Bridging the gap between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christian churches

07.26.2007

In years past, it was rare for anyone outside of the Mormon loop to hear of any public figure that was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon) besides Joseph Smith or maybe Brigham Young. Things have changed. Recently, a good portion of the world has become acquainted with the likes of Mitt Romney (presidential candidate), Glenn Beck (talk show host), and David Neeleman (former CEO of JetBlue), a short list of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are now making waves in today’s society. Someone outside of the church, having heard the plethora of anti-Mormon propaganda, might ask, “How could such people be deceived into believing such a cult!?”

And so comes the purpose of my post. I wish to speak to you Christians who find that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in direct contrast to your own religious beliefs. My purpose is not to prove that your church is wrong or that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is right. I’ll leave that part for you. My purpose is only to break down the basic logic barriers that so often keep people from learning more about the church. These barriers seem to fall into one of three categories: (1) a lack of physical proof, (2) faults in church leaders, and (3) an anti-Christian stance.

A lack of physical proof. In this barrier, those opposing the church state that there is no physical evidence to prove that the church is true. There is no evidence to prove that the Book of Mormon was really written on metal plates by ancient prophets. Likewise, there is no evidence that shows that Joseph Smith really talked with God or Jesus Christ. In essence, they say that “Mormonism” is a “cult” because it can’t be proven by archeology or history–we’re only blindly following a fan club of like-minded, peculiar people.

Is this perhaps your notion of the church? Ask yourself the following questions: When Jesus preached to the Jews, was He required to show them an archaeological artifact to prove that He was the son of God? Did He have a magazine article written by a well-known scholar revealing an archaeological discovery proving His divinity? Even if he did have such an article, would that have been enough? What do you suppose the apostles thought when Jesus told them that they would only know of the veracity of the gospel by the Holy Spirit rather than a historical fact or figure? How do we know that Jesus lived in Jerusalem? How do we know that he died on the cross and was resurrected? How do we know that the Bible was written by prophets? How do we even know that God exists?

What’s my point? It seems that basic Christian beliefs (which I share) are more often than not taken as “proven” only because they have been accepted by a large population for a long period of time. Does this mean that we shouldn’t believe in Christian teachings? No. It only means that “proof” concerning religious things only comes by the Spirit as taught by Jesus Christ Himself, not by physical records or artifacts.

Faults in church leaders. Opponents love to rip on leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They often dig through endless pages of transcript looking for subtle comments that may discredit the prophets and apostles who direct the church.

So why shouldn’t you promptly toss your Book of Mormon out the window? Remember Peter the apostle? The one who was charged to lead the church’s administration at Christ’s death? The one who walked on water? He was the same who betrayed Jesus three times in one night. Can you imagine how many anti-Mormons would jump on the news of an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints betraying Jesus Christ three times in one night in front of a crowd of people?

Better yet, remember Judas Iscariot? The one Jesus Christ selected as one of the twelve most important people to help lead the church? Does his complete betrayal and ultimate murder of our Savior mean that the gospel is false? Did Christ make a mistake as He chose His apostles?

Remember David? The prophet who committed adultery with his scantily-clad neighbor?

What’s my point? While we shouldn’t accept everything spoken as truth or every action as appropriate, we can ultimately see that the fault of church leaders does not disprove the gospel of Jesus Christ or His church.

An anti-Christian stance. Opponents often declare that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians. According to Webster, a Christian is “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” I profess belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. So does (or once did) everyone else that is baptized into the church. In fact, before one is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he/she is interviewed. The first section of questions in the interview is as follows: “Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?” And the final section of questions: “When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?”

If “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ” defines a Christian, then I’m feeling pretty confident we’re in the same boat. So why is your pastor or friend declaring that we aren’t Christians? Most likely because our understanding of Jesus Christ and God differ from theirs, but it’s far from anti-Christ or even a different Christ. It’s a difference in understanding. We believe that the Trinity is composed of three separate individuals, we believe that God and Jesus Christ both have bodies, and we believe that God directs His church through living prophets and apostles today. For the basics, is that too far-fetched for one to learn more about the church? I sincerely hope not.

Interested in learning more? I suggest the following official sources of information:

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Comments

07.26.2007 / DAD said:

If I sign up, how many of them there wifes do I git?

07.27.2007 / Jason said:

It’s amazing how much the time a belief has been around affects its acceptance as proven. It’s true though. I’m much more likely to accept someone’s discourse on something that is old and question the guy that gives a discourse on something new. I think it’s just the way I think.

The Mormon/LDS religion is “new” relative to mainstream Christianity and it will take time for it to sink into many peoples hearts and minds.

07.27.2007 / Ben said:

I think you may have missed the point as to why people think Mormonism is a cult. In my experience, non-Mormons look at what they perceive as blind obedience to a totalitarian type theocracy, and the blood oaths that used to be in the temple prior to 1990, as well as the oaths of vengeance in the temple prior to 1910.

Mormons often can’t understand why people have a problem with the Mountain Meadows massacre, since in their view it was obviously not ordered by the church. However, speaking from the perspective of cults, it does raise some questions about how a local church leader could have asked the members to do something despicable, and they blindly obeyed without questioning.

As a member of the LDS church, I must admit that these things are troubling, and it makes sense why people are nervous about the church.

As far as the church being “Christian” – it all depends on how you define the term. If someone believes that Christ was a woman, or was a black man, would you still call them a Christian church? The problem is, mainstream Christians define the term very rigidly, and don’t allow for a gospel that requires works for salvation, since Christ died for our sins. LDS members don’t define the term “Christian” the same way. I suspect that gap may never be bridged, at least in the minds of mainstream “Christians”.

I have to sound off about the fault finding of church leaders – I agree with you that being nitpicky about it is ridiculous. However, when people find out that Joseph Smith married women in secret, was have intimate relations with them, while they were still married to their husbands, without telling them – that is not just being nitpicky. That is a problem that all Mormons have to face and answer for themselves if it was inspired by God or not, because there are few things that I can think of that are worse than that.

08.03.2007 / Andy Wheatley said:

Brought up some really good points — but like you said it really boils down to one point. F-A-I-T-H. ‘Physical proof’ doesn’t ‘prove’ anything, true belief–the deep down soul altering belief, will never be spawned from seeing physical proof…will never inspire you past the human faults of your leaders or motivate you past the harsh criticisms from those who don’t have the patience to learn for themselves and who don’t understand the “why”…

Like Paul said to the Hebrews (11:1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

Can I get an AMEN?????

08.10.2007 / Charles Hargrove said:

If we want to touch on religious leaders who do things outside of their institutions’ dogma, we could point out the various Catholic popes who were married and/or fathered children long after Augustine and his ideas of celibacy. People are not perfect, though God’s word is!

08.29.2007 / Ben said:

Charles – are you defending the Catholic church or the Mormon church or both? I don’t understand your logic…

Has it occurred to anybody that if we accept that we can’t criticize a church for the failings of its leaders, then we can’t hold the various Pope’s failings against the Catholic church, or David Koresh’s failings against the Branch Davidians, or L. Ron Hubbard’s failings aginst the Scientologists?

The fact of the matter is, if Joseph Smith married women in secret that were already married, and had sex with them, or if David Koresh thought that he was Jesus Christ, or L. Ron Hubbard taught that our evil thoughts are really spirits of people that were blown up in a giant H-bomb explosion – all concepts which, by the way, were taught by each of these men as divinely inspired – must we not pause and consider whether our assumptions about these men may be incorrect?

09.07.2007 / Aaron Hardy said:

Ben, I’m not positive, but I think Charles was arguing the same points that you just laid out. Like the title of the article says, we’re bridging the gap–not trying to widen it. I explicitly mentioned in the article that my intent was not to prove that the LDS church is true or that any other church is wrong, but only to bring the reader’s logic into a level playing field so they could find out on their own. In other words, I don’t have any problem with someone pausing and considering whether assumptions about these men may be incorrect, I just don’t want people to hear one negative story about Joseph Smith and run in fear from hearing more about the church. The truth of the gospel entails much more than one mortal human. I would ask the same for someone learning about the Catholic church, a political party, or ANYTHING where we should evaluate things further than just the most prominent public facade. So, on behalf of Charles, I think the answer to your question is he’s basically saying, “If you believe in Catholicism but shun learning about the LDS church because you heard a story about how Joseph Smith did something evil, take a look at the leaders of your own church.” While there are obviously some very notable differences between the two churches, at least we can bridge the gap to learning the basics.

12.10.2008 / Guy Morton said:

You may not welcome input from an atheist here, but surely the fact that various popes (appointed via the workings of the Holy Spirit if we are to believe the Catholilc doctrine) and Joseph Smith (God’s prophet, according to the Mormons) have been shown to have such poor moral fibre undermines the foundations of the relevant churches themselves? If someone I knew were to be proven a liar, I would certainly doubt the veracity of any other claims they made, especially when those claims were as bizarre and unlikely as the whole golden plates in the hat thing…

12.10.2008 / Aaron Hardy said:

“Golden plates in the hat thing,” eh? Sounds like you really did your research. Please, enlighten us Mormons.

05.19.2010 / Guy Morton said:

Sorry, of course he didn’t keep the plates in a hat, that would have been silly. :-)

Guy

07.26.2010 / lds org advocate said:

I love many things about LDS church but one thing that i love the most in their belief is that all are their brothers and sisters and they love others like unto themselves.Here is one of their beliefs as stated in the articles of Faith. Articles of Faith 1:11
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.

03.26.2011 / Paul said:

And then there is that little phenomenon called Facebook and the founders being roommates at BYU (likely each a Mormon).

Yes, the Mormon church is really growing and though some might consider it new that is only a limited perspective since it is new to them personally. Mormonism, and the Church so called, is the same Church that Jesus Christ organized while he lived on earth. That is a key point of Mormonism. Once you bridge that gap you can also bridge the gap that Jesus Christ’s teachings and revelations to mankind are still millennia older than that.

A note to Guy Morton. I believe that most atheists are atheists because of a false concept of God that they cannot believe in or work their way around. I could not believe in those false concepts of God either. Open your mind to the idea that there might be another concept of God that you have been missing for years and it is the true concept. Joseph Smith met that one. Aaron could tell you about that God. I do not know of any other concept of God who has loved his children enough to provide a way for 100% of them to find him. Carl Sagan’s father’s last words to Carl as he died were “See you later”. Carl, though atheist at the time, somehow believed those prophetic words and has now seen the words fulfilled. He is no longer an atheist today. No, I cannot prove it, but I will meet with you and Carl someday on the other side to discuss it. While we are at it, let’s be sure to invite Isaac Asimov as well. He and Carl have probably already shared notes but would enjoy getting us up to speed.

I love your Shuffled Row tool Aaron. I love your Church, too. I love the Savior Jesus Christ who spreads his Gospel to the world today through that Church like no other church ever did. Press forward.

01.22.2013 / Greg said:

Aaron,

The one difference between evangelical Christianity and Mornonism that doesn’t seem to have been mentioned here is the Trinitarian view of God, which is fundamental to the Christian faith. Orthodox Christianity depends upon this doctrine, and Christ himself clearly claimed divinity. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that Mormonism does not believe in the Trinity. That is a huge divide in doctrine that cannot be partially crossed.

02.19.2017 / Aaron Hardy said:

Greg, somehow your comment slipped past me. Four years later, I think I should answer it. Mormons believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. In fact, this is our first “article of faith”: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng

We do believe that they are three distinct beings, which can sometimes be different from what others believe.


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