the Bible is true, that Jesus is God’s Son and loves us all etc. I also believe the Book of Mormon is correct when it teaches that all things that lead people to believe in the Christ are good, and all things that lead people to good are of God etc.

        I think it is ok for people to disagree, you don’t have to believe something you haven’t experienced, but I do not think that Christ inspires anyone to call a person a liar when they say they believe in Jesus and His atonement. Nor do I believe He inspires people to assume they know what Mormons believe after reading anti-Mormon hate propaganda. I don’t think misrepresentations etc are of Christ. You are free to believe they are….and hopefully I’m free to disagree : ).
        I’ll post more below…

      • Evan Maughan

        LOL Shea,
        “That is not all you believe, is it Russell”

        Well I’m not Russell, but I bet you are 100% correct, I bet Russell has many more beliefs than the basics he listed. I would feel sorry for anyone if they could put ALL of their beliefs in three sentences.

        By the way Shea, I think you may have missed David’s excellent point.

    • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

      But that is not ALL or the extent of your beliefs, is it Russell?

      • Joe

        After reading more of David’s article I want repeat that I feel that he often writes in the Spirit (The Holy Spirit….for those who don’t know what we Mormons believe). I also want to remind those with concerns that evidence shows that converts to Mormonism will probably go down if Mitt Romney is president, especially overseas, in areas that already have anti-American sentiments.
        One of the most difficult things about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that there are so many people who never try to understand what we really believe, they simply go to anti-Mormon hate pages and sponge it up…..no offense. We read those websites also, and I can tell you that if you really want to know what we believe the Christian thing to do is to check Mormon.org, read the Bible and Book of Mormon etc. There are also wonderful sources for those who read anti-Mormon stuff….FAIR.org, Maxwell etc.

        And, with my comment above, there are many more things that I believe, here are some of our articles of Faith:

        “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
        We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
        We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
        We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
        We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
        We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
        We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

  • JT

    Shea – Please reread the OP.

  • Ian Leneham

    David, excellent article.
    Shea, you should read it.

    • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

      I did read it Ian, thank you. I found the article quite informative and well written. However, I also found it insufficient to my question, so I am asking a Mormon, Russell, to expound and expand upon his reply comments, to wit:
      1) We believe that the Book of Mormon to be the word of god similar to the Bible.
      2) We believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet similar to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
      3) We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is where the fulness of Christ’s gospel is found.”
      I agree that these would be top contenders for points of contention with other Christians. But this is frankly the basis for my question “But thats not ALL you believe, is it?”, not an answer to it. The fact that you’re dodging this question by telling me to read the article, is quite telling; if the answer to my question was contained in the article I would not be asking about it. It’s a simple question Ian, and if you would like to ANSWER it, that would be great as well. YES or NO.

      • Steve

        I don’t think he is dodging anything, he just isn’t on this article anymore and therefore can’t reply to your response. You are right that there are a lot of differences, but his points hit on foundational ones that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless.
        1)We believe the bible was never intended to be the only source for the word of God but that it is a record of God’s prophets and apostles in the area of Jerusalem and the Mediterranean. God never stated he would not also reveal Himself to other peoples and command them to write His words too. Also, the bible is only as valuable as far as it correctly reflects the original words of the writers. We don’t have any original source documents for it, just records dating back to those time periods. For the protestants out there, these records were kept by leaders of what was or would become the early Catholic church. Since you aren’t Catholic, you must question their method of archiving and retranslation. I can go on about the apostacy and major councils and creeds created by these same leaders that establish the so called tenets that all Christians “must” adhere to, to be called a Christian.
        2)We believe in the restoration of the priesthood, prophets, and revelation in modern days. This is the source of all the differences, because we believe that man has been translating and interpreting the bible records for centuries without the proper authority. The apostacy casts doubt on all of the creeds. All of these other doctrines that you see as differences are examples of the principles that come from true revelation. Doctrines such as the Godhead, kingdoms of glory, baptisms for the dead, priesthood blessings, and the temple ordinances are often referenced in the bible, but were unknown due to improper interpretation.
        The point I am making is that we can catalog all of these other differences in doctrine, but that is like arguing over algerbra when we can’t agree on simple addition and subtraction. Let’s focus on the most important items and get to the others when the first is resolved

        • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

          Steve – Thank you for your reply. Perhaps I should begin my participation on a new site or thread with the following disclaimer:

          [1] The tone of my written word often, especially to those who do not know me, comes across harsher than intended on my part. Pls bear this in mind when reading my posts.

          [2] Facebook does not allow the use of italics, and neither does WordPress to my knowledge, or most blogging and/or commentary oriented webware and therefore when adding emphasis to a single word or phrase, I will use CAPS instead. If I could use italics I would. I am not shouting. My apologies if it was taken as such.
          That said, on to your response. I shall reproduce it here and reply on point;

          You said, “I don’t think he is dodging anything, he just isn’t on this article anymore and therefore can’t reply to your response. You are right that there are a lot of differences, but his points hit on foundational ones that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless”
          This might just be a semantic issue, but I would say that these points Russell imparted are more in the classification of “contentious foundational points”. It then follows that an unqualified phrase ‘foundational points” would refer to the common foundational points/doctrine/theology that we all have in common – then the reminder of your sentence “that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless” makes perfect sense; if we can’t agree on the basics then arguing about the contentious items makes little sense, I agree. However, if we take the sentence as written, that if we can’t agree on these three contentious points ( foundational to Mormonism, not Christianity as a whole ) then the remainder of the sentence “that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless” is incongruous with the first part.

          You should present ALL of your contentious points, and let persons interested enough to inquire about it sift through them in their own manner.

          So I ask you to please list them, restricting your list to the most contentious sort without filtering the results through a hierarchical sieve; I am not interested in minor theological or liturgical squabbling BTW, but the major points of contention. If you are unable or unwilling, I can list them for you, and you can respond as to whether your canons and/or Church teach this, or if they do not. If you feel brevity of response will not suffice, you can expand your answer in any manner you like. I prefer to hear another’s exegesis in their own words.

          “God never stated he would not also reveal Himself to other peoples and command them to write His words too”.

          I am sorry, I cannot accept this argument, as it is a glaring logical fallacy, argumentum e silentio. I also was not challenging you on this subject, BTW.

          “Also, the bible is only as valuable as far as it correctly reflects the original words of the writers”.

          To this I whole-heartedly agree.
          “We don’t have any original source documents for it, just records dating back to those time periods. For the protestants out there, these records were kept by leaders of what was or would become the early Catholic church.”

          No argument here.

          “Since you aren’t Catholic, [ impressed you picked up on that ] you must question their method of archiving and retranslation”.
          I do on a daily basis. No argument here.
          “I can go on about the apostasy [ of the Catholic Church ] and major councils and creeds created by these same leaders that establish the so called tenets that all Christians “must” adhere to, to be called a Christian.”
          Preaching to the choir.
          “2) We believe in the restoration of the priesthood, prophets, and revelation in modern days. This is the source of all the differences, because we believe that man has been translating and interpreting the bible records for centuries without the proper authority. The apostacy casts doubt on all of the creeds. All of these other doctrines that you see as differences are examples of the principles that come from true revelation”.
          A lengthy and involved discussion for another time.

          “Doctrines such as the Godhead, kingdoms of glory, baptisms for the dead, priesthood blessings, and the temple ordinances are often referenced in the bible, but were unknown due to improper interpretation”.

          Ah, now we go from Milk to Meat!

          The point I am making is that we can catalog all of these other differences in doctrine, but that is like arguing over algerbra when we can’t agree on simple addition and subtraction. Let’s focus on the most important items and get to the others when the first is resolved”.”

          Logically one proceeds from the points that we all agree on, the fulcrum. It also seems as if your saying that to discuss some items, S, before others, O, is putting the cart before the horse, and in discussing a scriptural exegesis of these subjects I would agree. However this is not what I am asking – I am just asking for a unequivocable response as to whether your canons or Church teachs [ insert list of the more contentious items of your theology, and/or claims of others ] these things or not. If people are going around claiming that Mormons believe God lives near a star or plant called Kolob, or claiming this appears in your canons; I would think if this was untrue, that you would be eager to simply say, “No we do not believe or teach this”.

          If you do not believe that God was once Flesh, created in turn by another God, etc, ad infinitum, then I would think you would be eager to say so.
          So again, would you like to provide the list ( I am sure you know the points to which I refer ) and respond whether you teach this or not, or shall I provide the list and you respond whether you teach this or not?

          Looking forward to your reply, or anyones

          • Joe

            “Looking forward to your reply, or anyones”
            Hope I qualify…

            Most Mormons are busy people, as I am, and honestly, if you want to know what we believe you can check Mormon.org. and if you want to discuss disagreements etc, check FAIR lds etc.

            My 3 year old is going to be really hungry in a minute, but I’ll quickly explain some common disagreements (although they aren’t all central to LDS theology) and then I’ll reply to some of your points, but admit I only skimmed you comment, we hear most of these things over and over, and you should realize that the “meat” of Mormonism is Jesus Christ and His atonement.
            Sacraments are one thing that many modern Christians disagree with. Ours are older than most, and not understood by some. We still include the Lord’s Supper and Temple Sacraments as practiced by the earliest Christians (see FAIR lds, http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2008_The_Israelite_Temple_and_the_Early_Christians.html)
            these sacraments are still practiced by many Christians (Armenian Apostolic etc (and they argue that they are the oldest Christianity, predating Catholicism etc).
            We do also believe the ancient Christian doctrine of Deification or Theosis (originally, you could hardly be called Christian if you didn’t believe this, and it is said that “all” the early Church Fathers taught this, and it is Biblical- see FAIR lds articles: The Christian Doctrine of Deification Edward T. Jones and Restoring the ancient Church by Bickmore.
            We feel these are Christian doctrines, but of course you are free to disagree with these, and even in disagreement I think most Mormons would still call you a “Christian” and we believe you are saved if you have sincere faith in Christ, that faith that leads you to act as a Christian should….
            Next, a reply to some of your specific questions or claims-

          • Joe

            In reply to some of your specific questions or comments-

            The Bible explains that it doesn’t contain all of the words of Christ. He still speaks.

            I agree with both of you, we worship the God of the Bible, not the philosophers interpretation.

            If you want more info. on Temples, Baptisms etc check articles above or search Mormon.org, FAIR lds, etc.
            “Ah, now we go from Milk to Meat!”
            “most important items and get to the others when the first is resolved”.” For the Mormons that I know, the most important doctrine is understanding Jesus- specifically: faith, repentance, etc. These are explained in our articles of faith.

            “Mormons believe God lives near a star or plant called Kolob,”
            This is one of those things that Mormons are much less concerned with than non-Mormons and anti-Mormons. This is what the canon says “Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God.” It is from the Book of Abraham, and is how ancient Semitic people like Abraham would have viewed the Cosmos and God. We now know that the word Joseph translates as Kolob is probably related to the ancient Semitic “Kleb” (Joseph Smith seems to be far ahead of historians on so many things see “One Eternal Round” discussing BofAbraham). According to modern non-LDS scholars Kleb means “heart” and is associated with a star. It can be translated as heart of heaven (I personally think it’s related to the Biblical term “bosom of Abraham”) and Kleb was associated with certain important stars by ancient Biblical cultures (possibly associated with Isaiah’s “sides” or House “of the North, which is near to the throne of God, probably the polar region in Isaiah’s case).
            Not sure what else you’d like to know on that, but many Christians believe that God is everywhere and nowhere, many others (including Mormons) believe God is everywhere and SOMEWHERE. Perhaps that is where you disagree with us, but the idea that God descended to live on this earth is central to my Christianity. The Bible clearly explains that He was born of woman, took flesh, and resurrected with a body of flesh and bone. He still lives physically in time and place, although He is also everywhere as LDS canon explains: DC 88:6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; 7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ… Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”

            For us, God, the God that both OT and NT prophets spoke to, the God Stephen saw, is real, and is enthroned in real space and time.

            “God was once Flesh, created in turn by another God, etc, ad infinitum” God wasn’t created in the sense that you believe we believe- DC 93: “the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” His physical body was however clearly created- He didn’t have it before He was born of Mary. Several LDS leaders have speculated on the idea that God the Father obtained a body this way (created by the light of Christ) but the LDS Doctrine is that we don’t know much beyond what the scriptures say. Keep in mind, as David humorously points out, not everything said by a leader (even Joseph Smith, Peter, etc) is scripture or Doctrine. Peter had many beliefs about Jesus, the Gospel going to gentiles etc that were not true.

            Hopefully this answers your questions…..I’ll check back when I have time. Time to feed my daughter and get my boy from kindergarten, and get ready for work at my bankrupt factory Union job. …. thanks for taking the time to understand your neighbors, and to show love, and I especially thank the good Christian people at Evangelicals for Mitt, : )
            in love, Joe.

      • Agkcrbs

        Yes, Shea, it is a simple question; of course that’s not all he believes. Nobody believes only three or four things. He already said those were “basic” differences, suggesting a summary or priority. He also believes Jesus healed a certain guy’s daughter, and Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and his faucet will run when he turns it on, and God has spokesmen on the earth, and a million other things which you may or may not accept. Nobody on earth is going to share his exact set of beliefs, so he centralised upon his hope in Christ, which he imagines is shared, and suggested that differences need not incite animosity. If you want to make some grocery list to compare your and his beliefs, everybody already knows the result: you guys aren’t exactly the same. But don’t let that stop you, if knowledge is really your goal instead of wrangling, or intoning in capitals.

  • Don Harryman

    As an Ex Mormon, I am convinced that neither Mormons nor Evangelicals speak for God or Christ. I believe in God, and I have hope in Christ’s mission, but I believe that all religion is specious, man made, hateful nonsense, which creates nothing more than division and hatred. When all of you who claim to speak for God get it all sorted out, and can tell me which of you among the competing representatives of God and Christ actually represent them, get back to me. The way I have been treated as a homosexual man by Mormons, Evangelicals and other so called Christians convinces me that none of you have any more do do with Christ and His teachings than Chevron does….possibly less. At least Chevron doesn’t claim to speak for God.

    • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

      I did read it Ian, thank you. I found the article quite informative and well written. However, I also found it insufficient to my question, so I am asking a Mormon, Russell, to expound and expand upon his reply comments, to wit:
      1) We believe that the Book of Mormon to be the word of god similar to the Bible.
      2) We believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet similar to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.
      3) We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is where the fulness of Christ’s gospel is found.”
      I agree that these would be top contenders for points of contention with other Christians. But this is frankly the basis for my question “But thats not ALL you believe, is it?”, not an answer to it. The fact that you’re dodging this question by telling me to read the article, is quite telling; if the answer to my question was contained in the article I would not be asking about it. It’s a simple question Ian, and if you would like to ANSWER it, that would be great as well. YES or NO.

      • dillet

        Shea–The tone of your question sounds like a set-up, as if you are waiting for someone to say “Well, yes, I also believe in …., and…., and…. [insert any of the absurd assertions by some obscure Sunday School Teacher in Podunk USA or weird accusations by your local preacher, such as this well-written article recognizes and exposes as garbage].

        If you really want to know what else we believe, go to the source. Explore http://www.mormon.org, or take the missionary lessons, or read our short, concise 13 Articles of Faith. Just avoid the warped “tell-all” versions from anti-mormon sources. Best wishes.

      • Russell Sewell

        Hi Shea – Of course that is not all I believe, however, all of what I believe can be rooted back into the three tenants that I listed. My point wasn’t to get into to theological discussion on a comment board. My point was to state clearly what I (and most Mormons) believe. I don’t feign to understand, let alone mock or criticize the faith of others. I can only share my beliefs and let others decide for themselves whether it be true. If it is God, God will let it be known to those who ask.

  • WOB

    Russell,

    If you were to come upon a house fire where the inhabitants were trapped and along the side many firemen who were spraying the house with water there were folks also dressed in fireman attire, but who were throwing gasoline on the fire instead of water, what would your reaction be?

    You ask why mainstream Christians take such great offense at LDS folks over “apparent doctrinal differences.” That if you’re wrong doctrinally, its you and other LDS folks who will be going to hell – as if no one else who hears (and accepts) your totally unbiblical positions on ALL the basic Christian tenets of Faith are not going to be judged by God in the same way LDS folks are? That those millions that LDS has claimed to have reached over the years are some how going to get a “get out of hell” free card?

    That’s what we Evangelicals are so fired up about. Your poison is not just poisoning LDS folks, it’s poisoning the millions where you take your skewed and ungodly message. It’s like we’re pouring water on a raging fire and you LDS folks, also proclaiming to be wearing the attire of Christianity, are all the while pouring on the gasoline. THAT’s why we may appear overwrought or somehow loathing you. We don’t loathe you as a person, we loathe the deceit and lies, straight from the pit of hell, that you are spreading in Christ’s Name!

    • dillet

      WOB–I think most of us understand your viewpoint. Are you aware that we see you casting yourselves in the same sincere, earnest role as Saul of Tarsus? We only seek to provide you with an opportunity to receive your own “road to Damascus” experience. If you can do so sincerely, ask the Lord what your role should be. Best Wishes . . .

    • LindaSDF

      Can you give an example of the “deceit and lies, straight from the pit of hell” that we are spreading?

      If a person is earnestly and sincerely seeking God’s will in their lives, and are living as they believe God wants them to, that God is going to throw them in hell just because they didn’t join the right church or religion or denomination?

      What IS the right one? Yours? Mine? Can you prove to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am going to hell, and you are not?

      I can only assume that all this vitriole is necessary so that you can feel more secure with your own faith. I see nothing in my faith that is not inspirational, uplifting, spiritual, and beautiful.

    • Russell Sewell

      WOB. I think your post underscores my concern about the level of discourse that often occurs between Evangelicals and Mormons. Please allow me to respond.
      1) In your comment you used words like “ungodly”, “unbiblical” and “deceit and lies” to describe what I believe. Setting aside that we may disagree as to your characterizations, I am wont to understand how such language advances your cause (as if your cause is different than mine.) As a fellow Christian, wouldn’t it behove us to see how we may agree and seek to understand our differences?
      2) Central to Christ’s teaching is the attitude of invitation. Christ told his apostles to go unto all the world and “teach all nations.” As Christians, we are commanded to share our beliefs and invite others to come to Christ. As members of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, (we use “Mormon” for brevity). Why then, would a fellow Christian (yourself included), criticize another for heeding the command of the Christ?
      3) Christ said that “by their fruits shall ye know them.” He said this to help others recognize the true followers of Christ. James taught us that we should be “doers of the word, not hearers only.” I would encourage you to seek out Mormons and get to know them. See for yourself if Mormons are trying to follow Christ. I don’t claim that Mormons are perfect or always live up to what they believe, however, I can say with confidence that most Mormon are sincere believers in Christ and rely upon his Grace as the ultimate source of salvation.

      Finally, it is obvious that you have some fundamental misunderstandings regarding the Mormon faith. I encourage you to seek out a more complete understanding on your own. lds.org and mormon.org are great resources.

    • Don Ormsby

      Russell: I think you have made a very good point, but one you may have missed. That is, you are a “Bible Christian.” Nothing particularly wrong with that, but it is obvious that you place your understanding of your faith in the Bible, and anything outside of that is, in your mind, off-limits. LDS Christians like myself tend to take a broader view of the source of religious truth. Our experience has been that God speaks today as he has in the past. As Peter in the nascent church, LDS Christians desire to share their understanding with all of God’s children, including those who have not heard the latter-day voice of the Lord to His children.

      • Don Ormsby

        Sorry, I meant to address my remarks to WOB, not Russell. My mistake.

        • Russell Sewell

          No problem Don.

  • johnturner

    Not only do most evangelical/Mormon arguments proceeded along the lines you outline, they often replicate themselves across the blogosphere and bloggernacle when the same people have exactly the same deadend arguments on a hundred different websites.

  • Joel

    Great post David. As a member of the LDS church I have experienced the same kind of frustrating exchanges you described. It’s nice to see someone who is so obviously secure in his own beliefs that he is not afraid to tell things like they really are or should be. I think the reason why so many Evagelicals exhibit the behavior you describe is partly because they might not feel so secure and firm in their own faith. When they resort to name calling (eg. cult) and pulling obscure quotes from some 100 year old mormon diary, they just come across as someone who is desparately trying to win an argument; afraid that they might be proven wrong. What they need to do is study the gospel and scriptures more so they feel more secure and confident in what they believe and can just teach what they know instead of arguing. And more importantly, practice what they learn; like loving your enemies and avoiding hateful contention:
    “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Prov. 18:19)
    “But avoid foolish questions, … and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:9)

  • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

    Pardon the double posts, this website and IE9 64-bit dont seem to be playing well

  • Ranger 43

    I voted for Mitt Romney last week and have been adamant in my support for him. As Christian who attends a conservative PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) congregation, I find Gov. Romney has done more to encourage me to learn about their religion. I have gone into an LDS bookstore in Dallas to purchase some of their books and downloaded The Book Of Mormon because I want to read it for myself. (Just as I want to read the Catholic catechism and see a mass for myself.) But at the same time, there’s sharp doctrinal differences that cannot be swept away. These are fundamental. But as people, I welcome talking with them because I do admire their work ethic and certain values (family, thrift, commitment). But I cannot say that we are on the same page. The Session of my church would not be in agreement with the Mormon elders on essential tenets of faith.

    • Agkcrbs

      At least you guys know “tenet” from “tenant”. If I were making up the rules, we’d all read dictionaries after Bible class.

      • Russell Sewell

        Good catch Agkerbs. I meant “tenet” not “tenant.” I should proofread my post(s).

  • careful thought

    excellent article. might i highly recommend “Claiming Christ”, a fantastic and model dialogue between a well informed evangelical and mormon.

  • MrNirom

    As a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, all I have ever done is speak to what it is that we as Mormons believe.. not what anyone else believes. I spend most of my time explaining what it is we do believe in response to someone either posting un-truths… or misconceptions about certain aspects of my faith.

    I will debate certain aspects of the Christian faith.. especially when it comes to the definition of what makes a Christian a Christian. When I am told that I am not Christian because I have not accepted the dogma of the Trinity… I really have to wonder if any of these people know where this doctrine actually came from. They will say it is Biblical.. but it is not. Before the year 325AD.. there were those in church who concieved this doctrine.. and there were others that did not believe what was being proposed. The Roman emperor decided that if he was going to accept Christianity as THE state religion.. this difference needed to be solved. So out of the 1800 bishops that were invited to a council.. about 325 showed up. And after much debating and discussions a vote was taken and this dogma of the Trinity was accepted. And I will tell you.. it was NOT by everyone. There were many who left that conference feeling that the attributes of God had been changed into something they no longer recognized. But with th emperor now taking on this Christian religion as his own.. the new doctrine went out. And from there.. the Church grew in numbers. This of course is the Catholic Church.

    So it was the Catholics that decided who and what God was. And after so many years.. it became the standard. The Christian religions of today are all a break off of the Catholic Church. What ever doctrine they didn’t agree with, they split off and set up their own faith and followers. There are now over 4500 different faiths of those who believe in Jesus.

    And then somehow and someway… someone decided that they would now define what “Christianity” is and what must be believed to be a Christian. And yet in the beginning before all of this… Christianity was defined as those who believed in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.

    Mormons believe in Jesus Christ as the savior of all man kind. The same Jesus Christ that appears in the Bible. There is no other Jesus Christ in the Bible… there is only one. There is only one Jesus Christ that was crucified at Jerusalem. There is only one Jesus Christ that was resurrected. There is only one Jesus Christ who’s name is the only way to the Father. This belief in Jesus Christ is what makes Mormons …Christian.

  • Wyoming

    After years of being a casual observer of evangelical/LDS discussions, I believe it boils down to one fundamental difference. LDS believe that we and God are the same species. Every major difference seems to flow from that.

    • Agkcrbs

      This is the kind of reductionism I love. It’s not easy; sometimes when I drift too far into charity or whatever, I start to wonder if there’s really any substantial difference at all. I usually nominate “continuing revelation” as the big fence between LDS and Evangelicals/others, but that’s clearly not foolproof, since pastors and other luminaries are frequently considered to be in special communion with God, and occupy a “prophetic” role regardless of open or closed scriptures. You might be right with this biggie, but then again, theosis is native to Christianity and the Bible, like so much distinctive LDS doctrine. There’s always the Trinity issue, but it loses some of its appeal when you spend time with the creeds and the Godhead scriptures. Grace is clearly more of a rhetorical divider than an actual one. Eternal family union in Christ is obviously expected de facto even by many who don’t formalise it. I hear more universalism and mercy for ignorants these days, reminiscent of the LDS afterlife and proxy baptisms. LDS have temples, but Christ is their cornerstone, and the home-as-temple paradigm is certainly shared. There’s gathering Israel, but Evangelicals are some of the biggest Zionists, and also know to evangelise, obviously. There’re a ton of practices not central to doctrine. Consider unpaid and lay clergy: there’s no doctrinal reason an Evangelical pastor needs a paycheck; it’s economic; and there’re all kinds of service for lay members. And what forbids an Evangelical from food storage? Quite a few are already well supplied as far as (ahem) ammunition goes. Or, LDS doctrine of Jews in America: Christians for centuries have been speculating on the Lost Tribes, aware of the promises to scatter Jacob’s seed across the earth. Or Kolob: it’s twenty seconds of scripture, more useful for its symbolism than anything else, and LDS know nothing about it anyway; it’s almost totally peripheral to LDS faith, and they could lose it to amnesia tomorrow and life would go on. Or maybe politics: Utahns are top Romney backers and gave the most disapproval to Obama this summer, but look at the rest of that list… and look at this website.

      Now, the plural marriage of the olden days, I’d grant; I’m not aware of any tie with other churches; that’s rather the LDS touch-point with Muslims and ancient Jews, along with fading African and Asian culture. It’s an exceptional island in a sea of comparability with Evangelicals. Yes, there will always be major differences, blah, blah. The true barrier may not be any one thing, but simply the aggregate of the countless cosmetic and the several deep disagreements.

      But I just see them as Japanese and Koreans sometimes. I do have a preference; while I love Japanese history and culture, I think Koreans win the debate over the righteous past, and I’d side with them. But to see these geopolitical, racial, linguistic, and cultural neighbours occasionally forget caution and erupt with such weird, permanent resentments toward each other over some very tiny but hugely sentimental patches of dirt and ocean (I’m talking about Dokdo, not Senkaku, but it’s the same thing there) is unbearably ridiculous to an observer. And every country seems to have a mortal enemy for a next-door neighbour. It’s got to be some kind of cosmic joke… and here it is being played on LDS and Evangelicals, too.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    More than specific doctrines, the attitudes of Mormons toward oeopke if other faiths are far different from the attitudes of many Evangelucal pastors toward those who differ from their own beliefs. Mormons have a theological belief that God wants to save all mankind, and that through the atonement of Christ all will be resurrected, that all good people will be saved with Christ, regardless of denomination, and that those in hell will eventually be released when they have suffered enough. Mormons also believe that people who do not hear the gospel in mirtal lufe will be able to hear it during the time between death and the resurrection.

    By contrast, many Evangelicals believe that only people who believe like themselves in a narrow way can go to heaven, and all other people will suffer in hell for eternity. In essence they judge those outside their own denomination to be the spawn of hell already. Ironically, actual surveys and interviews with members of their churches show the majority of their members disagree with that condemnation, and that over 60% of most Evangelicals believe that people outside their own denomination can be saved, despite teaching of the more restrictive view by their pastors.

    Mormons are predisposed to tolerate Evangelicals, while Evangelicals are.predisposed to NOT tolerate Mirmons. Evangelical pastors’ attitudes regard outsiders as already in hell and not per se worth saving, let alone listening too. From a Mormon perspective, that negative attitude does not seem to reflect the love that God has for all mankind.

  • Norm

    David French. Why do you keep trying? But there is hope…by your example you have taught me to be a little more understanding, and I find myself a little more patient with religious differences (not just Mormons and Evangelicals). I see beauty in people trying to live their beliefs. I may not agree but I know it is hard for me so I love to see others doing their best to live up to their convictions. Warmest Regards and God bless you and your patient family. Sincerely, Norm

    • David French

      Norm, I keep trying because readers and commenters are often two dramatically different populations of people — with readers the much larger group. (For example, we can sometimes get 50,000 different people to read a post that has less than 50 comments). And we’re making headway with readers :)

    • Russell Sewell

      I agree with Norm. Thank you very much Mr. French. You are an example to all of us.

  • Dan Knudsen

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frenchrevolution/2012/10/31/every-evangelicalmormon-argument-goes-something-like-this/

    “Mainstream Christians” appear to believe that everything worthwhile is contained in the Bible and there can be nothing else. What about the following from the New Testament?

    “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written….” (John 21:25)

    1 THE former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
    2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
    3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:1-3)

    Notice in particular the last phrase. Have “Mainstream Christians” ever wondered what was taught the apostles during those forty days, when Jesus had their undivided attention? After teaching them for 3 years, they all deserted Him before His crucifixion; however, after the 40 days of His teachings, they all gave their lives for Him. What was taught them then changed their lives. Mainstream Christians say Jesus had no secrets like the Mormons do, and yet no one knows what happened during those 40 days–that’s many hours of teaching! Was it not important for us to know anything about it? Is it possible that “Mainstream Christians” could have a myopic view of Christ and His teachings without that information?

  • GotMullet

    Good Grief! How can one debate God on Facebook? I know what I believe, and will answer to the Creator of Us All. Who can believe that God will judge a person purely on one reason, what that person was taught? The whole world will be judged on the honesty of each and every heart, and whether their acts were good or evil… or complacent. God lives, and His word is truth as truth always has been from eternity to eternity, and He has given us commandments to live by so we are not giving ourselves up to vain imaginations. And one of His commandments is, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” I choose to do well, the best that I honestly can. And I pray for His strength to be with me.

    • David French

      While I appreciate you posting, Mr. GotMullet, you avoided the most important question. DO YOU REALLY HAVE A MULLET???

      If so, then you are my hero.

  • Claude

    I believe miracles. I see them daily in my life. I know God and his Son, Jesus Christ loves each and everyone who has lived and lives today. We are all children of God. One big family that God our Father wants to live in love and peace together now and forever. Hi Son died so that this can be. We have a common thread, it is belief in Jesus as our savior so that we can all live together as God’s family with Him. Let us love each other now and work together to that end of being together in God and Christ everlasting.

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  • George S.

    The argument as to who is or is not a “true” Christian has always intrigued me. Christ himself said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one to another.”

    Nothing in there about the trinity or original sin or baptism or … . Do you love one another? Then you are a disciple of Christ — a “Christian” in other words.

    The same sort of thing can be found in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in the 25th chapter of Matthew. When the Lord comes, he will divide ALL nations into two groups, the sheep and the goats. Note he says “all” nations — not just the Christian nations, but the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. nations, as well. They ALL will divided into one of two groups — the sheep and the goats. And the difference between them? The sheep serve others. The goats do not. There is no mention of believing in Christ, or Buddha, or Allah, or some Hindu god. The difference between those who make it into heaven and those who do not is whether or not they severed others in need.

    Arguing over which version of Christ qualifies you as Christian is really rather pointless since we are told that in the last day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. Since we ALL will eventually have the right religion, then we must look elsewhere for what gets us into heaven — and according to Jesus himself, it is loving one another and serving others.

    • George S.

      *”served” others in need — not “severed” others in need.*

      :-)

  • http://frontporchpolitics.com Shea Bernard

    Steve – Thank you for your reply.

    You said, “I don’t think he is dodging anything, he just isn’t on this article anymore and therefore can’t reply to your response. You are right that there are a lot of differences, but his points hit on foundational ones that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless”

    This might just be a semantic issue, but I would say that these points Russell imparted are more in the classification of “contentious foundational points”. It then follows that an unqualified phrase ‘foundational points” would refer to the common foundational points/doctrine/theology that we all have in common – then the reminder of your sentence “that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless” makes perfect sense; if we can’t agree on the basics then arguing about the contentious items makes little sense, I agree. However, if we take the sentence as written, that if we can’t agree on these three contentious points ( foundational to Mormonism, not Christianity as a whole ) then the remainder of the sentence “that if we can’t agree on, make the others pointless” is incongruous with the first part.

    You should present ALL of your contentious points, and let persons interested enough to inquire about it sift through them in their own manner.

    So I ask you to please list them, restricting your list to the most contentious sort without filtering the results through a hierarchical sieve; I am not interested in minor theological or liturgical squabbling BTW, but the major points of contention. If you are unable or unwilling, I can list them for you, and you can respond as to whether your canons and/or Church teach this, or if they do not. If you feel brevity of response will not suffice, you can expand your answer in any manner you like. I prefer to hear another’s exegesis in their own words.

    “God never stated he would not also reveal Himself to other peoples and command them to write His words too”.

    I am sorry, I cannot accept this argument, as it is a glaring logical fallacy, argumentum e silentio. I also was not challenging you on this subject, BTW.

    “Also, the bible is only as valuable as far as it correctly reflects the original words of the writers”.

    To this I whole-heartedly agree.

    “We don’t have any original source documents for it, just records dating back to those time periods. For the protestants out there, these records were kept by leaders of what was or would become the early Catholic church.”

    No argument here.

    “Since you aren’t Catholic, [ impressed you picked up on that ] you must question their method of archiving and retranslation”.

    I do on a daily basis. No argument here.

    “I can go on about the apostasy [ of the Catholic Church ] and major councils and creeds created by these same leaders that establish the so called tenets that all Christians “must” adhere to, to be called a Christian
    .”
    Preaching to the choir.

    “2) We believe in the restoration of the priesthood, prophets, and revelation in modern days. This is the source of all the differences, because we believe that man has been translating and interpreting the bible records for centuries without the proper authority. The apostacy casts doubt on all of the creeds. All of these other doctrines that you see as differences are examples of the principles that come from true revelation”

    A lengthy and involved discussion for another time.

    “Doctrines such as the Godhead, kingdoms of glory, baptisms for the dead, priesthood blessings, and the temple ordinances are often referenced in the bible, but were unknown due to improper interpretation”.

    Ah, now we go from Milk to Meat!

    The point I am making is that we can catalog all of these other differences in doctrine, but that is like arguing over algerbra when we can’t agree on simple addition and subtraction. Let’s focus on the most important items and get to the others when the first is resolved”.”

    Logically one proceeds from the points that we all agree on, the fulcrum. It also seems as if your saying that to discuss some items, S, before others, O, is putting the cart before the horse, and in discussing a scriptural exegesis of these subjects I would agree. However this is not what I am asking – I am just asking for a unequivocable response as to whether your canons or Church teachs [ insert list of the more contentious items of your theology, and/or claims of others ] these things or not. If people are going around claiming that Mormons believe God lives near a star or plant called Kolob, or claiming this appears in your canons, I would think if this was untrue, that you would be eager to simply say, “No we do not believe or teach this”.

    If you do not believe that God was once Flesh, created in turn by another God, etc, ad infinitum, then I would think you would be eager to say so.

    So again, would you like to provide the list ( I am sure you know the points to which I refer ) and respond whether you teach this or not, or shall I provide the list and you respond whether you teach this or not?

    Looking forward to your reply, or anyones

    • MrNirom

      The teaching of all doctrine,” says Peter in the recognitions, “has a certain order, and there are some things which must be delivered first, others in the second place, and others in the third, and so all in their order; and if these things be delivered in their order, they become plain; but if they be brought forward out of order, they will seem to be spoken against reason.

      So some wonder why members of the church do not discuss some of the revealed doctrine of this time. Just look how the doctrine of the star Kolob… its relationship to where God is and the fact that it is a governing star… is mocked by those not of our faith. Why do you suppose that is? It is for the same reason that as Noah was building the ark.. those around him mocked him for doing so. Why? Because they did not believe he was a prophet of God. For those who do not believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, why would they believe what was revealed to him concerning Kolob? They wouldn’t. And so they mock.

      Why do you suppose Jesus taught not to cast your pearls before swine? Because the unbelievers will trample that which is considered a pearl , under their feet. So we do not talk about the sacred pearls with just anyone… yet those are the things that most want to talk about and mock us. So providing a list would indeed be meat over milk. No sense discussing it.

      If a person did not believe that Moses was a prophet of God… would they take him seriously with his five books? I think not. One can not believe in the Old Testament and not believe that Moses was a prophet of God. So it is the same with Joseph Smith. If you don’t believe he was a prophet, why discuss his revelations or the doctrine which he taught? It only gives reasons for others to mock. Has God hidden doctrine from mankind?… you bet he has. The scriptures state as such. Here… let me give you a sample:

      It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11 )

      “They have ears to hear, and hear not” (Ezekiel 12:2 ; cf. Matthew 13:15-16 ).

      “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28 )

      “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given” (Matthew 19:11)

      This is an hard saying; who can hear it? . . . Doth this offend you?” (John 6:60-61 ).

      “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (John 8:43 ).

      “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27 ).

      “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12)

      “We cannot tell what he saith” (John 16:18 )

      “The time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25)

      “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5 ).

      “As yet they knew not the scripture” (John 20:9 ).

      He appeared “not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen” (Acts 10:41

      They . . . were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6)

      “Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand” (Matthew 13:14 ).

      I . . . could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, . . . I have fed you with milk, and not with meat” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 )

      “Unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4 ). ”

      By revelation he made known unto me the mystery; . . . which in other ages was not made known” (Ephesians 3:3-5 ).

      “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:26)

      “Many things . . . hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11 ).

      “Many things . . . I would not write with paper and ink; but I . . . come unto you and speak face to face” (2 John 1:12)

  • besharp

    David -I too admire your perspective and Nancy’s. I’ve been following your posts for about a month now as I’ve become more invested in the election. I’m a Mormon and I find your views of our faith rare and therefore refreshing. The comments, on this post at least, are also more thoughtful and respectful (on both sides) than anywhere else I’ve seen. Threads involving topics about Mormons almost always dissolve into bitterness whereas these post, although differences were apparent, remain quite civil and thought provoking (not just provoking). Thanks again.

  • Bob Frenier

    Jesus must wince every time one of his loved ones decides to feel animosity toward another of his loved ones. And it is hard to believe mere humans can be SO certain about doctrinal differences that they would fail to claim as “brother and sister” anyone (absolutely ANYONE) who shared their profound understanding that Jesus is the Savior of the World. C’mon people!

  • Phil

    I enjoyed reading your article, David. I appreciate reading articles like this which encourage people to be more tolerant and understanding of others’ beliefs. That’s one of the things I’ve always appreciated about your web site. I’ve also learned that I need to be patient with those who may not always appreciate or follow this advice. After all, I used to be less patient or understanding and so have found it best to simply state my opinions in a respectful and understanding way, and not let myself get drug into useless arguments or discussions that go in circles and wind up with insults and derogatory comments.

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  • http://www.EvidenceMinistries.org Keith Walker

    David,
    Perhaps this is what you have seen from your experience, but not from mine. There are some things I like and dislike about this article. I wrote a blog post responding to this one. I would love to get your feedback.
    http://blog.evidenceministries.org/no-not-every-evangelicalmormon-argument-goes-like-that/


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