Wednesday, February 01, 2006

To My Mormon Friend: How then Should I Love You?

I am convinced, with much grief, that one of the reasons that we fail as disciples of Jesus Christ is because we have lost the meaning and practice of love. It has been trivialized to mere liking of baked chicken or mistaken for the fires of lust. One cannot love baked chicken nor matter how good the cook, nor is sexual desire and pleasure the pinnacle of its majesty. The ecstasies of love are deeper than these, and they are not even worthy comparisons to the depth of joy that love brings.

We need to recover authentic loving. We need to submit ourselves to the true book of love, the Bible, to become tutored lovers. It is my burning desire to be the greatest lover that I can be: to my wife, to my son, to my family, to my church, and to the occasional reader of this blog. It is the major thrust of my life's work to fulfill this dream.

Here is a sampling of what the Scriptures say of love:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but only faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6).

"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22).

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

Many more quotations could be added to these to underscore the importance of love in the Christian life. It is an essential quality to our character, if we lack it, then we are not God's children at all and are still lost in our sins.

If it is essential that we be lovers, then the natural question is to ask, "What is love?" How will we define this quality? What will be our benchmark to compare ourselves to? We must go to Scripture to learn what love is and what it isn't, and what Scripture teaches is a kind of love that is alien to our world.

In the quote above, John 13:34-35, Jesus tells the disciples that the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. In those verses, Jesus defines what He means by that in saying "just as I have loved you." How did Jesus love His disciples? By dying for them, certainly. By being their friend. But He also showed more startling love than this. How is this comment to Peter loving:
"Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Mark 8:33). He called Peter Satan. I contend that this was loving, would you wish to argue otherwise?

There are times when it is loving to rebuke even a friend in the harshest terms. If it were not, why would Paul command Timothy to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Timothy 4:2)? In his zeal for the gospel, Paul said of those troubling the Galatian church, "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" (Galatians 4:12). Was that a loving statement? Yes, he was loving the gospel over men.

Jesus Christ loved His Father more that you and I. The Father loves His Son and His truth and His glory more than us. Transgression against His holiness will end in terrible rebuke and retribution, one way or another. Sin and error are hideous and to be hated in the extreme. How did Jesus Christ love His disciples? By loving His Father and His glory more than His friends. We are not His glory; He displays His glory through us, either through wrath or mercy.

So to those whom I have offended by pointing out the tragic errors of Mormonism, I say with Paul, "Have I then become your enemy y thelling you the truth?" (cf. Galatians 4:16). Joseph Smith claimed that an angel came and gave him the tablets that helped to re-establish the Church. Paul says, "If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). I as I have pointed out, the gospel that Joseph Smith taught is radically different from the one that was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Once for all, there is no 1700 year gap in the witness, no cataclysmic failure of the Church of Christ, only a steadfast witness to truth that, as Paul says, "through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:10, 21).

So to the Mormon reader I repeat, with love, that the gospel of the Latter Day Saints' Church is no gospel at all. It is damning heresy, and you are in great danger. You are not made of the same essence as God; God is not in eternal progression; you can never be who God now is. The great wonder of the gospel is that Jesus Christ condescended to become man. The great beauty of Jesus Christ is that He is utterly unique and that there has never been, nor will there ever be, anyone or anything even remotely like Him. The mystery of the Trinity is not that there are three separate Gods, but that there is One God in Three persons. We have nothing to compare Him to, He is utterly unique and wonderful.

The greatness of the gospel revolves around the fact that Jesus Christ died for us; who is God of very God, light of very light, begotten not made. That His blood saves us by faith alone, and not by our meritorious works. Joseph Smith distorted these truths to his own damnation, and to the damnation of millions who would come after him. If this is true, I ask again, how can I claim to be loving and not refute such horrible error? You will not be okay if I just leave it alone. Your soul is in jeopardy because of these teachings. Your missionaries labor in vain and teach error at every house they visit. Am I now a persecutor for pointing this out?

I believe that you have the right to teach this error. I would stand to fight against anyone who would seek your personal harm for teaching your doctrine. I would fight for your right to advocate your position, to knock on doors and distribute your literature, and if you came into my house, you would be treated with respect, dignity, and even welcome, but you would be argued with vigorously and I would marshal every Scripture I know to refute the terrible teachings of your Church.

So I tell you now that I love you, and I wish the best for you, and that I long for you to know the joy of salvation in Christ Jesus. If I have now become your enemy by telling your the truth, then so be it. But know this, I do not consider you an enemy, I consider you a person made in the image of an Almighty and Unique Creator. You are worthy of my respect, my admonition, my prayers, and my hope. As my final duty, I beg you to be reconciled to the cross of Jesus Christ and to His person.


brother terry said...

Amen Brother!

A beautiful post.

If someone has an illness, should the doctor not tell them that they sick, just to spare their feelings?

That said, there is more than one way to speak a truth: It can be done in a mean spirited and accusatory way, or the Scriptural way, which is in love.

Sojourner, in my experience you speak the truth with only the motivation of love in your heart.

Bless you,

RGeek said...

Thank you, Sojourner, for these posts. And thank you, Terry, for leading me here.

S, I grew up R-LDS (HQ at Independence, MO, rather than SLC). One of the early schisms within Mormonism.

I was raised within the church. I began to question RLDS doctrine in college, when I began to compare what I had learned growing up, with the Gospel that my Navigator and Campus Crusade friends were discussing. You nailed many of the significant doctrinal (and heretical) points that were major stumbling blocks for me, at least so far as the attributes of God are concerned. And in these, there are essentially no distinctions between LDS and RLDS doctrine.

However, the considerations that really pushed me to choose a more traditional Christianity were those regarding the Mormon insistence on an open canon (elevating the Doctrine and Covenant [D&C] to Scriptural status), and the clear plagarism of the King James version of the Bible in the creation of the Book of Mormon [BoM].

Read the D&C sometime. God speaking through "The Prophet". Multiple Prophets, one per generation, and now, one per "branch" per generation. God's voice to the church. Read the text. It was clear to me that it was not God speaking through the D&C, it was the prophet. And what the prophet said was entirely a function of the context, the era, and the culture. Appropriate guidance at the time for a leader of a developing denomination? Perhaps, although debatable. Is it Scripture? In my opinion, no. Not even close.

Read the BoM. What reason other than blatant plagarism explains how the BoM includes long passages directly from the Bible --- and in King James English? These are not quotations; they are presumably Jesus preaching to the inhabitants of an unknown North American culture. And using precisely the same words, in the same sentences, as that of the King James Bible. Jesus, who spoke Aramaic. This is just not possible.

And yet, I remain completely convinced of the sincerity of the beliefs of my family, and of the congregation in which I was raised. Heresy? Yes, in my opinion. Sincere? Absolutely? Christian? By their definition, yes, of course.

My grandmother was a stalwart of her church, a Saint if ever there were one. When I get to heaven, I have no doubts that my grandmother will be to greet me, and that we will laugh at how silly and insignificant all of the denominational differences really are down here on Earth. I have no doubt that the Omniscient, Omnipresent God knows far better than I the intent of my heart, and of those of the sincerely believing LDS and RLDS Saints.

I, for one, have no intention of trying to separate sheep from goats. That responsibility belongs to God, not humanity. I suspect that we will all be surprised at how inclusive our God truly will be.

Sherry said...

I sure wish I was as holier than thou as you are. :)

Bryan said...

Brother, no matter how much love you try to show, it always seems there are those who can't see what is being said is out of love and not spite.

Keep on sharing the word in love Brother, God knows the heart.

brother terry said...

As an American, I too would give my life to preserve the freedoms we all hold so dear. I believe everyone has the right to Freedom of Speech.

I also have a right to speak though, and if I believe that the other person's speech is harmful and dangerous, then I have a RESPONSIBILITY to speak.

Sojourner's oroginal post pointed out some errors in Mormon Doctrine. I have seen several comments from people who were offended or became defensive when Sojourner challenged those beliefs, but I have not yet seen any comment that attempted to defend or explain those beliefs.

I find that sad, because the Bible instructs us to test our beliefs.

I challenge and am challenged by what I believe, every day, that is part of how I grow as a Christian.

Because I test and am challenged by my beliefs, I know why I hold them and I am comfortable defending them.

Mormon friends: We love you. We don't want you to live a life in error. We aren't trying to repress you, we're trying to liberate you with the Truth. If nothing else, examine your own Doctrines closely and make an informed decision for yourself...

There's a lot riding on your decision.