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US MEMBERSHIP CHURCH RANKING: Largest 25 Churches  
Denomination Name Current Ranking (Ranking in 2007 ed.) Inclusive Membership Percentage Increase/Decrease
The Catholic Church 1(1)             67,515,016 0.87%
Southern Baptist Convention 2(2)             16,306,246 0.22%
The United Methodist Church 3(3)                7,995,456 -0.99%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 4(4)                5,779,316 1.56%
The Church of God in Christ 5(5)                5,499,875 0.00%
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. 6(6)                5,000,000 0.00%
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 7(7)                4,774,203 -1.58%
National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. 8(8)                3,500,000 0.00%
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 9(9)                3,025,740 -2.36%
Assemblies of God 10(10)                2,836,174 0.19%
African Methodist Episcopal Church 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 11(11)                2,500,000 0.00%
The Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod (LCMS) 14(14)                2,417,997 -0.94%
Episcopal Church 15(15)                2,154,572 -4.15%
Churches of Christ 16(16)                1,639,495 0.00%
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 17(17)                1,500,000 0.00%
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. 17(17)                1,500,000 0.00%
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 19(19)                1,443,405 0.21%
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. 20(20)                1,371,278 -1.82%
United Church of Christ 21(21)                1,218,541 -0.47%
Baptist Bible Fellowship International 22(22)                1,200,000 0.00%
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ 23(23)                1,071,616 0.00%
The Orthodox Church in America 24(24)                1,064,000 0.00%
Jehovah’s Witnesses 25(25)                1,069,530 2.25%
TOTAL       147,382,460 0.24%
Percentage changes in italic/bold signify that membership was not updated from previous reported

(This is taken from a report from the National Council of Churches. Just think if Joseph Smith was looking for a church today!)

P.S. It was brought to my attention that the column on the far left that contains percentage of increase or decrease in conversions isn’t showing up.  I reccomend clicking on this link: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/080215yearbook1.html to view a more indepth study online.

Jehovah’s Witnesses had the best conversion rate last year with 2.25% and LDS had the next with 1.56%.

Episcopal Church had the worst with a -4.15% drop and Presbyterian Church was next with over -2%.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints boldy declares itself as the only true and living church.  Furthermore, Joseph Smith boldly states that God the Father and Jesus Christ declared that the christian churches only had a portion of the truth and that he should join none of them.  Therefore, The Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) declares that it’s baptism and confirmation is the only valid one in order to receive exhaltation. 

Obviously, a member of the LDS church isn’t following their religion if they judge someone for joining another religion as it states in the Articles of Faith to let everyone worship whatever or whoever they want to

However, in this article it discusses the droves of people that join other churches and many other churches and faiths claim the Holy Spirit told them to start their specific denomonation or join their religion. 

As stated in Bruce Nielson’s blog, some may argue about the definition of what a “church” really is.  However, I think whether a church is a congregation, or an actual building it is irrelevant.

I believe that God answers prayers of people of all faiths and leads them closer to Him if they ask in faith.  However, if they are recieving answers to their prayers and feel led by God to join a certain faith, how is it that God can lead someone to something that he told Joseph Smith was wrong? 

My theory is that God loves all truth no matter where it is and will lead all of us according to what we are willing to receive and that God has revealed much truth in forms of religion, science, and other means as well.  I also believe He has much more to reveal as soon as we are ready to receive it.  What are your thoughts?

In a recent post, entitled “Making our Hearts a Manger,” one of my friends, Brad Trnavsky, shared an interesting insight.  He commented that “when we were children all of our hearts were like that (a place for the Savior)… As you get older it’s harder to see past our own bias and prejudice.”  Later that day when I was speaking with him he further shared insight on how his own daughter has no biases and that she “would share her lollipop with anyone.” 

In the Bible, Paul shares a similar insight in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “when I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…now we see through a glass, darkly…”

I thought about my life and how various experiences have led me to “see through dark glass,” as Paul describes.  I then asked myelf what “childish things” have I put away?  I don’t remember a whole lot about myself as a child and my perspective is different than someone from the outside looking in.  I wanted to get some insight on how I was as a child and thought my parents would be the best people to consult.  I emailed them and here is the feedback I received from my father:

As a very young child, you were pretty inquisitive. You were always getting in to things, and making messes in the process. I remember that one time you got into the diaper pail and had dirty diapers scattered all over the house. You were just sitting in the middle of it all having a blast. You were always asking questions. If we went to the movies, you were quite a pain to have there because we couldn’t watch a movie for you asking questions. We’d always say, “Just watch the movie and listen and you’ll find the answer. You were also pretty tender hearted, and felt bad for things that were hurt. You loved us to read books to you. It didn’t matter what kind of books they were. You were also reading by the time you went to kindergarten. One thing that you loved was horses. You would always just make your way over the their corral and just watch them. You loved to ride them. Another thing that you liked was being outdoors. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you wanted to be out. We put the fence up in the back for that purpose. If I was mowing the lawn, or driving the tractor, you had to be on their riding with me. We mowed lots of grass together, and cleaned lots of stalls riding on the tractor together…One thing that you really didn’t like was contention…Your were also very bright and loved to watch the stars, and play with the cats that we had. The main thing I remember about you during those years and beyond was you felt responsible to be a good example and to try to be a problem solver…”

As I read this, it brought back memories and humbled me.  First, I thought of how inquisitive children are and as a child I wasn’t scared or inhibited in searching for new knowledge no matter where it was.  In the early years learning and growing are all children are doing and the world is like water and kids are like sponges soaking it all in.  I asked myself how do I view the world today?  Am I still searching for knowledge and learning and growing or do I think I have it all figured out.  Worse, have I allowed the “dark glass” of prejudice or things other people have said or done to me to hinder me from progressing?  As a child, I wanted to learn, grow, and find answers.  I didn’t care what people thought even if it was in a movie theater! 

Next, being tender hearted is a good quality of most children.  How am I doing in that category now?  Do I know how my friends and family are doing/feeling?  Do I care about their needs above my own or am I too wrapped up in my work or what I think is important to me to stop and make a phone call, or pause while my wife or friends are talking to me in the middle of doing something, etc.?  How about the people I help at church?  Do I really care about how they’re doing?  What about the world?  Do I pray for and care about people in other nations or communities that do not have as much as I do or am I too busy with other things? 

I’ll have to admit I love the smell of fresh grass to this day and perhaps the reason is because of the many rides my father and I took on the lawn mower.  Something I’ve also learned from my mother is to appreciate nature.  She’ll call me and tell me about a neat view of Mt Rainier or when a full moon is out or she sees a blue heron flying (this is her favorite bird).  Children are the same way as I was as a kid.  They appreciate and love playing outside.  They love God’s creations as I loved horses, cats, and the outdoors.  I feel maintaining this simple awe for nature and respect is a very important characteristic to maintain in order to fully appreciate God. 

Finally, my father says as a kid I wanted to be a problem solver.  Being the oldest, I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility.  I ask myself this question now.  If something is wrong do I take initiative to fix the problem or do I wait for someone else to fix it? 

This excersize was very good for me because it allowed me to reflect and remember that I am essentially still a child and don’t know as much as I usually think I do.  Even though I’m older, I’m still a child learning and growing.  The more I remember this and internalize this, the better off I’ll be.

In addition to these practical implications, the Savior shares spiritual and eternal implications of being as a child.  The scriptures share some great insights, which I will share. 

1. (Mosiah 3:19) As a natural man, I am an enemy to God unless I become like a child: humble, meek, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to everything the Lord asks me to do. 

2. (Luke 9:48) If I receive the Lord like a child I will be “great in the kingdom of God.”  For me this is basically the same concept of being humble and submissive to the Lord.

3. (Mark 10: 13-16) In this verse, Jesus’ disciples “rebuke” those who brought children with them to see Jesus.  Jesus reprimands His disciples and says “suffer the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God.”  He further goes on to say that unless they receive the kingdom as a little child they can not enter into His kingdom and he blesses them. 

3 Nephi 9:22 is very similar to the verses in Mark as well.  In 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the people on the American continent that unless they repent and become as a child they won’t inheret the kingdom of God.  Notice that He adds that repentance is necessary for us to become as a child and therefore inherit God’s kingdom.

4. (3 Nephi 11:37-40) In this scripture Jesus informs the people that not only humbling oneself as a child and repentance are necessary, but baptism is also necessary to inherit the kingdom of God.  Verse 39 also states that this is Christ’s doctrine and whosoever builds on this doctrine is built on a rock (i.e. a solid foundation). 

5. (3 Nephi 17:21-25) In my opinion, these scriptures are some of the most touching scriptures we have.  Here, Jesus prays and blesses the peoples’ children one by one and weeps because of the love and joy he has for them.  It shows how much love Jesus has for children and it sheds some further light on the joy he must feel when we decide to humble ourselves like a child and submit to Him so he can bless us.  This is probably why the prophet Moroni stated that “children are alive in Christ.”  I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being able to say that I am alive in Christ with confidence.  When I focus on becoming as a child I am progressing towards this goal.

In conclusion, I invite you to either reflect on your childhood or ask your parents to provide you some insight on what you were like as a child.  Or if you have children look to them as an example.  Consider some of the “childish things you’ve put away” and pray and reflect on what you can do to incorporate them back into your life.  The promises are great if we can remember to become as a child by removing the dark glasses we see through and learn to see as a child.

I recently posted a blog on Grace vs. Works (http://graceforgrace.com/2008/02/19/do-you-believe-living-a-good-life-is-more-important-than-grace-or-less/).

I wanted to highlight a blog that answers this question very effectively.  I like this post because it not only answers the question, but other scriptures that have lead people to debate this topic.  Check out the blog here:

 http://thoughtsonlds.blogspot.com/2008/01/thoughts-on-grace-vs-works.html

I recently saw this question on Yahoo Answers.  Below is my response: 

Romans 3:23 states “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

Therefore we need God’s grace and mercy no matter what to save us.

However further scripture states everyone who dies (so everyone: ) will stand before God and be judged of their works (Revelation 20:12-13)

Further scripture supports this:

“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.” (Alma 41:3)

In addition we are all given the light of Christ (some call it a consience) and knowledge of what is good and what is evil as quoted in this scripture:

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
  16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
  17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.  (Moroni 7:15-17)

To sum everything up.  We are all given a consience and ability to choose good or evil.  We all will come short of the glory of God so we need His grace and mercy to save us.  However, we will be brought to the judgement seat after we die and stand accountable to the knowledge we’ve been given from God.

Would you add or take anything out on this answer?

Retention

This is part two of my series on the Washington Post Article

I recently wrote a post entitled “Why do People Leave the LDS Church?”  I included a link to posts written by John Dehlin on what his opinion is as far as why people may leave.  He suggests that many people don’t know the history of the church and Joseph Smith and other leaders upon being baptized.  They feel lied to essentially that controversial issues in Mormon history aren’t discussed during the missionary discussions, etc.  This could very well be an issue.

The Washington Post mentions missionaries baptizing people after only attending church a few times or even one time.  There could be much discussion alone on these topics such as are the missionaries being pressured to baptize too quickly?  If so, where is the pressure coming from and why? 

The third possibility is that we as members are not “taking care of the flock.”  We aren’t doing our home-teaching or fellowshipping new members.  Along these lines perhaps it is that new members of the LDS faith have a very high standard of living that goes with membership and people may get discouraged and leave.  In this case perhaps members could do something to help them feel more loved and welcome.

The fourth possibility is that it’s just plain hard to be a Mormon and keep the commandments, etc. and people just choose to leave.

It is indeed a complicated issue and I would love to hear what people have to say about issues on retention.

Recently I was having a conversation with one of my friends and she said that having a testimony of the Book of Mormon was essential in order to stay in the LDS church.

However, there are other denomonations that believe and support the Book of Mormon.  The RLDS (now Community of Christ) church and the Church of Jesus Christ (nicknamed Bickertonites) are two denomonations that believe in the Book of Mormon as well.

I’m not the best historian so maybe someone can help me here.  From what I understand, Sydney Rigdon started the Bickertonites and Joseph Smith’s son (Joseph Smith III) started the RLDS church after Joseph Smith died.  Brigham Young and the other apostles were with the main body of the LDS people.  Interestingly, all three groups seem to have claimed authority given to them from Joseph Smith.

So the questions are:

Is having a testimony Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon enough to stay strong in the LDS church? If not, what is necessary to have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

What happened historically and who exactly did Joseph Smith give the keys of priesthood authority to? 

It appears organizationally the three are similar with apostles, prophets, etc. and they all study the same books.  What are the differences between the three organizations?

I have my own personal opinions from briefly reading the history of both organizations, but I’d love to hear what others with more historical knowledge have to say. 

I came across a pretty cool blog the other day.  It is someone who writes reviews about books on Spirituality.  I noticed they didn’t have anything on Mormons so the other day I left a post asking if they’d ever looked into any books on Mormonism.  The next day they posted the Book of Mormon with a review along with “Mormons for Dummies” and a couple other ones. 

I know many of you probably know of a lot of cool LDS books to recommend this person.  I think it would be cool if we all visited the blog and left some recommendations for books under the “Mormon” section of the blog.

If you aren’t LDS but want to leave a recommendation of another book, they have many categories from Christianity to Hinduism…

Here’s the website: http://agamabooks.wordpress.com/

 “The concept of a restoration is biblical and is frequently spoken of in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Peter spoke of the anticipated ‘times of of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.’ (Acts 3:21).  Latter-Day Saints understand this as a prophetic anticipation of a full and final restoration of the gospel in the development and fulfillment of the purposes of God in these last days.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism

As a Latter-Day Saint, or Mormon, I believe this to mean that in the beginning, God revealed all truth to his prophets.  Throughout time, His truths became corropted.  Through divine revelations from God, Joseph Smith received a full restitution of all truths.  It is my personal belief that elements of these truths can be found in virtualy every religion though.

It seems that the past few days I’ve had experiences causing me to reflect on the truths that can be found in other religions.  I’ll share some of my experiences. 

During a recent business meeting a colleague and I started talking religion.  She knew I was LDS and I knew she was Christian.  One thing that has baffled me about most Christians is the fact that it appears to me they limit the abilities of God to just communicating to one people through one book (the Bible).  I told my friend in our conversation that I believe in the Bible and am grateful for the inspired book, but what I love about the Restored Gospel (the LDS faith) is that we believe in a God that is all-encompassing and who is the Father of all people and who loves us all equally.  We believe that God has revealed more truth to us in addition to the Bible and that he can reveal more truth in the future to us should he choose. (see Article of Faith 9)  To my suprise she agreed with me and called herself a “liberal christian” in that she believed that there is a lot of truth in the Bible as well as in other sources outside of the Bible and that God couldn’t and shouldn’t be limited to one book.  It was a very refreshing conversation for me.

My wife is on a recruiting trip in the Middle East for business.  She called me today and as she was describing the culture and the way the people would pray and how nice some of the people were she said “It’s amazing to see how many of the truths taught in Mormonism are found in other religions that aren’t even Christian.”  I agreed with her.

Finally, I was reading an article posted on the Temple Study Blog about the “scattered fragments” of the ancient temple rites of the
Egyptians and how they correlate with those of the Jews and essentially with those taught in Mormon temples.  I recommend reading the article for more specific information.

These three examples are ones of recent, but I’ve had experiences in the past with people from all faiths and even those without any religion who practice the principles of love, faith, charity, prayer, kindness, repentance, etc.  All of which, are truths that are universal and come from God. 

To answer the question “Does Mormonism Cover truths from all Religions?” I would personally have to say it does cover a good portion of truth, including truths found in other religions, but there is still more truth that will be revealed.  Even if the religion is slightly warped or even largely warped it all stems from an original religion that Heavenly Father taught Adam.  I’m grateful that Mormonism teaches that there is a way for those who don’t have a chance to hear about Jesus in this life to be saved; that God is all-loving and just and doesn’t limit Himself to answering and blessing the lives of all nations; that families and marriages are an eternal principle and not “til death do you part”; that Jesus is our personal Savior and the Savior of mankind; that God has revealed himself in the past and that he can and will continue to reveal himself in the future.

I don’t claim to be a religious expert, but I have experienced first hand Budhist and Daoist temples in Asia, the wide variety of Christian denominations throughout America and Europe, Jewish temples and people, Muslims, and even though some of the religions are pretty far from the actual truth, one can see a semblance of original truth that it came from.

So the questions I ask are: Do you agree with me that Mormonism covers truth from all Religions?  If so, what other truths or concepts in other religions can you think of that Mormonism covers?

If you don’t think it covers all truth, why don’t you think it does?

(02-21-08) It’s about a week after I wrote this post, but I just read an interesting blog on how Muslim’s believe that there is part of a Book of Abraham that was lost and it could be similar to the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith translated that is found in the Pearl of Great Price.  Check out the post here: http://www.mormonheretic.org/2008/02/16/is-the-book-of-abraham-related-to-muslim-texts/

Dress Standards and Culture

This is part three of my series on the Washington Post Article

The article mentions that the LDS church has fallen from the highest converting Christian church in America.  The official LDS website states the church is the second-highest converting church in America

The article suggests that other faiths are “willing to express the local culture in many ways that the LDS has been slow to do.”  And further asks if it is necessary for people to all dress a certain way to attend church meetings and for missionaries to be dressed a certain way, etc. 

I would love to hear what people have to say about this because from my own personal experience as a missionary in Germany it was very difficult to even have a conversation with the people about religion.  However, when I went back to work as a “normal” citizen in Germany and Switzerland, they treated me with respect and got to know me as a person.  I found it much easier to have gospel discussions after my mission as opposed to before.

Why do you think the LDS church maintains the standard American white shirt and tie approach to missionary work?  Do you feel a change in this would positively affect the ability for missionaries to embrace the culture of other countries? 

In addition to these suggestions, what other cultural issues have you experienced that the LDS church could improve on, if anything at all? 

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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