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More Thoughts on Mormonism as a Rational Choice

Posted by nebula0 on September 20, 2008


My original post on this topic created a big debate, so I wanted to expand the discussion.  This issue isn’t restricted to whether or not someone can rationally become a Mormon, no the issue is a much bigger one, which is, how much responsibility do we have for our choices?  Our entire judicial system depends on the notion that we are rational agents making choices that we can be held accountable for.  When “anti-cult ministries” label groups they have deep disagreements with as brainwashing cults, what they are doing is setting a precedence that undermines our entire way of life.  That’s right, I said it.  If someone can be so easily malleable as to have their ability to make choices stripped from them by a couple of teenagers dressed up in cheap suits running the standard “commitment pattern” on them, how can that same person be trusted to be a rational member of society?  Such a person, with their rationality so easily suppressed, ought to be locked up, because next thing you’ll know they’ll go on a murdering spree because the latest movie they saw glorified it.  As to Mormon “love bombing”, the same thing happens in churches across the nation.  I’ve seen it first hand, people notice a newcomer, they often go out of their way to make that person feel welcome with the ulterior motive of converting that person.  Once I showed up at a BBQ only to find out it was a church sponsored event that included prayer and plenty of befriending.  The same thing happened to my roommate at the university who was personally befriended by a woman only for her to try to get her saved.  I suppose every church that encourages its members to reach out and be nice to people while at the same time maintaining the ultimate goal of converting whoever seems open to the possibility is now a brainwashing cult.  Is that right?  How far do we want to go?

I argue that we are becoming a nation of softies.  It’s not enough to make alcoholism a disease, now people can be addicted to food, or addicted to shopping, and claim they have no control over their actions.  “It wasn’t my fault, I had PMS, I was on a sugar rush, I was drunk,…”  This way of thinking has directly influenced those “Christian anti-cult ministries” who label Mormons as brainwashed, they literally think that people are that easy to control.  I say enough of this nonsense.  We all make bad choices, wrong choices, choices that we look back on them and think “that was so stupid, why did I do that?”  It’s part of being human, but that doesn’t excuse us either.  I say, take responsibility for your choices and learn from them.

I know that trying to leave Mormonism is more difficult for others than, for example, me.  But there are plenty of ‘mes’ out there, converts who stick around for 7 years or so, some who go so far as to serve a mission, get married in the temple, some who never even make it through the temple, who are leaving.  Mormonism isn’t alone in this, this is common to all religions, including Christianity.  People fall away once they fully taste what they’ve gotten themselves into.  Likewise, I see plenty of people who left once they passed 18 or so, having been raised in the church, deeply bitter.  Why?  Really, why waste time and energy, particularly if you happen to be 38 now?  Twenty years is a long time to ‘get over it’ (what exactly are you getting over, anyway?).  But then again, there are people born and raised, who have served missions, married in the temples, and raised families in the church, who have come to the sad conclusion that the whole thing is traceable to a series of lies told by a single  person.  Yes, I know individuals in this category too, and I agree that this is much harder.  Even so, this is a condition that anyone can find themselves in, in any group.  Mormonism, I suppose, makes this condition more likely by its emphasis on family ties and its concentrations of members in the Mormon corridor.  Even so, should we call such people victims?  They could leave, no one would shoot them, it’s just hard.  Even really hard.  They are not victims.

What I am saying is that Mormonism is just another religion.  There are lots of them out there, you know.

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27 Responses to “More Thoughts on Mormonism as a Rational Choice”

  1. mormonsarechristian said

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion This article helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity’s theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

    • Baptism: .

    Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. http://www.imj.org.il/eng/exhibitions/2000/christianity/ancientchurch/structure/index.html
    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

    • The Trinity: .

    A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration?

    The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one.”

    Scribes later added “the Father, the Word and the Spirit,” and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. .

    Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

    • Theosis

    Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, “The Son of God became man, that we might become God.” . The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him. (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS agrees with Athanasius and Thomas regarding theosis.

    • The Deity of Jesus Christ

    Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless. http://www.adherents.com/misc/BarnaPoll.html

    • The Cross and Christ’s Atonement: .

    The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

    • Definition of “Christian”: .

    But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer.

    It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian http://sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/207/2070037.htm , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . Please refer to: http://NewTestamentTempleRitual.blogspot.com If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

    • The Parallel with the “Rise of Christianity”

    Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity” found parallels with the rise of Mormonism:
    A similar growth rate (40 percent for Christianity, and 43 percent for Mormonism) for both nascent religious movements. Conversions proceeded along social networking lines, primarily. While Christianity retained Jews’ belief in the Old Testament, Mormonism retains Creedal Christians’ belief in both the New and Old Testaments. The Romans martyred the Christian leaders, the mobs in Missouri and Illinois martyred the Mormon leaders. In both cases, they expected the fledgling movements to fail without their leaders.

    • The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

    The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this:

    “There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.)

    Martin Luther had similar thoughts: “Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,…unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation.”

    He also wrote: “I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among
    those who should have preserved it.”

    The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.

    * * *
    • Christ-Like Lives:

    The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

    1. Attend Religious Services weekly
    2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
    3. Believes in life after death
    4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
    5. Has taught religious education classes
    6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
    7. Sabbath Observance
    8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
    9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
    10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
    11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

    LDS Evangelical
    1. 71% 55%
    2. 52 28
    3. 76 62
    4. 100 95
    5. 42 28
    6. 68 22
    7. 67 40
    8. 72 56
    9. 50 19
    10. 65 26
    11. 84 35

    So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. (see http://MormonTeenagers.blogspot.com) It seems obvious pastors shouldn’t be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

  2. nebula0 said

    THis post pretty much misses the point, completely. Mormonism is a polytheistic religion and historic Christianity is not. Therein lies the root of pretty much all of the problems. The debate between adult vs infant baptism is a side issue in comparison.

    Also, I should argue for our readers, that having experienced Mormonism first hand, Sunday after Sunday, I much prefer paid clergy who know what they are doing to the informal ‘talks’ given by ordinary Mormon members. They pretty much, 95% of the time, terrible. Mormons have to pay 10% tithing anyway, so why not be able to use it to have a better Sunday experience? I vote for paid clergy.

    Also, it is ridiculous to argue that the Mormon leadership isn’t interested in protecting its flock. It’s obsessed with increasing its numbers to the extent that it is willing to paint itself as normative Christian at any cost, knowing that will lure in more people. If it weren’t for the leadership’s obsession with good PR, the evangelical community wouldn’t feel such a need to react so strongly in the first place.

  3. Darrell said

    Nebula,

    I agree with you on some points and disagree with you on some points. I do agree that we all need to take more responsibility for our actions. There is WAY to much of the “It wasn’t my fault. Such and such made me do it” excuses out there.

    When it comes to mormonism though… I take it a little differently. Yes, I am responsible for my own actions. However, at the same time, as a Christian I firmly believe there is spiritual warfare going on. I DO BELIEVE that satan is spreading lies and using ALL OF HIS INFLUENCE to blind people from the truth. He has 1/3 of the angels from heaven who have followed him and they are doing their best to exert influence and mislead people. That is one of the reasons that you can show a mormon scripture that clearly is against their theology and they cannot see it.

    My wife was a mormon for 6 years after I became a christian. We had many discussions during that 6 year period about various scriptures and their meaning. It was not until after she accepted christ that she could see it. We will now have discussions about THE SAME VERSES OF SCRIPTURE and she will say things like, “Wow, I did not know that verse said that. I thought I had read the bible before. However, now I SEE IT. It is like a light has turned on in my head.” The song Amazing Grace says it so well… “I once was blind, but now I see.” Christ opens our eyes and frees us from satan’s power of blinding us when we come to Him. This is a spiritual battle and sometimes we need to keep in mind that people can be under the influence of satan’s power. That warm fuzzy feeling that converts people to mormonism IMO is not indigestion… it is satan. He gets power over people, blinds them and leads them to hell. Our job is to try to show them the truth.

    Darrell

  4. nebula0 said

    Darrell,

    The fact that your wife was able to see the same verses in a different way simply means that she was able to break free of the Mormon conceptual framework (think Mormon lenses) and read them in a startling new context. It’s not easy to do, but it doesn’t require Satan’s help either.

    I’m definitely not pro ‘warm fuzzy’ feelings when it comes to establishing the kind of truth claims that establish ultimate allegiance. Many Mormons want to act as if this is an innocent endeavour, after all, if it makes them feel good why not? What’s wrong with feelings? They are manipulated for gain, that’s what is wrong with relying on them blindly- doing that implies lying to oneself. It gets complicated because it’s true that Mormons really are sincere about this, but it’s a sincere mistake that they actively make. They want to believe, so they choose to accept feelings that they self generate as evidence of the very things they hope to prove, things which should have more substantial evidence for all to freely examine.

    So yes, Mormons can get bound, but it’s in a bind that they are involved in, that they cooperate in making themselves. Why implicate Satan? I can’t imagine such a point of view helps in convincing MOrmons that they are wrong, does it?

  5. Seth R. said

    Especially since the “it’s from Satan” argument has been used before – against Jesus Christ himself no less.

  6. nebula0 said

    That’s a legitimate argument, Seth. Saying that it’s ‘from Satan’ doesn’t actually prove that it is, or anything.

  7. Darrell said

    “Especially since the “it’s from Satan” argument has been used before – against Jesus Christ himself no less.”

    Seth and Nebula,

    I do not rely on the “it’s from satan” argument to prove anything… “it’s from satan” is simply a statement of fact.

    There is ample proof just looking at the history of the LDS church and it’s doctrine compared to the bible to prove it is false. I believe it is from satan because after ample research I believe the bible to be true. The bible tells me in various verses (Galations 1:6-9 being one of them) that the LDS Church’s teachings (along with many other cult teachings)are from satan. They teach a false Christ.

    Darrell

  8. Seth R. said

    Do you seriously think you’ve proved anything Darrell?

    Your comment basically boils down to, “well yes you are. Neener, neener.”

    Our doctrine is from Satan eh?

    Well, prove it.

  9. Darrell said

    Seth,

    You are asking me to “prove to you” that mormonism is false in this blog? OK, go read Galations Chapter 1:6-9 and pray about it. The spirit will tell you with a warm feeling in your heart that what I am telling you is true! 🙂

    In all seriousness, I cannot prove anything to you unless you are willing to receive it. Truth is truth whether you think it is or not. For example, even though we all know the world is flat, there is still a “flat earth society” for heavens sake. Go figure that one out!!

    We have had and are having many discussions in other blogs where I (as well as many others) have shown you some of the evidence. I am sure we will have many more discussions in the future (depending upon how much time I can take away from my family!!). Unfortunately, thus far, you have shown yourself to me (as well as Berean, Brad and several others) to be unreceptive to the information. Thankfully, many others that I have spoken with are not. Praise God!!

    Neener, neener!!

    Darrell

  10. Darrell said

    “For example, even though we all know the world is flat, there is still a “flat earth society” for heavens sake.”

    Obviously a typo above. I meant to say, “even though we all know the world is NOT flat”. Typing too fast because it is time to get the baby up!!

    Darrell

  11. Seth R. said

    Galatians 1:8

    “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

    Good thing that the angel Moroni was bringing the “same Gospel” Paul preached, eh Darrell?

    Glad that bullet wasn’t pointing at us!

  12. Seth R. said

    To clarify…

    What is this “Gospel” Paul speaks of.

    Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected for the salvation of humanity.

    That is exactly what Joseph Smith preached, and it is what we preach today.

  13. Darrell said

    “What is this “Gospel” Paul speaks of.

    Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected for the salvation of humanity.”

    This goes to our discussion on the other blog. We may as well just continue it there. We are talking about two different Christs (among other major differences between what the bible teaches and mormonism). The differences are what make mormonism “another gospel”. What is really interesting is that it was delivered by “an angel”. Kind of tops off Paul’s prophecy IMO.

    Darrell

    Darrell

  14. Seth R. said

    Wasn’t delivered by an angel.

    I guess you forgot that God the Father and the Son came down personally to kick things off.

    Kind of puts us outside of Paul’s jurisdiction, don’t you think?

  15. Seth R. said

    The Gospel is the Atonement.

    We preach it. Period. Good enough for me.

  16. Darrell said

    “Wasn’t delivered by an angel.”

    Not according to JS’s first 1st Vision Account. He said an angel appeared to him. So, was he lying then or 18 years later in th 8th version?

    Darrell

  17. nebula0 said

    Seth, #15

    If that were so, there would be no Mormon church, there would be no temple ordinances and so forth. “The Gospel” includes a lot of stuff, perhaps you can argue all grounded in the atonement, but you can’t just ignore the rest of the stuff seen as essential to inheriting eternal life including baptism, confirmation, endowment and eternal marriage.

  18. Seth R. said

    I’m just saying that that’s all Paul was talking about.

    What makes you think that God considers having a theologically rigorous view of Him as a requirement for salvation? I must have missed that part of the Gospel.

  19. nebula0 said

    Seth,

    To even talk about Christ and the atonement implies concepts which in this context means theology. How do you make sense of a concept like the atonement without some kind of theology? You can’t, it’s impossible. That leaves you with a choice, attempt to develop as sound a theology as possible, or try to avoid it altogether by denying the need for a solid theology. Why would you do the latter knowingly?

  20. Seth R. said

    Sound theology is something that I would say is probably not available to 99% of all the human beings who have lived and are living on the planet.

    So it hardly seems fair to make it a touchstone for authentic religion.

  21. nebula0 said

    Seth,

    Not at all. As soon as someone forms a conception of God at all they have a theology. It’s completely unavoidable.

  22. Seth R. said

    I said “sound” theology. Not theology.

    Sound theology is something that’s rather rare, and usually limited to those select individuals who either take out a graduate degree in philosophy and theology, or spend enough time getting their butt kicked on the internet to put in the effort (and even then it’s pretty hit-and-miss).

    Which is why my Presbyterian grandmother – lifelong member of her parish, regular singer in the choir, and general pillar of the congregation is under the impression that God has a body, and the Father, Son and Spirit are all three separate individuals.

    It’s also why you can never get a lay Christian to explain the Trinity without the person committing either the heresy of modalism, or the heresy of tri-theism (both are pretty darn popular).

    It’s just abundantly clear to me that most lay Christians simply don’t “get it” the way Internet warriors-for-Jesus are demanding that Mormons “get it” if they want in the club.

    All in all, it makes me suspicious that orthodoxy is more useful as a “Gospel-hobby” than as a true touchstone for correct faith and participation in the Body of Christ.

  23. nebula0 said

    Seth,

    I believe that God will judge us by our efforts in that area. Not everyone has been exposed to the same things or has access to the same knowledge, but those who care about God, really care, strive to know what they can.

    You can’t deny that getting something right, on some level, matters. For instance, what if someone just didn’t have any conception of the atonement– are you really going to say that doesn’t matter? How about an atheist who just doesn’t get the concept of God, it seems so stupid to him… you’ve met these people. Does that not matter?

    The question becomes, at what point does it matter, how much right theology is necessary. I don’t have the answers to that, not like I’d like to have, but I can say I feel very strongly about monotheism. God has lit a fire under me and I want everyone know that there is but one God, who is the ultimate creator and even sustainer of our very existence– and it does matter, it changes everything.

  24. nebula0 said

    Seth, you have theology, you come here and argue yoru theology against mine, and the way you conceptualize God affects how you interact with him. It matters for every person. God will judge us each individually.

  25. Seth R. said

    I didn’t say it didn’t matter.

    I just don’t think it’s the most reasonable access point for the guy on the street. Nor am I convinced it should be.

  26. nebula0 said

    Seth,

    You’re not getting what I am saying. Theology is the first point of access for ANYONE, the lowliest slave, the most erudite scholar… anyone. Anytime you form any conception of God you are forming a theology. It’s inescapable. It precedes any ritual or practice (unless you are an automon). It is an integral part of what it means to be a human being- a rational agent.

    Now Seth, you and I have the means to explore theology more in depth, and if we care about God, we’ll do the very best we can to honor Him about learning about Him. I don’t think God requires that the guy with down syndrome understand what it is for God to be the ultimate ground of being, but there is no reason that you shouldn’t get it.

  27. Seth R. said

    I agree with that.

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