A very significant little item by Jeff Lindsay, writing from Shanghai:
I like the argument here. I think it’s solid:
I’m surely among those Latter-day Saints who insist — many times without result — on identifying themselves as Christians.
I’ve published a book on the topic.
Is this solely about “marketing,” though, as the author rather snootily dismisses it? No. It’s about truth. My theology doesn’t work without Jesus. My condition is hopeless without Christ. In my view, the atonement and the resurrection of Jesus are not only historical facts but the very pivot, the entire eternal point, of history. To have my view dismissed as non-Christian is, from my point of view, ineffably absurd and, simply, a factual untruth.
But I want to return to that somewhat condescending word marketing. If you recast marketing as missionary work or as evangelizing the world, which is what we’re really talking about, you can, if you’re a believer, easily understand why getting our “branding” right is so very important.
Permit me to cite J. B. Phillips’s translation of the eighth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:
Now to deal with the matter of meat which has been sacrificed to idols.
It is not easy to think that we “know” over problems like this, but we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature. For whatever a man may know, he still has a lot to learn, but if he loves God, he is opening his whole life to the Spirit of God.
In this matter, then, of eating meat which has been offered to idols, knowledge tells us that no idol has any real existence, and that there is no God but one. For though there are so-called gods both in heaven and earth, gods and lords galore in fact, to us there is only one God, the Father, from whom everything comes, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom everything exists, and by whom we ourselves are alive. But this knowledge of ours is not shared by all men. For some, who until now have been used to idols, eat the meat as meat really sacrificed to a god, and their delicate conscience is thereby injured. Now our acceptance of God is not a matter of meat. If we eat it, that does not make us better men, nor are we the worse if we do not eat it. You must be careful that your freedom to eat meat does not in any way hinder anyone whose faith is not as robust as yours. For suppose you with your knowledge of God should be observed eating meat in an idol’s temple, are you not encouraging the man with a delicate conscience to do the same? Surely you would not want your superior knowledge to bring spiritual disaster to a weaker brother for whom Christ died? And when you sin like this and damage the weak consciences of your brethren you really sin against Christ. This makes me determined that, if there is any possibility of meat injuring my brother, I will have none of it as long as I live, for fear I might do him harm.
If Paul was concerned about how eating meat might interfere with the salvation of others, how much more, it seems to me, should we be concerned about gross misunderstandings or distortions that might prevent people from accepting the Restored Gospel of Christ? If even a single person out there imagines that, by listening seriously to the message of the missionaries, he or she would be consorting with people who reject the saving role of Jesus Christ as our sovereign Lord and atoning Redeemer, that’s spiritually dangerous and a tragedy. Thus, we have to insist on clarity regarding this vital matter.
On a much less serious matter raised by the article: I think we should always be clear that, in excommunicating somebody from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church is simply saying that the excommunicated person is no longer a member of the Church. “Mormonism” is much more diffuse than is Church membership. If people outside the Church but in some sense connected to the Restoration claim to be “Mormons,” we really can’t stop them. (Some do so claim. Many — members of the church formerly known as RLDS, for instance — often don’t.) However, since, for most non-Mormons (I think), Mormon means “of or pertaining to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” we’ll sometimes need to intervene for the sake of clarity — to point out, for instance, that Brian David Mitchell wasn’t a Mormon any more when he kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, and that Jeffrey Lundgren was never a Mormon.