Mormonism and the Christianity Police

This post is a slightly modified reprint of an earlier post. I am adding it as part of the Patheos Roundtable on “Are Mormons Christians?”

If one were to rank the issues about which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is most sensitive, near the very top of the list would be the persistant accusation that Mormons are somehow not Christians.  This is literally the first question in the FAQ section at www.mormon.org.

In responding to this charge over many decades, the church has sought to emphasize its Christian identity. Besides numerous discourses on the subject, the Church has projected a Christian image through the use of visual and material culture.  For the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, the Church acquired and displayed its now iconic reproduction of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus” statue, which appears on numerous websites and publications.  In 1996, the Church changed its logo to feature the words “Jesus Christ” more than twice the size of the other words in the name.  The image was meant to communicate the centrality of Jesus Christ to the faith.  Church leaders continue to offer impassioned sermons on the topic in recent years.

The policing of the boundaries of Christianity raises the question of who gets to decide what Christianity is.  Different Christians have drawn the boundary differently, depending on whom they are seeking to exclude.  For many centuries Protestants drew the boundaries such that Catholics were out of the fold of Christianity, commonly charging the Pope as the Antichrist.  Catholics returned the favor.  Devastating wars were fought in Europe over precisely who was a true Christian and who was not.

The contestation among Christians of all kinds over what it means to be a Christian underscores the fact that this is a contested category.  There is no single definition of Christianity.  Adolf von Harnack, one of the foremost Lutheran theologians of the nineteenth century, sought to identify the essence of Christianity in his volume, What is Christianity? He rejected the creeds, and any definition of religion which relied on “doctrines, regulations, ordinances, and forms of public worship.” He bitterly complained against an understanding of Christianity in which

 the living faith seems to be transformed into a creed to be believed; devotion to Christ, into Christology; the ardent hope for the coming of ‘the kingdom,’ into a doctrine of immortality and deification; prophesy, into technical exegesis and theological learning; the ministers of the Spirit, into clerics; the brothers, into laymen in a state of tutelage; miracles and miraculous cures disappear altogether, or else are priestly devices; fervent prayers become solemn hymns and litanies; the “Spirit” becomes law and compulsion. (Harnack, What is Christianity?, 193)

Harnack’s remarks are inspired by the similar kind of originalism that moved nineteenth century Mormonism’s Restoration perspective, an attempt to clear the historical board of learned theology and high church ritual and return to the “original purity” of early Christianity.  There is no question that Harnack and Mormonism see many fundamental aspects of faith quite differently, but there is much here that resonates for Mormons, most importantly the notion that Christianity is not about adherence to dogmas, but about life of faith.

It is easy for historians to discern today that Harnack’s understanding of early Christianity was deeply shaped by the theological frameworks of his own time.  Despite being a sophisticated scholar, he depicts early Christianity in his own image.  Those who are invested in a particular image of Christianity for their own normative purposes represent this image as self-evident, while to others it appears an a self-evident construction.  The question is whether any definition of Christianity which starts from the idea that it has an atemporal, non-historically bounded “essence” can succeed.

Social theory may offer more help than theology in understanding how the boundaries of Christianity are created and enforced.  Identity requires both a sameness and a difference over and against which to define oneself.  In order for there to be an inside, there must also be an outside.  The self always needs an other, and there is no other which is more fraught than the intimate other, who appears so similar as to be almost indistinguishable.  Lines must be produced and guarded in order to protect a particular understanding of what counts as Christianity.

Definitions of Christianity that seek to portray its essence are arguments about what that essences should be, not objective descriptions of fact.  They assume the very thing they are trying to prove.  Such definitions are rhetorical and ideological, producing similarities between themselves and what they see as authentic Christianity, and downplaying the differences.  Those that represent the boundaries as natural and fixed also represent themselves as atemporal, outside of the tumults of time and space.  But we know that such definitions fail the test of time.

If our definitions are always provisional, historically situated, and subject to change, what considerations should we make in determining the boundaries of Christianity?  One consideration must be the ethical.  As countless scholars have pointed out, the process of drawing boundaries can be fraught ethically.  Is it just to exclude a group who claim the title of Christians?  In answering this question it is useful to consider how defining some people as “outsiders,” as lacking a claim to some standard of authenticity, is the fundamental ideology behind so many of the ugly prejudices in this world. The Christianity police are often guilty of police brutality more than protection of their constituents.  Defining Mormonism out of Christianity sets, and follows, a troubling precedent.

  • David Tiffany

    Many people carry the title of Christianity. As harsh as it may sound, I think the better question is, “Who is God going to save from judgement, and who is God going to condemn?” There are some major differences between what Mormons believe and what the Bible teaches. Mormons believe Jesus is the brother of Lucifer, when the Scriptures teach He is God and has no equal. Mormons believe they will one day become a god, when the Scriptures teach that God shares His glory with no one. Mormons believe in a partial atonement–that is that Jesus made the way for us to work our way to heaven, when the Scriptures teach that salvation is by grace alone, apart from works.
    In the early days of Mormonism, the Scriptures and the Gospel were sidelined when Joseph introduced different scripture and a different gospel–a gospel that is an affront to the cross of Christ and cannot save. God will not accept any works from anyone as a means to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only the blood of Jesus.
    You may think I have a problem with Mormons, or that I don’t like them. That is untrue. I was raised Mormon, fourth generation Mormon, and I learned I was lied to, and that if I had continued to rely on my church membership and my works until the day I died, God, though a loving God, would have sent me to hell.
    So, anyone can call themselves anything they want. The question is not whether or not America will accept religious differences. The question is whether or not a person is accepted by God.
    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

    • Homer

      wait a minute, Mormons believe that Jesus was the brother of Lucifer? Can someone explain this? Also, can anyone explain ‘partial atonement’? That does not sound like Grace to me, it sounds like partial Grace, which makes as much sense as being partially pregnant…

      • trytoseeitmyway

        David Tiffany has proven many times over that he is willing to say things whether they are true or not. It is called bearing false witness against thy neighbor and it is still a sin. I think he’s in a cult.

        The Catholic Church teaches (this is a quote from the Catechism) that, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” So I guess Tiffany doesn’t think Catholics are Christian either.

        The Bible says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9. But I guess David Tiffany claims to know what limits God has placed on the spiritual growth of His children. (Try reading Rom. 8:17.)

        The problem with the non-Christian cultists is, they discard the scriptures that don’t support the false doctrine taught by their false prophets. He probably doesn’t even think that Jesus is the Son of God. It all amounts to “another gospel,” and they will be “accursed.”

        • David Tiffany

          “Thus when the Father presented his own plan in the pre-existent council, he asked for volunteers from whom he could choose a Redeemer to be born into mortality as the Son of God. Lucifer offered to become the Son of God on condition that the terms of the Father’s plan were modified to deny men their agency and to heap inordinate reward upon the one working out the redemption. Christ, on the other hand, accepted the Father’s plan in full, saying, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” Our Lord was then foreordained to a mission which in due course he fulfilled, which mission enabled him to make salvation available to all men. (Moses 4:1-4; Abra. 3:22-28.)”
          “The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Pg.67, AUTHOR OF SALVATION
          To say that Lucifer is the brother of Jesus is false witness, Homer. To teach that salvation is by works is also false witness.
          You can find Moses 4:1-4 on this LDS website: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/moses/4.1-4?lang=eng And Abraham 3:22-28 is found on the same website: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/3.22-28?lang=eng#21

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Like other Christians, we worship Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel, diametrically opposite from Christ in every attribute. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”

            The Apostle Paul wrote that God is the Father of all. This means that all intelligent beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ alone, however, is the only begotten Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.

            Jesus Christ represents all that is good, true, virtuous, merciful, just and godly.

            Lucifer is the adversary of everything that Christ stands for. He embodies all that is evil, false, immoral, and devoid of any trace of goodness or divine light. He is the enemy of God and of every human being who seeks to follow Christ.

            http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/answering-media-questions-about-jesus-and-satan

            Jesus said that he “beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Luke 10:18. It would be interesting to know what David Tiffany thinks he (Satan) was doing there. But David Tiffany doesn’t say; he only says what he claims Mormons believe and then says it’s not true. The sting of those statements lie in the shock value (most people don’t spend any time thinking of Lucifer’s history) and the distortion of doctrine based on noncanonical quotations. (MConkie’s Mormon Doctrine was criticized by the Church when first published, and he was required to revise it. Even as revised, it is not an authoritative codification of Mormon beliefs. David Tiffany doesn’t mention those facts, either because he’s unaware of them or because fairness and honesty are not among his purposes.) When Jesus said that he beheld Satan fall as lightening, He was harkening back to Isa. 14:12 (“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!”). David Tiffany doesn’t mention this verse, either because he’s unaware of it or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what the Bible actually teaches. Rev. 12:9 says that “[t]he great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” David Tiffany doesn’t mention this verse, either because he’s unaware of it or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what the Bible actually teaches. But the reference to Satan and his angels is of interest, in view of the lack of clarity in ancient scripture regarding who or what angels are. David Tiffany doesn’t express a view on that subject, either because he’s unaware of the open questions or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what the Bible actually teaches. But Mormons understand that the Savior’s reference to Lucifer in Luke, and the references cited in Isaiah and Revelation, tie into the description in Revelation to the war in heaven, in which Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [Satan]; and the dragon fought and his angels.” Rev. 12:7. David Tiffany doesn’t mention this verse, either because he’s unaware of it or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what the Bible actually teaches. But all these verses are in the Bible and all of them show that Lucifer was a heavenly being before his rebellion. This is what all true Christians, including Mormons, believe. I don’t know about David Tiffany, of course, but this is what all true Christians, including Mormons, believe.

            “And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father
            loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he
            was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning! And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that
            old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-29).

            David Tiffany doesn’t mention this verse, either because he’s unaware of it or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what Mormons actually believe.

            But you want to know what *kind* of heavenly being, and what was the *relationship* between Lucifer and God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son of God? The Bible doesn’t go into details, and, despite David Tiffany’s false claims, Mormons don’t claim to have a clear answer. But we see in Job 1:6 that “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.” The reference to “sons of god” is often taken as a reference to angels – and Mormons read it the same way – but if you’re going to take the Bible literally (David Tiffany, what do you think about taking the Bible at its word?), then “sons of God” ought to mean “sons of God.” David Tiffany doesn’t mention this verse, either because he’s unaware of it or because he is disinterested in any discussion of what the Bible actually teaches.

            The Lord asked Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Job 1:7. Satan answered, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Ibid. That’s consistent with the idea that Satan had been cast out and with the biblical description of Satan as “the god of this world.” 2 Cor. 4:4.

            This pretty much summarizes what Mormons believe about Lucifer or Satan. David Tiffany doesn’t admit any of this because he’s not interested in truth, only false witness. That’s a sin. Mormons believe that “sin” means something, even if David Tiffany believes that he has a lifetime free pass and can do whatever he likes. The only thing Mormon doctrine truly adds is the idea that there was a council before the beginning of the world, and that Lucifer desired to become the Son of God in place of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that Lucifer was rejected by God the Father, and that this rejection led to the war in heaven referred to in the Book of Revelation. That has the virtue of explaining the who, what and why of Satan’s evil work, and why God’s grace, through the saving blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, was necessarily shed for the remission of sins and the salvation of the world. John 3:16-17. David Tiffany doesn’t admit any of this because he’s not interested in truth, only false witness. That’s a sin. Mormons believe that “sin” means something, even if David Tiffany believes that he has a lifetime free pass and can do whatever he likes.

          • David Tiffany

            I spent the afternoon reading through the many comments as I noticed you replied to many of them. What I noticed is that you repeatedly insult people. That’s usually the norm when someone has no good response–attack the character. I think we’re done with our back and forth. The fact is that Joseph Smith introduced a different gospel than the one that the Apostle Paul taught, and Paul said anyone who did so would be eternally condemned. Again, it’s not a matter of whether or nor someone calls themselves Christian. The issue is whether or not God accepts that person. The Scriptures teach that God will accept no one on the basis of their works, or obedience to the Law. He accepts a person who realizes they fall short of God’s glory, rely on Jesus who paid the penalty for their sin on the Cross, and ask Him to save them from judgement. That’s grace. Pure grace.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            “the fact is …” No, sorry, that’s not a fact. Same gospel. As far as “attacks” go, dishonesty and false witness and unfairness and vitriol deserve to be identified for what they are. Sorry if that bothers you, but, really, it ought to bother you enough not to do it anymore.

          • David Tiffany

            Not the same gospel.
            Bringham Young: “Salvation is the full existence of man, of the angels, and the Gods; it is eternal life—the life which was, which is, and which is to come. And we, as human beings, are heirs to all this life, if we apply ourselves strictly to obey the requirements of the law of God, and continue in faithfulness” (DBY, 387).
            Paul the Apostle: Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
            By the way, in Galatians 1:9 Paul says, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
            What is implied here is that the Gospel that Paul preached, and the Gospel that the Galatians accepted, was the fullness of the Gospel. There was no more to come.
            http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

          • trytoseeitmyway

            You’re wrong. The gospel referred to by Paul is not the gospel of Paul, but the gospel of Christ. Gal. 1:6-7. The gospel of Christ surely requires faithfulness and obedience to commandments. John 3:3-7; Matt. 28:19. Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” It’s impossible to read the lesson of the goats and the sheep (Matt. 25) and fail to understand that how we conduct ourselves has eternal significance. Righteousness is not made irrelevant by grace nor is salvation a lifetime free pass for sin. That’s what you believe but Paul never taught that, let alone Jesus Christ. Paul nowhere overwrote the Savior’s teachings, nor could he do so. We know that fom Gal. 1:8! Mormons believe that the temp”salvation” in the gospel has a rich meaning, but the most fundamental level is salvation from death and sin. Mormons believe that this salvation is a free gift by God’s grace. Eph. 2:8. Even though you claim to believe this, you don’t; you think that one must earn that salvation by doing something ( hence, works), namely, by asking Jesus into your heart or whatever formula you use. Accepting Jesus, or whatever. It’s interesting that you can’t find any of those concepts in the Bible. It’s another gospel or something. So, anyway, Mormons believe in “grace, pure grace,” even if you don’t. We believe in Jesus as Savior – you make him the damner, because your theology has Him sending many billions more to Hell than He ever saves. We believe in salvation by grace as a gift from God, not based on anything we do or don’t do. Your error comes in because we ALSO believe, with Christ and His Apostles, that righteousness is required of us for every blessing BEYOND salvation from sin and death. This is why Jesus tells us to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Matt. 6:33. We have responsibilities even though we’ve been saved from the consequences of sin. Romans 8 explains that we have to “walk after the Spirit.” That’s not a single act of acceptance, it is a way of living. It is righteousness. It is required of believers. Rom. 8:5. Do you see that these things are part of the gospel? You’re a fool to think that you can adopt a misreading of Eph. 2:8 and safely ignore everything else. Rom. 8:13. As children of God, we may be glorified with Christ. Rom. 8:17. You deny the truth of that verse – you must preach another gospel or something. We know that all things work together for good “for them that love God [not just a one-time deal] and for them that are called according to his purpose [ditto].” You’re a fool to think that you can adopt a misreading of Eph. 2:8 and safely ignore everything else. Eye hath not seen nor ear heard ” the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9. See that? Love of God, the First Great Commandment, isn’t merely a state of mind, but a principle of action. John 14:15. It is impossible for us to imagine what is prepared for those of us who follow that principle, from and after the salvation that is given to all (1 Cor. 15:22) by God’s grace.

            Since you claim to know this stuff already, it’s too bad you pretend that you don’t. That’s what we call bearing false witness against your neighbor, and it’s a sin. I know you think you have a lifetime free pass, but Mormons believe that sin is to be avoided and the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is to be sought above all else. That’s the gospel. If you preach anything else, you’re accursed. So try not to do that.

          • David Tiffany

            Romans 3:27-31, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified (declared and made righteous) by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” It is by faith that we are justified by God, and as a result of being justified (declared and made righteous), we uphold the law. It is not through the law that we become justified (declared and made righteous).
            You keep saying that I like to believe that I have a free pass to sin. But the Scriptures tell us not to use grace as a free pass to sin. Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means.”
            The righteousness that God demands from us is unattainable from our own efforts, by trying to obey the law. That doesn’t mean the law isn’t good, and that it’s not good to obey the law. but that it’s impossible for us to be justified (declared and made righteous) by the law. We all fall short of God’s glory. Deuteronomy 5:29, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever.” Already, you and I both have been disqualified from things going well for us and our children forever. Neither you nor I have obeyed all of God’s commands all the time. We fall short everyday.
            Paul takes a lot of time in the letter that he wrote to the Christians in Rome to discuss the difference between works and obedience to the law versus grace as the means by which a person is justified (declared and made righteous).
            Concerning the law he says:
            Romans 3:19-20, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
            Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified (declared and made righteous) by faith apart from observing the law.”
            Romans 4:2, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified (declared and made righteous) by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God.”
            Romans 4:14-15a, “For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath.”
            Romans 5:20, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.”
            Concerning grace he says:
            Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.”‘
            Romans 3:21-26, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (declared and made righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did it to demonstrate his justice, because in his forebearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies (delcares and makes righteous) those who have faith in Jesus.”
            Romans 3:27-28, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified (declared and made righteous) by faith apart from observing the law.”
            Romans 4:3, “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
            Romans 4:5, “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies (declares and makes righteous) the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
            Romans 4:9b, “We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.”
            Romans 4:13, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”
            Romans 4:23-25, “The words, ‘It was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (to declare and make us righteous).”
            Romans 5:1-2a, Therefore, since we have been justified (declared and made righteous) through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
            Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could have been gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
            Ephesians 3:12, “In him and through faith in him (Jesus) we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
            The Scriptures clearly tell us that we will never be justified (declared and made righteous) in the sight of God by observing the law. A person will be declared righteous in the sight of God by trusting what Jesus did at the cross: Payed the penalty for our sin. That’s why He died. Those who trust that and ask him to save them from judgement based on what he did for us, will be saved. God will justify (declare and make righteous) that person, in His sight.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            You write this long argument to establish the truth of something with which I agree. The grace of God – the Atonement of Jesus Christ – is necessary for the remission of sin. I already said that. This FALSE CLAIM that “Mormons believe in salvation by works” is just an enormous – and malicious – straw-man argument. It’s bearing false witness. You’ll keep saying it because it’s comforting to you, and because it feeds your sense of righteous superiority, even though it’s JUST NOT TRUE. We are saved from death and Hell (and can only be justified in the Father’s sight) by the Lord’s sacrifice . . . , but He still requires our obedience and will still bless us for our faithfulness. You concede that righteousness is still required, that grace is not a free pass to sin. But your theology still reduces righteousness to irrelevance for the “saved,” and fails to acknowledge any eternal consequences of refused obedience and unrepented sin. That’s unbiblical as I showed (and as you’ve ignored) already.

          • David Tiffany

            I don’t concede that our righteousness is required. The Scriptures I quoted above state that God will not accept our righteousness as the means to be justified in His sight. The only righteousness that God accepts is the righteousness of God. That’s why we are told “the righteousness that comes from God.” Read the first 3 chapters of Galatians. They had been saved by grace alone and had been tricked into thinking that now they had to maintain that salvation by observing the law. Paul asked them who had bewitched them. Galatians 3:1-3, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
            We don’t agree on how a person is saved. The third in the Mormon articles of faith, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

            When the Savior established his church during his mortal ministry, and as it was further developed by the twelve apostles of that day, one important fact became conspicuously clear, which is: that salvation comes through the Church.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1973/04/salvation-comes-through-the-church?lang=eng&query=salvation
            “To receive this blessing,
            you must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the
            commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance andcleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.” This can be found at the following link under the heading of salvation: http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/36863_eng.pdf
            Mosiah 5:5, “And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.”
            “Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words
            Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words saved and salvation often refer to eternal life, or exaltation (see Abraham 2:11). Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1–4; 132:21–24). To receive this great gift, we must do more than repent of our sins and be baptized and confirmed by appropriate priesthood authority. Men must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and all Church members must make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including eternal marriage.” Found at the following link under salvation: http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/36863_eng.pdf
            But what does the Bible say? Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
            Ephesians 1:13 and 14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of His glory.” What? A guarantee? You mean that if a person believes that Jesus died for their sins and rose again to justify them (declare and make them righteous) that they will be included in Christ, receive the Holy Spirit as a seal GUARANTEEING their inheritance until God comes back for His redeemed? That’s what God says in His Word. According to Mormon doctrine, you don’t have that guarantee. According to the Word of God, you can have that guarantee.
            By the way, the Melchizedek Prieshood? You don’t qualify for that. Neither do I. Neither does anyone else. Only One Person has ever qualified for that, and that is Jesus. Look at the qualifications found in Hebrews chapter 7: Without father of mother. Without geneology. Without beginning of days or end of life. Holy. Blameless. Pure. Set apart from sinners. Exalted above the heavens. None of us qualify.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            The point I would like you to get out of this discussion – I despair that you will, but it is at least a hope – is that if you are going to write about Mormon doctrine, you should first understand it and then you should present it fairly. Anything else is bearing false witness. You are now on both sides of the fence concerning whether you are under any obligation to avoid sin, but I can’t help that. If the Ten Commandments mean anything to you (and Jesus embraced all of them and much more in Matt. 22:34-40) then you should avoid falsehood, distortion and caricature when examining another’s doctrine.

            And you absolutely don’t avoid those things. Time after time, I read your false claims. You either don’t know that what you’re saying is untrue or you don’t care. The former is bad; the latter is worse.

            I would give you the benefit of the doubt, but you make it difficult to do. Here, for example, I told you plainly that Mormons believe that salvation (here referring to salvation from the spiritual death and condemnation to which justice would require for our sins) is by grace through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Now when I say that, one reasonable response would be something like, “Good, I am pleased that we agree on that much.” You should be pleased – even if surprised – to hear that there is an element of agreement where you thought disagreement would exist.

            But it that your response? Of course not! Not you! You’ve spent hour after untold hour advancing the proposition that Mormons DON’T believe that; you simply can’t accept that we do. You’re too invested in the false claim. Right? This isn’t an “attack,” this is just what is really happening.

            So instead of taking my word for it, you set out to prove that Mormons really believe something different from what I said we believe. (By the way, I tried to explain all of this and more on your website, but you blocked my comments after the first one. It is like putting your fingers in your ears and shouting “la la la la” so you don’t have to listen to something that might contradict your tidy little fantasy world.) To do that, you purportedly went to the Internet website of the Church, http://www.lds.org, to find the evidence that you would then triumphantly throw in my face, just as you have done above. The only problem is, in order to do that, you had to go past other indications at the same website that I was right all along.

            After all, it is pretty presumptuous for you to tell me what I believe. I am more likely to know what I believe than you are. One of the most annoying things that folks like you do – and the list of annoying things is very long indeed – is trying to tell us what we believe, as though we don’t already know.

            So you INTENTIONALLY SKIPPED PAST THIS and you try to pretend that we don’t believe this:

            “It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by His atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through
            faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life
            and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.” http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/grace?lang=eng&letter=g

            (Of course I know that you immediately want to jump on that last phrase about best efforts. But there is nothing in the Bible ever excusing anyone from their best efforts. You’re right that obedience isn’t justifying; you’re wrong that obedience is somehow excused. Even the passage in Romans ch. 3 that you quote makes that point in verse 31. The Bible explains this over and over. If you want to have an actual conversation about this, open your blog to those comments, but it is silly to keep adding to this thread here.)

            You also had to skip past this:

            Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only sinless person to live on this earth, was the only one capable of making an atonement for mankind. By . . . His sinless life, the shedding of His blood in the garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross and subsequent bodily resurrection from the grave, He made a perfect atonement for all mankind. All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the Fall of Adam. Hence, all shall rise from the dead with immortal bodies because of Jesus’ Atonement. http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/atonement?lang=eng&letter=a (ellipses indicate text unrelated to the point I am making here).

            You also had to skip past this:

            The first application of the unconditional atonement is to the fall of Adam. We have pointed out that it would be unjust for a person to be punished for violations of the law that he did not commit. So regardless of the kind of life a person has led, the ultimate effects of the fall of Adam that we have been discussing are overcome for every soul that comes to earth. All persons will be resurrected and overcome physical death, and also, all will be brought back into the presence of God by the power of Christ for the period of judgment and the assignment of glory. (See 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Ne. 9:38) Thus, both physical and spiritual deaths are removed through Christ. . . . http://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/04/salvation-by-grace-or-by-works?lang=eng

            You also had to skip past this:

            In summary then, there is no need to go to extraordinary lengths to apologize for Paul, or try to explain away his statements on salvation by grace. We are saved by grace—saved by Christ’s love from physical and spiritual death; saved by Christ’s love from Adam’s fall and our own; saved from sin and transgression by the grace or gifts of God. The atoning power of God unto salvation is a freely available gift from him—but our works of righteousness are essential to bring the gift into power in our lives. Sin brings alienation from God. The more we sin, the greater the alienation and the more difficult it becomes to effectively tap the power of God, which alone is sufficient to save us from our sins. [Ibid.]

            I could go on and on, but I think this makes my point. I am not saying that our doctrine is identical to yours – of course not! – but I am saying that it is every bit as consistent with New Testament teachings as yours. If not more so. This is not “another gospel,” but it is the ONLY gospel (the gospel of Jesus Christ) as explained and clarified for us. Explaining and clarifying is what Paul and the other Apostles sought to do in the Epistles and it is what prophets and apostles (Eph. 4:11-14) do today.

            Before you criticize – let alone condemn – our doctrine, you should, first, understand it, and then you should present it fairly. You have not been doing that, not at all. But anything else is bearing false witness, and it’s a sin. Whatever you think about the doctrine of salvation by grace, there is nothing in the Bible that excuses you from obedience to the commandments of God. Any different claim would have to be another gospel than the one preached by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

            Go ahead. Have the last word.

          • David Tiffany

            You said that you were more likely to know what you believe than I would. Have you forgotten my first comment? I was raised 4th generation Mormon. My great-grandfather went west with Bringham Young. I know what I’m talking about.
            I didn’t skip past the first few links to find the link that told what Mormons really believed. I read the first few links. But I understood that that was only the outer layers of the onion. I knew there was more, so I kept digging. And there is more: Mormons believe a person can’t get into heaven without the certificate of Joseph Smith, when the Scriptures, the Bible, clearly teach that there is no other Name given under heaven by which a person can be saved except the Name of Jesus.
            The title of the above article concerns the Christian police. What do police do? Instead of taking someone’s word for something, they investigate a matter. There were also Christian police in the early church. They were called Bereans. Paul commended them on the fact that they didn’t take his word on anything, but made it a habit to search out the Scriptures to make sure what he was saying was true. It’s good for all of us to do that. Now, in order for Joseph Smith to get away with introducing the teachings he wanted to, he first had to marginalize the Bible. He says that God told him that all the churches around in his day were false, that their creeds were an abomination to Him, and that the truth had been lost from the earth. What Joseph Smith and the early Mormon church fathers were unable to predict was that close to 100 years later the Dead Sea Scrolls would be discovered, proving that what Jesus said was accurate: His words would never pass away. The fact is that the Scriptures in Joseph Smith’s day were in fact true.
            Now here are some teachings that Joseph Smith introduced that are completely contrary to the Bible:
            1. Mormons teach that God was once a sinner like us and had to have His own redeemer, although the Scriptures tell us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
            2. Mormons teach that God has a wife who is referred to as God the Mother. The Scriptures tell us that there are no other gods.
            3. Mormons teach that we, along with Lucifer, are all brothers and sisters of Jesus, as the result of God the Father and God the Mother procreating. The Scriptures show us that Jesus is God, has no beginning, and that we are created. That’s why the Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the only Begotten, and that those who come to Christ are adopted.
            4. Mormons teach that men can become gods. Though the Scriptures teach us that God shares His glory with no one. Satan fell from heaven as a result of wanting this. Adam and Eve were cast out of God’s presence for attempting this.
            5. Mormons teach that salvation comes from grace and works. The following link leads to the Mormon “Aaronic Priesthood Manual, Lesson 30: The Plan of Salvation, http://www.lds.org/manual/aaronic-priesthood-manual-1/lesson-30-the-plan-of-salvation?lang=eng of which this is a part:
            Scripture and discussion
            Have the young men read again Abraham 3:25.

            •According to this scripture, why is earth life so important? (We are being tested to see if we will obey the Lord’s commandments.)

            •If we obey the commandments, what will happen?

            Emphasize that this is the way we obtain our return ticket home to our Heavenly Father.

            But the Scriptures teach that salvation is by grace alone.
            I realize you haven’t been able to understand that I do have regard for the law. The confusion seems to be as to what place it has in our lives. The Bible teaches that the law is holy, righteous and good, and that when a person becomes a child of God, he or she needs to uphold the law. What the Bible also teaches is that by the law no one will be justified before God. In other words, salvation is not by the law, but by grace. And once God saves that person from judgement, then as a child of God that person is to obey the law–but not so they will be saved. So, I’ll say it again: I don’t disregard the law.
            I hope there comes to be more and more Scripture police out there. It’s important to understand the Scriptures so that a person can identify falsehood.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            In my previous comment, I said that you could have the last word. I always mean that … but in this one case, I find that I am breaking my resolution to just let it go. It would be hard to imagine that any reader has read this lengthy exchange, and you are yourself obviously long past the ability to admit any fault. So, I really ought to let this go. But your question (“Have you forgotten my first comment?”) and the follow-up repetition of your family’s wonderful and storied history in the Church, with which I am sure that I would be oh so terribly impresessed if only I knew … anyway, I’ve found I just can’t let that go. So, you have the last word after this. Really.

            I have not forgotten your first comment but am utterly unimpressed by it. In my own case, I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ. You think that makes you and expert and me not. But that’s because you’re at best a fool and at worst a charlatan. You see, before I was a Mormon, I was a born-again evangelical Protestant. I asked Jesus into my heart in my youth. I studied and learned all of the doctrine that you espouse now. I paid no attention to Mormons, but recall Mormons being listed as a “cult,” and accepted that classification unquestioningly. And my family goes back at least as many generations in Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity as yours does in the Church.

            Do you care about that? Do you think it makes me an expert in your beliefs now, with knowledge of your beliefs greater than yours? Of course not. You need to understand that it works the other way too. You are simply not in a position to tell me what I believe if I happen to know that you’re expressing falsehoods and distortions.

            There is a kind of sinful pride in your claim – which you chose to repeat, thinking that I had forgotten it – to a long family history in the Church. You think that gives you some special knowledge, credibility or expertise that others must lack. Well, you’re wrong. It is utterly irrelevant. You DON’T know what you’re talking about when you are lying, misrepresenting and distorting.

            That “certificate” of Joseph Smith thing is another example. Yes, I know that Brigham Young said something like that once. So what? That’s just another intentional, deliberate distortion of Mormon doctrine. No one ever tells me, nor in my priesthood calling do I tell anyone else, that they need a certificate from Joseph Smith. So quit saying false stuff. I know by now you won’t … but a Christian would.

            As a former evangelical, it is a continual source of distress to me to find my former co-religionists conduct themselves as you do. I find it shameful. Just so you know, I have looked at every single objection or argument that you guys raise. Frequently, the weakness of the argument itself shows that you’re wrong. In other cases, it takes study and thought, which I have been willing to devote. What I find is that the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rescues the Bible from the incredibly narrow and simplistic spin that my former co-religionists place on it, by which they reduce everything that Christ taught to a few homilies of Paul. It’s ridiculous. The doctrine of the Church UNLOCKS the Bible in a way that goes far beyond any of the lessons of my youth. Unlike you, I have not abandoned those lessons, or turned my back on them, nor (and this is important) do I seek out my former co-religionists in public to berate them for their beliefs. I find that conduct shameful. I respect the church of my parents and their beliefs, by which they expressed their love for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and through which they sought His Kingdom and His righteousness. But even after all the garbage that you and your ilk can throw at this Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have come to understand that it is richer, deeper and more complete than anything I ever knew. It has been incredibly meaningful to me and my family. As a family, we were broken before … and we are unified in our love for each other and for Heavenly Father now.

            NOW you can have the last word. Really.

          • David Tiffany

            You seem to think this is a back and forth between you and I. It’s not. Since the gospel of Mormonism and the Gospel of the Scriptures are two different things, it’s a battle over the truth. It can’t be that both gospels save. What really counts is not what you believe or what I believe, but what God accepts. It’s important for everyone to know the truth. All of our lives depend on it, our eternal lives. If a person approaches God, holy and righteous, in an unprescribed way, it will not turn out well for him.
            The truth is that Joseph Smith marginalized the Scriptures in order to introduce teachings that were contrary to Scripture. I was raised with these teachings and there came a point in my life when God showed me, through Scripture, that I had been lied to. Now, I don’t blame those who lied to me, they have been lied to as well. But the whole idea of Mormonism makes me angry. Do you understand why? Do you understand what happens to a person, according to Scripture, if he attempts to approach God on his own merits? There was a reason Jesus went to the Cross and paid the penalty for our sin. Because we weren’t able. Salvation from judgment is a free gift from God, paid by Jesus for a lost and dying world that would perish if He didn’t pay the price for them.
            And you received Jesus as your Savior when you were young. I’m grateful. God’s promise is that you will always be His. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the priase of His glory.”
            Regardless of what road you are on now, you belong to Him. You belonged to Him when you first believed, and you will continue to belong to Him until He returns for you. That’s His promise to you as a result of you believing, not a result of your works.


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