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Recently I had a very nice gentleman stop by and leave the following comment on my blog:
You are a rare person to see common ground between the LDS and non-LDS Christians. I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long time. I’d like to know more about what you believe and how our heavenly Father brought you to your current level of revelation.
This message is in response to his inquiry on knowing more about what I believe and how Heavenly Father brought me to my current level of revelation.
I have not always believed in the LDS religion. In fact, for a time, I was very bitter towards it and filled with hate for Mormons. I was young when my parents were divorced, but as a result I put blame on my father for splitting up our family. My father was LDS and my mother was baptized LDS but left the LDS church and became an Evangelical Christian.
After my parents divorced I lived with my mother and sisters. We went to the LDS church for a few months after the divorce, but soon started attending other churches. I started regularly attending the Baptist church and also spent some time in the Presbetyrian and Lutheran churches as well. As a young man, I learned many great things at these churches and met some very wonderful people who helped me learn of God and Jesus Christ. Also during this time I was taught many things about the LDS church that made me dislike the church even more. During this time, my hate towards the LDS church was very strong and also towards my father. I wouldn’t even go and visit him as a result. However, after a couple years of avoiding my father, I decided it would be good to at least go and meet my new little brother who my Dad and Step-mother had just had. I decided to go and visit my father.
I was a very young man at the time I visited my Dad and I clearly remember one of the first things I told him when I saw him was that I was not going to set foot in an LDS church. However, I ended up seeing the love in my Dad’s heart for the Lord and the way he treated others. I did end up going to church and witnessed the same thing and my heart was softened towards the LDS people. It didn’t take me very long to begin to feel the Spirit of the Lord in a way that I never had at any other church. I soon decided to read the Book of Mormon. After reading the Book of Mormon, the following passage stood out to me in Moroni chapter 10:
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
The scripture stood out to me and I received a desire to pray to know if the things found in the Book of Mormon were true. I remember thinking that if I were to pray and find these things out that many questions would be answered for me including: is there a God, is Jesus our Savior, will God answer prayers, is the LDS church true?
Almost instictually I dropped to my knees and offered a simple prayer asking if it was true. As I prayed, I felt a warm feeling come over me that filled me with a love and happiness I had never before felt. I felt a desire come into my heart to share the gospel with people who may not know of God and Jesus. I felt born again as a new person as the hatred I had been holding onto dissolved into love and a desire to tell people of Jesus Christ and his teachings.
That was the first experience I had with God and being born again as a new creature as the scripture in 2 Corinthians 5 discusses. Since that time I’ve had many more experiences with God answering prayers through visions, feelings form the Holy Spirit, scriptures in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and through listening to prophetic voices.
I’ve shared these experiences because I feel it is the foundation for the answer to both of the questions posed by my evangelical brother who stopped by and I will now answer his questions.
I believe in a God who loves each one of us and who is liberal in His blessings to His children all over the world. I believe we are created in His image and have potential to become like He is. I believe in Jesus Christ and that through Him one can be saved both physically and spiritually. I believe that God will speak to us through many ways including scriptures like the Bible and Book of Mormon, but also other good books as well. I believe that if we strive daily to stay close to God, he will stay close to us through His Holy Spirit, which will guide us in our daily walk through life. I believe that when we make mistakes, through repentance made possible from the atonement of Jesus, all of us can be forgiven for any sin we commit and I know that the Lord will help us overcome any weakness we have and help it become a strength.
Since I have family who are both LDS and non-LDS Christians, I have the unique opportunity and blessing to see how God works in many ways. I have seen that the beliefs that I stated are shared by both my LDS and non-LDS family and friends. Throughout my life since I decided to be active in the LDS faith, I have seen many amazing miracles as I’ve served others through missionary service, church service, and in my family. My brother-in-law and sister are missionaries for an Evangelical Church called the Puget Sound Christian Center. They have blessed the lives of many young people in their ministry and I have seen the Lord bless their lives as a result. They have genuine hearts and are true Christians. (you can learn more about their ministry on this website: http://ignite-plu.blogspot.com/).
In addition to this, I have been blessed as my mother, who is not an LDS Christian anymore, has shared with me some very inspirational books and messages from Christian preachers and pastors who I would normally not hear from in the LDS church. As I listen to sermons from the late Adrian Rogers and other pastors, I have felt the same Spirit that I feel when I listen to the LDS General Authorities as they speak in General Conference and elsewhere. I feel that the Spirit of Christ confirms truth and truth can be found anywhere that people are sharing the gospel of Jesus.
At a young age I was exposed to various Christian denomonations as I have throughout my life. I can not say that I always have felt a bond towards their faith, especially after I joined the LDS faith. However, as I have opened my eyes to try and see things how God sees them (a life-long pursuit in all areas!) I have been blessed to see a common ground between our faith in Jesus Christ and also the power of prayer in both of our faiths. As my fellow Evangelical brother stated in his comments, both faiths are Christian faiths.
Maybe it is a rare thing to find common ground between LDS and non-LDS Christians, but to you LDS people who struggle to find good in Christians of other faiths, and for you Christians you find it difficult to find good in LDS I encourage both parties to let go and pray to see each other as God sees all of us. I know that as you do you will find that you learn more about yourself, God, and others.
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:
In college, I skimmed through the book by Victor Frankl entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Recently I decided to read it again and spend a little more time digesting the concepts.
For those unfamiliar with this book, it is a book written by Victor Frankl about his experiences in a concentration camp. What is so impressive with this man is that before he was sent to the concentration camp he was a doctor of psychology. He had been working on some essays and a book that defined man’s search for meaning and happiness and what motivates man to keep trying. In his book, he describes how he was offered a position at a college in the United States before the Nazis came into Austria, where he lived. Had he taken this position, he would have been safe and would have never entered into the concentration camp. However, one day when he found out his parents were going to more than likely be sent to the camps he felt torn because he felt responsibilty to care for them. He describes how one day he read in the Bible (Frankl was Jewish) to honor your father and your mother. He took this as an answer from God and sacrificed his trip to America. A few months later, he was caring for his father in a concentration camp as his father passed away.
Going back to the concentration camp experience, Frankl describes what happened when he arrived. First, they took all of his belongings, which only consisted of a suitcase, coat, etc. and disposed of them. Next, they stripped the prisoners down to nothing and then shaved them completely naked. Very humiliating.
As I was reading this I had a thought about who we as human beings really are. How would I view myself if I had a similar situation? If everything was taken from me…my house, money, job, clothes…hair (that’s actually on it’s way out right now: )…how would I view myself? Would I still view myself with dignity knowing that I am a child of God? Would I still act and think thoughts about myself as a divine being with unlimited potential?
Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of someone who went through this when he was stripped down to nothing and whipped, beaten, and hung on the cross. Jesus taught to love in spite of all hell coming at you and he lived the perfect example of how to do this in dignity. He spoke with purpose. He chose not to speak at times such as when before kings and people mocking him and showed quite dignity. He taught to forsake all earthly posessions and to not set our hearts on riches.
Trying to love Jesus more fully and live His teachings is how we can ultimately find more meaning in our lives. When all is said and done, we are nothing without Him.
I encourage us all to take steps in prayer and read God’s Word so we can continually develop traits and find our ultimate meaning and purpose in life.
”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/