Monday, January 30, 2012

The truth will set you free

Reuters has a report out on the major struggles that the mormon church is facing today, including mass defections. The article interviews "Elder" Marlin Jensen and he is unusually frank and honest for a mormon leader. From Special report -Mormonism besieged by the modern age
Jensen, the church's official historian, would not provide any figures on the rate of defections, but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or 10 years, reflecting greater secularization of society. Many religions have been suffering similarly, he noted, arguing that Mormonism has never been more vibrant.

"I think we are at a time of challenge, but it isn't apocalyptic," he said.

The LDS church claims 14 million members worldwide -- optimistically including nearly every person baptized. But census data from some foreign countries targeted by clean-cut young missionaries show that the retention rate for their converts is as low as 25 percent. In the U.S., only about half of Mormons are active members of the church, said Washington State University emeritus sociologist Armand Mauss, a leading researcher on Mormons.

Sociologists estimate there are as few as 5 million active members worldwide.

In Africa and Latin America, however, Jensen said that interest in the LDS was so strong that the church has cut back baptisms in order to better care for new members.
I think that what is interesting is that where mormonism is thriving (supposedly Africa and Latin America), people have less ready access to information about the church whereas in America anyone can read about the sordid past of mormonism at will. Unlike Christianity which has nothing to hide, no secretive doctrines that no one talks about, mormonism takes great pains to gloss over issues like racism and polygamy and hides major areas of doctrine like their sacred garments, the nature of God and man and the temple ceremony.

Mormonism simply cannot face serious investigation and the article makes that clear. When you claim 14 million members but only 5 million are active, what you have is not a vibrant and thriving church, it is a house of cards.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Are we jealous of mormonism?

That is the contention of New York Times writer David Reynolds as he examines what he perceives as the core issue behind Why Evangelicals Don’t Like Mormons. At the outset, the title itself is prejudicial. It isn't a matter of "not liking" mormons. It is a matter of recognizing mormonism as a dangerous false cult. Mr. Reynolds spends a few paragraphs getting around to his point, namely that evangelicals are just jealous of mormon "success", as if making converts to a false religion is somehow a sign of success.

The real issue for many evangelicals is Mormonism’s remarkable success and rapid expansion. It is estimated to have missionaries in 162 countries and a global membership of some 14 million; it is also, from its base in the American West, making inroads into Hispanic communities. Put simply, the Baptists and Methodists, while still ahead of the Mormons numerically, are feeling the heat of competition from Joseph Smith’s tireless progeny.
Mr. Reynolds repeats this oft quoted notion that we are just jealous of mormonism. The sheer size of mormonism is a factor but not as a matter of jealousy but concern. With millions of adherents and millions more who have turned away from mormonism and are disenchanted with faith in general, coupled with an aggressive effort to lure away church going people, makes mormonism a religious movement that cannot be ignored. There are plenty of lone wolf crackpots like Victor Hafichuk and his sad band of cult followers but other than random emails and blog posts, they are somewhat self-contained. Hopefully Christians who live near them are making an effort to witness to him or at least his deluded followers but he has little impact outside of his internet rantings. Mormonism on the other hand has spread like a cancer around the world. Every town in America has a mormon presence and the combination of their all-American virtues and carefully disguised language allows them to worm their way into the homes of many unsuspecting families. Far from jealousy or competition, evangelical Christians see mormonism as the home of one of the most dangerous pseudo-Christian cults around. If I witness to someone and they end up going to a different local church than the one I am associated with after professing Christ, that is not a win for that church and a loss for mine. It is a win-win! On the other hand someone converting to mormonism has taken a path that leads to an eternal hell and as followers of Christ that trumps any of our denomination differences or personal preferences. Souls are quite literally at stake. I can't speak for every evangelical but for myself and everyone I personally know, jealousy of mormonism is the last thing on our minds.

I think this is largely overblown. Many evangelicals, far too many, seem to care more about political victory than Gospel fidelity. Pauls admonition to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14) is not speaking specifically of marriage at all but that is how it is interpreted. It certainly should include political issues as well as business dealings and marriage but that doesn't seem to concern many evangelical voters and leaders. Regardless, if Mitt Romney is not the GOP nominee it will be because of his shaky conservative credentials, his past flip-flopping, his nonchalance about the race and the ugly pseudo-populist attacks on his wealth and success, not because he is a mormon.