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Recently I received some comments on an old article I wrote about Mormons being born again. I reached out to a friend of mine I met through this website who is a pastor at Addisville Reformed Church in Pennsylvania. I want to thank Doug Dwyer for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that it helps both Mormons and Christians from other faiths see where we have common ground.
As a young child, I grew up LDS in a predominantly LDS community. With that I saw and heard a lot of stereotypes that I have found can be typical for Southern Idaho and Utah including:
- If you are not Mormon, you are not that good
- God blesses active Mormons more than others
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) is the only true church
- God only sends His Holy Spirit to those seeking truth in the Mormon Church
- It is best not to associate with people who are not Mormons because their ways may rub off on you
- God will bless and prosper you if you are an active Mormon more than if you’re not
Although these stereotypes are not good, I found that many Mormons felt this way. As a result, there was a tension between all the other Christian faiths in the region and the LDS church.
When my parents divorced and my mother joined another Christian denomination, the stereotypes I had internalized gradually broke down. We would attend various congregations from a variety of faiths including: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, and non-denominational. I found that each faith had very good and honest people who believed basically the same things that I had been taught doctrinally in relation to core Christianity.
Later in life, I felt that God led me back to Mormonism, which is where I continue to go today. However, I have some very close family members who continue to attend other faiths and I see God blessing them just as much as me as we both strive to show our love for the Lord in our lives and witness His hand. I feel it a blessing that I have been able to sit in both aisles of Mormonism and mainstream Christianity and as readers of this blog know, I strive to break stereotypes on both sides and build relationships between them.
It is for this reason that I highly recommend the new book called “Tongue of Fire” recently released and written by David McKnight (see image below)
This breaks down stereotypes on both sides of the aisle in a very creative and fun way.
The main character, John, is a Mormon Elder who is asked to preach for a mega-church at the new town he has moved into. The only problem is that he doesn’t tell them he is Mormon and uses the Book of Mormon as his guide to teach his sermons. People start flocking to the new congregation, but as he gains more popularity his relationships with his family deteriorate.
Soon word gets out that he is a Mormon and the Christians who had supported him and loved his sermons stop coming. The stereotypes Christians have against Mormons are addressed in a dramatic way as John’s family is nearly driven out of town.
I won’t spoil the book too much for you, but just believe me when I say that if you were interested in books such as “How Wide the Divide” that addressed the gap between Christians and Mormons in a scholarly way, you will like this book as well. It is fun to read and also very informative on how both Mormons and Christians can work together to reach a common goal.
Click on the image of the book (see above) to order a Kindle or paperback version of the book. It’s well worth the $5-10.
Recently, a Sunday School lesson in our Mormon Church was on a Book of Mormon prophet named Enos. His account is very short in the Book of Mormon, but it is a very important chapter in the Book.
In short, he describes a long prayer and process he goes through to receive forgiveness from his sins through Jesus Christ. His description could be described as what is commonly known in Christian circles as a “born again” experience because he prays and confesses Jesus as his Savior and asks Him to take away his sins. He then is filled with the Holy Spirit and prays for his fellow friends and his enemies alike.
As I reflected on Enos’ experience, it reminded me of my own.
When I was in my early teenage years, I had been already living a pretty devious life and was full of hatred and anger. Through the grace of God I picked up a Book of Mormon and read it within a few weeks. At the end of the Book of Mormon, I had a very big desire to pray and know if the concepts in the Book were true. The concepts in the book include the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes: faith, repentance, baptism, committing our lives to the Lord, and receiving the Holy Spirit.
According to a modern Mormon prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, for every one person who has a “born again experience” such as Enos, there are thousands of people who do not have a huge manifestation of the Holy Spirit all at once. Rather, it comes gradually as we keep the commandments of God.
I feel fortunate to have had an experience like that of Enos. Immediately after I prayed, I felt a warmth come all over me and a love and desire to share the Good News with my fellow man. From the age of 13 (when I had this experience) I had the desire to go on a mission and tell the world about the gospel. My mission was everything I dreamed it would be. Although I was in a country (Germany) whose people didn’t accept the gospel with open arms, I still grew to love the Lord and the German people. If I hadn’t had this born again experience as a younger man, I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so motivated to go on a mission, and the experience is something I reflect on almost daily that sustains my faith now.
I would be curious to see how many people out there have had a “born again” experience. If you have, please share. If not, please share how you have experienced receiving the Spirit and a testimony of Jesus.
We had a pretty interesting discussion to close out our last Elders meeting in 2011. It was a lesson on judgment and the second coming. As you can imagine, many interesting things were said. Some off the wall about what would happen leading up to the Second Coming, and others that were scripturally based.
One brother kept bringing something up though that caused me to reflect on an issue I hear quite frequently from fellow Christian friends of other denomonations, specifically on how they feel Mormons think they can earn their salvation and also become Gods.
The brother kept asking questions about what we needed to do in order to be saved. He asked about the steps such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and going through the temple. In his mind, it sounded to me like he thought he was home free once he made those steps. He also made mention in reference to the scripture that if we make these steps, we will become Gods and have everything equal with God.
Although I am a Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, I completely disagree with these statements. For starters, we will never be equal to God. I believe that God (Heavenly Father), and Jesus Christ (also a God) are separate beings who are far superior to us and always will be. Even though we are created in their image, we will never be equal to them. I feel that it is damaging and dangerous to put ourselves at the same level with them in that it sets us up for pride and it is erroneous doctrine.
Some LDS or Mormon prophets (most notably, Lorenzo Snow) have come out and stated that we can become gods and that God was once like us. Mormons are also quick to point to the scripture in the Bible that states in both the Old and New Testamant “ye are gods…” and use that as evidence that one can be a god.
A closer reading of the scriptures shows that every time Jesus or Heavenly Father are mentioned, the “g” in god is capitalized. In the scripture that says we “are gods” the “g” is lower case. To me, this means that we can become “like” God and have power and authority over certain things that He gives us, but we will always be inferior to Him and function under his jurisdiction. Another way of looking at it is what we learn in the Mormon temple about us becoming “kings and priests” unto god, but not a God in the sense that He is God.
Regarding earning salvation, there are certainly actions we must take to receive the gospel into our hearts. However, we will always be in debt to God the Father and Jesus for their sacrifice so that we have the opportunity to be saved. Although we should always take actions to be obedient and close to the Holy Spirit, it is through the grace and mercy of Jesus that salvation comes. The moment we start thinking we’re the ones accomplishing the task of being saved, we run into pride issues and this is also erronous doctrine to think we can earn our salvation.
Perhaps since I’ve been able to learn more from fellow Christian friends through this blog and other sources such as friends and family in other faiths, I am a bit more sensitive to the subject of Mormons earning their salvation and becoming Gods than I was before. After that discussion we had in class, I can see why members of other faiths are alarmed when they attend a Morm0n church.
For those of you inside the church, do you think there is an issue with people feeling they have to earn their salvation? What can we do to overcome this error in doctrine?
For those outside of the LDS church, have you had any experiences with Mormons thinking they can earn their salvation? If so, please share your experience and how it makes you feel.
At an early age, I had my life changed as millions of other people have had through reading the Book of Mormon and feeling the power of Jesus Christ enter into my life.
I was in a dark place at a very young age following my parents’ divorce and was heading down a very wrong path. When I was around 12 years old, I came across a copy of the Book of Mormon and started reading it. Although I was very young and didn’t understand all of the concepts and words, I felt a peace I desparately needed at that time.
After a few months of reading the Book of Mormon, I read what is commonly called “Moroni’s Promise” at the end of the Book of Mormon, which basically states that if you pray to God about what you’ve read in the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true, He will manifest it to you that it is true through the power of the Holy Spirit. I prayed, and for the first time in my life I felt the love of God sweep through my soul and any desire to continue to sin be removed from me. I committed to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and gospel I had read in the Book of Mormon (which is the same as in the Bible) at that time.
Shortly thereafter, my Grandmother became very ill. On what was her last Christmas before she passed away, in 1989, she gave me a gift I hold very dear to me. She knew how impactful the Book of Mormon had been for me so she gave me her only copy of a replica of the original Book of Mormon along with her last written words to me, as seen in the pictures below:
Words can’t really describe the impact the teachings found in the Book of Mormon have had on me, but I’ll attempt to share my feelings. Through the teachings of Jesus Christ found within the Book of Mormon, I was able to lay a foundation for my life at a young age that has helped me overcome the negative affects in my life that came as a result of my parents’ divorce. Although the path hasn’t been easy, I have studied and grown closer to Heavenly Father through reading the Book of Mormon.
Not only has the Book of Mormon helped me, but it has helped millions of other people. Most recently, my younger brother was able to overcome some of his obstacles he has faced in his life through an experience with reading and studying the Book of Mormon. I asked him to share some of his thoughts for the readers of this blog, and he was kind enough to do so. Below are some of his thoughts:
It’s easier to express myself in person about this topic, because words can’t get the feeling across that I would like to portray in my message. As I get choked up right now speaking of this and as tears begin in my eyes, I want you all to know that I firmly believe in the Book of Mormon and its message. I believe that it is a testament of Christ and it can shape our lives in a way that is principal oriented and emotionally edifying if we abide by its teachings and mold our desires to those of the Prophets therein.
I have never been more focused in my entire life than I was when I was engulfed and excited for each new verse. I have ADHD and have always had an issue with focusing and not being impulsive, but when I actually pondered the meanings of this book and “desired” to read it, my mind was pacified and my concerns and worries seemed very small. My being was elevated to another level. I did pray frequently when I was pondering the Book of Mormon as well, but they seemed to go hand in hand for me. The difficult things in life that were in the forefront of my mind grew smaller and smaller with each day that I consumed each page. I can’t begin to even express the miracles this Book did for me and my belief in who I could become. Lord thank you so much, for all the effort in how this book was pieced together. Its just so hard for me to depict my feelings on this Book through words alone.
I truly believe that without the Book of Mormon I would not be who I am today. My friends I want you to please try to understand the meaning and passion behind what I am writing. I have not always wanted to be a part of religion, regardless of what denomination and questioned at times if there was even a God. The Book of Mormon forced my mind and utterly all of me to either believe the teachings of a God and a Christ or not to. I could not deny the way it made me feel and the peacefulness it brought to my mind. I cannot deny the way my soul understood the principals it is trying to reach out and explain to all individuals and nations! …I truly believe in this book and I believe in a Christ and in God the Father as well. Once again I apologize sincerely if my closeness to the spirit right now hasn’t been felt through these small writings, but even if nothing has been felt at all through my words alone, please know that I truly believe in the Book of Mormons‘ message and I would honestly choose this book over literally any other book in the world to read. That is not a lie. I would choose this book over any.
Seth Morgan Anderson
There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.
Personally, I have seen his words not only be good advice, but be prophetic in my life and those close to me. I encourage those who haven’t seriously studied the Book of Mormon to do so in conjunction with their Bible study this year. Also, I encourage those who have had a personal experience with the Book of Mormon that has helped them to share their testimony in the comment section below.
In Sunday School the other week we had a great lesson on the new “I’m a Mormon” campaign coming to the Seattle area, where we live. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is showing commercials and using other media opportunities to show videos of Mormon members. Part of the reason for this is due to a poll that was taken a little while back that revealed how the general public views Mormons. The results of the poll, which were given to us from the Church missionary department, reveal the following:
The US population views Mormons as being:
- Family Oriented (44%)
- Cultish (39%)
- Controlling (38%)
- Conservative (38%)
- Secrative (28%)
- Dedicated (27%)
- Anti-Gay (24%)
- Sexist (20%)
- Weird (20%)
- Pushy (9%)
As the results of the survey were shown, gasps were heard around the crowd when things like “secrative”, “weird”, “cultish”, “controlling” and “pushy” came up. Some people asked: “How could anyone think we are any of these things?”
To be honest, I can see how many people view us this way. Examples include: no one is allowed in temples and not much is said to the public of what goes on in the temple. I’ve heard Mormons, like Donny Osmond, publicly state that it is “sacred” not “secret”, but what the heck does that mean? The sacrament is sacred and everyone is welcome there.
I’ve also heard people talk about how Mormons tend to stick together and not reach out to their neighbors. I can see how people would feel we’re cultish that way, along with the temple thing again.
If a newcomer looks at the stands at General Conference and any Mormon congregation, they see only men up on the stand and men run the church. “But the women have Relief Society!” we’re quick to say. However, men do run the church.
On my mission, I do recall seeing missionaries on occasion stick their foot in the door of a person when they were trying to shut it on them. I also witnessed an Elder run someone down on the sidewalk practically knocking them out trying to give them a Book of Mormon. If this isn’t pushy, I don’t know what is!
With the statistics in mind and I’m sure many more examples that support the evidence found in the survey, the Mormon leaders are launching the “I’m a Mormon” campaign to show that Mormons can be normal people and still live a virtuous life. If you haven’t taken the time to watch any of the clips, I recommend doing so by clicking here. I was actually very impressed with some of the Mormons who were featured.
So the question is do you think the “I’m a Mormon” campaign will help change how people view members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)?
A more important question behind that one is do you think that if people see Mormons as similar to them, that it will lead them to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
My wife found a pretty cool map on the LDS.org website. It has a satellite view of all the churches in the world.
This link shows all the LDS churches in North America.
So if you’re traveling and need to drop by a meeting, you can find one anywhere…even in Barrow, Alaksa!
I had to laugh reading my cousin’s most recent blog. He’s serving over in Hungary on a mission. One of the things he wrote was that a mission is a two year awkward moment.
I thought of my mission and how awkward I felt sitting on trains in Germany with the whole car starring at me and my name tag. Sometimes we’d strike up conversation and I knew everyone was listening. I also remember walking up to people on the street and asking them if they’d like to chat about Jesus. I remember one time talking with a Turkish guy on the street for a few minutes and thinking we were having a great conversation only to find out because my mission companion told me, that he was replying to me in Turkish rather the German!
Of course, everyone has a dog story to share. I remember walking up to a door and knocking on it. Suddenly the door burst open and a Pincher shot out straight towards my face and I dodged it just in time. Check out my cousin’s awesome dog picture. I think it’s, as he says, the “sweetest picture ever of tracting”:
Those of you who have served missions can empathize with this for sure!
If you have an awkward mission moment, or an awkward witnessing moment please share.
In the most recent BYU Magazine edition, I saw something General Petraeus shared when he visited BYU a few months back. I’m not sure if he came up with this on his own, or if someone else wrote them, but I thought they were fun to share:
Petraeus’ Top 10 Reasons BYU Grads make Great Soldiers
10. They have already been on many a mission.
9. Army chow is no problem for folks accustomed to eating green Jell-O and shredded carrots.
8. It’s no problem if they don’t know what rank somebodyels is; they just refer to them as brother or sister.
7. They never go AWOL; they prefer to call it being less active.
6. They will seize any objective swiftly if you tell them refreshments will be served.
5. They know how to make things happen. IN fact, if you ever need a base built quickly in a barren wateland, you have only to stride out to where you want them to start, plant your walking staff firmly in the ground, and say with a loud voice, “This is the place!”
4. They have innovative ideas for handling insurgents, like assining them home teachers.
3. They always have a year’s supply of provisions on hand.
2. They are the worlds most reliable designated drivers.
1. They understand how far Iraq has come over the last seven years; in fact, they think that Iraq’s old spot in the “Axis of Evil” can now be filled by the University of Utah.
Recently, a fellow friend from another Christian faith asked me to share my thoughts on Jesus Christ with the intention of posting it on his site in order to help other Christians with the concept of Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) being Christians.
I’ll open with a quote taken from C.S. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity. When defining what a Christian is, Lewis references Acts 11:26 and states: “the original, obvious meaning…Christians was first given at Antioch to the disciples, to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles” (pg XV).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) bible dictionary shares a similar definition of what a Christian is: “A name first given to believers in Jesus Christ at Antioch in Syria, about A.D. 43 (Acts 11: 26).”
Therefore, the heart of what it means to be a Christian is first believing in Jesus Christ and then following Jesus as His disciple.
With this definition in mind, I will move on to share my thoughts on a brief history of Mormonism and what following Jesus Christ as a disciple, or in other words, being a Christian means for me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Following Jesus Christ was the young boy, Joseph Smith’s most pressing desire. In the early 1800′s he was seeking truth and struggling in knowing where to find it. He saw much truth in many Christian faiths, but at that time, the Christian faiths were contending with each other. In regards to this time he states the following (which can be found in Joseph Smith’s History):
…there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.
He goes on to write:
…so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!