Understanding Mormonism

  • Jan 14, 2008

I’m taking a big scary leap today and responding to Today’s Christian Woman’s article “Understanding Mormonism: Six Doctrines that deviate from Christianity” by Jan Brown.

My intention is to explain; I pray that I don’t offend or misrepresent anyone. In my opinion Evangelicals and Mormons have so much in common that these differences in doctrine are negligible; but Evangelical leaders seem to disagree.

1. THE BIBLE
Jan Brown quotes our 8th Article of Faith, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” This statement is absolutely true but has been misunderstood. We don’t believe the Bible to be full of errors but we are cautious of the many translations out there. The Bible currently has 7,000 English translations. We use the King James Version which we believe to be a divinely inspired translation.

You may remember the story of Michelangelo carving horns on Moses’ head? He used the Septuagint translation of the Bible which used the word “horns” where it should have said “shone.” Can you blame us for rejecting translation errors like that?

We do believe that the Book of Mormon clarifies doctrine on the Bible. For example; the Bible does not specify whether baptism should be done by sprinkling or by immersion. The Book of Mormon clearly explains why baptism is done by immersion.

Ms. Brown goes on say that Mormon’s must be wrong because Paul wrote in Galatians 1:9, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach as gospel other that the one we preached unto them, let him be eternally condemned.” Well, we happen to believe that our beliefs are EXACTLY the same as Paul’s and that we preach the same gospel given by Christ to his disciples while on the earth. We wholeheartedly embrace Biblical Christianity though not necessarily Nicene Christianity(more on that later).

2. SIN
I do think Jan Brown researched her article, but this one is just plain strange. She wrote, “Mormons believe that while the flesh is capable of great sin, the spirit isn’t.” OK, I have never heard anything like that before. We certainly believe in spiritual sin. Spiritual sin(or spiritual death) is much worse than physical death because it separates us from the presence of God. If we have faith in Christ death cannot separate us from the love of God.

But we certainly differ from traditional Christianity when it comes to original sin– “get that baby baptized or he’ll go to hell.” We believe children are redeemed by the atonement of Christ and have no need of baptism until they are accountable(usually age 8).

3. GOD THE FATHER AND THE TRINITY
Jan got it right on this one. She wrote “They believe in a godhead composed of three distinct personages who are so one in purpose they can act and speak in each other’s place.” Yep. that’s exactly right.

I know the rest of Christianity believes in a Triune God; “God is one Being Who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a mutual indwelling of three persons.” This belief was established in 325 a.d. and does not feel Biblical to me, especially when I read of Christ’s baptism.

Matthew 3;16-17 “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Christ is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and God the Father expresses His approval. I believe they are separate yet single in purpose.

4. JESUS
Ms. Brown states, “Jesus of the Book of Mormon is not the only begotten Son of God.” Well, that’s just false. We certainly do believe Christ is the only begotten.

5. THE AFTERLIFE
Phew, her description is so full of errors it may take me all day to talk about them all. But ultimately, Mormons believe only the ultimate baddies make it to hell, the lowest level of heaven is like a glorified earth, the second level is paradise and the third, the Celestial Kingdom, is where God dwells– only in the Celestial Kingdom will we continue to progress have more children and yes, ultimately become Gods and Goddesses. C.S. Lewis The whole prospect of becoming like God is, of course, daunting, humbling and rarely talked about. But it’s not my doctrine, Paul wrote: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:7

Oh, and everyone is invited to the Celestial Kingdom. It’s not the Mormon Kingdom.;)

6. SALVATION
Faith vs. works is probably the favorite debate between Mormons and other Christians. I think I spent a full year arguing the point with my Lutheran boyfriend in high school. We believe salvation comes through Christ. PERIOD. But we also believe that any true believer in Christ would want to follow His commandments. “Faith without works is dead.”

I think the confusion here comes from our emphasis on covenants. We are a covenant making people– baptism, sacrament, marriage…— and we believe making and keeping covenants are necessary to enter God’s presence. Covenants are actions/works, but would be totally ineffective without the grace of God given through the atonement of Christ.

In truth, in the rush of so many things to DO, Mormons occasionally forget to sit back and partake of the goodness of God. I especially enjoy Evangelical literature for their refreshing views on partaking of God’s love.

Finally, Ms. Brown concluded that she does not believe Mormons are Christian. Frankly, I find this sad. We have so much in common; we could create so much good in the world together. Personally, I refuse to have anyone dictate my beliefs for me.

I am a Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

I know what I believe.

January 13, 2008
January 15, 2008

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9 Comments

  1. Reply

    Andrea

    January 14, 2008

    Michelle…thank you for being so heartfelt and articulate. I know that you know what you believe–and that is one fantastic trait to have. You are an inspiration…

  2. Reply

    Jan Russell

    January 14, 2008

    Oh gosh, I can’t believe the author’s name was Jan! LOL!

    On the topic of infant baptism, the Church of the Nazarene (which I am a member of) permits both infant baptism and infant dedication (which sounds similar to your baby blessing ceremony). In the Wesleyan tradition (as opposed to Calvinism – which maybe the author was speaking from that perspective?) we believe that all babies go to heaven until they reach the age of accountability- when they must choose Christ as their personal savior or reject Him. In this way we don’t see baptism as securing one’s salvation, but rather as an outward sign of God’s grace. We do full immersion believers baptism as well, which can be done at any point in someones life when they want to make a decision for Christ.

    I do believe that you need to accept God’s free gift of salvation to go to heaven. But that those who haven’t heard the gospel aren’t going to be condemned because of it. Christ’s death was a sacrifice for me, and I feel like my life and the way I live it need to say “thank you” We very much agree with you as Protestants, that faith without works is dead.

    I’ve never read the book of Mormon, so I can’t speak into some of the other points you’ve made, but it’s very intersting to hear more about your beliefs. I think a heart for the Lord and glorifying Him are what matter above all else. The details can make my head hurt. Even within my denomination, there are debates about the details. I am a big picture kind of girl, I guess πŸ˜‰

  3. Reply

    Jan Russell

    January 14, 2008

    Oh wow! Sorry that was so long!!!

  4. Reply

    Tricia

    January 15, 2008

    My fellow Nazarene girl answered for me. πŸ˜› The details make my head hurt too!

    Regardless of belief in (or non-belief) in the details, why CAN’T we band together to do good? It makes me sad (as I believe it does you too Michelle) that we can’t overlook those differences to MAKE a difference in our world. How very hypocritical of us (the general us) to preach grace and peace and love and salvation and yet not be able to see past our own doctrine to join with others to extend that same grace to our neighbors.

    I enjoy reading your discussion of your faith Michelle and admire you for attempting to put it into words. Something I fail so miserably at.

  5. Reply

    millertimeab

    January 15, 2008

    love you Michelle!

  6. Reply

    Denise

    January 15, 2008

    Amen.

  7. Reply

    StubbyDog

    January 16, 2008

    Fascinating to read!

    In truth I know very little of Mormons and their beliefs. I’m thrilled to learn more about them.

    And one of the reasons why I actually strongly DISLIKE religion in general is because of people getting, as others said, “bogged down in the details”. It honestly, to me, shouldn’t matter whether each person believes that theirs is the “one true” set of beliefs…can’t we ALL just do things to help our world? Why does it matter in the least what another person believes?

    I don’t believe in God, but ask me to help with good works for our society and fellow people, and I’m thrilled to do what I can.

  8. Reply

    www.egoimpact.com

    January 20, 2008

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for sharing! I totally enjoyed your blog and your beautiful faith. I wish everybody knew about http://www.mormon.org, too. Combined with your clarion voice, it helps with understanding that LDS people are truly Christians and pray for the same blessings of loving peace and freedom for our world as all true followers of Jesus Christ. Love, Annemarie

  9. Reply

    brow

    February 11, 2008

    Jan Russell says: “I think a heart for the Lord and glorifying Him are what matter above all else. The details can make my head hurt. Even within my denomination, there are debates about the details. I am a big picture kind of girl, I guess ;-)” Tricia agrees with her “fellow Nazarene” and says, “My fellow Nazarene girl answered for me. πŸ˜› The details make my head hurt too! Regardless of belief in (or non-belief) in the details, why CAN’T we band together to do good? ”

    Let me ask both of you, Jan R. and Tricia: As a follower of Jesus would you value unity over truth? In other words, would you promote unity under a lie just for the sake of “unity”? While I value having a united front, that unity must be under truth or it is worthless. Knowing which doctriness are essential to the Christian faith is necessary for the preservation of your faith as a Nazarene…which is based in orthodox Christianity and the identification of heresy. There is no true unity without unity in the truth. There is no essential unity without unity in the essentials. There is no unity in the essentials without knowing what the essentials are. This may make your head hurt…but it should never be downplayed. The differences do matter or the grace and salvation and love and peace you mention are quite worthless. It must be based on truth…

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