There has been a lot of “discussion” in the last couple of threads about individual statements and what they meant or what they didn’t mean. Instead of commenting on specifics, I’m going to take a more general view and propose one reason at least, that often makes communication between Mormons and Christians difficult. I cite that reason in the title: different premises complicate communication.
This is what I mean by that. It takes concerted effort to understand what a person means when they approach a topic from a completely different viewpoint – when they hold to a completely different premise. When a person does that I first have to listen very carefully so that I don’t interpret their statements in a way that is colored by my premises. And even after I have done, I need to consciously work on remembering that or else I will slip back into my default mode, namely, looking at it from my viewpoint, according to my premise. When I do that I will respond not to what the other person said but how I interpreted what they said through my filters. Every expert on communication talks about how difficult it is and one of the most difficult aspects of it is being a careful listener.
Here are just two examples of different premises.
1) Mormonism teaches that it has the fullness of the gospel – that its teachings do not contradict the Bible but expands biblical teaching. Therefore it is common to hear Mormons tell Christians that they can continue to believe the truths they already know while believing in the additional truths of Mormonism. A member of the LDS Church just told me that yesterday. A Christian’s premise, however, is one diametrically opposed to that. We don’t see Mormonism as complementing the Bible, but as contradicting it. One illustration commonly used to show that is the comparison between Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Nephi 25:23.
Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man boast.”
2 Nephi 25:23: “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”
A Christian sees no way that these two verses can be reconciled. And that is just one of many examples. But here’s the main point I want to make. Because of that, there is no way that the Christian can accept the foundational premise espoused by Mormonism, namely, that it is not a different gospel but rather the fullness of the gospel. This fact, however, often gets lost in the heat of discussions with the result that a lot of fruitless talking takes place over specifics – discussions that have no common ground on which to build and thus achieve little.
2) Another example of different premises is seen in the question asking why I have this blog? My premise for having this blog is not to debate or even to engage in dialogue with Mormons. Rather my premise for having this blog is to proclaim the wonderful truth that salvation is entirely God’s work for us. That premise is based on the passages that tell us how powerful God’s Word is – that the Holy Spirit works powerfully through that Word to bring people to faith. On top of that, over the years, I have seen wonderful examples of that. As I write this, I can picture numerous people who, when I first met them, were vehemently rejecting that truth – people who now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are tenaciously clinging to that truth. What caused the change? The simple proclamation of that truth.
My premise is that one of the most powerful things I can do is to continue to proclaim that truth. But persons who don’ share that premise, not only have a difficult time understanding it, but often become quite frustrated because of it.
I, for one, am going to recommit myself 1) to trying to listen carefully and understand where people are coming from and 2) trying to clearly state where I am coming from.