Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mormon-Christan Debate

There has been a lot of debate going on in the media and among my friends and family on Facebook about whether or nor Mormons are Christian.  Other than reposting a few good links, I have mostly kept my mouth shut because this is an old debate and it's pretty much all been said.  However, this morning I saw that my brother-in-law had written a note about his beliefs and a friend of a friend of his took the opportunity to "Bible Bash" him on the doctrine of salvation.  It has led me to write this note in hopes that we can let go of some of high emotion and negativity around this debate.

I should start by saying that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka "Mormon").  I consider myself to be a Christian.  I don't care what you consider me to be.  Salvation is a personal thing.  No one can get saved for me.  I have to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior on my own, and I have done so.  This stale argument that Mormons aren't Christians centers primarily around the tenet stated in the 3rd Article of Faith of my church: "We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

I make no apologies for this.  I believe that Christ clearly taught in the New Testament that he expected his followers to try to live a good life.  Mormons are not the only Christian religion who share in that belief.  And just so we are clear, what are these "laws and ordinances" mentioned here?

The "laws" of the gospel are found all over the Bible: the 10 Commandments are a good place to start.  But let's not forget Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Mormons also have a law of health that we strive to follow which includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs.  We are not the only church that believes God asks us to live these commandments.  He didn't call them the 10 Suggestions, after all.  Will we be perfect?  Of course not!  That's why we can't earn our salvation - it is by grace we are saved.  Only Christ can cleanse us of our sins.  But we believe that we show our devotion to Christ by striving and making a sincere effort to keep the commandments.

The "ordinances" of the gospel are basic things, like baptism.  To put it simply, an ordinance is a physical ceremony that demonstrates a personal commitment to Christ.  We believe that an ordinance must be performed by one who has the authority from God to perform it.  For example, you can't be baptized by just any old Tom, Dick, or Harry.  I believe that Christ stated baptism was necessary for salvation when He said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)  You may or may not share this belief.  I'm okay with that, and I respect it.

I'm not posting this note to encourage people to debate with me.  I already know how you feel and I've heard all the scriptures your going to use.  I read the Bible, too, you know.  King James Version, in fact.  The point of this is to address this question: "Why does it matter to you whether Mormons are Christian"?

If you are entering the debate because you are a conservative Christian and you are afraid of a "Mormon" such as Mitt Romney being President of the United States, then don't vote for him.  However, I would also ask you this: Wouldn't you like to have a president that prays, reads the scriptures, and loves Jesus?  Wouldn't you like to have a president that doesn't drink, cheat on his wife, and is honest?  Wouldn't you like to have a president that honors the family unit and has conservative values?  What's wrong with that?  You don't need to fear that he will use his position to try to pass "pro-Mormon" legislation.  Another one of our Articles of Faith states this: "We claim the privilege of worshipping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

If you are entering the debate because you are truly concerned for the welfare of all those "Mormon" souls out there, then I thank you.  Perhaps you are particularly concerned because someone you love has joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  But I would like to kindly remind you that conversion never happened through debate, only through the Holy Spirit.  Please stop treating us like we are Samaritans and trying to brow-beat us into submission.  It's not going to change my mind, and it's not very Christian-like behavior.  Christ loved the sinner and the Samaritan, remember?

Any person who has sincerely studied the LDS church will tell you that the Mormons are not a cult.  People join the church and then leave the church without huge repercussions.  I'm sure it happens all the time.  As a member, I am sad when it happens, but we believe very strongly in an individual's right to choose for themselves.  We call it "agency" or "free will".  We are not a group to be feared.  We are not seeking to control you or anyone you love.  We are an asset to your community.  We contribute to your society in a positive way.  This is true in the United States and all over the world where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reside.

If you disagree, that is your right.  If you have a question, I will answer it to the best of my ability.  But if you post a comment to this note bashing and criticizing my church or trying to tell me what I believe, then I also have the right to delete it.  I'm striving for a spirit of goodwill here, and I won't allow a negative debate to clutter up the comments.  I will not engage in your debate.  I've been there, done that and it's a useless exercise in futility.


Becky G said...

Very well said!

Becky said...

Well said! I don't understand why anyone would make this a political issue in the modern era and it bothers me that other churches are taking up (maybe instigating) this battle. Many sects believe quietly or not that only members of their sect will get to Heaven. They are entitled to this belief. But if Mitt isn't going to Heaven because he isn't a fill-in-the-blank, then why is that any different from the previous 40-something presidents who also don't adhere to that sect? Who gave them authority to decide which outside churches are legitimate and which are not? The hubris on display is stunning.