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There are probably thousands of different definitions of the word “Christian.” We have chosen the same inclusive definition as is used by public opinion pollsters and government census offices: A “Christian“ includes any group or individual who seriously, devoutly, prayerfully describes themselves as Christian. Under this definition, Christianity includes: Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, United Church members, even a small minority of Unitarian Universalists, etc. (www.religioustolerance.org)
According to this definition there shouldn’t be a divide between the various Christian faiths and Mormonism (LDS). However, those who follow the LDS faith know they are not included and perhaps do not want to be included in the mainstream Christian faiths. Recently there has been a push from the LDS leaders to emphasize their belief in Jesus Christ and embrace Christianity and Christians (from my experience) are not eager to welcome Mormonism to their fold. This is due to some major theological differences and attitudes that I have observed, some of which I will address.
Theological Differences and Attitudes
Christians believe in Creeds (that include the Trinity theology and more) Mormons do not believe in Creeds, rather they believe in revelation from modern Prophets and apostles.
Christians may or may not believe in baptism as being necessary for salvation. Mormons believe in ordinances such as baptism, the sacrament, marriage, etc.
Christians believe the “church of Christ” or the body of Christ are all the Christian sects who believe in Jesus. Mormons believe the “one true Church of Christ” is the LDS faith.
Christians do not believe in a pre-existance and Jesus being our elder brother. Mormons do.
Both Christians and Mormons are passionate about their belief in Jesus and try to help others “see the light.” However, the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus are not the same person if you ask a Christian.
Mormons believe in universal salvation to a certain extent. Christians believe those who confess Jesus are going to heaven. Those who don’t are going to hell.
Mormons believe God has revealed scripture and will continue to reveal scripture through his prophets. Christians believe the Bible to be the only word of God.
Through the years and during the past few months I’ve been reading blogs online, these differences along with other differences tend to be what Christians and Mormons alike tend to focus on. Focusing on differences, however, causes a big riff between both Christians and Mormons (and any other people who have differences for that matter). Is there a way to find common ground? Is there a way to join forces for common good? I believe there is. I’ll outline ways I’ve found that we can bridge the Mormon/Evangelical Divide.
Bridging the Divide
- Build on Common Beliefs
Regardless of who we believe Jesus is one can not argue that whether or not He’s the same Jesus that following His teachings will result in blessings. Personally I’ve seen miracles happen in the name of Jesus in both Mormon and Evangelical circles. In addition, I’ve seen God bless the lives of people who follow Jesus’ teachings in both circles. Love, faith, kindness, service, patience, prayer, etc. These are all common things both Mormons and Evangelicals can find common ground on.
- Don’t debate points of Doctrine
Mormons especially should be the last to argue with their fellow Christian friends about points of Doctrine. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus clearly states that disputing points of doctrine should be done away with. Trying to prove a point through scriptural debate will not lead to conversion and personally I’ve found that when I try to prove my point as being right and the other’s as being wrong, the Holy Spirit leaves and then I’m left to my own devises. Building ourselves up to put others down leads to nowhere fast.
- Don’t criticize others’ beliefs and religious practices
This ones a huge one. I’ve heard Mormons criticize other Christians and put themselves on a pedastal by saying they’re in the “one true church,” that their baptism is the only baptism, that miracles can only happen through the priesthood, and much more. Similarly, I’ve heard Christians mock Mormons for their “boring” religious practices in church and also scoff at their temple practices. There are many more beliefs I’ve heard both sides criticize, but regardless of what one believes, we need to make sure we don’t condemn another for their belief.
- Look for the good in every conversation
It is evident that there will be differences in belief, but even if we believe differently, it is very helpful to look for the good in every conversation we engage in. There will usually be something both parties agree on and can build on.
- Know when not to talk, or to walk away
I’ve seen both Mormons and Christians who simply do not want to stop arguing and want to prove their point as being right. This is when it is time to be silent as Jesus was many times when people mocked him. Sometimes it’s better to simply not respond to an argumentative blog post, or discussion. Sometimes it’s best to be silent and walk away.
I’ve found personally that when I follow these guidelines I have much more in common with not only other Christians, but people from all faiths and beliefs as well. I hope this post helps both Evangelical Christians and LDS to engage in uplifting discussions and bridge the divide.
For some other great posts on this topic I recommend the following blogs:
My wife and I have most recently been reading Truman G Madsen’s book entitled “Christ and the Inner Life.” This is a very good book and some of the concepts from it I’ve written about in previous posts.
I’ll share some quotes from the book that recently caught my attention:
I say to you that when he (Jesus) said to the woman of Samaria and to others, “He that believeth on me, shall never thirst”; I say to you that when on the cross he looked down and back, under the searing sun, and said, “I thirst,” he was reflecting both the promise and the need that all of us have. We, too, thirst until we ache. We, too, are living and dying on deserts.
A few paragraphs later, Madsen further concludes by saying:
May God help us to walk in the light; and, when we do not feel that we have it, to walk in the memory of it with integrity.
I thought it was interesting to note that Jesus, who had stated those who follow Him will never thirst was left alone and thirsted not only physically, but spiritually on the cross when he said “Father why hast thou forsaken me?” While his enemies scoffed and ridiculed him telling him to save himself. At this moment Jesus didn’t feel like he had the light anymore as His father had withdrawn himself from him. Jesus, who was all-powerful could have used his powers to save himself and destroy his enemies, but he didn’t because he had integrity. Jesus proved to be conquerer by holding on to the memory of the light he had felt and his mission and finished his mission with integrity.
How often do we feel like we’re alone in life? How often do we feel the darkness of sin, doubt, or discouragement and cry out to God and feel that we are yet alone? How often do we just simply not feel like walking with God, or doubt that He is there walking with us? What do we do when we feel that God has forsaken us?
I like what Madsen says about walking in the memory of the light. When all seems to be lost, the memories may be all that we have to rely on for a season.
First, we need to make sure we’re in the light. In a previous post, I shared ways to “plug” into the light throughy keeping the commandments and scripture study. I would add sincere prayer to this as well. We should continue to do these things even when we don’t feel like it because these are ways to stay in God’s light and feel His Holy Spirit.
Second, we need to remember. We’re probably all familiar with scriptures relating both those who remembered and those who forgot. I’ll share a few examples that come to mind.
Poor examples in the scriptures include: Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, King David and Solomon, the Isrealites during Moses’ time. In each of these individuals’ lives they had marvelous spiritual experiences. David and Laman and Lemuel both saw heavenly beings with their eyes. However due to negligence in keeping their eyes focused towards God, each of these individuals erred greatly and suffered because of it. A side note is to remember that repentance is always there for us, but the further we fall from God’s light and love, the harder it is to get back.
Good examples in the scriptures of those who remembered in spite of hardship and despair include: Paul, Nephi, Moroni, and Joseph Smith. There are of course numerous other examples, but these are the ones who come to mind.
In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi turns to God in prayer when he feels his strength slacken, Paul states numerous times in the Bible to count it a joy to suffer for the Lord and reflects on Jesus’ sacrifice to help him “stay the course”, Moroni refuses to deny Jesus despite the fact he is the last believer left in his world. Joseph Smith certainly wasn’t perfect by any means, but when times were hard and he felt like God wasn’t there for him anymore he didn’t give up on God, rather he turned to him in prayer and in turn received revelation.
There are numerous other means and ways given to us to remember God today. Temple attendance and partaking the sacrament (in the prayer we promise to “always remember Him”) are two more examples.
I know life probably isn’t easy for you, and it’s definitely not always easy for me. But I know that life would be much harder without God in my life and the belief I have in Jesus as well. As I’ve built memories with them, and try to further develop my relationship with them on a daily basis through scripture study and prayer as well as weekly partaking of the sacrament, I feel that life is much better. I also believe that when we develop these habits it makes it that much easier to look back on the good feelings and spiritual strength we receive gradually over time. In addition, when we don’t feel the Spirit for a season we realize our dependance on God and become grateful for His mercy.
When we’re down and don’t feel the light anymore I hope we can all remember to call upon God and keep walking in His light with integrity.
In Wallace D Wattles’ Book “The Science of Getting Rich” he makes the following statement in chapter 12:
The world is advanced only by those who more than fill their present places.
If no one quite filled their present place, there would be backward movement in
everything. Those who do not quite fill their present places are dead weight upon
society, government, commerce, and industry. They must be carried along by others at a
Jesus also made a simpler, yet similar statement in Matthew 5:41:
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares the family as being central to God’s plan. Elswhere, prophets have declared the family as being the fundamental unit of society.
There are wars raging in the world, natural disasters, disease, and many other things going on that affect societies. It can be overwhelming to think of what can we do to improve society?
What if we did as Jesus and the prophets suggest and “go the extra mile” starting within our family? I believe that if we just did one thing each day to go the “extra mile” within our families each day for our spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc. we would strengthen our family and in turn strengthen our government and society.
What one thing can you do to improve your family relationships?
Recently I was reading in Hebrews as well as in Alma in the Book of Mormon and found some significant temple imagery as well. Here are some verses that stuck out to me:
These are very beautiful scriptures that are filled with temple imagery (garments washed white, the veil is represents Christ’s flesh, covenants, etc.). In addition scriptures such as Hebrews 9:5 talk about how there are certain things they can’t talk about regarding sacred things, just as LDS are told not to disclose certain sacred things about the temple. All throughout Hebrews is excellent temple imagery and is worth a good read.
In Hebrews chapters 6-10, Paul discusses the temple ordinances conducted in the Law of Moses and in chapter ten says that through the blood of Jesus we enter into the holiest and that the veil represents his flesh.
In Hebrews 9:12 it states that Jesus “entered into the holy place” and therefore obtained eternal redemption for us.
Having read this, one could argue that there isn’t a need for temple ordinances anymore because Jesus already died and this has replaced the need for a temple. Furthermore, if it is the blood of Jesus that saves us, what need is there for temple ordinances?
What are your thoughts on this?