Mormonism often defines words differently than everybody else.  I gave an example of that in my blog of October 24th, where I talked about the unique definition Mormonism gives faith.  There I asked on what basis can Mormonism add works to the definition of faith when I found no dictionary or other non-LDS source doing that.  The comments went in a different direction, therefore nobody answered my question.

     Therefore I am asking it again, yes in regard to the specific definition of faith (see my post on Oct. 24th) but also more generally.  Here are my questions:

            1) What right does Mormonism have to define words differently from everybody else?  Does it claim Joseph Smith or subsequent LDS prophets received revelations stating that the common definition was incorrect and then furnishing them with a new definition?

            2) Do most Mormons even know that many of their definitions differ from common definitions?

            3) If Mormons know the difference in definitions, don’t they have the responsibility to alert non-Mormons to those differences in order to aid in clearer communication?  I see Christians making this point but I rarely have had Mormons make this point.  (A side point to any Mormons reading this post:  if you want to understand Christians better please realize that this is one of the reasons why some Christians say Mormons are being deliberately deceptive.  Many Christians feel deliberately deceived when Mormons, without explaining these differences, use words like faith but with a different definition.)

     I would really like more discussion on the definition of faith so I hesitate to give another example.   But I will.  Take the word “damnation”.  Most people would not think that people in heaven would be suffering damnation.  But that is what Mormonism teaches.  “All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges and hence be damned to that extent.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)  As I understand Mormonism, that will apply to the vast majority of people in heaven.  But I don’t think that is what most non-Mormons would think of when they think about the damned.  Where else, outside of Mormonism, is damnation a term used to describe people in heaven?

4 Responses to “defintions”

  1. November 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Mormons do believe that there has been a restoration through a modern prophet. Additional scriptures have come from this, in addition to what we believe to be restored doctrines.

    When it comes to faith, I will include this link to a long list of scriptures. Many of these will come from the Bible, but about half will be from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenents.

    So the ‘right’ comes from our believe in additional scripture and modern revelation. The ‘right’ associated with a restoration of priesthood authority.

    Yes, most Mormons know that we are a unique religion with beliefs that some will find peculiar. We even call ourselves peculiar people.

    Yes, we try to share our beliefs with others all the time. We try and do a good job of it, but we often come up way short.

    Part of the problem is the over-the-top interpretations (and definitions) that many tradition Christians put on things as well.

  2. November 7, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Keep in mind that most Mormons don’t take much time to really think about what an Evangelical considers “heaven” to be.

    Most of my Mormon acquaintances consider “heaven” and the “Celestial Kingdom” to be the same thing. Very few of them really think about the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms in association with that word. If you point it out to them, it’s like “oh yeah, I guess those places are technically heaven too.” But it’s not a connection they always naturally make.

    So the issue isn’t really the word “damnation” so much as it is the word “heaven.”

    American Protestants may ask why is this the case.

    I’d answer – because your ancestors killed and drove our ancestors out of the rest of the United States. We ended up stuck in our own ethnic enclave for about 100 years. We’ve only just started breaking out of it. You tend to develop your own culture, assumptions, and lingo in that kind of isolation. It’s just an ethnic thing really. Kind of like how the same words mean one thing in the US and another thing in England.

  3. November 9, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    God is the source of all truth and good. We must look to Him to define the truth; not tradition or the understanding of men.

    When it comes to faith the definition is in the Bible. Read all of James chapter 2 (“I will shew thee my faith by my works”).

    Then read Matt 7:21 – “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    And then Eph. 2: 8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”

    How do you put all of these verses together?

    We believe faith implies action, otherwise it’s dead. So we have faith in Christ by actually following His teachings. This is taught throughout the Bible, and confirmed by modern day prophets.

    So it all comes to back to knowing through the Spirit of Truth that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and revealed true scripture.

  4. 4 Susan
    November 10, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I want to start off by saying that the persecution perpetrated toward the Mormon Church over the last 150 plus years is an atrocity. And please don’t offer any defence by saying that Mormons did their share of percecution as well. As I have poured over the history of the Mormon Church, it grieves me to see the violence against them in reaction to fear (fear of false teaching, fear of loss of territory or power, etc.). We are to only fear God. And there is nothing in the witness of Christ or the early Church in the New Testament that would justify such actions. I am truly sorry for these things.

    Along those lines, I agree with Seth’s statement that there is a cultural barrior in communication between the LDS community and Biblical Christians. It is my honest opionion that the majority of Mormons are not trying to deceive us by the terms that they use. I agree that many do not understand the difference in meanings between the two faiths….and it is VERY difficult to clearly communicate these differences (as I have said, I’ve been amazed when my many attempts have been unsuccessful when talking with Mormon friends or missionaries). You can’t go into another culture and expect them to think as you do…..many missions have failed because they neglected to take this seriously. So it is going to take patience, perseverence, and above all things, the love of Christ, to bridge this divide. We are going to have to do as the Apostle Paul and learn to be all things to all people in order to win some to faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). This obviously does not mean changing our beliefs. It means being students of the world around us, learning how they think, what they value, how they respond to the world around them…and then seek God’s wisdom in using that understanding to explain the Gospel in a way that they can understand. You don’t change the Gospel, you change the language that you use to communicate the Gospel.

    Ok, now I’m going to try to respond to the question about faith. To be honest, I think that the true definition is somewhere in the middle between the LDS and Biblical Christian definition. I am drawing my information from some resources that I find EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL….The Complete Jewish Bible and The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern. These resources have helped me tremendously in a variety of areas, including the relationship between the Old and New Covenant, the relationship between Messianic Jews and Gentile Believers (Christians), faith vs. works, the salvation of Israel as a nation, etc. I highly recommend it…and I’m not getting any kickback for saying that.

    Anyway, I don’t believe that it is entirely accurate to separate the idea of belief and action. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, belief and action went hand in hand. If you said that you trusted in something (had faith in it) then your life revolved around that trust. The idea that someone could have put their trust in Christ and not lived a life of obendience to him was absurd (1 John 2:4). It is equally absurd today. If someone truly has faith in Christ they will obey him. If they continue to live as they did before, without any evidence of transformation, then we can be pretty certain that they had no trust/faith to begin with and we better go back and see if they understood what they heard. Now, this transformation is unique to each individual. God knows us….he knows where we were when He found us…He knows all of our baggage and everything that needs to be burned away (refined) in us. So we can’t expect this transformation to fit some specific criteria that can be measured outwardly. God doesn’t judge by outward appearances, he judges by the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

    There are two ways that we are made “righteous” by God. The first is through our faith in the message of the Gospel. When we believe with all of our heart that we are utterly helpless to make ourselves acceptable before a Holy God, and that our only hope is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. When we agree that the punishment He suffered on that cross was our punishment. We were crucified with Christ, and we are raised to a New Life through Him in His resurrection. Now we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. At the moment our hearts commit to that Truth, we are GIVEN “Forensic Righteousness”. We are immediately regarded as righteous by God and have been given Eternal Life…which includes the immediate gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (sealing us to Him, as a deposit of what is to come in eternity, 2 Corinthians 1:22), and the eternal gift of being adopted into God’s family….to dwell in His presence for all eternity. The evidence of this transformation is the resulting “behavioral righteousness”, actually doing what is right, obedience to Christ and His teaching. This is a process within the Believer to die to self (the old nature that was put to death on the cross) and live by the Spirit of God within us. I believe that our growth in this area depends on our willingness to contantly make that choice….”I am not going to feed my dead, sinful nature, but I am going to starve that nature and give my full cooperation to the work that the Holy Spirit desires to do within me. To do the good works that we was created (made new) in Christ Jesus to do, through the power that God provides (Ephesians 2:10) Not in an outward, legalistic manner, like, “Ok God, I’m going to do what you want me to do….obey this list of things, and then you will be obligated to do these things for me.” But out of a sincere heart, out of our love for Him and our gratefulness for what He has given us….Eternal Life. And only God knows where our motivation is coming from (is it through the power of the Sprit or our own selfish efforts).

    I think the major distinction that is lacking in most debate between Mormons and Biblical Christians is this: our heart motivated obedience – motivated by our love and devotion to Christ and our willingness to cooperate with His Spirit within us – results in our storing up treasures in Heaven. As a Believer we already know that we have been promised Eternal Life…we will dwell with our Heavenly Father in Heaven (or Celestial Kingdom, whatever you want to call it). But the Scriptures are clear that our trusting faithfulness to Him during this life on earth will be rewarded in eternity. Christ tells us to store up our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). The Apostle Paul speaks of pressing on toward the goal, to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus ((Phillipians 3:14). The Bible also is clear that anything we try to build on the foundation of the Gospel that stems from worldly beliefs (false doctrine) or ambitions, will be tested and burned away. But whatever withstands the fire (the testing of authenticity) will be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). We will not lose our gift of Eternal Life, but we also will not receive eternal reward for those things. And we will grieve that loss, because we will realize that our motives were not pure in those things (1 Corinthians 3:15). We don’t achieve any level of righteousness before God for our obedience, because the only righteousness that can stand before Him is Christ’s….we cannot add anything to perfection. And we are clothed in that perfection when we trust wholeheartedly in the message of the Gospel. But our God is a good and just God, and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We do not know what those rewards will be, but we do know they will be worth more than anything this life has to offer, and they cannot be destroyed.

    I hope that this has been helpful to someone out there. God bless you.

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November 2008

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