December 18, 2006

"If people shine light on our religion, they will find some strange things, they will find some unsavory things..."

"... and they will find some wonderful things."

Mormons contemplate the scrutiny and criticism they will face if Mitt Romney runs for President. When Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, he faced "almost daily to potshots that his religion was racist, then sexist, then backward, then clannish with designs on ruling the U.S. if not the world." Nowadays, the church is "more proactive":
[LDS President Gordon B.] Hinckley has also downplayed the more unusual elements of the faith. He has dismissed the pre-1978 ban on blacks becoming priests and the practice of polygamy, which ended officially in 1890, as "in the past." He has written inspirational books without using any Mormon language. He welcomed the world to Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

All of these efforts may help Romney, who could hardly look more All-American. His answer to questions about underwear could be an ad he once ran that showed him bare-chested on a beach.

"If you listen to Mitt and [President Hinckley] long enough," says [journalist Ron] Scott, "you might conclude that Mormons are really just Episcopalians who wear funny underwear."

But some members are wary that in an effort to explain the LDS faith to a critical audience, officials may end up watering it down.

"Downplaying temple garments? What else do we want to demystify and de-weird for the sake of gains in popular opinion?" asks Steve Evans, a Seattle attorney who helps run the Mormon blog bycommonconsent.com. "I'm all in favor of clarifying misconceptions, but eventually I am worried that we lose something vital."
Aren't all religions mysterious if you look closely? Normally, in politics, we just hold religion at a distance. We expect the candidates to have some religion but refrain from talking much about how the religion's beliefs interweave with the candidate's political thinking. But there is a move that can be made against a candidate that drags religion into the campaign and tries to stir up prejudice:
Romney got a taste of it in his 1994 attempt to unseat Edward Kennedy in the Senate.

Despite his brother's famous speech saying that a person's religion should be off-limits, Kennedy "played the Mormon card so relentlessly and cynically that even the leader of Boston Catholics, Cardinal Bernard Law, indignantly wrote that the lessons John Kennedy taught the country about a man's religion have 'been lost on President Kennedy's youngest brother, but salvaged by Mister Romney,' ''
Of course, President Kennedy said what he said because he was the one who was being attacked. He doesn't deserve special credit for taking the high road. The high road was best for him, and he might have taken the low road if it was better. But it was the high road.

64 comments:

Tim said...

"Of course, President Kennedy said what he said because he was the one who was being attacked. He doesn't deserve special credit for taking the high road. The high road was best for him, and he might have taken the low road if it was better. But it was the high road."

Maybe he doesn't deserve special credit, as he was the one being attacked, but by that logic, neither do Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr.. Sure, you can draw a distinction between politics and civil rights, but can you really?

Bishop Law was right to criticize Teddy; JFK does deserve credit (maybe not "special") for taking the high road over the low road, especially in light of the fact he was being attacked (how many politicians under similar stresses lash out, or demagogue?). Similarly, how Romney handles the political and media attention paid to his Mormonism is likely to prove more important than his being Mormon (in a worldly, secular sense, that is).

Romney might startle some by sharing some of that scrutiny with Sen. Harry Reid, just to test if voters and the media are really concerned about Mormonism, or about a Republican who is Mormon. Many seem absolutely untroubled by the incoming Sen. Majority Leader's Mormonism.

Pogo said...

Re: "Aren't all religions mysterious if you look closely?"

At this point, I am tolerant of any religion that doesn't send grandma into a bus strapped with explsoives. I don't really care about Mormon underpants all that much, in comparison.

"But it was the high road."
As much as the Kennedy clan was often a ruthless political machine, there was no concerted effort to attack Nixon's Quaker religion. (See 1960 Time magazine article on the anti-Catholic tinge to the election here.)

Anonymous said...

Romney presents an interesting test of the Lieberman premise, namely the notion that religious voters will favor a person of faith, regardless of details of that faith.

bearing said...

Disclaimer: "Some of my best friends are Mormons."

I don't think there's any reason why membership in the LDS church should exclude someone from the presidency; in fact, extrapolating from the characters of the Mormons I know, I rather think it might be a good thing.

But I admit to being disturbed by the downplaying of the unique aspects of LDS beliefs and practices I've seen reported in the media. If you're a true believer, especially if you hope to win converts, why not be up front about your beliefs?

There's a TIME magazine interview with Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley that bothers me, I think from 1997. He's asked if LDS doctrine is that God the Father was once a man, or not, and he essentially replies, "I don't know that that's what church teaching is." It's a weird answer, you'd think he'd say yes or no, or even "let me clarify that." It really makes me wonder if there's some kind of policy to be secretive about the beliefs that draw bright lines between LDS theology and that of most Christians.

If Romney runs, I'll be really, really interested to compare the news media "in-depth" reports about Mormon beliefs with what my LDS friends can tell me about them. Heaven knows the media often reports erroneously on the doctrine of my own church (RCC), so I sympathize.

I suspect a go-to-blog on this issue will be Get Religion, which is all about how the media covers religious issues. Highly recommended if you're wanting to watch this evolve.

Jeff said...

Reason: In the episode “All About Mormons,” a Mormon family moves to South Park, and one of the boys finds out that they’re pretty nice. Then they have a fight, and at the end the Mormon boy teaches him a moral lesson: “Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life and a great family and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice, and helping people, and even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”

(From the Reason interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker)

Eli Blake said...

He has written inspirational books without using any Mormon language.

That's not surprising, because I'm a member of the LDS church and I've listened to dozens of talks by President Hinckley, and every one of them has been in English.

Freder Frederson said...

Don't compare Catholicism or the Quakers to Mormonism. Catholicism has a valid claim to be the Church of Christ. The Society of Friends is a valid protestant religion that can trace its roots back to Calvin and Knox. They are orthodox and valid Christian religions that worship the same bible (except for a couple of minor books) and acknowledge the same Christ and triune God.

Mormonism on the other hand, is a bizarre heresy created out of whole cloth by an insane Vermont preacher in the 1820s and 1830s. It is not Christianity. It is some weird mix of Christianity, masonry, and just stuff made up by the fertile, and deranged imagination of Joseph Smith (and when it is necessary to correct embarrassing or politically inconvenient passages or statements made by previous "prophets", "revelations" of later elders of the Church). Furthermore, no matter how "nice" and "reasonable" its adherents may appear, or how much they may claim on the surface to accommodate other Christians, the religion believes that they are the only true Christians and that all other Christians are apostates and damned to hell.

Pogo said...

Freder, the three do share a lack of suicide bombers, hence my tolerance for their diversity.

I don't really give a damn about any religion, as long as they don't threaten to kill unbelievers.

Hence my concern with new MN Rep. Keith Ellison (or whatever his name is this week).

Dave said...

I agree with Pogo.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, the three do share a lack of suicide bombers, hence my tolerance for their diversity.

Gee, I guess you've never heard of the IRA. And you might be surprised to delve into the early history of the Mormon church and learn how they managed to survive out in the hostile environment of Utah. They were quite adept at ambushing Wagon Trains on the Oregon Trail.

Gahrie said...

Every Christian sect believes that they possess the only true path to Heaven, and that all other Christians are heretics.

When I teach religion in 7th grade, I have a hard time convincing my students that Catholics are Christian.

When I tell them that Jesus was a Jew, that all of the apostles were Jews, and that originally only Jews could be Christians the fun really starts.

(By the way I also teach Islam, Daoism, Shinto, Buddhism and touch on Hinduism)

Freder Frederson said...

I don't really give a damn about any religion, as long as they don't threaten to kill unbelievers.

Have we forgotten Srebrenica already?

Freder Frederson said...

Every Christian sect believes that they possess the only true path to Heaven, and that all other Christians are heretics.

That is simply untrue. While some of the more extreme Christian sects may believe they are the only true path to heaven, most don't. Even the more hardcore evangelistic fundamentalist Christian denominations believe only that you must accept Christ as your "personal" savior and be "born again" to be saved. That is where they have a problem with the Catholic Church--which believes that infant baptism, confession of sins (roughly), and contrition is sufficient to ensure salvation. Most mainstream Christian denominations are even more lax than that. Churches like mine (PCUSA) pretty much believe that you believe in God and try to be good, you'll get there. We even waffle on the issue of whether belief in the divinity of Christ is a prerequisite.

Eli Blake said...
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RogerA said...

Actually, Freder, I think I would prefer to governed by one of those bizarre Mormons, that a bigoted, moronic know-it-all such as you.

Freder Frederson said...

When I teach religion in 7th grade, I have a hard time convincing my students that Catholics are Christian.

I can't believe you teach religion when you obviously know so little about the various Christian denominations. What religion are you?

Eli Blake said...

Rather than responding directly to most of Freder's accusations (which are clearly a matter of opinion; if you believe that Joseph Smith was called by God then you believe it, as I do; otherwise he would be right,) I am going to clarify one point:

Of course I believe that the LDS Church is true (otherwise why would I join a Church I didn't believe was true.) However, the Church does NOT believe that all Christians are 'damned to hell.' In fact, the only person in the history of the planet who we know for a fact has been so damned is Cain. There are others as well, but God only knows who they are and speculating on who they are is foolish. But I assure you, that as an ordinary Christian I don't believe that you will go there.

We believe that you are responsible for what you know. And we believe that because of additional scripture (the Book of Mormon) plus latter day revelation that we have more information than you do. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is good if we put that additional information to good use (starting with sharing it) but it is a bad thing if we don't-- then we stand condemned. Hence, if I went to the store and bought a bottle of wine and drank it then I would have committed a sin, but a Catholic who came in after me and bought exactly the same thing and consumed it has committed no sin because (s)he does not have the knowlege I have that it is a sin. On the other hand, if (s)he stole the wine then the condemnation would be the same as if I did it because we would both know that it is wrong to steal.

Freder Frederson said...

However, the Church does NOT believe that all Christians are 'damned to hell.'

Well, the LDS may have toned down its rhetoric and may not call the Catholic Church "The Whore of Babylon" anymore, but this is from the LDS' own website and it says that the Lord took away the authority to form Churches away from the earth until the restoration by Joseph Smith. Sure sounds like the Mormon Church is the "one true church" and all other Christians are apostates and by definition, damned to hell.

After the Apostles and many righteous Church members were killed and other members departed from the truth, the Lord took the priesthood authority and His Church from the earth. Without God’s priesthood authority, the Church no longer functioned as Christ had established it. The ordinances were changed and many plain and simple truths were lost. While many good people and some truth remained, the original Church was lost.

Pogo said...

Freder said "Gee, I guess you've never heard of the IRA."

oooooh, SNAP!
Indeed, I have heard of them. Unlike the mullahs today, I don't think the Pope was pimping for the IRA murderers, and praying for more deaths to non-believers.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lotsa ugliness from religion to go around. Lotsa mayhem from atheists, too. So what? Humans have a tendency towards evil. Is that news, Freder? No. Interesting? No.

In 2006, Mormons have become a fairly benign force. Yes, there are remnant troglodytes in their midst. Whatever. And what does Srebrenica have to do with Romney? At present, the most violent religion is Islam. And the most violent non-theist religion is communism.

I'm not worried about Christians in the US. Seems like how we set up our religious tolerance (via the Founding Fathers) worked out pretty well. Russia, France, and the rest of the world haven't been so good at it, as the reference to Srebrenica points out.

As I already said, I don't really give a damn about any religion, as long as they don't threaten to kill unbelievers.

Henry said...

Freder, you're a bigot. The last time I heard remarks like yours I was talking to a born-again Baptist minister. Except he assured me that Catholics were a cult just like Mormons because the veneration of saints amounted to polytheism. Then he talked about how he hated to go to Provincetown because of the gays.

Do you seriously think you can mention Calvin in the same comment in which you complain about the Mormon's concept of apostacy and look like anything other than a historically-ignorant hater?

As for "they were quite adept at ambushing Wagon Trains," can you cite anything beyond the Mountain Meadows incident?

And what difference does that one tragedy make? Does the St Bartholomew's day massacre invalidate Catholicism?

But actually I'm curious -- why the bile? You don't show evidence of having thought deeply about Mormonism, but you obviously are pretty carried away in despising it. What's the real reason?

Freder Frederson said...

And what does Srebrenica have to do with Romney? At present, the most violent religion is Islam. And the most violent non-theist religion is communism.

Nothing, but you claimed and condemned Islam as a violent religion. I merely pointed out that sectarian violence is rampant among Christians and other religions as well. And as for this country, remember that this country has a long and disgusting history of religious violence carried out by generally conservative christians, that continues up until today, including the KKK and lynchings, the Olympics bomber and abortion clinic bombings and doctor assassinations. Also, remember Terry Nichols was closely associated with the Christian Identity movement, a particularly nasty and violent white supremacist movement.

Paddy O. said...

Of course religions are mysterious. That's what makes the good ones interesting. Otherwise it would be a lot easier to record Oprah and get the self-help advice in a way that doesn't require any sacrifice. Plus, a person could sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I don't get the playing down of mysteries, though I do think that a religion should also be asked to look deeply at itself to at least show its plausibility. Christianity has done this since at least F.C. Baur and has been made stronger for it.

Mysteries involve things we can't really know for certain. Did Jesus walk out of that tomb? History can't prove or disprove the fact. There's no footage, so we're left with witnesses who sure seemed to act like he did.

There's a lot we can know, and a lot we can't know, so we're left with weighing the evidence and making a leap. Wrestling with that evidence is good fun, and makes for a deeper faith.

No one should be afraid of it, and no one should get pissed off when others disagree with the evidence.

Yet, there is something to be said for analyzing a religion for its claims and assessing a person who would accept those claims. I wouldn't vote for someone who worships Zeus for instance, or considers the sun a god. In my mind that's silliness, and says much about the decision making ability of someone who would believe it.

I think the LDS church should be looked at. Newsweek should even turn its religious focus to something other than its managing editor's personal faith quest and look at the claims, as well as the other influential religions in this world.

As far as all Christian sects rejecting all others, I think the ECT movement puts it well. This connects to another reason why I'm all for scrutiny. Much of the time people make choices about a religion while being mostly ignorant about the actual practiced religion.

Eli Blake said...

In fact, if you really want to know what members of the Church believe, you don't have to take it from me. In our scriptures is a two page document called the 'Articles of Faith' (just as much a part of scripture as anything else) which was penned by Joseph Smith himself in response to a question on what the basic beliefs of members of the Church are:

Here it is (link here)

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the dHoly Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

--Joseph Smith

Gahrie said...

Freder:

I have read 7 different versions of the Bible, each claims to be authoratative. I believe that none are the work of God.

I have been exposed to the story and word of Christ, and reject it as myth.

Am I going to Heaven or Hell?


By the way I am a Deist.

PatCA said...

I am not an expert on the dogma of LDS--all I know is a couple friends of mine, whose lives were fractured and unhappy because of a nutty dysfunctional family of origin, became Mormoms once they got married and had kids of their own. They just needed direction on how to be a happy family. They and their husbands and kids are now doing great.

The Mormoms do "family" quite well. Other religions should take lessons from them.

Aluwid said...

Freder, whether or not the LDS Church considers other churches to be valid representatives of Christ on the Earth or not is unrelated to whether or not they feel that all that are not Mormons will be consigned to the stereotypical christian Hell.

According to Mormon theology in the afterlife all mankind will be judged and will receive awards related to our degree of faithfulness, etc. In rough form we will be assigned to three main degrees of reward, with the lowest being preferable to our current mortal state:

http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,1295-1,00.html

PatCA said...

Oh, and Freder, don't forget that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

Your recitation of past sins has nothing to do with the violence of Islam or Romney's candidacy, or are you honestly saying he's going to be shooting at SUV convoys of Christians from the Oval Office?

Freder Frederson said...

But actually I'm curious -- why the bile? You don't show evidence of having thought deeply about Mormonism, but you obviously are pretty carried away in despising it. What's the real reason?

Why do you think I haven't thought deeply about it? Because if I did I would see that it is a rational and thoughtful religion and discover the truth in it?

I despise it because I have thought deeply about it. I despise it because I am a Christian and I am offended that the heresy that is Mormonism not only claims to be a Christian religion but claims that all other Christians are apostates (no matter how much they try to downplay that particular aspect of their theology). Your religion is an offense to Christianity as it directly contradicts the central tenants of Christianity and presents a blasphemous, ahistorical, and ridiculous fantasy about Jesus (and other fictional characters) running around pre-Columbian America doing and saying things that never happened.

I am deeply offended by how they change their theology to fit the political whims or moods of the day by a new "revelation" (polygamy is no longer okay so we can become a state, we never said blacks weren't as good as white people). And whatever did happen to that DNA mapping project that was going to prove once and for all, beyond a doubt, that Native Americans really are from the middle east, not east Asia?

Eli Blake said...

Freder:

As I said in my post, I believe that the LDS Church is true (if I thought another church was true then I would join that one). So yes, there was an apostacy prior to Joseph Smith coming. And I still believe (as I also posted) that other Churches don't have some of the knowlege that we have.

That does NOT equate to 'damned to hell.' Without going into a lot of deep discussion about the nature of the heavens (see II Cor. 12:2-- there is more than one), 'Hell' (or outer darkness) is probably not a place where either you or I will go. Let's leave it this way, my friend-- God's judgments are just and He will send no one anyplace they don't deserve to go.

Gahrie said...

As to the exclusivity of Christian sects:

1)Do Methodists believe that I must be "born again" in order to get to Heaven?

2) Do Calvinists believe I can earn my way into Heaven by faith and/or good works?

Those are just two examples off the top of my head.

Eli Blake said...

Speaking of 'family,' this is a really good discussion, but I have to go so I can go over to my kids school and watch one of them doing a puppet show.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

And Mormons believe that just as fervently as anyone else.

Aluwid said...

Your religion is an offense to Christianity as it directly contradicts the central tenants of Christianity and presents a blasphemous, ahistorical, and ridiculous fantasy about Jesus (and other fictional characters) running around pre-Columbian America doing and saying things that never happened.

As a Mormon, it's amusing to me to hear about how strange my beliefs are from other Christians. Let's take a step back and look at one of the core beliefs that we share:

"Jesus Christ died and was resurrected three days later."

Is that something that happens everyday in your neck of the woods?

It seems to me that everyone should take a step back and look in the mirror before picking on us crazy Mormons.

Freder Frederson said...

That does NOT equate to 'damned to hell.'

Then you (and the Mormon Church) must have one hell of a funny definition of Apostate.

1)Do Methodists believe that I must be "born again" in order to get to Heaven?

2) Do Calvinists believe I can earn my way into Heaven by faith and/or good works?


Neither can be answered by a simple 'yes' or 'no' since there is no single 'Methodist' or 'Calvinist' philosophy. Presbyterians would consider themselves basically Calvinists, and you certainly couldn't get a straight answer out of the PCUSA (the largest Presbyterian denomination in this country) on that question, although the PCA (which split with the PCUSA in the late sixties over the issue of ordaining women--they were against it) would answer with a resounding 'no'. On the other hand the UCC, another church that claims Calvinist roots, would probably answer with a qualified 'yes'.

Implicit in your question is that your second question would be answered in the affirmative by the Catholic Church. If that is your understanding of Catholic theology, you seriously need to brush up on it. It is really much more complex than that. Faith and good works are necessary but not sufficient.

Freder Frederson said...

"Jesus Christ died and was resurrected three days later."

Just because we believe and have faith in certain common things, doesn't give us license to make up a whole bunch of other stories that didn't happen and create our own religion based upon these new, created fantasies (after throwing in a few masonic rituals for good measure).

Henry said...
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Gerald Hibbs said...

Freder,

I'm a Christian. I believe Jesus is Lord. It seems clear to me that Mormonism was started by a whacko or conman. Also, I'm not terribly happy about the beliefs that other denominations have sometimes, but in the end it is all about Jesus, isn't it?

If Mormons believe, as the quotes I've see indicate, that Jesus is the Son of God and the Way, the Truth and the Life then maybe you should cut them some slack.

"3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." -- well, that covers that.

I used to be more upset with doctrinal differences than I am now, especially when it seemed the Bible was crystal clear on the issue at hand. But nowadays when sects are moving farther and farther from respecting Jesus as Savior then all that other stuff starts to pale in comparison.

One could argue that on such issues you should make your thoughts known, preferably without bile, but after that you've done any reasonable expectations regarding the Commission. Look, man. The Mormons ain't on your beat. That's God's job. In the end, His will be done.

If the stuff they say apart from Jesus is wrong, well then they're wrong. You have wrong doctrines too, so do I. We see through a glass darkly and no denomination/sect/religion has it 100% right, I guarantee. All you can do is love God and do your best and enjoy the gifts God has given you. Leave the smiting to Jesus.

Henry said...

I despise it because I have thought deeply about it.

Freder, you have made broad misrepresentations of Mormon history and theology in this thread, all to the purpose of vilifying the religion and its adherents. You really sound to me like the bigoted minister I described earlier.

BTW, I personally am agnostic. On a rational basis I object to the idea of one true faith that you have brought up. I just don't pretend that this is somehow unique to Mormons, or that there's anything particularly reprehensible about a religion holding forth this view in a pluralistic society.

Just because we believe and have faith in certain common things, doesn't give us license to make up a whole bunch of other stories that didn't happen.

My knowledge of religious history, the origination of the gospels, the doctrinal councils, and the heresies and schisms that have generated the multitude of Christian sects that exist today makes me think that making up stories is a pretty central element religion.

One of your complaints with Mormonism appears to be that it was made up too recently, not in the dignified distant past. If this is your argument, you win the point, but I fail to see what difference that makes.

Alternately you decry Mormonism for being too rigid (there is no single 'Methodist' or 'Calvinist' philosophy), yet too adaptable (I am deeply offended by how they change their theology to fit the political whims or moods).

When the Unitarians recognized same-sex marriage were you so righteously offended? All flourishing religions adjust their theology for the times, whether you're talking Vatican II or social theology.

It sounds to me as if your bias is the premise for your arguments.

Freder Frederson said...

If Mormons believe, as the quotes I've see indicate, that Jesus is the Son of God and the Way, the Truth and the Life then maybe you should cut them some slack.

Well, I can cut individual Mormons some slack when they honestly don't realize what their church really believes. But underlying the Mormon Church is the central tenant that their wacky religion is the only true Christianity and all other Christians are apostates (which no matter how much they wish to deny the meaning of the word, means that they are not only wrong but spreading a false, incorrect and heretical religion in opposition to the true church). Now there are some extreme Christian Churches that hold the same opinion about other Christians, and I don't care for them either. But by in large, the Christian community as a whole may be fractured but we don't believe that the other denominations are so much in error that they are agents of the devil (at least not any more).

The Mormon Church is insidious because it is so good at playing nice. Its missionaries are so clean-cut and its leaders are such pillars of the community that it appears to be just another Christian denomination. But it isn't. It's beliefs are so removed from Christianity it shouldn't call itself Christian. It wouldn't irk me so much if it had a cool name (like all the other people in the book of Mormon) for the guy who came over and preached to the Nephites (or whoever) after Jesus was crucified, but to claim it was Jesus is just too much.

Aluwid said...

The Mormon Church is insidious because it is so good at playing nice. Its missionaries are so clean-cut and its leaders are such pillars of the community that it appears to be just another Christian denomination. But it isn't.

So what you're saying is that what bothers you about the Mormon church is that we're too...Christian?

Sorry for not fitting into your stereotype about raving cultists. Since returning from my years spent as a Mormon missionary I've grown a goatee and generally only wear a suit and tie on Sundays. I suppose I could try to break some laws now and then, would that suffice or should I do more to differentiate myself? (I wouldn't want anyone to get confused and think I'm a Christian after all!) ;-)

JohnK said...

From a Christian perspective, Mormonism is a false religion started by a false prophet who has lead millions astray. There is no way around it. It just kills me when clowns like Kathyn Jean Lopez, who claims to be more Catholic than the Pope, embrace Romney and think it is just peachy he is a Morman. You can't have it both ways.

tjl said...

"Mormonism is a false religion started by a false prophet."

It's hard to fathom all the hostility expressed in this thread to a church whose members seem to be disproportionately clean-living, hard-working, family-oriented and public-spirited. Unless you see these virtues as negatives (as Daily Kos readers might), why concern yourself over a few theological oddities? It was after all a mainstream Christian who admitted, "Credo quia absurdum."

There is another faith, far more numerous than the Mormon Church, that spreads and enforces its beliefs by rather more explosive methods. Anyone worried about false prophets ought to focus on the one whose followers actually pose a danger to the rest of us.

JohnK said...

I am not saying that the Mormon church should be oppressed. I am saying they ARE NOT CHRISTIANS period. I feel sorry for them and hope for their sakes that they some day realize the error of their ways, but I would in no way want to oppress them or deprive them of the choice of following whom they wish. If they can't figure out that Jospeph Smith was a pathetic 19th Century huckster who started a false bastardization of Christianity for his own vanity, that is their mistake, but it does not make them a threat to anyone.

ca said...

Freder,

As Eli said before, though it is, technically, true that Mormons believe that there was a period of the "Great Apostacy" during which the true church was not on the earth, it is NOT true that Mormons believe therefore that the non-Mormon guy walking down the street is heretical and an apostate (as defined by a Catholic). Indeed, the average Mormon would not recognize what you mean by those words. Apostate, to a Mormon, does NOT mean the same thing that it does to a mainstream Christian. In particular, it doesn't mean hell. At all.

The non-Mormon merely "has less of the truth" than a Mormon does. Plus which, they can always be saved in the afterlife when they get to know what the truth really is! Okay, maybe you think that's bizarre, but I have non-Christian friends who like the Mormon version MUCH better than the Christian belief that they'll be burning in hell. (According to one Baptist church some of my friends went to, all my friends, Christian or not (including some who went to that church), except the one who was baptized correctly, were going to hell anyway, so it seemed like it'd be a pretty interesting place.)

johnk... at least Mormons believe in Christ the Savior. Maybe it was started by a false prophet, and maybe the members now believe some weird crap in addition to Jesus, but... enh, whatever. People believe all sorts of weird crap. Astrology. Alien abductions. But so what? Last I heard, you could be forgiven for believing in alien abductions.

Full disclosure: I'm a... the correct label would perhaps be Mormon-agnostic. Married to a Lutheran, which really gave me an interesting perspective on differing religions.

ca said...

johnk, to respond to your 3:04pm comment, my husband's Lutheran (Missouri Synod, if you care) pastor told me that my Mormon-centralized beliefs were just fine for a Lutheran (obviously without the whole Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith thing, but as I said before I regard those as extra beliefs, even for someone who truly believes, and I have enough doubts that this wasn't an issue). The only one I had to really change was that Mormons believe that the Sacrament (Communion) is in memory of the crucifixion, and Lutherans believe that it is spiritually His body and blood. (Which if you ask me makes just about as much sense as most Mormon doctrines, but okay, fine, I got around that by thinking of it as somewhat allegorical, which is probably heretical. Don't tell Pastor.)

He asked if I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And I was.

The Jerk said...

I'm an atheist and I think all developed religious doctrines are equally implausible and silly. However, if Eli and Freder are representative of the members of their respective faiths, I'd much rather hang out with Mormons than with whatever Freder is.

RogerA said...

The Jerk--amen, brother--I'd rather handle snakes and wash feet than be such a moronic hatemongering bigot such as Freder--You, Freder, make the Nazis look open-minded. Reread the first amendment to the US constitution. I would take a passle of Saints and a flock of southern Baptists to a brownshirt such as you: as moron and a liar

BrianOfAtlanta said...

ca wrote:
at least Mormons believe in Christ the Savior. Maybe it was started by a false prophet, and maybe the members now believe some weird crap in addition to Jesus, but... enh, whatever. People believe all sorts of weird crap. Astrology. Alien abductions. But so what? Last I heard, you could be forgiven for believing in alien abductions.

Mormonism is a blatantly false religion from a Christian perspective, but as you point out, having a false concept of God or spiritual reality is hardly grounds for consignment to Hell. The Israelites up until the time of the exile to Babylon thought God was god of a limited geographical area (i.e. not Babylon), a much more restrictive view than God being god of a single planet as the LDS church teaches. Yet, Moses made it to Heaven just fine even with such a cockeyed view of God, and without ever knowing Jesus as his personal savior. Abraham had less of a clue than Moses, didn't know Jesus either, and made it into Heaven as well.

Jesus's words "No one comes to the Father but through me" do not equate to "No one comes to the Father unless they have an orthodox theological understanding of me and unless they have taken me as their personal savior." It's amazing how many Christians, including ones with theological training, overlook the forest for the trees.

d said...

Not to put too fine a point to it, but Mormonism makes Christian dogma look like Newton's Principia.

Freder Frederson said...

You, Freder, make the Nazis look open-minded. Reread the first amendment to the US constitution. I would take a passle of Saints and a flock of southern Baptists to a brownshirt such as you: as moron and a liar

Wow nice. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth! Where did I say I wanted all Mormons rounded up and put in concentration camps? I could care less if they go around spouting their nonsense and believe in their little silly stories. Just don't expect me to respect their religion or call it Christianity. It most definitely not a Christian religion. And we should make that clear if Mitt Romney runs for President. His religion is just as silly as Scientology or any other religion made up by a single person seeking everlasting glory.

Geoff said...

Can someone please post a definition of Christianity? Because, for some it apparently isn't the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the savior of mankind.

Michael A. Cleverly said...

Freder wrote: It wouldn't irk me so much if it had a cool name (like all the other people in the book of Mormon) for the guy who came over and preached to the Nephites (or whoever) after Jesus was crucified, but to claim it was Jesus is just too much.

The New Testament records multiple instances of Jesus Christ appearing, in person, to his followers after his resurrection. (Cf. Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21, etc.)

So you apparently would be OK with the resurrected Son of God sending some personal emissary (provided he had a cool name) to the Americas. But even though Christ had said that he had other sheep who would hear his voice (cf. John 10:16), you would apparently proscribe his ability to visit or appear to anyone outside of the general vicinity of Jerusalem...?

Seems a tad bit bit presumptious to me. :-)

RogerA said...

Of course I kiss my mother with my mouth, silly goose--now you are downplaying your bigotry, but it doest work--freder--you are prejudiced ass--you are the one that made all sorts of inane charges against the Latter day saints--you are the one who has somehow suggested you know the truth when it comes to what constitutes true religion--

as most commenters have noted: we prefer the mormons and christians to you--yes--you are a brownshirted nazi--the irony is, you dont know realize it--its that transplanted brit thing--you classism doesnt translate well in the colonies.

Freder Frederson said...

you are the one that made all sorts of inane charges against the Latter day saints

What "charges" (other than that they are not christian and their religion is made up) did I make against the LDS? Did they not in the past refer to the Catholic Church as "the Whore of Babylon"? Did they not switch their official position on the status of blacks and polygamy, officially because of a "revelation", but coincidentally because of bad press and for Utah to become a state? Do they not currently downplay their primacy in relation to other Christian denominations?

Kirk Parker said...

Gahrie,

"When I tell them that Jesus was a Jew, that all of the apostles were Jews, and that originally only Jews could be Christians the fun really starts."

Oy; please tell me these students have no prior church experience or Christian teaching...

Feder,

As a fellow-Christian, may I just say how sad I am you apply the same nasty, combative spirit to religious and spiritual questions that appears to be your default on matters of politics. Find some grace, somewhere, please.

Henry said...

So Freder, if Mitt Romney runs for president, you see that as an opportunity to attack his religion. That's what you're saying.

You've certainly established in past Althouse discussions your invincible historical ignorance, but your hatreds have carried you into brave new illiberal territory in this one.

Just in case you don't get it, the things that make you a bigot is not that you disagree with Mormonism, but that you casually distort its history and theology while expressing eagerness to attack the private religious beliefs of a public figure.

God speed, Torquemada.

Freder Frederson said...

but that you casually distort its history and theology while expressing eagerness to attack the private religious beliefs of a public figure.

I really love how I am accused of being a bigot and distorting the history and theology of the LDS yet no one has yet refuted any of my statements. Just accused me of being mean and bigoted. What are these distortions of history and theology?

BTW my most recent LDS misstep is their DNA mapping project. They undertook, with considerable fanfare, a DNA mapping project, where they took DNA samples from Native Americans. The plan was to prove scientifically, that Native Americans originated in the Middle East, not East Asia, as the overwhelming scientific and anthropological evidence shows. This would, for once and for all, demonstrate that the Book of Mormon was historically accurate. Well the results are in, but for some reason the Church refuses to share them with the world.

Really people, I'm a bigot because I think the Mormon Church is a ridiculous made up religion? Would you be as hard on me if we were pondering Tom Cruise and the Scientologists or the Unification Church (although Rev Moon is awful close to a lot of prominent Republicans so maybe you would be)? Pogo is "concerned" about Keith Ellison just because he is a Muslim. Just because a religion calls themselves "Christian" are they suddenly off limits from ridicule and criticism? You certainly love bashing liberal Christians every chance you get.

Henry said...

Good grief, you are a moron.

Freder gets Mormon theology wrong: the religion believes all other Christians are apostates and damned to hell.

See Aluwid, far upstream, for refutation.

Freder gets Mormon history wrong:
They were quite adept at ambushing Wagon Trains on the Oregon Trail.

As I wrote, the Mountain Meadow massacre (a single incident not countenanced by LDS leaders) is not sufficient evidence for this blanket statement.

Freder ascribes evil motives to Mormon believers:
we don't believe that the other denominations are so much in error that they are agents of the devil (at least not any more)

Mormons don't believe that either(at least not any more). See Aluwid. Again.

Freder declares his eagerness to attack Romney for his religious beliefs: It most definitely not a Christian religion. And we should make that clear if Mitt Romney runs for President.

Freder, beyond being red herrings, bringing up Tom Cruise or Rev. Moon just demonstrates your willingness to project your bigotry on others.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder gets Mormon theology wrong: the religion believes all other Christians are apostates and damned to hell.

Well no. Mormons do believe all other Christians are apostates. Then they go and redefine (or actually refuse to define) what "apostate" means to Mormons nowadays. They say, "well you're an apostate, but we're not saying that's a bad thing or in a negative way." Just like I'm sure you're not calling me a bigot, moron, or brownshirt in a negative way.

And why are scientology and the Unification Church red herrings. Are they less valid religions than Mormonism? If so, why?

bearing said...

Terminology police here.

"Apostate" has a very specific meaning. It means one who abandons a faith, or converts to another one. It does not refer to someone who never held that faith in the first place.

When Mormons speak of the alleged "Great Apostasy," therefore, they are referring to a specific generation of people who once upon a time supposedly abandoned the teachings that Jesus supposedly taught. Nobody who came after that could possibly have been an apostate, according to them.

The only "apostates" today, according to Mormons, are people who used to be Mormon and now are not. Meanwhile, the apostates today, according to Catholics, are people who used to be Catholic and now are not. The apostates today, according to Muslims, are those who used to be Muslim and now are not.

Therefore Mormons do not call the rest of the people who call themselves Christians "apostates." That term, used by Mormons, refers only to ex-Mormons.

sigh... apostasy, blasphemy, heresy... people are always getting these wrong.

Henry said...

Feder: the religion believes all other Christians are apostates and damned to hell.

Sigh. You get the "apostate" part wrong (see above). And you get the "damned to hell" part wrong (see Alawid). And you keep squirming for a position even after being corrected.

Bringing up Scientology and the Unification church might make sense if Mormons were Scientologists or Unificationists. But they're not. Classic guilt by association.

But take heart. At least you're not a brownshirt.

Joe said...

First, the accusations that Mormons can be self-righteous and thin skinned are correct, as witnessed by several comments in this forum. Mormons do have a tendency to dismiss criticisms rather than counter them with logical argument. Many missionaries (myself included) found out that attempting to counter vitriol with logic was like throwing pearls before swine (not only was it a waste of pearls, it did the swine no good.)

Unfortunately, distinguishing between attack dogs and those who sincerely want a debate is not a Mormon strong suit; everyone tends to get lumped in with the attack dogs, especially when they make a good point.

Second, in the last twenty years, under the direction of their current Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, there has been a "mainstreaming" reformation of sorts. Certain things have been downplayed and others dismissed while the emphasis on Jesus Christ has been greatly increased.

This isn't at all unusual when examining historical religions; most have gone through periods of change and adaptation. The long term result is often schisms or even the Protestant revolution.

Third, the "apostate" issue is a little more murky than is suggested. It means more than simply not being a Mormon any longer (which is covered by the more general term, "inactive") but those who no longer believe Mormon doctrine. In other words, they are using the word by it's definition.

Where it does get confusing it that Mormon doctrine states that non-Mormon peoples are in state of apostacy or spiritual darkness. This isn't much different than what many, if not most, religions believe. (The core of evangelical Christianity is that they must bring the light of Christ to those living in ignorance.)

(I am, by definition, a Mormon apostate. However, I am not anti-Mormon and never will be. Like all religions, Mormonism has its flaws, but its influence is overall positive. Were I forced to choose a religion, I would still choose it [if for no other reason than its salvation doctrine makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than that of any other religion.] Having said that, I know Mormon doctrine and history very well and am willing to engage in honest debate with anyone on the subject.)

PS. One of the truly odd aspects of Mormonism is that its official dogma is more narrow than that commonly believed by its members. For example, its official stance on abortion is that its ultimately none of their business, though publically, they present a more conservative approach. However cliche it may sound, this is an attempt to hate the sin and love the sinner. (Accepting that abortion may be medically necessary or even a fundamental right doesn't mean you have to like it.)

bearing said...

Joe,

The LDS church isn't officially anti-abortion? What do you mean, don't they classify it as sin, or "not choosing the right," or whatever?

This is news to me. Can you clarify?

Aluwid said...

The LDS church isn't officially anti-abortion? What do you mean, don't they classify it as sin, or "not choosing the right," or whatever?

This is news to me. Can you clarify?


Here is the official LDS Church position:

http://www.lds.org/newsroom/issues/answer/0,19491,6056-1-201-10-201,00.html

Joe said...

The LDS church is against abortion, but recognizes very broad exceptions including that it is ultimately a private decision made between a woman, her husband, her doctor and the Lord.

Note that the statement from the above link is, again, more conservative than the official stance outlined in the LDS church's Handbook of Instruction.

The LDS church believes individual members have the right to receive inspiration from God concerning their own lives. LDS church founder Joseph Smith taught that members are to be taught correct principals and then govern themselves. In light of this, the church's official stance makes sense.

Where the Church runs into trouble is that it's run by human beings, some of whom are very conservative, others more liberal. Thus, if two women have abortions in two different parts of the country and/or world and the circumstances are identical, one could be excommunicated while the other being completely left alone.

(When in my twenties, I was once threatened with excommunication for turning down a request by my bishop--the local ecclesiastical authority--to be an assistant Boy Scout leader. Yet other bishops loathe Boy Scouts.

The LDS church has always struggled with the "govern themselves" stance. As with ANY bureaucracy, they all too often can't resist crossing the line into nit-picking. For example, years ago, President Hinckley denounced tatoos and women having more than one piercing. Not only was it silly, it usurped parental authority and alienated the very teenagers it should have been embracing.)