Is the LDS Church just another Christian Church

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March 13, 2011
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The following is my own opinion, but it is what one Mormon believes, so I think it can still be posted on this website.

We recently got a nice comment from a woman who used to be a member of our Church, but has since becoming involved in another, more mainstream Christian Church.  She wrote about her “new eyes and strong desire to help others come unto Christ [the same way that she has].”  It was really nice to read, actually. And I’m grateful that she commented because it gave me a chance to think about what she is advocating.  As a member of a church that proclaims to be the “only true and living church on the face of the earth” (D&C 1:30) it is sometimes hard to wrap my head around the fact that someone could leave this “fully true” church for a “partly true” church.  (Don’t get all offended, I’ll explain my labels).

There are at least two parts to our church:  the human part and the inspired part.  The human part is honestly just like any other Christian Church.  There are fellowship meetings, get-togethers, sermons by people who have some pet virtue they want to beat into the parishioners heads.  Sometimes the church is amazing in this realm.  Sometimes people reach out to new people and bring them into their warm circle of friends and fellowship.  Sometimes seven different people come up to you during the first 14 minutes of church when you are visiting just to introduce themselves (thank you, Abilene Texas 3rd ward!  You guys were awesome!).  Sometimes there are incredible choral programs for Christmas and Easter.  Sometimes someone’s sermon changes your life for good.  Sometimes you find your closest friends through the Home or Visiting Teaching programs.

And sometimes, honestly, the human parts stink.  People are flawed.  And they bring those flaws to the church–especially in the LDS Church where everything is run by the members–a lay clergy, volunteers in every single role from the tiniest nursery tots all the way to the High Priests Group nodding off in the back row.  So that means that every person’s flaws and weaknesses are somehow incorporated into the functioning Church body (as well as their good qualities, but that observation belongs in the paragraph above).  And so, for people like the woman I mentioned above, visiting a warm and welcoming  congregation, perhaps with a social following the service and all sorts of ancillary programs to sign up for, may seem like a shocking difference (especially if her LDS ward was the opposite of the Abilene Texas 3rd Ward).  And it might seem like that church is more true.  More full and lively.  And it probably is more full and lively.  As far as fellowship and sociality goes, the Mormons don’t claim to have a monopoly.  Other churches are simply outstanding at uplifting and professional sermons, providing like-minded friends, urging people to lead honest and moral lives.   I don’t think any Mormon would argue otherwise; and if the human part of our church were the only part, then the answer to my post title is Yes.  It is just another Christian Church.

But there is another part to the church: the inspired part.  And this is the part that separates it from the “partly true churches” that have great human components.  God the Father and Jesus Christ really did restore the Church of Jesus Christ back to the earth through Prophets.  The Prophet really does speak to deity.  That’s an important distinction.  The organization of the church below them with Apostles, Seventies, Elders and so on is truly inspired.  It works on a small scale and it works globally.  I don’t think that Joseph Smith could have come up with that one on his own. The temples are also inspired.  Probably the most important element of the inspired part–that which makes it the true church–is the performance of saving ordinances:  Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Sacrament, Temple Endowment, Temple Sealing.  These things are HUGE.  It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been to an LDS temple why they are so important, but it’s like having the map back to heaven, printed in your own language.  The temple is the point of having the Church back on the earth at all.  This is what makes the LDS Church the “only true and living church on the face of the earth.”

However, sometimes even members of the LDS Church miss this.  They see only the human parts and if they aren’t comparable to the other Christian Churches around their neighborhood  then it only makes sense to switch.  Being a member of the LDS church matters if those saving ordinances like baptism and temple ordinances are important to you.  They are important to me.  They give me security and increase my faith in Christ.  I know that He will do what He has promised to do because I’ve covenanted with Him to follow Him and He is always true to His covenants.  Those ordinances mean that I have a constant companion all the time: the Holy Ghost.  He leads me, comforts me and corrects me.  My temple marriage means the world to me because my little family means the world to me: if my road cycling husband were killed in an accident, I have God’s promise that we will be together again in the next life.  And I trust that.  I won’t even start to imagine losing one of my cherubic children because its too painful to contemplate, but we will be together for eternity too.  And when I die, because of what I have learned in the temple and covenanted to do, I have full confidence that I’ll be privileged to meet my Savior.  That is so important to me.

Way more important than how successful the ward party was and if today’s sermon wasn’t given as tactfully as I would have liked it. But that is my preference.  Everyone is entitled to their own priorities and I won’t condemn you for yours if you don’t condemn me for mine.

 

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56 Responses to “Is the LDS Church just another Christian Church”

  1. Patty

    Ivan,
    Sorry it has taken a while for me to get back to you.  The blog I listed above where my story was posted was taken down by the author because she had to take care of some unforeseen health issues w/ her family. I’m not sure why it says that thing about an invitation…maybe a blogspot thing. I decided to repost it at http://robeofrighteousness.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-lds-resume-i-was-raised-in-wonderful.html

  2. Thaddeus

    Patty,

    I assumed you might represent the more mainstream doctrines, or those espoused by Mormon authorities.
    Settle down. I haven’t started a schism. When I said “popular Mormon teaching on repentance could use some help” I was referring to ‘popular’ teaching, as in the ‘peoples’ teaching. Bad analogies, questionable stories, and dim understandings of doctrine can propagate quickly in a lay clergy environment. The leadership of a living prophet is the Church’s strongest bulwark against such entropy and they do an exceptional job at teaching repentance (please view Elder Christofferson’s most recent conference sermon).

    When exactly is repentance ever complete given these standards?
    “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
    “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins―behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:42-43).
    That you have no more weeds growing in your garden is the indicator that you’ve done your weeding well.
    But then comes the question, “when is a gardener ever done weeding?” There will always be weeds blowing in on the wind or silently crawling under the fence. Weeding a garden one time really thoroughly doesn’t afterward excuse the gardener from his duties. And weeding is not even nearly his main goal. He wants to raise good, productive plants. It takes willingness, devotion, and discipline to be a successful gardener.
    How does all of this agriculture relate to repentance? Read this excellent conference sermon from Elder Bruce C. Hafen to find out.

    Will He allow a person who has failed to complete repentance into His kingdom?
    As I’ve explained before, perfection (even perfection in repenting) is not the rubric for salvation. The penitent will be saved (Alma 42:24). Christ explained that spiritual gifts are given “for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (D&C 46:8-9).
    Alma doesn’t dwell on the number or type of unrepented sins, but emphasizes that salvation is meted out according to the hardness (or softness) of one’s heart (Alma 12).
    Jesus’s teachings went a lot further among the publicans and adulterers than it did among the elite Jewish leaders. The lowly class received His message because they showed a greater willingness to admit their wrongs and turn away from their sins, despite having more sins to account for.

    The atonement ended the strictness of the Law of Moses and replaced it with something else. Patty, you seem to believe Mormonism replaced it with an equally strict law of repentance. This is not so. Here is how the Lord described the transition:
    “ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:19-20).

  3. Patty

    Thaddeus,
     
    “The atonement ended the strictness of the Law of Moses”
    “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” ~Matt 5:17
     
    God’s law is holy.  He is holy and pure.  In Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5).  We can not simply lower God’s standard for sin in order to accommodate our shortcomings.  We also can not overlook the seriousness of sin either.
     
    “And weeding is not even nearly his main goal. He wants to raise good, productive plants.” Does a good crop then justify small weeds?
     
    Speaking of gardens, look at Jesus standard for a garden: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. ” ~Matt 7:18-19
    You can’t have a mixed garden. It’s either good or corrupt. So if a person ever has “evil fruit” (sin), what kind of tree are they?
     
    “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:20
     
    “For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” ~James 2:10
    God is so holy and right and pure that nothing less than a weedless garden or perfect obedience to the law of God is of any significance whatsoever.  That means the small omitted facts, the inappropriate thoughts for someone you are not married to, or the least bit of irritation toward your neighbor, or any sin for that matter – it makes no difference.
    “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
    That means quiting the bad stuff is only half the battle; you must be doing all good as well.
    Sin is not falling short of our mark, but rather His mark.
     
    “Be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” ~Matt 5:48.
    Any attempt to lower the mark to accommodate for our own shortcomings is to deprecate and devalue the very God who defines that mark, disgracing the Father.
     
    Some will object and say, impossible… this standard is too high.  There has to be room for compromise, or accommodation (a good crop or at least a willing heart perhaps)… No! Never ever! Only when we start to understand what is the unfathomable awesomeness of true moral perfection can we begin get a glimpse of the God of Israel as He truly is.
     
    Therefore, if the standard really is perfection (according to Jesus’), what is your plan to make yourself right with a holy God?  One in whom is no darkness and in whose presence upright prophets have cowered in self abandon; like Isaiah who said, “Woe is me! For I am undone!  I am a man of unclean lips” when he beheld the Lord?  (Isaiah 6:5)
     
    In all sincerity, this is the one question I pray you will answer: How do you plan to make yourself acceptable before before Him who measures all of creation w/ the span of His hand and at whose name every knee will bow?

  4. Thaddeus

    Patty, I think you might have forgotten what we were talking about here!

    There are two paths to the Kingdom of Heaven:
    1) Live a perfect life without breaking any divine law (not a live option for anyone who isn’t Jesus).
    2) Rely on the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

    We’ve been debating what (if anything) is required to receive the salvation in option #2. You seemed to be advocating the view that nothing is required of us: salvation is wholly the purview of the Lord without input from those being saved. I showed that Jesus does expect us to maintain our personal responsibility (revisit my comment on the parable of the unforgiving servant) by putting faith in him, repenting, receiving the ordinances that the Lord has instituted for us, and continuing to endure with a penitent, willing, and unhardened heart.

    Your most recent comment had me confused. You seemed to be arguing either that absolute obedience is the standard for option #1 (which is something we agree on already) or that reliance on the power of the atonement (option #2) requires absolute obedience (which goes against what you were arguing earlier).

    I’ll need some clarification on your position before I can respond.

  5. Patty

    Thaddeus,
    forgot what we are talking about – LOL.
     
    I am honestly thrilled that you and I agree on the 2 paths!
     
    Let me try to clarify what may seem to you as a position change. Realizing I wasn’t getting through when I was going on and on about point #2 and how it pertains to obedience to the laws and ordinances in connection w/ grace and righteousness from a Christian perspective, I changed the focus.  Then, I began asking questions about Mormon verses, hoping you can see what I’m trying to get at by looking at it from a different angel.
     
    In the last post,  I was hoping to stress something so crucial before we continued talking about having a good garden crop albeit a few weeds (sins).  That is: how high and holy and pure the Lord God Almighty is.  How unfathomable is His majesty and perfect are His ways.  Righteous men shook in fear when given a vision of Him.  When we look at Isaiah of all people, and what he wrote, yet it was he who had, of all things, unclean lips!  John, who fell down as if dead (fear); Ezekiel and Daniel both fall face down, on the ground trembling.  They all became acutely aware of their own corruption when in His presence and fell hiding their faces with the ground.  These are all His prophets too!  We can exaggerate about most things, but the one thing we can not exaggerate about is God’s majesty.
     
    It is vital we get some glimpse of God’s glory when we talk about sin.  Disobedience (in your 2 points) is sin.  We can’t justify sin by making sin seem not that bad by looking at all the good we do in comparison. The goal is righteousness and weeds/sin=unrighteousness.  I can tolerate some weeds in my garden, but what is God’s standard?  Can He tolerate weeds?
     
    1. What are the consequences of weeds/sin as it pertains to your eternal life?  I would really appreciate a simple straight forward answer to this critical question.  (Romans 6:23; 1 Corin 6:9)
     
    2. Is a Mormon required to be obedient in order to “rely on the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ?”

  6. Thaddeus

    I fully agree that God’s majesty is great and his standard of righteousness is unyielding:
    “For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence. But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance” (Alma 12:14-15).

    We can’t justify sin by making sin seem not that bad by looking at all the good we do in comparison.
    Right on, Patty! My point was that God’s work isn’t just to make us weed-free. He needs us to be weed-free in order to accomplish His true goal: to bring to pass our eternal life. Read Elder Hafen’s sermon I linked to last time. You’ll see what I mean.

    1. What are the consequences of weeds/sin as it pertains to your eternal life?
    Sin prevents us from partaking in eternal life.

    2. Is a Mormon required to be obedient in order to “rely on the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ?”
    Mormons (and all people) only have hope of salvation through the atoning power of Jesus. He has established a straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) we must choose to travel upon and we must choose to stay on in order to receive His gift of grace. The gate to the path is baptism. Obedience is a necessary principle to remaining on the path. If we choose to leave the path through disobedience (sin) we are prevented from progressing on our journey. We should then choose to get back on it (commit ourselves to obedience again). This is the role of repentance.

    I should mention, though, that it isn’t simply a matter of choosing to get back on whenever we fancy. Our hearts must be softened or we risk not being readmitted.

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