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Until I started blogging about 1 1/2 years ago I hadn’t heard of a lot of the stuff that’s out there such as “Adam/God Theory” and “Blood Atonement” that many anti-Mormons spread. The accusation of “earning” one’s salvation was something new to me as well that I had never heard of.

Faith is an interesting thing because it makes up so much of what a person does and how he or she views the world. When that faith is openly attacked the natural instinct is to bristle up and throw back some more punches.

Most “anti-Mormon literature” as we like to call it, is in my opinion ridiculous and pulled from obscure quotes by various prophets and not at all what we teach today. It’s the equivalent of taking some quote from one of the Christian crusaders and using it against all Christians.

However, there are many other of our fellow Christians who are well-intended in their approach with Mormons and who sincerely want to help us. Yesterday I read a great post over at Clean Cut that summarized a speech given by Dr Craig Blomberg. (If you don’t remember who Dr Blomberg is, he co-wrote “How Wide the Divide?“, which is a book on Mormon vs. Evangelical doctrine written by a Mormon and an Evangelical). In his speech, Bloomberg speaks to a large body of Christians in a talk entitled “What would Jesus Say to a Mormon?” I’ll have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about reading it because most people point fingers at us and try to tell us why we’re wrong. Dr Bloomberg did, what I think Jesus would have all of us do. He showed a genuine love for the LDS people and acknowledged their Christian beliefs. To view a summary of the 10 points he feels Jesus would say to Mormons you can also visit this blog.

I feel that although Blomberg doesn’t believe everything Mormons do he does exactly what a good Christian should do in my opinion and he sees the good and the common ground and builds on that rather than attacking the differences.  I also feel he did a great job in his top 10 list of pointing out things we as Mormons can definitely learn from, but he also showed other Christians that in many ways Mormons aren’t so far off from what they believe as well. 

What do you think about Blomberg’s approach?

Also, how to you feel about his top 10 list?  Do you feel it’s accurate?

For us as Mormons, how can we learn from this in our discussions with fellow Christians?

5-23-09

I just read another great post related to this topic that was written last fall.  It shares Dr Blomberg’s feelings of how the Mormon/Evangelical divide is from his perspective 11 years after having written the book.  Check out the site here.

If you’re happily married or have seen people in a happy marital relationship reflect on that relationship.  How did the relationship start?  How did it develop and blossom into a marriage?  Now, after the marriage was that the end?

As I reflect on my relationship with my wife I think of how it started as friendship and blossomed from there.  The more we became acquainted the more we grew to like and love each other. The more sacrifices we made for each other the more we grew to love each other.  We could have chosen to go on that way forever and even “play house” by moving in with each other like many do today.  After all, we were in love with each other.  Why do we need to get married?  It’s just a piece of paper anyways right?

Such is the rationale of many today, however, we decided we would show our commitment to each other by binding it through a marriage and we did it before God and others to see.  My wife showed her love and commitment to the relationship by taking on my name and I do my best to honor that name.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way and to do it another way would have been compromising and unfair to my wife and to myself and the children we bring into the world. 

Now that we’re married is all over?  No!  At marriage our journey had just begun and we continue to learn and grow together with the help of God.  Is it easy all of the time?  No.  But it’s surely worth it.  We try to have our eyes focused outside of ourselves and towards each other and with the help of God and also striving on our part I’m confident we’ll continue to do well.

Now compare this to the scriptures in 2 Nephi 31 and 32 .  In this scripture, Nephi discusses the purpose of baptism and how it pertains to our salvation.

If you read these chapters carefully, Nephi shows our journey to salvation as a relationship with Jesus similar to that of what I described in a marital relationship.  We study, learn about Him, pray, develop a love and relationship and at some point reach a decision of if we want to seal that relationship or not.  As described in the scripture, confessing Jesus as our Savior and baptism isn’t the end of the journey, but the gate into the kingdom of God…similar to the marriage that I previously described.  We commit ourselves to Jesus and enter into His kingdom through the gate of baptism by openly showing our commitment and dedication to Him publically.  We then take on a new name…Jesus Christs’ name and accept him as our Lord and Savior. 

After we confess Jesus as our Savior, enter through the gate to His kingdom through baptism and commit to a relationship with Him is it over?  No!  We have a whole life to live as a new born-again believer in Jesus.  We then receive the “baptism of fire” through the gift of the Holy Ghost and commence our journey.  As long as we rely on Jesus and continue to develop our relationship with Him we’re being true to our baptismal commitment.  We stay true and develop our personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, scripture study, service to others, repentance, learning in groups such as church, bible study, etc. 

Some may say that attending church or study groups  isn’t necessary after we’ve shown our commitment to Jesus.  Others may say we don’t really even need to be baptized to show our commitment to Jesus and merely confess His name. 

What are your thoughts?

Mormons set aside one day each month to abstain from food and water for two meals and then donate what they would have spent on food and water to the poor.  As a Mormon I’ve always heard fasting should be both food and water.  However, I came across an interesting quote today.

President Heber J Grant stated in an official declaration:

When fasting, members of the Church are advised to abstain from two meals each Fast Day . . . also by prayer in connection with fasting to develop spiritual power. No direct instruction is given in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding abstaining from water while fasting. In the Bible there are three references in connection with fasting and abstaining from water. These are: Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 9:9-18, where it states that Moses “did neither eat bread nor drink water”; and Esther 4:16, where Esther asked the Jews to fast for her and to “neither eat nor drink.”

The spirit of fasting is the main thing to encourage. Too much stress should not be laid on technical details, but the self denial of food, striving for spiritual strength and donating for the benefit of the poor should constantly be in mind. (Published statement from the First Presidency of the Church, March 26, 1932) MOFP5:307-08

I also came across a few interesting medical articles that stated fasting from food and not excluding liquid leads to greater health.  You can view these interesting articles here and here.

For people of other faiths this may sound trivial, but as long as I’ve been LDS I’ve always heard fasting should be both food and water and it isn’t complete without both. 

Personally I feel the same way that President Grant does.  It’s really between us and God and if we feel good about our fast we shouldn’t worry.  I feel that our fast shouldn’t be merely for medical purposes but for coming closer to God. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts though.

Do you feel that a fast can be complete without abstaining from water?  What do you do to make your fast complete?  What are your thoughts on the scientific studies?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses up 2.12% from the year before.

According to the 2009 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, only four churches reported an increase in converts for the year 2008.  These churches were:

Jehovah’s Witnesses (1,092,169 members, up 2.12 percent )

Church of God of Cleveland (1,053,642 members, up 2.04 percent)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (5,873,408 members, up  1.63 percent)

Assemblies of God (2,863,265 members, up 0.96 percent)

The LDS church remains the 4th largest denomonation behind the Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic churches but is quickly approaching the number 3 spot and will the Methodist church within the next 2 -3 years.   For the past few years the only churches to consistently gain in membership include the LDS and Jehovah’s Witness churches.  The LDS church maintains around 1.6% growth whereas the Jehovah’s Witnesses gain over 2% on average and have doubled in size in the last 5 years. (However, I’m not sure how accurate these numbers are because according to the 2006 report the LDS church had 5.9 million members and now only reports 5.5 million but the report stated the growth was maintained each year at 1.5%) For a more detailed statistical analysis of the LDS church check out the post over at Times and Seasons that was postes a few weeks ago.

IF these statistics are even close to being accurate this shows an overall decline in Christianity as a whole in the United States.  According to Mormon Metaphysics, there has been a decrease of 10% overall in Christianity.  Also, those churches such as the LDS and J.W. churches show significant gain, but they have a very aggressive missionary effort as well.  It does raise the question though of why those two particular churches are attractive to people.  Even with the missionary efforts if they churches didn’t have something to offer and if there wasn’t a need out there people wouldn’t join their organizations.

So in conclusion I ask the following questions.

1. Why do you think Chrisitanity is on the decline?

2. Why do you feel those religions such as LDS and J.W. see growth each year?

3. What could be done to bring retention and conversion rates up?

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