Monday, November 8, 2010

Shelter from the storm? For mormons only!

I have been watching the Hurricane situation in Haiti closely and it must have been terrifying. Bad enough to face a horrible storm in a comfortable, secure building but to face it with no shelter other than a tent? People in Haiti went wherever they could for shelter but one place was pretty restrictive according to this report from AOL: No Sanctuary at This Church in Haitian Storm...

LEOGANE, Haiti (Nov. 8) -- The water in Haiti's seaside town of Leogane rose to the doorsteps of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if you're local, and homeless, you needn't have bothered coming here for help. Help is for Mormons only.

Hurricane Tomas swiped the western coast of Haiti late last week, and three days of rain brought massive flooding to many towns, including Leogane. The U.N. estimates 1,500 people in the city were displaced by the flood, most of whom have been living in temporary tents since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The LDS church is one of the biggest and most modern buildings in Leogane, with the capacity to safely hold and protect 200. The church's hurricane policy? Only church members can seek shelter there. On Friday, 36 congregants and family members slept at the church.

They didn't receive food or water, sleeping mats or mattresses. On Friday afternoon, a dozen women sat on the ground and in chairs outside, underneath the shadow of the church's enormous satellite dish, while church staff more or less ignored them.

Wow, way to be witnesses to the community! Especially in a predominantly black nation where you have to cover up the vile racism of your organization's founders. Even though common sense and pure human decency would have called for opening your doors, that doesn't help in the authoritarian cult of mormonism:

"It's not simple," said Matthieu Chrisner, adviser to the bishop, the leader of the local congregation. Letting people take shelter here "is a very complex decision, and a lot of people would have to agree. It's a chain of authority that reaches the headquarters in the Central Caribbean."

If I had a group of children right now who needed a shelter?

"For now, we can have members of this church and their parents," he replied.

If they were disabled?

"I would have to ask at another level," Chrisner said. "There is a committee. Really, it's a committee inside of some other committees. It goes through the bishop, then a committee process ... then, there's no way to know if it's longer or shorter. I can't tell you how long it would take for an answer."

A local Mormon mother, 25-year-old Tanya Favery, sought shelter here before the storm. She thinks the Mormon-only policy is wrong, but she is resigned to her role, as a grateful beneficiary, and doesn't question the authority of the bishop.

"It's not normal, as a Christian," Favery said. "It should've been done otherwise. People could've come here and found Christ. But I'm not the decider."

They might have found something in this "church" but it wouldn't have been Christ. So even though what they were doing is clearly wrong, Ms. Favery doesn't question the authority of her "bishop". How tragic but this sort of blind obedience is one of the hallmarks of mormonism and all authoritarian cults. Perhaps I will run into Ms. Favery during my trip to Haiti. I would love to tell her who Jesus is and why He is not who mormons worship, no matter what the sign on the building says.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Of course we are Christians, we have a picture on our wall!

By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you buy a picture of me and hang it in your living room.

An interesting news story came out today. A Christian church in North Carolina that sponsors (as a ministry of their church) a Cub Scout troop rejected the application of a couple who desired to be leaders and have their sons involved. The reason? The couple in question are mormons...

In shopping around for a Cub Scout program for their two sons, ages 6 and 8, Jeremy and Jodi Stokes decided on the one at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews.

The Stokes, also of Matthews, weren't members of the evangelical megachurch, but they had many friends who were. And unlike the Cub Scout pack at their own church, which doesn't have a program for 6-year-old Tiger Scouts, Christ Covenant's was big enough to accommodate both of their boys.

The couple even signed up to be Scout leaders - he would lead the Bears, she'd help with the Tigers - when they discovered the church needed more adult help. And when the Scouting officials at Christ Covenant found out Jeremy Stokes was an Eagle Scout, they were thrilled.

So why, in the end, did Christ Covenant reject the Stokes' application to be Scout leaders?

Because they're Mormons. And, therefore, not real Christians, church officials told the couple last month.

Au contraire! Of course the Stokes are Christians!

What upset the Stokes family most was the church questioning their Christianity.

"It was so offensive," said Jodi Stokes, who was raised Catholic, then became a Mormon. "I have a picture of Jesus in my living room."

And, she added, look at the formal name of their church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeremy Stokes, a Bank of America financial consultant whose family has been in the LDS (Latter-day Saints) church for generations, wrote this when asked on Christ Covenant's Scouting application to describe his relationship with Christ: "One of the most important things in my life is my faith and trust in Christ and in His Atonement. Without Christ's help and guidance, I know I wouldn't be the loving father or devoted husband or humble man I am today. His example is the one help I need and rely on every day and I am truly grateful for that."

Well shoot. If you have a picture of Jesus (or at least a picture of fairly Caucasian looking guy with long hair wearing robes that you think represents what Jesus looks like) in your living room and have the words "Jesus Christ" in the name of your organization, you must be Christians! Just ask their "Bishop"...

Bishop Steven Rowlan of the LDS ward, or parish, which the Stokes attend in Weddington, acknowledged that Mormon theology diverges from some beliefs shared by most Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. But he insisted members of the LDS church are as Christian as the members of Christ Covenant.

"Yes, there are distinct differences," he said. "But not with respect to being a Christian. We definitely and truly are Christians in every sense of the word."

Sure there are differences, just minor quibbles. Like denying the deity and eternalness of Christ. Like teaching that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Like teaching that God was once a man and that good mormons can become gods too. Like completely redefining the Christian and Biblical doctrines of the atonement. Just minor stuff that we should gloss over and ignore when they send young men out to knock on doors to tell Christians that God declared their churches to be abominations and that they need to be baptized by 19 year old mormons to have a legitimate baptism.

Gosh this is so unfair. After all, I am sure that mormon Scout troops would welcome a Christian leader. Right?

Nationally, the Mormon church has a close relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. What is the Mormon church's rules about appointing Scout leaders?

Mormon Bishop Rowlan, who heads the Stokes' Weddington church, would not say whether he would be open to naming a non-Mormon as a Scouting leader.

"I'd have to take each one on an individual basis," he said, adding that that is the policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Huh. I seem to recall that be Scout leaders for mormon troops were "callings", something that only a mormon could be called to. I can't imagine that a mormon church would "call" a Christian to be a Scout leader for one of their troops anymore than they would call a Baptist to be their "Bishop".

Good for Christ Covenant Church. In a day when too many Christians are completely undiscerning about theology, it is good to see someone taking an unpopular and politically incorrect stand for the truth instead of putting unbelievers in a leadership position in one of their ministries.

(I wonder. If the parents who wanted to be leaders were atheists or muslims and were denied a leadership position at a Christian church sponsored Scout troop, would anyone notice or care?)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Very interesting statement and retraction at WORLD Mag

There is a bit of a firestorm at WORLD Mag where columnist Andrée Seu wrote a glowing essay on Glenn Beck where she made this comment:

But it was obvious to me that Beck wasn’t into the extra money or fame. It was obvious to me that he was a new creation in Christ. I know he’s Mormon and all that. I also remember reading a book by Professor Harvey Conn decades ago that said that you have to be very careful when judging a person’s salvation—some people with lousy theology have their hearts right with God, and some people with impeccable theology are cold toward God.

Glenn Beck isn’t cold toward God. He is red hot. He is “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). He knows what pit he was in—and he knows exactly who took him out of it. If I were his station manager I would be biting my fingernails every day, because the man just doesn’t hold back about Jesus, and I can say without hesitation that I have not heard the essentials of the gospel more clearly and boldly in any church than on his program.

I have heard all the criticisms, and I can find sympathy for them—about the Mormonism, about the dangers of religious syncretism, etc. But regarding the Mormon thing, I think we should regard Beck as an Apollos and pray for a Priscilla and Aquila in his life, to steer him better (Acts 18). I just don’t see how anyone can listen to the man for a solid week and not be as blessed as I am by his courage, his utter lack of fear of man, and his sharp and personal testimony of Christ’s transforming power.

Either she doesn't understand mormonism or she doesn't understand the Gospel. Needless to say that didn't sit well with WORLD's mostly evangelical readers and it has prompted a ton of backlash around the web. Today Mickey McLean posted that this had slipped through the editorial process and then posted in full Justin Taylor's thoughtful response to Seu. Here is what McLean said:

On Wednesday, our beloved columnist Andrée Seu wrote a column on her observations on Glenn Beck and his faith, which has drawn a lot of attention in the blogosphere. Our friend Justin Taylor wrote a thoughtful response at his Between Two Worlds blog, which we reprint below with Justin’s permission.

WORLD’s position: All of us need editing. Our website editing system failed in regard to Andrée’s post about Glenn Beck. The breadth of response points out confusion concerning Beck and where he stands. Rather than speculating further, we will push to interview him and ask hard questions. One of the hardest aspects of reporting is assessing hearts, so we try not to do it: We look at what individuals do and say rather than attempting to analyze their relationship with God. For a sense of WORLD’s current understanding of the Beck phenomenon, see
“Beckoning Christians.”

I am glad that the folks at WORLD realized how tragically wrong Seu's comment was although I wonder if they would have said anything if there wasn't such a public outcry. We all need to understand that overcoming an addiction and becoming a more moral person, even a conservative political hero of sorts, is praiseworthy but it is NOT the same thing as being born-again and to suggest that it is amounts to borderline blasphemy at worst and a gross misunderstanding of the Gospel at best. I don't read WORLD magazine at all but this whole episode is proof positive that Beck is impacting the church for the negative.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Russell Moore on Glenn Beck

The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia: Russ Moore nails it!:

Originally posted on my main blog but I am trying to get this link out to as many people as possible....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Glenn Beck and 'Divine Destiny'

Today is the day that Glenn Beck and a cadre of enabling "pastors" and other religious leaders are gathering in Washington D.C. for Beck's "Divine Destiny" rally. There are going to be many ostensibly Christian leaders who are linking arms with Glenn Beck to promote the gospel of Americana.

Exhibit A comes from David Barton in an article from CNN:

"For Christians concerned about Glenn's faith, I would ask the following questions: What fruit do you see produced by Glenn," David Barton, an influential evangelical activist who is joining Beck's rally, wrote on his Facebook page recently. "Good or bad? If you judged Glenn only by the fruits he has produced, would you still hold concerns over his faith?"

"Christians concerned about Glenn's faith should judge the tree by its fruits, not its labels," Barton, a former Republican National Committee consultant, continued. "After all, Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton openly call themselves Christians... Although these individuals have the right labels, they have the wrong fruits."

That is so ignorant that one would have to question the heart of David Barton. Glenn Beck's fruit? The fruit of mormonism is spiritual death. That is the fruit that matters. Would David Barton say the same thing about a Muslim who is a political conservative? An atheist? I don't care how Glenn Beck votes or what he writes in books or how emotional he gets when shedding crocodile tears over America, what matters is where he stands with Christ and where he stands is in opposition. He embraces a faith that portrays Christ as a created being and the brother of Satan, he embraces a faith that thinks that God Almighty is an exalted man, he worships in a blasphemous temple where rituals that have nothing to do with the Gospel are performed in secrecy to hide their shame.

Let me be blunt:

Any Christian who would make common cause with an unbeliever and blasphemer in the name of some sort of misguided patriotism doesn't deserve to bear the name of Christ. Period. It is embracing in the name of "God" a man who is a blasphemer.

Is "reclaiming America" so precious that we are willing to abandon the Gospel to advance this vaguely religious political movement?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yoked With Unbelievers

Glenn Beck is inviting all sorts of folks to join him for an event in a few weeks: “Glenn Beck's Divine Destiny”. One has to wonder if he is speaking of his own divine destiny (i.e. to become a god and have a world of his own to rule, where presumably there won’t be any liberals).

Join Glenn Beck for an inspiring look at the role faith played in the founding of America and the role it will play again in its destiny. The audience for the event will be overwhelmingly made up of pastors, ministers and clergy: a modern day Black Robe Regimen. Tickets will be made available to the general public at no cost.

A question for the “pastors, ministers and clergy” who make up the audience for this event. What does this mean to you?:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (1 Cor 6: 14-15)

These verses from Paul are far more than admonitions about marrying within the faith. Is the cause of the Kingdom advanced when you stand shoulder to shoulder in common cause with an unbeliever? Do you really see as an integral part of your calling to “the ministry” joining with a mormon to advance Constitutional restoration?

I wonder if these men have given any thought to the consequences here. Do people see these men embracing Beck in a religious setting and think that perhaps mormonism is something to look into? Beck is one of the top five most visible mormons on the American scene along with Mitt Romney and even if he is not an official representative of the mormon church, he certainly is widely recognized as a member. Joining forces with Beck tells me that these men see “reclaiming America” as more important than preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Glenn Beck’s latest

Praying with Glenn!

Now good God-fearin’ red-blooded Americans can pray each morning with Glenn Beck and get a nugget of spiritual wisdom from Glenn to start their day!

So how many Christians are gathering in the morning to pray for America, prayer initiated by an unbeliever and blasphemer and done so with a "guest pastor", without the faintest notion of the implications of doing so? The fawning comments from people who are Beck fans are troubling and frankly border on being cultic. As I have said time and again, I expect many of them are in a church building on Sunday but are so lacking in basics doctrines of the faith that they don’t recognize that a) Glenn Beck is an unbeliever and b) when he speaks about God, it is not the same God spoken of in the pew Bible in front of them on Sunday. Too many people have received a lifetime of sermons and can’t recognize the difference between the Kingdom of God and America, between an unbeliever and a believer.

One can only imagine the outrage if this were spiritual thoughts and prayer led by a Muslim. Or even worse, if it was prayer and spiritual thoughts from some commie pinko lib’ral like Jim Wallis. Conservative Christians would be outraged. But Glenn Beck? That is apparently OK with way too many people. Beck is a far greater danger to the Gospel witness than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. A wolf that makes no pretense of being anything other than a wolf is easy to spot. It is the wolf who tries to clothe himself like a sheep that is the danger we are warned about in the Bible.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making lost kids more moral

I read a blog post at Beliefnet this morning touting how moral mormon kids are compared to kids in evangelical churches.

One of the researchers in the National Study of Youth and Religion, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean, now draws upon the data to issue a gentle jeremiad to Protestant congregations. In Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, she argues that if teenagers don't have a firm grasp of core Christian doctrines and instead worship at what she calls "the Church of Benign Whatever-ism" -- or don't worship at all -- it's because youth pastors and other leaders have watered down the message, she claims. Teenagers in Protestant churches get the idea that they're supposed to feel good about themselves, but that little is expected of them; Christianity is designed to make them "nice," but it's not supposed to form them as disciples. The first part of the book draws upon copious research data to diagnose the problem that Protestant teens are being taught a brand of Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Then the book takes a surprising turn. In a chapter called "Mormon Envy," Dean further indicts Protestant churches by holding up Mormonism as an example of a religious group that is doing right by its teenagers. She makes it clear that she has serious theological disagreements with Mormonism, but from a sociological perspective, Mormonism is succeeding in creating young adults who firmly understand what they believe and why their faith needs to have a claim on their behavior.

I can safely say that few mormons know much about what their church believes beyond the talking points. Once you press them, they are completely unprepared to address the glaring discrepancies between what their church teaches and what the Bible teaches, or even more tellingly what their church teaches now and what the “prophet of the restoration” and his cronies taught. Nowhere is this more true than among the missionaries, young people who supposedly are firmly grounded in their faith. What they are grounded in is having it pounded in their head that their feelings rule and that those feelings influenced by years of indoctrination by their parents tell them that mormonism is true. If that is the sign of success, i.e. borderline brainwashing, I want no part of it.

In many ways mormonism is more of a culture than a faith, a culture that requires certain pious activities and a certain mindset. Mormonism overcomes a problem that evangelical churches have yet to “solve”: how do you integrate and retain young people who are not transformed by the Gospel? Mormonism accomplishes this by replacing the Gospel with a religious culture. The end result are kids who are very, very nice and respectable, who go to church in their Sunday best, get married young and have big families. Those same kids are as lost as a Muslim in Saudi Arabia or an atheist in France, but they sure are nice people!

Molding kids who obey a series of rules and are taught from a young age to parrot back their “testimony” that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that they know this church is true is not a behavior that Christians should seek to emulate. The answer is not to try to retain kids or make them more moral by making them go to church but rather by presenting the Gospel to our kids and leaving the results up to God. That might mean that some children are not going to keep going to church but that is not really up to us nor is that our goal. Our goal is to see lost sinners come to faith in Christ and our role in that is to proclaim the Gospel, not to make our kids obey religious rules. Sure we should bring our kids to the gathering of the church and sure we should teach them about Jesus and of course we want to make our kids obey certain rules, but that is not the end result we are after.

Touting mormon kids exhibiting morality is just another way for the mormon church to try to infiltrate the Christian church.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The book of Hebrews: A testimony against Mormonism

Well of course it is not just a testimony against mormonism but it certainly seems at times to have been written with Joseph Smith in mind. I was struck by this again tonight as we read in Hebrews 7 at the gathering of the church, especially here:

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. (Heb 7:23-24)

Notice the contrast between a priesthood of Aaron that served in the temple that required many members and the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek that only Christ holds. Of particular note here and throughout the book of Hebrews is the difference between the priesthood of Aaron with many priests and the priesthood of Melchizedek which is always spoken of exclusively referencing Christ in the singular. There is only One who holds this priesthood and His name is Jesus Christ. The smiling young men in dark suits and white dress shirts going door to door and the men who claim to be bishops in a restored church and the old guys in Salt Lake City who declare themselves "apostles" all have blasphemously and presumptuously declared that they share in a priesthood that is reserved for our Great High Priest Jesus Christ and Him alone. By claiming the priesthood that only Jesus Christ can hold these men place themselves on equal footing with Jesus Christ. Providentially the Bible recorded the refutation of the false notion of a "Melchizedek priesthood" with millions of holders long before Joseph Smith concocted his heretical story of ghosts giving him a priesthood that no mere man can hold. I have placed and will continue to place my hope and assurance in Jesus Christ and His priesthood and not in the pale shadow and mockery instituted by Joseph Smith.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Glenn Beck: Refuting bad theology with even worse theology!

So Glenn Beck took recently took President Obama to task over his view of "collective salvation". I honestly haven't ever heard Obama use that phrase or even anything vaguely like it. Leave to it Beck to weasel in some mormon doctrine to "refute" Obama....

GLENN: Collective salvation, unless we all are saved, none will be saved, okay? Jesus came to save you, okay? Let me just give you the — real quick, you've got to take it back, you've got to take it back to the war in heaven. War in heaven with the angels and everything else, and they have this war and Lucifer says, "I'm going to save all of them. Just give me the glory." And God says, no, I don't think so. And he selects, he selects the plan of Christ which, I'm going to send a savior down and he will save each individual, okay? That's why he's — that's why God came — that's why, you know, God came down and saved the — saved us all because of individual salvation. You accept the atonement of Jesus Christ and you are saved. Collective salvation is, I can't be saved on my own, I can't be. I have to make sure and ensure everyone else's salvation and then we're all saved together.

Beck blithely reiterates the mormon doctrine of the "council in heaven" where our older brothers Jesus and Satan had a family spat over how mankind would be saved. Apparently God the Father gave an equal hearing to the competing views and chose Christ's plan. If you think that this whole notion of Jesus and Satan being brothers and God letting them present competing plans for how to save humanity like He was taking bids from contractors to build a porch doesn't sound quite right, you are correct! Satan was never in the planning process, God wasn't interested in his opinion on how to save mankind and Jesus is NOT the brother of Satan. Meanwhile, lots of Christians still want to link arms with Beck because he is supposed to be the latest, greatest conservative leader.

I can't help but wonder how many people who attend church every Sunday would even catch what Beck was saying and realize it was completely wrong?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More on Glenn Beck and Liberty University

"the voice of one crying out in suburbia...": Politics trumps the Gospel at Liberty

Mormonism desperately wants to be legitimized among Christians because it makes evangelizing nominal Christians that much easier. Setting aside the Gospel to win political fights is shameful and has no place among the Body of Christ. I would rather lose every political fight and see mormons won for Christ.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A testimony you should check out

In New Horizons ,the magazine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is an article titled Mormonism and the Gospel. The article is the testimony of Jody Morris who grew up as a devout mormon but was saved by Christ after moving out of his mormon home. He is now a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It is a great testimony to the sovereign saving power of God and it places the focus where it should be, not on Jody but on Christ and what He has done. It is a testimony of God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sins.

I liked this a lot:

Sure, Mormons have their version of an atonement and forgiveness. They believe that Jesus died for sin, but in my experience their version of the atonement was unable to make me right with God. It only made it possible for me to make myself right with God.

That really captures one half of the glaring problem with the mormon notion of salvation. Mormon theology tells you all about being a sin and a failure but doesn’t give you a way to deal with it. The atonement as mormons understand is all about helping me to reconcile myself to God rather than the Biblical model which tells us how God has reconciled us to Himself. In mormonism it God saving us after all we can do, in other words we save ourselves as much as we can and then Jesus fills in the gap. The other half of the problem with atonement in mormonism is of course a faulty doctrine of God, specifically Jesus Christ. The Jesus of mormonism can only help you save yourself because He is insufficient and inadequate to do any more than that. A Jesus that is like you in nature, even if He is older and wiser, is hardly going to be able to save to the uttermost. He is more of a big brother helping us out because He has been there and done that. He is different from us in age and in experience but little else.

I would encourage you, especially if you are a mormon, to consider what Jody has written. I always love to hear stories of God’s grace rescuing people out of any false belief system but especially mormonism. Our God is great and He is able to save any of us, even those of us who are certain that we don’t need saving!

Now if we can just get Pastor Jody to stop baptizing babies…

Friday, May 7, 2010

By this all men will know you are my disciples, if incorporate "Jesus Christ" in the name of your organization

Of all the various and sundry tactics employed by mormons to argue that they are Christians, there is none more silly than the "We have the name of Jesus Christ right there in the name of our church, we must be Christians!". There were no organized churches in the time of Christ and the ministry of the apostles. The idea that putting the name of Jesus Christ into your organizational name makes you a legitimate is foreign to Scripture. Refusing to worship Jesus Christ as Lord and God is not negated by putting His name on your organization, in fact misusing His name might just bring even greater condemnation.

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exo 20:7)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Joseph Ratzinger, Joseph Smith and where the buck stops

This whole blow-up in the Roman Catholic church gets uglier and stranger every day. Not a lot of people are blogging about this because it is such a horrifying situation. What do you say about a decades long string of abuses involving children? Words really fail to capture the grotesque horror of the situation and we over use words like “tragedy” and “atrocity” to the point that they don’t do justice to what has and is happening.

So what does the scandal over pedophilia cover-up in the Roman Catholic church have to do with mormonism? Not much in the scandal itself but plenty in the reactions by the faithful. We are seeing a full court press to deflect blame away from Joseph Ratzinger all over Catholicism. From angry sermons to editorials, Roman apologists are out in full force to blame anyone or everyone except Joseph Ratzinger. To hear some of the defenders, Ratzinger is the victim here and the accusations are part of some sort of plot to fell Rome. Already several underlings have fallen on their swords but the media is on this like a pit bull. For Roman Catholics, the “pope” is the successor of Peter and the false notion of an “unbroken line of succession” from Peter to whoever is riding in the Popemobile today is vital for maintaining the illusion of absolute authority. They have little choice but to defend him.

The same thing occurs in mormonism on a smaller scale. As a mormon you simply must defend at all costs the character of Joseph Smith and the other “prophets”. Smith claimed a pretty exalted position for himself and his place in the “church” he founded is of paramount importance. If you can’t believe Smith, mormonism falls apart. If you recognize that Joseph Smith is a man who made mistakes, it makes it hard to trust everything he said on face value. When you start to look into his myriad character flaws and outright sinful behavior, his whole story becomes suspect. Smith’s wanton abuse of his position as “prophet” provided him with the means to gather a harem of “wives” who were willing to suffer the ignominy of being a polygamous consort because Smith was the prophet. People accepted and still accept what was clear infidelity on his part because they believed him to be a prophet and like the men who declare themselves the pope with the keys to the only true priesthood, they have the power to forgive or condemn. To oppose the Roman pope or the mormon prophet is to put your soul in jeopardy, so you just swallow hard and look the other way.

So I see a lot of similarities between the two organizations (strict hierarchy, emphasis on sole authority to interpret Scripture, a claim to a unique priesthood, powerful leadership centralized in one man) and I also see a lot of similarities between the manner that the leader of each organization is treated. Granted, Smith’s sinful behavior was more direct but Ratzinger oversees a far bigger and older institution.

Whether you declare yourself to be the “Pope”, take on titles like “Holy Father” and “Vicar of Christ”, claim infallibility over all matters of faith and practice and allow men to kiss your ring or whether you declare that you have seen God face to face, name yourself the “Prophet of the Restoration” and in one fell swoop declare that you are rewriting the Bible and remaking God in your image, you are setting yourself up as the place the buck stops. You don’t get to hide behind surrogates.

The Bible paints a very different picture from the hierarchical, man-centered and authoritarian churches we see in Salt Lake City and Rome. Roman Catholicism and mormonism are means by which men can control other men. The Church as described in the Bible is a means for Christians to submit to and serve one another. When a Christian leader stumbles into error and sin, the church can enact restorative discipline because the Christian church is not based on one fallible man for leadership. There can be no discipline for a pope or a prophet because he is the church.

The differences couldn’t be more stark.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Um, Glenn....hate to break this to you...

Glenn Beck has caused something of a controversy over something he said. Nothing new there. This time the controversy is coming from Mr. Beck's call for Christians to "flee" churches that advocate "social justice". Here is Glenn 'splaining himself (emphasis added):

GLENN: For the love of Pete. Marx started in 19 1848. All of this stuff started percolating, all of Nietzsche comes along, everything, it's redistribution of wealth. I've told you this, the progressive movement started with people like Woodrow Wilson whose father was a preacher! They perverted Christianity! "The concept is that Christians should not merely give to the poor but also work to correct unjust conditions that keep people poor." Yes! You're exactly right. We should as Christians do that. But then there's that added little step of having the government do it, not you. "Many Christians consider it a reoccurring theme in scripture. Mr. Beck himself is a convert to Mormonism, a faith that identifies itself as part of the Christian family but nevertheless rejected by many Christians. Philip Barlow, Arrington professor of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University said one way to read the book of Mormon is a fast track on social justice." Yes, that is one way to read it.

A couple of problems here. First, Glenn can’t speak in this way “We should as Christians do…” Just like I can’t say “We should as Norwegians” or “ we should as NBA players”, Glenn has no place in speaking of our common solidarity in Christ when we don’t believe in the same Christ.

Second, while I would certainly discourage someone from being associated with a local church that was committed to “social justice” (defined as government programs that use confiscatory taxation and coercion to enact wealth redistribution ), I am far more concerned with people fleeing a church that teach that God was once a man, that men can become gods, that polygamy is an everlasting commandment and that Jesus Christ and Satan are brothers. Glenn Beck has the level of standing to give advice to Christians as a Muslim, Hindu or atheist. Christians need to be discerning and recognize that whatever merit Mr. Beck's political rantings might have, he is lost in a pseudo-Christian cult and none of his religious advice is worth a hill of beans.

Glenn, if anyone should be fleeing their church it is you!

Breaking out the really big guns!

I mentioned on Facebook that we had a fresh set of missionaries over last Friday. They called kind of out of the blue and since they were both new they noticed our name on the “board” and wanted to touch base. We of course asked them to come over! After a few delays, we scheduled a Friday evening meeting and they arrived on schedule. What was a little different was the (much) older man who was accompanying them, the local mission President.

Dealing with a mission President is a far different matter. Unlike the younger missionaries, he has many years of experience in dealing with questions and was quite slippery. In fact, during much of the conversation you would have thought he was an orthodox Christian believer because he has mastered the ability to affirm truths of the Bible. What is difficult about it is that I know that the mormon church means something completely different but it was hard to pin him down. I recognize that his answers were a mix of dishonesty and evasion but in a limited time it was hard to really dig in. An interesting challenge, it was mostly interaction with him and one of the missionaries. The other guy didn’t say a word and mostly just played with one of our cats for an hour and a half.

So that was interesting but now those same two missionaries are coming over tonight. They seemed a little lost last week. Maybe it was having the mission president accompanying them. Anyway, these two are something of a blank slate. We have typically had at least one missionary each night who had been there before, so now we have two fresh guys who we haven’t worked with. I am looking forward to really digging into some stuff tonight but keeping it narrowly focused. Since the mission president was quick to affirm everything I was saying, perhaps tonight I will ask why they have a separate church. If you already agree with everything I say, just come be part of a Christian church. That will give us the opportunity to talk about the priesthood and prophets. You can be sure I will be busting out Hebrews 1: 1-2 if we go that way!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coming to the end of the line?

Last night was an interesting meeting with the missionaries. It was pretty tough sledding. There was a new guy and he was borderline belligerent. It was a lot harder than normal to try to get him “off script” because he kept going back to the Book of Mormon. Short of completely shooting him down and shooing them off, I found it hard to keep on track. The new guy is a lot more prepared and bold than the typical mormon missionary, which may be why he was assigned to his companion instead of the guy who kind of suddenly was relocated.

I did get him to admit that the only people who go to “outer darkness” are mormons. I could see his companion trying to stop him and then get frustrated and sit back. The other missionary, the one who has been coming for a while, hardly spoke at all. He is the more senior of the two but the other guy had kind of a “bull in a china shop” kind of style.

We also spoke a bit about the idea of faith and where faith comes from. I was trying to get across the point that faith is not inherent in any person, that no one intrinsically has faith and that until God works first, no one ever will have faith. They have a hard time understanding that because mormonism teaches that men are more analogous to “gods in training” and that God is an exalted man. Because of that, the idea of a hopelessly sinful human and an infinite and infinitely holy God are hard to understand.

Near the end of the second hour, we started getting an ultimatum from the new guy that amounted to: if we are going to keep teaching you, you need to basically acquiesce to the truth of mormonism by reading and “praying about” the Book of Mormon. It is interesting because the mormon method of “milk before meat” where it comes to teaching and the mormon doctrine of “outer darkness” work hand in hand here as a control tool. Mormonism has horrible retention rates among converts because “conversion” is based on an emotional response to a prayer about a book. Once someone gets in and the “meat” doctrines are rolled out, it becomes a whole lot less attractive. The rollercoaster of sin, repent, sin, repent is wearing on you. No one can live up to the impossibly high standards of mormon culture. Emphasizing your own personal “worthiness” leaves you constantly feeling “unworthy” or worse with the delusional feeling that you are worthy. All of this added together with doctrines like exaltation and the temple lead to lots of converts leaving the church or at least becoming functionally “inactive”. The mormon church may baptize lots of people each year but they are losing those same people out the back door. Of course, once you are in and receive “the gift of the Holy Ghost”, you are stuck because now if you leave, you find yourself bound for “Outer Darkness”. It is an ingenious control mechanism. Get people in based on an emotional response that is fostered by these nice young men, get them baptized and have the elders “lay hands” on them and then spring on them that if they leave they are damned. Very clever and quite literally diabolical.

I have been a bit lazy prior to the missionaries coming over. We haven’t been praying like we should before they show up and I think that was on display last night because it didn’t go well. I got them to agree to come over next week but we need as a couple to pray before they show up. This may be the last time they come over so I am going to try to put together a rock solid, fifteen minute presentation of the Gospel starting with who God is, man’s sinfulness, what was achieved at the cross and how they can be saved. Depending on how it goes, we may declare a cooling off period for six months to let them work their way out of the area and get a couple of new guys in. As always prayer is appreciated for these young men.