02
Sep
08

Blunders or Sins?

 

     What constitutes sin?  The LDS manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, states:  “Sin is the transgression of divine law, as made known through the conscience or by revelation.  A man sins when he violates his conscience, going contrary to light and knowledge – not the light and knowledge that has come to his neighbor, but that which has come to himself.  He sins when he does the opposite of what he knows to be right.  Up to that point he only blunders.  One may suffer painful consequences for only blundering, but he cannot commit sin unless he knows better than to do the thing in which the sin consists.  One must have a conscience before he can violate it.  (Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, p. 239.)”

     There is much that could be discussed in that quote.  But what I want to focus in on is how this quote illustrates Mormonism’s tendency to diminish sin.  Nowhere does the Bible limit the idea of sin to things that we know are wrong – that violate an individual’s conscience.  Notice that, according to that quote, a person doesn’t sin if he goes contrary to the light and knowledge revealed to his neighbor.  Does that mean if I don’t know something is a sin, it isn’t a sin until I know it?  If I didn’t know sexual immorality was a sin, I would not be sinning if I was sexually immoral?

     I also checked my Bible Concordance about the word “blunder”.  It wasn’t listed.  Nowhere does the Bible talk about blunders.  Another word that Mormonism has often used instead of sin is “mistake”.  Again I checked my Bible Concordance.  It wasn’t listed either. 

     One example of this tendency of Mormonism to diminish sin comes from the manual mentioned above.  It adds the word “alleged” to Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest.  But there is nothing “alleged” in the biblical account of his denial.

     The reason that I am highlighting this is because minimizing sin is deadly.  If I don’t see how often I sin, I will have a higher opinion of myself than is true.  If I don’t see the extent of my sinfulness, I won’t be as desperate for help.  For me to fully appreciate my Savior, I need to see myself accurately – as someone who desperately needs salvation because I sin so much.  May we, first of all, always see how much we sin and then, soberly point out the seriousness of sin to all people, including our LDS acquaintances. 

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28 Responses to “Blunders or Sins?”


  1. September 2, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I can agree with this Mark.

  2. 2 Berean
    September 2, 2008 at 4:27 am

    If one wants to take it all the way back to the beginning, Mormons downplay sin starting at the Garden of Eden. For example:

    “The decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit WAS NOT A SIN, as it is sometimes considered by other Christian churches. It was a TRANSGRESSION – an act that was formally prohibited BUT NOT INHERENTLY WRONG.” [Emphasis mine] (Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks, In Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 98;)

    LDS Church manuals also teach on this:

    “The Fall was necessary for us to progress toward exaltation. We have to experience mortality to become like our Father in Heaven, and Adam and Eve fulfilled their mission to make this possible. Help class members APPRECIATE that the Fall of Adam and Eve enabled each of us to receive a body and come to earth to gain experience in choosing good and evil…Express your GRATITUDE for Adam and Eve and the choice they made. Encourage class members to FOLLOW ADAM AND EVE’S EXAMPLE and choose GOOD OVER EVIL.” [Emphasis mine] (Preparing for Exaltation, page 13)

    When I first read this I couldn’t believe it. I thought his had to be a joke. Adam and Eve didn’t sin? We are supposed to appreciate what they did? We are to have gratitude and follow in their example? They chose good over evil? What!!?? Are they kidding? Look at Genesis 3 and see what God’s reaction was for this offense. God cave out many curses on people and the land for what they did. We still suffer today for it in every way. We were born with original sin (Rom 5:12) despite what Articles of Faith #2 says.

  3. September 2, 2008 at 4:55 am

    And I disagree with that Berean.

    Romans 5:12 doesn’t make your point at all. It has TWO parts to it, if you are paying attention:

    “Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die.”

    Articles of Faith #2 is completely compatible with that verse. All the passage in Romans says is that Adam brought death into the world. It says nothing about “original sin” which is a theological innovation that you guys add to the Biblical text. In fact, Romans 5:12 seems to be saying that people sin individually and therefore die. Adam got the ball rolling, but his guilt is not our guilt. We each acquire our own personal guilt.

    The cursing in Genesis chapter 3 simply describes the inevitable results that will come from human beings not living in the presence of God anymore, and relying on God completely. They will commit evil of themselves. They will sin.

    You see, for Mormons, the Garden of Eden was a place where Adam and Eve were utterly reliant upon God for everything. They made no decisions of their own. They knew neither sin, nor evil. A state of innocence.

    But this state of innocence was NOT ultimately good for humanity. God wanted us to have the opportunity to choose Him freely, not because we didn’t know any better. The Garden of Eden was a nice place, but only in the sense that childhood is remembered fondly – a time of no cares, no responsibilities. But there are real drawbacks to such infancy. Human beings could never progress in a meaningful way until the left that state of blissful ignorance.

    Thus, it was NECESSARY that Adam and Eve fall from the direct presence of God and initiate a life where they could freely choose to obey God. The best way that this whole thing could be initiated was by an act of free will. Not only that, but an act of disobedience.

    Now, a lot of Mormons probably miss the boat when they try to claim that eating the fruit was not a “sin.”

    Of course it was a sin. But it was still a part of God’s plan. Even Satan’s plans can be utilized by God to bring about His greater purposes.

    But some Mormons go too far, and assert that eating the fruit was not a sin. This is incorrect, even by Mormon doctrines. Such Mormons get too carried away in the good news that came with Adam and Eve’s Fall and forget that it came with some real negatives as well.

    That said, I do not find “original sin” in the Bible. It seems to me to be purely an invention of post-apostolic Christianity. What is more, this false doctrine is probably responsible for more self-loathing, more destructive attitudes about the body, women, humanity, and our fellow beings than any other false heresy perpetuated by “orthodox Christianity.” Original sin has been an absolutely awful and satanic doctrine in its historical implementation.

    Mormons sometimes overcompensate in recoiling from this repulsive doctrine when they suggest that eating the fruit wasn’t a sin. It was. But we do not inherit the guilt of it. Only the consequences – death and agency. Our sins are our own alone.

  4. 4 markcares
    September 2, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Seth:

    The problem I have with your last paragraph is that the person Berean quoted was not just any Mormon. It was an LDS apostle speaking. Wouldn’t you agree, that according to LDS teaching, his words carry much more weight than yours? Wouldn’t you also agree that Conference talks are considered inspired? “Every six months a general conference is held during which inspired counsel is given by the Lord’s servants. The Lord warns those who do not heed this instruction that they ‘shall be cut off from among the people’ (D&C 1:14.” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 390)

    And he is not the only LDS General Authority to say it was not a sin. How do you reconcile statements like his with your statement: “This is incorrect, even by Mormon doctrines.”?

  5. September 2, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I might as well be up front. I don’t think Elder Oaks’ distinction between “transgression” and “sin” is all that useful, if you are attempting to create and police a systemic orthodoxy.

    From a theological standpoint, no, I don’t think that is a correct distinction that Oaks has made.

    However, if you’re going to talk to Mormons much, you’re going to just have to come to grips with the fact that we do not approach our religion from a standpoint of orthodoxy. We are not particularly interested, or concerned, as a people, with orthodoxy.

    We care far more about applied and practical religion. Ultimately, most of us don’t care if we have a rigorous philosophical treatment of our faith. Nor are we particularly interested in the question of whether God had a father, or what the gender of the Holy Ghost is. Such theological questions mean a great deal to other traditional Christians, because they have never approached their faith in any other way than careful and cerebral orthodoxy (at least, the Christian “elites” have not).

    Mormons don’t do orthodoxy, nor do we usually care to. We have no professional clergy, so we aren’t particularly good at it in the first place. But we consider this a benefit, by and large. Sure, it frustrates Protestant ministers no end that we leave our doctrine open-ended. But we simply consider that to be “open” to whatever course corrections God may see fit to make.

    We are concerned with applied religion, and when we read the scriptures, we almost never read them to try and figure out what is orthodox, or “theologically correct.” Frankly, we don’t really care. For us, the scriptures are full of wonderful guidelines for right living, they help have a personal relationship with God. And finally, they provide a historical narrative that the believing Mormon can insert herself into and see herself as reliving the story of Nephi, Esther, Jacob, or Alma.

    So if you read our Church authorities looking for expositions of orthodoxy, I think you’re really missing the point. Orthodoxy is rarely LDS leadership’s primary concern. What they are concerned with is correct living, and how through the scriptures, we can refashion our lives as God’s chosen covenant people.

    What this means is that our orthodoxy is often neglected and you may even get contradictory statements from Church authorities.

    Maybe that bothers you, but always, always keep in mind that orthodoxy is your faith tradition’s own particular obsession. We do not necessarily share it. Not that we are not concerned at all with orthodoxy. We are. Just not to the degree you are.

    From a practical standpoint, Elder Oaks’ focus was on how we claim Adam and Eve’s personal story for our own, and how they ought to be revered for getting the human family started on it’s journey to freely unite with God. His use of the sin/transgression distinction was probably theologically sloppy. But I doubt that was really the point of his address to begin with.

    Theologically, I find his statement flawed. But overall, I don’t find it very concerning.

  6. 6 Berean
    September 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I appreciat Seth’s honesty here. I recently had a conversation with a Mormon who asked why Mormonism has a credibility problem with Christianity? The answer? Just what Seth said in his post. No systematic theology, wavering doctrines, pick and choose teachings/doctrines, no concern for orthodoxy, lack of concern on learning the nature of God, no careful analysis of scriptures, lack of respect for apostles and prophets when they say something that goes against the individual’s “pet, personal” doctrine, etc.

    This is what makes Mormonism a man-based, salvation by works religion. They can say “Jeus, Jesus” all they want. It’s just lip service and meaningless. With the focus on “applied religion” as it pertains to bettering ones self it all focuses on man. Attending Mormon ward services is very much like going to a Unitarian/Universalist church. It’s man-based and centers around one’s personal labors for well-being.

    Where does D&C 68:4 fit in with the Seth’s in Mormonism? I guess they are going to be cut off from their people according to D&C 1:14. For what it’s worth, I think Seth and other Mormons need to realize that they are “out of harmony” and “need to repent” according to the First Presidency.

    “And so, my brethren, all who are OUT OF HARMONY in any degree with the Presidency have NEED TO REPENT and to seek the Lord for forgiveness and to put themselves in full harmony (Marion G. Romney, IN Conference Report, April 1942, pp.19-20; Also in “Teachings of the Living Prophets”, page 26)

    How are Christians and Mormons supposed to have dialogue when so many Mormons like Seth have “Vegas buffet” (pick and choose what teachings you like, words from certain prophets and discard the rest) Mormonism? It’s almost impossible.

    Seth, why don’t you send a letter to Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks and share with him your findings/conclusions? Let me know what his reply back is (that is, if you’re still a member and haven’t been excommunicated yet).

  7. September 2, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    Oh really? I said all that, did I?

    Or maybe you’re just hearing what you want to hear.

  8. September 2, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Essentially, you are saying:

    “I commend Seth for admitting that his religion sucks.”

    Maybe when you’re willing to quit acting like a pompous jerk, I’ll have a response for you. At the moment, I’m too tempted to respond in kind about your religion, and I think a denominational name-calling match is probably not what this blog is about.

  9. 9 Berean
    September 3, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Seth,

    Scroll up and look at your post. It was rather long and you did say a lot. I quoted your words in many places. I didn’t imply your religion “sucks”. If that is your reading of it then that is your drawed conclusion – not mine. I merely showed you why Mormonism has a credibility problem when you say that your church doesn’t care about orthodoxy. I’m not here to engage in name calling (“pompous jerk”?) so grow up and stick with the presented facts as you laid them out to us in your post. You made a stand, now stand firm on it. By the way, are you mocking me? If so, give Alma 5:30-31 a read through real quick to let you know where you stand right now.

    Why do Mormons get angry when LDS references are quoted to them that shows they are in error and not in line with their church? If you have a problem with Dallin Oaks and what he said then take it to your bishop and get it resolved. Right now, as a Mormon, you are bound by your General Authorities and what they say. I didn’t write the Mormon scriptures. If you don’t like what D&C 68:4 says then I guess talk to the bishop about it. Mormons want their own individual brand of Mormonism that is catered to each person in picking and choosing what they do and don’t like that comes from their Church. It’s all or nothing.

  10. 10 Stephanie
    September 3, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Seth,

    You seem very educated about your faith. Please don’t be upset with us for looking to the sources of the LDS doctrines, such as the standard works and the prophets and apostles. In most belief system, there is be a “standard” against which to measure beliefs. As Berean said, if you claim to be a Mormon, don’t you also try to follow the doctrines of the Mormon church, same as Christians do? So we are only quoting reliable LDS sources in our effort to help you see how far the LDS have departed from Christianity.

    I do want to talk about the seriousness of sin. Sin is not only sin when we become aware of it. Whether or not we realize a sin, or acknowledge a sin, we still sin. Even though as believers in Christ we have a perfect status in God’s eyes, we exist in a state of sin. Let’s look at some verses regarding original sin. First, I want to say that mankind has often twisted scriptures for his own sinful purposes. This doesn’t make the doctrine incorrect. I agree with you about the terrible things that have occurred from the misuse of the doctrine of original sin, but I am able to differentiate the doctrine from the abuse of the doctrine. Original sin makes us desperately aware of our situation – how badly we need to be saved!

    Genesis 5:3 “And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image…” This is important because God specifically created Adam in God’s own image. But because of Adam’s sin, Adam’s offspring were no longer created in the image of God, sinless and perfect. Instead, the Bible makes a point to clarify that Adam’s offspring were made in Adam’s image, a tarnished image, carrying the burden and consequences of Adam’s disobedience.

    Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

    Mormons need to realize that they exist in the same desperate state of sin as everyone else. They need to realize that Christ did everything for them (and everyone), and that Christ demands absolutely nothing in return. That is the key part. Christ neither wants nor needs anything from us.

    I understand that the LDS believe Christ’s death brought general salvation to everyone, regardless of religion. This is not Biblical! See John 3:36, “…but He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” If you don’t believe in Christ, you are condemned.

    Secondary to the Mormon belief of unconditional salvation is the individual salvation. This is achieved through grace plus baptism plus works. “Redemption from personal sins can only be obtained through obedience to the requirements of the Gospel, and a life of good works.” Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 85,87,478,479. This also is not Biblical! In fact, the Bible says that our “human righteousness is as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6. We simply cannot ever please God enough to earn even the lowest level of heaven.

    Sin is “going our own way.” Doing our own thing. Using our “agency,” I’ll dare to say. Sin is serious.

    If we have broken even one part of the law, we are guilty of breaking all of it. Which one of you can confidently say that he/she has never sinned? Not one of you. Therefore, each one you, every single human being on the planet, is guilty of breaking all of God’s law. This is serious. We all, each one of us, equally need a savior from our sins.

    Whether or not you experience a “feeling,” you can be assured that you are saved if you believe that Christ did everything required for you to be declared “perfect” in God’s eyes right now, and that Christ requires absolutely nothing in return. Yes, you will continue to exist in a state of sin, but in God’s eyes, you have the status of perfection. God looks at you and sees His perfect Son in your place.

    Then God will see your sins no more. Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” Then we can be assured of spending eternity in the presence of our Savior.

  11. September 3, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Alright, my response was too heated Berean. So let’s look at the stuff you quoted.

    D&C 68:4

    “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall by the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord and the power of God unto salvation.”

    So basically, those ordained to the priesthood have the privilege of speaking the word of the Lord, only insofar as they are moved by the spirit.

    And who determines if they being moved by the spirit? And what subjects are they moved upon by the spirit to say? Perhaps you would suggest that theological formulations are what the word of the Lord is about. I would disagree – you are simply showing an orthodox Christian bias.

    D&C 1:14

    “And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”

    And the next quote:

    “And so, my brethren, all who are OUT OF HARMONY in any degree with the Presidency have NEED TO REPENT and to seek the Lord for forgiveness and to put themselves in full harmony (Marion G. Romney, IN Conference Report, April 1942, pp.19-20; Also in “Teachings of the Living Prophets”, page 26)

    And what makes you think the “harmony” he was talking about was theological? Somehow, I doubt it was.

    Again, you have assumed that this refers to adhering to some sort of corpus of Mormon orthodoxy (a very Evangelical assumption). I see no reason to think that it does. Most of the instructions we Mormons receive from our prophets and apostles are never instructions of orthodoxy. Rather, they are almost always calls to make covenants with God, to participate in the saving ordinances, and to behave in just, kind and ethical ways. I have been listening to General Conference talks for a long time. And I have heard our leadership declare their views on matters of pure theology. But rarely is the language as strong as when they declare the things I have noted above.

    You are simply assuming that it is an orthodox world – that anyone who wishes to “do” religion, must do so through the lens of orthodoxy. This is an assumption that Mormons do not necessarily share with you. I do not view an orthodox approach to religion as a particular asset, as you do. To me, it is more of a liability, and nothing to be particularly proud of.

    We actually allow a great deal of latitude for heterodoxy, as long as people do not disturb the harmony of the Church community by attempting to force our views on our brothers and sisters. As Mormons, we do not make correct theology a prerequisite for salvation. The key is whether you are willing to make and keep covenants with God – all else is just window dressing. This leaves our theology quite open-ended in many (but not all) areas. I imagine that approach frustrates you and looks like confusion. But we remain united in other, more essential aspects of our religion. Neither do I see a rigorous orthodoxy as a positive. To me, it just looks like close-mindedness and a refusal to allow God to have a place in the Church.

    Stephanie,

    The essentials of Mormon belief are whether you are willing to enter into covenant relationships with God. Works unto salvation refers to these covenants and these alone. It does not refer to “being nice to your wife” or “reading your scriptures” or “giving to charity.” As King Benjamin makes quite clear, these works only proceed from a true conversion to Christ. They are the result, not the prerequisite. Those good works only have any power to reconcile us with God within the framework of the saving ordinances. In and of themselves, they have no power to draw us even one iota closer to God.

    Our ordinances have but one aim: to provide a framework within which we can invoke Christ’s saving grace in our lives. And that’s it. Faith, Repentance, and then Baptism (which we renew symbolically each week through the Sacrament). Those are the essentials. None of them have anything to do with our independently meriting salvation. Only the person who is constantly repenting (with the aim of trying to be better and form a relationship with God) and constantly relying on Jesus is said to be on the road home to live with God. This is not about us arrogantly thinking we can intrinsically merit salvation, this is about us framing the atonement within a ritual structure.

    Even the temple is about the Atonement in every aspect. I rarely hear an Evangelical talk about the Mormon process of repentance and forgiveness (by and large, they seem to pretend it doesn’t exist). But it is here that you see how a Mormon is supposed to be relying fully on Christ, and not upon their own merits.

  12. September 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    And one more thing Stephanie,

    The Mormon use of the word “agency” means primarily one thing, and one thing only:

    Will we choose God or not.

    That’s it. Agency does not mean I will necessarily have the strength to independently rise above my circumstances, my upbringing, my physical challenges, my weaknesses, or the devil, or whatever. It means I have the ability to choose God freely or not. I cannot choose the the results. I am a small boat in a vast ocean with powerful currents. I could try to use my oars to get where I want to go. But it ultimately will make no difference. The powerful and deep ocean currents will take me wherever they are going, in spite of all my best rowing.

    Or, I can raise a sail and let God blow me to my destination.

    I have no power over the ocean, and my own efforts will ultimately make no difference in and of themselves. The only choice I have is whether to raise sail or not. And that is a free choice. But I cannot choose the consequences that will follow.

  13. 13 Berean
    September 4, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Seth,

    The quotes that I gave and LDS scriptures that I referenced centered around one issue: Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks giving a talk at conference. Do I need to give more quotes and references that show that the sermons/talks given by the prophet/apostles at conference are considered scripture? When the prophet or the apostle is giving a talk at conference is he not considered being inspired by the spirit? Everything that I have read, learned and been told on this specific issue says it is. Many references could be given here from LDS sources, but I sense you are tiring from them so I digress.

    The reference I gave in “Teachings of the Living Prophets” is a very long discussion that deals with this very issue of church members disregarding the instructions/teachings of the prophet and apostles when they speak under the guidance and inspiration of the spirit. I gave the bottom line answer as I quoted it. I recommend that you read the whole thing to get the bigger context. (It’s available at Deseret Books).

  14. September 4, 2008 at 5:54 am

    You’re still not getting it.

    You act like we are supposed to pull apart and analyze both scripture and statements by apostles and use this to construct a formalized theology and orthodoxy.

    I’ve already pointed out the assumptions you are bringing to the table here. You are simply assuming that it’s an orthodox world and the LDS better get with the program.

    Well, sorry. It is not an orthodox world. I find your attempts to hammer an orthodoxy out of statements that were never intended to serve as building blocks for a formalized philosophy of religion to be utterly beside the point. Scripture’s primary purpose is not the construction of rigid and formalized orthodoxy. The words of prophets are not fodder for the philosophers and other ivory-tower ambassadors of the coming irrelevancy. There words are for the orphan, for the widow, for the man of trade, and for countless others who could frankly care less about your own pet intellectual boondoggles.

    Christianity has had a great many inspiring thoughts and impressive minds at its service. But I am afraid that one of the looming and unavoidable results of all this cerebral activity has been to construct a massive theological Tower of Babel. You seek to confine God. To make Him manageable.

    God must bend to your rules. He must conform to patterned, color-coded, and neatly organized system of human thought. The moment anyone tries to suggest that He should not be so confined, you are horrified. How dare anyone try to suggest that God might be beyond the reach of your petty orthodoxy.

    The moment a religion places orthodoxy as its head and guiding light, that is the moment that that religion begins to die, fossilize, rot away. You have painted yourself into a corner and you cannot get out. You think that this means you are safe. Your world is predictable. It has rules. They are familiar to you. But really you are doing nothing more than obsessing over dead ideas that are taking you nowhere.

    However, God will not be muzzled by your canon, nor your feeble attempts to define and scientifically categorize Him. He has spoken for Himself.

    I am sorry if that new and LIVING voice threatens your neat little alphabetized filing system. But we cannot wait for you. We have a living faith to proclaim, and a new and infinite universe of possibilities just waiting for God to show the way – IN PERSON. Not muzzled by the irrelevant logic games, and philosophical paranoia of a few elite theologians.

    So, you may find the orthodoxy of Mormonism lacking and contradictory. But honestly, we don’t care. We have been charged by God Himself with a great work to do. And we are in the business of doing it. We have no time for tidy little filing clerks.

  15. September 4, 2008 at 6:30 am

    You see, the problem is the assumptions you are bringing to the table.

    My comment probably seems a little out-of-the-blue to you. But that is because the problem is with your assumptions – what you assume the role of scripture is – what you assume the role of prophets is.

    I am calling you on your assumptions here. They are incorrect. And they are leading you to mis-characterize Mormons as “slippery” or “theologically dishonest” or “ignorant,” when really they just have their priorities straight.

    Since our priorities do not match with yours, we do not devote the same care to your concerns. To you, this seems careless.

    Quite the contrary. We are not a careless people. We just care about the right things.

  16. 16 markcares
    September 4, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Seth:
    If a person came to you seeking to learn more about Mormonism, where would you point them?

  17. 17 Berean
    September 5, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Seth said:

    “So, you may find the orthodoxy of Mormonism lacking and contradictory. We don’t care.”

    Thanks for clarifying that for me. That really says a lot. I wonder if the General Authorities would go along with that?

  18. September 5, 2008 at 2:06 am

    That depends on what they want to learn Mark, and what they want to learn it for.

  19. 19 markcares
    September 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Seth:
    Are there any absolute truths in Mormonism that you could point people to regardless of why they came?

  20. September 5, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Sure there are.

    The difference is, we allow people scope to discover those truths and gain a witness of them for themselves. We do not use them as a method for excluding people.

  21. 21 Berean
    September 5, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    So, if I gain a witness that God, as outlined in the Bibe, is one God (Deut 6:4; Mark 12:29)that He is a spirit (John 4:24; Col 1:15) and Joseph Smith isn’t a true propeht of God (Deut 13:1-5; 18:9-14, 18-22), then would I not be “excluded” from being part of the Mormonn Church?

  22. September 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Are you willing to follow Mosiah 18:8-10?

    If you are, I see no bar to you being baptized.

    As it so happens, we do have some members who have a variety of opinions on Joseph’s prophetic status. They aren’t a majority by any stretch, but they are there, and they do still participate fully. We also have a variety of viewpoints on the nature of God. Certain viewpoints undoubtedly predominate in the LDS Church membership. And certainly, your views would probably conflict with what is officially taught by the Church.

    But if you want the fellowship, and are willing to make the required covenants with God, I would not object to extending it to you. I can’t speak for other Mormons. Doubtless there are Mormon bishops who would not be comfortable in giving the go-ahead on baptism – but I imagine this would mostly be for practical reasons, such as whether joining is the right thing for you when you are going to be at odds with what the other members of your congregation believe. And they would also probably be concerned with whether you were going to disrupt the Church community by demanding that others adhere to your views.

    I’ve been pretty strident and extreme deliberately to make a point here. But I’m not entirely against orthodoxy. And I’m certainly not against the systematic quest for truth. As a personal matter, I happen to like theological study. Like I said earlier, it’s not as if we don’t care about orthodoxy at all. As sincere followers of the True God, we, of course, have a solemn obligation to try to make sense of God and His teachings as best we can. Orthodoxy is a tool to that purpose. But it is only a tool – never the master.

  23. 23 markcares
    September 5, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Seth:
    Berean basically asked the question I was going to ask. From my experience, I think a key statement in your answer to him is that you can’t speak for other Mormons. In my experience very few Mormons would have responded the way you have – and no bishops or stake presidents that I know would have.

    I would like to pursue your answer a little more. You say that this would not hinder one from being baptized. But would you also allow that what Berean stated would be the truth? I’m looking at your answer: “we allow people to discover those truths and gain a witness of them for themselves” Would you say that Berean and I discovered the truth? If not, on what basis would you decide that we had not discovered the truth?

  24. September 6, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Again Mark, you seem to be equating “having truth,” with saved status or whether someone ought to be included in the group.

    If Berean espoused those ideas, I would think he was incorrect. I might even debate him over it.

    However, I would not make this the touchstone of whether he is a faithful member of my Church. Nor would I make it the determining factor in whether or not he is “saved.” And I do not know many Mormons who would.

    If, as you say, not many bishops would respond the way I do (a hard assumption to make), it is not because they are concerned about the same things Berean has said he’s concerned about. Their main concern would be a suspicion that anyone who would join our Church without believing in Joseph Smith’s calling is doing so for ulterior motives (like to cause trouble for the ward, or something). Purely practical concerns.

  25. 25 Berean
    September 6, 2008 at 3:24 am

    Seth,

    I think I’ll pay a visit to the stake down the street to me this Sunday and ask the stake president if what you say will fly. I doubt you would give me your contact information so I could give them the LDS referral when I am asked who told me what you said, but it would be interesting to hear their answer. I imagine there would be laughter. Could I phrase it like this?

    “I was online talking with an LDS Church member. I told him that I had read the Book of Mormon and God told me that it wasn’t true, God is not an exalted man and that Joseph Smith is a false prophet. However, I see from the sign that is in the brick outside that you are the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’. I am a follower of Christ, He is my savior and I have repented of my sins. Seth R. said that as long as I’m ‘willing to follow Mosiah 18’ then he saw no reason why I shouldn’t be baptized. Would you be okay with that and baptize me anyway?”

    Mark, what we are dealing with here is not Mormonism. This is THEOSOPHY. I’m hearing this kind of talk from Mormons all the time here where I live (“all religions have some form of the truth”). This goes completely against what Mormon doctrine says and what is taught in the LDS scriptures and by the General Authorities.

  26. September 6, 2008 at 4:06 am

    I already told you Berean.

    They would turn you down, because it would be fairly obvious that you were trying to jerk them around. But that has nothing to do with enforcing an orthodoxy. That has to do with maintaining the peace of Zion.

    I should also note that you seem to have devoted your study of Mormonism to cherry-picking quotes and ideas that would most place Mormonism in a state of opposition to you. But we have a long history of embracing anything that is lovely, praiseworthy or of good report, if you care to look for it. But you are an ideological warrior. Your natural instinct is to look for evidence of hostile intent. Naturally, you tend to not notice evidence to the contrary. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail, I guess.

    As it so happens, I don’t mind the idea of theosophy to a point. All truth must be ultimately subordinated and reconciled within the framework of the Restored Gospel. But that does not mean that the LDS have the only nice ideas out there. It does not mean that we have nothing to learn from other belief systems. It does not preclude other religions from having truths and insights that we lack. But all human light and knowledge must be framed within the context of the Restored Gospel. So it isn’t really theosophy in that sense. All ideas are NOT of equal value.

  27. 27 markcares
    September 7, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Seth:
    “All human light and knowledge must be framed within the context of the Reformed Gospel.” What is the Reformed Gospel?

  28. September 7, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Oops. I meant “Restored.”


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