Whenever there is interaction between people, there exists the real possibility of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.  Communication is difficult.  It’s difficult, at times, to express ourselves clearly.  It’s even more difficult to listen carefully.  Good listeners are few and far between.

     The importance of good communication is paramount when people of different faiths interact.  Such interactions demand clear speaking and careful listening.   Naturally, because of the nature of this blog, I am here mainly thinking of communication between Mormons and non-Mormons.  I would like to outline some of the issues that have made this difficult for me.

      1.  Who do I listen to when I want to get a true picture of Mormonism?  Do I restrict myself to its scriptures – do I include the words of the living prophet seeing that often they are also labeled as scripture – do I also look at the official church manuals as more than one LDS leader has encouraged me to do?  Or do I listen to what individual Mormons tell me?  And what do I do when they either contradict each other or some official sources? 

     Permit me one small recent example.  It is my experience that LDS sources are quite consistent in defining eternal life as equal to exaltation, life in the celestial kingdom.  More than one source goes out of its way to make it distinct from immortality.  As I said, this seems to be quite consistent.  Therefore I think it is only right for me to observe that distinction when talking to Mormons.  But recently that distinction was ignored by a Mormon and I was told I was misrepresenting Mormonism.  When that happens, that brings to mind a couple of questions:  Who should I be listening to understand what Mormonism teaches about eternal life?  And how can I get the conversation on track again when discrepancies like this arise?  In other words, suddenly the discussion revolves around the definition of a phrase, rather than the original topic.

     I hasten to add, that Mormons face the same problem when talking to Christians.  They too probably end up scratching their heads on who to listen to.  This is my two-cents worth of advice to Mormons.  If you want to know what a certain denomination of Baptists, or Lutherans, or others believe, look at what they have stated officially.  I will be the first to admit that many Christians don’t accurately represent all the beliefs of their churches.  Yes, if I want to know what an individual person believes, whether Mormon or Christian, I need to listen to him or her.  But I think it is also proper to point out to people where their beliefs differ from those held by their church. 

     2.  My second problem is when people don’t listen and, at the very least, seem to be intentionally misrepresenting the position of others.  Again, I will be the first to admit that this is something I have seen Christians doing with Mormonism.  But I have also seen it go the other way.  The one that I find irritating is when Mormons say that Christians think that because salvation is free, they can run amuck and sin all they want.  I know of no Christian church that teaches that.  I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain that, when it comes to being saved- being justified – works have no place.  In that context, the Bible and Christianity teach that works are deadly.  The only works that apply there are the works of Christ for us.  But the Bible and Christianity also teaches that, as a result of being saved, as a fruit of faith, Christians will do good works. 

         I have made that point repeatedly in this blog.  But I still have Mormons misrepresenting what I and others Christians believe.  At the very least, that doesn’t aid in communication.

     I will try my best to avoid misrepresenting the teachings of any church.  All I ask is that you do the same.

27 Responses to “Misrepresentation”

  1. November 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you Mark for a kind and corrective post. I stand behind your point 100%.

  2. 2 Echo
    November 11, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you Mark for suggesting ways in which we all can communicate better with one another. Great thoughts!

  3. November 12, 2009 at 5:05 pm


    Good points you have made!

    It is discouraging and frustrating at times when the communication is poor when speaking to people of different faiths. It takes a great deal of patience and like you said listening is so important. Also, I think email or internet forums are one of the worst ways to communicate — it’s so easy to misunderstand the “tone” of what is being expressed.

    I would much rather talk to someone over a cup of coffee than on the net any day. :)

    God bless & keep on keepin on!


  4. November 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Mark, I’m aware that you do not preach “Jesus saves – do whatever you want!”

    You advocate for good works as well – I’m quite sure.

    But if you do, you do so in spite of your theology, not because of it.

    Your theology attempts to remove the human element from the universe entirely. Honestly, under your theology there is really no point to even having human beings in the universe at all.

    “Do what you want – Jesus saves” is simply a logical reaction to what Calvinism says. If people within the Calvinist tradition still push for good works, they’re doing it under a different theological framework than what Calvinism provides.

  5. 5 RLO
    November 12, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    gloria: “I would much rather talk to someone over a cup of coffee than on the net any day. :)”

    I’ll second that thought. Being twice retired now, I hang out a couple mornings a week at a local coffee shop, reading my bible and drinking a cup, or two, or three… It’s amazing how often strangers come up and want to talk to me about what I’m reading. My small group bible study members jokingly refer to it as my “Starbucks Ministry.”

    I would agree with what you say about communicating on internet forums. Coupled with your observations are the fact that many people often “speak” differently from behind the anonymity of the internet. It’s regrettable when that anonymity tempts people to be less respectful than they would otherwise be in a face-to-face conversation.

    For me it’s a little easier to watch my tone here on Mark’s site. You see, I know a couple of the people who are posting here, and I’ve asked both of them to “rip into me” if I step out of line and say something that’s inappropriate. (hey, I’m human, and in a heated moment, it could happen…) Knowing I’m not really so anonymous is an additional reminder to me, something that helps me discipline myself in how I express my thoughts. I haven’t had too many wounds to lick as of yet, so I guess it must be working pretty well. And actually, it’s kinda nice, having a couple of “heavy weights” in the faith looking over my shoulder.

  6. November 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Knowing I’m not anonymous never seemed to stop me.

  7. 7 faithoffathers
    November 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm


    Dito- it makes me crazy when non-LDS say we believe we are saved BY our works. Statements can certainly be found that can be interpreted that way if a person doesn’t understand our theology or the context of the statement. But such is absolutely not our doctrine. Works are necessary, but they do not do the saving.


  8. 8 Echo
    November 12, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    FOF said: “Works are necessary, but they do not do the saving.”

    What do you mean by “saving”? How are you saved?

  9. 9 Echo
    November 12, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    What are you saved from?

  10. 10 faithoffathers
    November 13, 2009 at 3:03 am


    Christ saves us from sin and death. He meets the demands of justice for those who repent and accept Him. They are saved from spiritual death and the unyielding penalty of broken law. And He saves all people from death.


  11. 11 Echo
    November 13, 2009 at 4:01 am

    How does Christ save you from sin?
    What are the demands of justice?
    Unyielding penalty of broken law?
    If he saves all people, what is spiritual death?

  12. 12 faithoffathers
    November 13, 2009 at 10:12 am


    Christ saves me from sin by paying the penalty for those sins and extending mercy to me as I follow Him.

    The demands of justice are eternal torment and spiritual death which is separation from God.

    Unyielding….. The law must be met. Christ met those conditions for me IF I repent.

    Christ saves those from sin who repent and follow Him- it is a conditional salvation. Resurrection is not conditional- it is given to every person. “As in Adam all fall, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”


  13. November 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    “Do what you want – Jesus saves” is simply a logical reaction to what Calvinism says only if you misrepresent what Calvin, Reformed theologians, and the historic Reformed confessions actually say.

  14. November 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I know that people like to SAY they object to all this.

    I don’t buy their explanations.

  15. November 13, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I am not SAYING I object. I was not trying to explain anything. I was only saying that you are wrong. You may disagree with Reformed theology, fine, but to claim that Calvin tries to remove the human element is factually an error. He may explain the human relationship with the divine in a way you disagree with, but to claim that Calvin removes humanity from his theology does not get past the first sentence of Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 1 of the Institutes “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

    The Calvinist, more properly the Reformed catholic, tradition has a clear place for good works and the law inside its theological framework. Both are addressed in any number of confessions, catechisms and systematic theologies and to claim otherwise is a factual error. You are free to object to the truth of this teaching but to claim that this teaching does not exist and that another theological framework is required misses the mark.

    I appreciate that Calvin is the theological boogeyman for Mormons. I understand that his emphasis on the absolute sovereignty of God and complementary nature of human free will demands that we accept a certain amount of mystery and runs contra to the Mormon philosophy. I recognize that the Reformed Augustinian view of the fall and emphasis on God’s requirement of perfect obedience goes against Mormons anthropology. I know that Reformed soteriology and our faith in the work of and union with Christ being sufficient for salvation is opposed by your view of cooperation in salvation. I accept that Reformed teaching on the inability to perform good works without regeneration and the acceptance of our good works in Christ is not satisfying to the Mormon. I realize that Calvin’s three uses of the Law, pedagogical, civil, and didactic is foreign to the LDS. Despite all of these and many other disagreements we have in theology for you to claim the good works are not part of Calvin’s theology is akin to me saying that grace is not part of Mormon theology.

    Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (I, i, 1)

  16. 16 Echo
    November 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    FOF said:

    “Christ saves me from sin by paying the penalty for those sins and extending mercy to me as I follow Him…unyielding….. The law must be met. Christ met those conditions for me IF I repent.”


    “If you repent” meaning you are forgiven for each of your sins as you overcome those sins, correct?

  17. November 14, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Repenting is not “overcoming” sin by yourself Echo.

  18. 18 Echo
    November 14, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Whether by yourself or not, you are forgiven for each of your sins as you overcome those sins, correct?

  19. November 14, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Repenting is not overcoming sin by yourself Echo.

  20. 20 Echo
    November 14, 2009 at 4:39 am

    With God’s help you overcome sin and then you are forgiven, correct?

  21. November 14, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Certainly you’d have to admit God is capable of it, correct?

  22. 22 Echo
    November 14, 2009 at 7:36 am

    I wasn’t wanting to focus on whether or not God is capable. I would like to focus on forgiveness.

    With God’s help you overcome a sin, you then are forgiven for that sin. Correct?

  23. 24 Echo
    November 14, 2009 at 9:31 am

    The LDS has this view:

    FOF said: “it makes me crazy when non-LDS say we believe we are saved BY our works. Statements can certainly be found that can be interpreted that way if a person doesn’t understand our theology or the context of the statement. But such is absolutely not our doctrine. Works are necessary, but they do not do the saving.”

    We have this view:

    The LDS are saved by their works.


    Okay, so let’s try and clear up where I think the miscommunication comes between the LDS and NON LDS. I think clearing up the miscommunication will hopefully enable better communication.

    We believe and say that the LDS is saved by their works. What that means is that we believe that any person who must first overcome their sin in order to be forgiven (as you have stated the LDS believes)is “working” for their forgiveness. That is defined as: “salvation by works” in our view. This is why we say that the LDS is saved by their “works”. This is what it means to us to be saved by works.

    The LDS has a different view of what it means to be saved by works than we do and I think this is what is causing the miscommunication.

  24. 25 JesusLover
    November 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Good post, Mark.
    For the most part I would like to see no Christian denominations speak to what they believe – we are comparing the biblical view of Christ vs the Mormon view of Christ etc here and I think that we should stick with the bible only, as we can certainly prove our faith with that alone. No offense meant to you, Gundeck – I just think adding in any “man’s” views of God takes us off track and opens the door to “opinion” rather than biblical fact. Not that I disagree with you on anything you say – just that I think for Mormons hearing the pure word of God will have a greater effect.
    Hope I haven’t offended…

  25. 26 Randy powers
    November 17, 2009 at 4:13 am

    EPH 2 1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
    3 all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
    4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    God Bless,

  26. 27 lrwhitney
    November 30, 2009 at 4:51 am

    I just posted an online blogsture about that more or less. Mormons are not very discerning even where their own doctrine is concerned when it comes to notions like “salvation,” or the entire concept of not being able to tell people they won’t burn in hell if they don’t sign up right away. It’s too lengthy to go over here, but it was refreshing to hear somebody express the same impressions I’ve had, even though I’m happy to confess I’m LDS. Maybe not a “Mormon,” certainly not Utah product, but LDS.


    You can browse that if you like. I got a laugh out of it.

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