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Make no assumptions, LDS doctrine has to be said

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  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    May 15, 2011 8:18 a.m.

    LDS doctrine only "has" to be said to one another in the LDS environment.
    One of the biggest obstacles is most members don't have a grasp on doctrinal issues and often when addressing issues what's said out loud should never have but said at all. As a 59 year old BIC member my understanding of doctrine is much different that the 22 year old of today. The old adage of get your own house in order is sometimes hard to face.

  • Bill McGee Alpine, UT
    May 15, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    Another major problem is that members themselves misunderstand even basic principles of LDS history, doctrine, and theology. A cursory review of online comments by members of the Church replying to news articles about us shows a consistent pattern of egregious doctrinal and historical errors. I am often more worried that unsuspecting non-members will read the replies to a less than flattering article about the Church than I am about them reading the article itself.

    One of the biggest challenges is that we don't actually have a theology. It's 'goes without saying' so much within the Church that except for the thin pablum of theology preached from the pulpit even at General Conference, on the same handful of doctrinal topics, we get next to no instruction on the details of what we believe. Members are left to fend for themselves. As my kids have worked their ways through seminary, even, their instruction on basic principles has varied widely depending on who their seminary teacher was. And if CES, the guardians of revisionist LDS history and homogenized and sanitized doctrine can be so inconsistent, it's no wonder that lay members get it wrong so often.

  • JFC Eagle Mountain, UT
    May 15, 2011 10:06 a.m.

    I find it extremely unlikely that any church member made a comment to Woodward anything like "Mormons believe that men ... earn their way to godhood by the proper exercise of free will, rather than through the grace of Jesus Christ." Such a statement had to be his own invention. His claim that he was simple reporting "how representative members of the LDS Church describe and interpret their own traditions" was a lame excuse for his putting words in our mouths. If he can show any record of interviews that support his erroneous claim about Mormons believing we don't rely on the grace of Jesus Christ, then I'd be willing to let him off the hook as you seem to have done. Woodward was just an earnest non-member trying to write accurately about Mormons and, as most non-members do, failing through making unwarranted assumptions. Such problems could easily be avoided by using a knowledgeable Mormon proof-reader, but most non-Mormon writers don't want that kind of oversight.

  • Full-on double rainbow Bluffdale, UT
    May 15, 2011 10:16 a.m.

    On the surface, talking about Jesus to other Christian seems like a great place to start "building relationships of trust." I think some Mormons may be surprised to find that there are differences between the Mormon Jesus and Jesus of the Bible ie. the conception of Jesus, the Trinity, etc. Even Joseph Smith leaned more toward the concept of the Trinity at the beginning (see Lectures on Faith) and later moved toward polytheism.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    May 15, 2011 11:50 a.m.

    Great message!

    "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it

    This is probably my favorite all-time LDS quote. I think the problem within Mormonism is that it seems so much of our time, effort and words are dominated by the "appendages" to our religion.

    If someone were to walk into any LDS 3-hour block would they immediately recognize (through our WORDS not pictures or name on the building) that Christ is at the center of our doctrine and lives or would they walk away confused as to whether Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson, Nephi, tithing, Word of Wisdom, Scouting, or any other number of things that fill our meetings is our focus?

    My parents used to demand that I not date the same girl twice in a row. I would love to see LDS policy demand that at least every other talk/lesson must focus on the Savior and His Atonement.

  • New Yorker Pleasant Grove, UT
    May 15, 2011 4:53 p.m.

    You give Kenneth Woodward too much credibility. The comments on earning salvation and not needing grace or atonement as quoted from September 1980 page 68 are straight from an anti-Mormon playbook, and I doubt they ever came from a by reporting "how representative members of the LDS Church describe and interpret their own traditions." Conversely, it is exactly how anti-Mormons have reported what Mormons believe and have told me what I believe. In 46 years of active Church membership as an adult and in multiple states I have never heard such an understanding expressed by a Latter-day Saint, only by the anti's. I think Woodward was just trying to cover is tracks and did a shabby job of it. If Troy Parker believes Woodward's assertion, then I respectfully disagree with Troy Parker. Of course one can probably find a few Mormons that doesn't think they need grace, but one can never make the leap to say they are "representative members." Thus, I'm not sure what the point of the Woodward history is, but nonetheless clearly stating what we believe is important. Woodward is just bad water under the bridge--and not ours.

  • New Yorker Pleasant Grove, UT
    May 15, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    I don't know whether Meridian, Idaho is off track or not. All I can report is that the stakes and wards I've been to in New York, Oregon, Germany, the Czech Republic, Texas, and Nevada have all focused on the central message of Jesus Christ and the atonement. The individual member should come to meetings with the personal and primary focus on taking the sacrament and all that means. I'm sure Meridian is using the provided priesthood, relief society, primary and Sunday school materials for the other meetings, and those lessons are certainly focused on the Savior and the Atonement.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    May 15, 2011 6:17 p.m.

    Of course all LDS know or should know that no one will be saved without grace. Where we differ from most of mainstream Christianity is that we do not believe that it is by grace ALONE that we will be saved or exhalted. I think the long and widely known list of to-do's and to-dont's in the LDS world add to the outside perception that we do not believe in or at least de-emphasize grace.

    Think about it. What is the first thing out of the mouth of most born-again type Christians when meeting a potential convert? It is usually all about Christ, being born again and grace. How does that differ in the way we describe our faith and church? Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, living Prophets and Apostles, Temples, Word of Wisdom, missions, BYU, standards, Donny Osmond (not really) etc. etc. I'm afraid the list often goes on and on before we mention our belief in and reliance on the Savior and His Atonement and as a result the fact that we know no one will be saved without the grace of God.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    May 15, 2011 6:31 p.m.

    New Yorker -

    I was in a ward in South Jordan, Utah that almost exclusively focused on the Savior and the Atonement. It was probably the best ward I have attended. But the Bishop was very open that doing so was his priority. I do think that all the "appendages" I mentioned can be related either directly or indirectly to the Savior. But as the author mentioned, maybe we need to make a more clear connection or it can seem like things other than the Savior are our focus.

  • Wade Fillmore Sandy, UT
    May 15, 2011 7:56 p.m.

    In the following post, Ashby Boyle explains one reason why Mormons are not considered Christians which may have affected Mr. Woodwards original assessment in his article. It has to do with Sterling W. McMurrin's book Doctrinal Foundations of Mormonism in which he falsely identified Mormons as believing in Pelagianism, a 4th century heresy. The whole article is worth reading in my opinion.

    Wednesday, March 23 2011, Meridian Magazine
    Mormons are Not Christians One Reason They Say It
    By Ashby D. Boyle II

  • radically_independent Orem, Utah
    May 15, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    How do we change perceptions about things like the author quoted? We start by acting on what we believe. Is it a surprise that the rest of the world interprets the fact that we spend more effort celebrating "pioneer day" than we do Easter as relating to how much importance we place on those events?

    We spend so much effort emphasizing how we are totally different, then act shocked that people then have questions about how we believe. We reap what we sow. We wanted to be a peculiar people, we over achieved in reaching that goal. But when you stand back and separate out culture from core beliefs, then and only then does the gap diminish.

  • born again Murrieta, CA
    May 15, 2011 10:41 p.m.

    Idaho Coug,

    You're definately on the right track. Jesus doesn't need to be taught at every other service, He needs to be taught at every service. With no disrespect, the other stuff is just steering you away from Christ. Imagine how great you're wards would be if for three hours each Sunday you just dove into Jesus and worshipped Him.

  • Bruce T. Forbes Kearns, UT
    May 16, 2011 4:33 a.m.

    I remember clearly the Newsweek article. And at that point in time (1980), it truly represented how individual LDS persons represented their religion to the world. We have changed since then, thank goodness. Articles such as his showed us how we were seen by our nighbors and gave us the chance to "clear the air". I think that article was a wake-up call to a lot of church members that we had to start portraying to the world what we REALLY beleived. If that author was to write that article today, I beleive he would report a whole different portrayal of us Latter-day Saints.

  • Instereo Eureka, UT
    May 16, 2011 7:28 a.m.

    I can't believe we are talking about an article 31 years old and acting like it has relavance to us today. If it takes that long for us to react, we are a little slow.

    Joseph Smith reacted to the problems of his day as did Christ. We need to quit looking backwards and start dealing with the problems of our day.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    May 16, 2011 7:40 a.m.

    As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we sometimes leave things unsaid that absolutely need to be said, especially when others are listening and observing."

    ---Like when you tell someone who isn't Mormon: "I know the church is true", you are telling them: "I know your church is false".

    Perhaps the greatest teaching of the Gospel as taught by Jesus is this: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. If everyone lived by this Gospel Teaching, there wouldn't be war, poverty, hurt feelings, etc.
    We are failing the test.

    "You and I know and believe what Joseph Smith said in the beginning years of the Restoration."

    --- Theological historians all agree that Christ actually DIDN"T form a "church", so in fact, there was nothing to "restore".

  • Walt Nicholes Orem, UT
    May 16, 2011 8:14 a.m.

    As long as I can remember there has been a "yes, but..."

    We toil with great diligence to persuade our members to DO right. We should go to the temple, we should pay our tithing, we should get our food storage, we should keep the sabbath holy, we should do our genealogy and on and on.

    The messages are repeated so often that we end up with a catechism of performances and overlook the fact that it is "by faith that we are saved AFTER all we can do."

    And this is not unique to the LDS religion. All religions that teach their members to do good have similar problems.

  • jimhale Eugene, OR
    May 16, 2011 10:31 a.m.

    It could go without saying, but must be said: Many Saints are as confused as the reporter....and most assuredly many have been listening to Church teachings for decades.
    It is absolutely true that in the four decades I have been a member, we have not taught the point of view he reports.
    It is also true that in the decades before that, we were not at all clear about such issues in the way we are now.

  • JM Lehi, UT
    May 16, 2011 10:52 a.m.

    Jesus is taught every Sunday in the LDS Wards I've been to, and every day in true LDS homes. We commune with Him through Sacraments, prayers, etc, which are centered on Him and His atonement, and we speak of Him and motivate to live lives as He has asked.

    Jesus' sermons tended to focus on teaching us how to live our lives. He didn't want us to spend all of our time singing praises to His name, caling Him Lord, but DOING nothing with the lives He saved.

    I don't know how many LDS this author interviewed but I can't imagine that none explained the articles of faith or central message of LDS theology. I also can't imagine that all the letters coming in were angry. I don't know, but there is a tendency among media to focus on only those comments that support our preconceived notions of LDS (we see it often in the Tribune here in Utah, and other media outside of Utah)

    Of course most of us also know that many of the comments here will be by anti-Mormons pretending to be LDS and trying to promote misunderstandings.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    May 16, 2011 11:02 a.m.

    We need to carefully seperate out what is "doctrine" and what is just part of the culture. Many things we do unconsciously and are perceived in ways unexpected outside the church.

    My mother in law is a non-member. She had gone from highly skeptical of the church, to an admire and defender of it. We finally talked her into taking a trip back to Utah with us. We had spent years convincing her we were Christians. Our timing of our visit could not have been worse as when we entered temple square they were having a celebration of Joseph Smith. Normally this would be great, as I come down from that line. But in this circumstance, 9 out of 10 messages were about Joseph Smith and how important he was. It completely overwhelmed any Christ based messages and only fostered more confusion in my mother in laws head about where we prioritize Christ.

    Sure the church is named after him, but the constent message from visiting Temple Square was that this was Joseph Smiths church. Very confusing to a non-member.

    I get it, you all probably get it, but without context, the message was muddied.

  • psmithphd Orem, UT
    May 16, 2011 11:11 a.m.

    Good members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should remember always that Christ taught us to not only turn the other cheek but to respond to others, no matter their feelings toward us, with love and kindness. We should always assume first that the misunderstanding of our beliefs and practices is an honest mistake. Then we should kindly and lovingly provide the correct information.

    It should be clear to all that we are saved by the grace of God, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing we can do can in any way compel God to grant us salvation. It is clear from the New Testament and latter-day scriptures, that we rely on the grace of God after all we can do. There is a perfect correspondence between salvation by grace and good works.

    Phillip Smith

  • Dadof5sons Montesano, WA
    May 16, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    I have found that alot of people love to dive in to or climb out in to the deep or far reaching doctrin. When talking to non members as if that is impresive or something. When President Monson does that during confrence then we as members can. till then we should preach of christ teach of christ and stick to faith repetance and baptism and the gift of the holy ghost. Basics so that all who come incontact with us knows we follow Christ. Lets leave no question in the minds of people, to whom we find salvation.

  • ClarkHippo Tooele, UT
    May 16, 2011 12:57 p.m.

    As a lifelong Latter-day Saint, I understand why some outside our faith don't fully understand the doctrines of the LDS Church. This occurs for several different reasons.

    1. Critics of the LDS Church who distort LDS teachings through their websites, books and tracts. For example, the claim LDS people place Joseph Smith ahead of Jesus Christ, which can be quickly refuted by reading D&C 135:3.

    2. Members of the the LDS Church themselves, who through family legends, gossip or other means have stated things which they thought was LDS doctrine when in fact it probably was not. One example is the claim God continues to grow in knowledge. This is totally untrue.

    3. Changes in LDS procedures which some assumed were concrete, unchanging doctrine, such as blacks receiving the priesthood. A change such as this reflects more of the church's growth throughout the world rather than a doctrinal error.

    4. There's a difference between "doctrine" and "revelation." If I pray about a certain issue in my life, what the Lord reveals to me may be different than what he reveals to another with the same issue. God can be flexible with revelation.

  • friedeggonAZstreets Glendale, AZ
    May 16, 2011 2:53 p.m.

    Thank you for posting this article. I would like to comment on the sharing of one's testimony of Christ in sacrament meetings. My family came to see one of our children get blessed and some of the testimonies given were not even on Jesus Christ. They got turned off because they said the people mentioned Joseph Smith more than Christ. I'm not saying it's bad to mention the Prophet, but to not mention Christ is not good. I don't know if it was their perception or not, however, I have been to sacrament meetings where the only mention of Christ is "in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen". The GA's have been over this issue with us time and again and it's sad to have people talk about everything under the sun except their testimony of Christ. I just ask that before you do go up to please remember a convert (who is the first in the family to join) may have family out there who believe (despite being told otherwise) "Mormons worship J. Smith." Thanks!

  • donn layton, UT
    May 16, 2011 6:37 p.m.

    friedeggonAZstreets. Do Mormons worship Joseph Smith? Praise to the man(JS) great is his glory.(Gospel principles p.332)
    The Christian view, I pray that you active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of everything we have in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 1:6)
    I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and his fellowship( Phillipians 3:10)

  • kenny Sterling Heights, MI
    May 16, 2011 7:41 p.m.

    We know that Joseph Smith was the messenger and not the message but to many he became the message.To better understand that mormonism was the only true church and doctrine on the face of the earth we began to focus on the differences between mormonism and other churches.That was something latter day saints did.They chose to be different than the rest. So we became different in the eyes of others because that was the message we protrayed.Some place along the way we failed to tie all the differences back to Christ and point out that Christ did teach what mormons teach.Now we have to go back and connect the dots.Let it be said this way: The conclusion that we thought people would make regarding latter day saint belief was not the conclusion that people actually came up with. We allowed people to get it wrong because we forgot to set the record straight.Yes it needs to be said and yes people need to know what mormons believe from a mormon and not from a non mormon source.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    May 16, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    To donn: What many fail to see is that we revere Joseph Smith and all the prophets just as many revere Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Isaiah, Peter, James, John and Paul. Your quotes speak volumes if you place your belief in a man. Many left the Church when blacks were allowed the priesthood, when polgamy was discontinued and when the Family Proclamation was given to the world. These were revelations to discontinue. The Heavens have been opened. The funny thing is that many other Christians try to point out our differences and say we are not Christian because we don't believe as they do. Joseph Smith was and is the prophet of the restoration. Revelations and even Paul spoke of a restoration of all things. It is plain to all those who see it. It isn't plain to those who refuse to see it. As Christ taught, the blind is not the ones who really can't see but have eyes to see, but don't. The deaf is those who have ears to hear but don't. Yes, there was a need for restoration. There was a need to restore the truths as taught by Jesus Christ.

  • donn layton, UT
    May 17, 2011 9:22 a.m.

    Re: Bill in Nebraska, Praise(epainos)in Biblical terms is to be ascribed to God in respect to his Glory,not to a man(JS) versus revere, which is to respect.
    JS said,I have more to boast of than any man had. I am the only the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul,John, Peter nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I[ego].(D.H.C., vol 6, pp 408,409)
    restoration of all things (Acts 3:21 )God will restore the earth to its original condition which existed before the fall of Adam and Eve. We see this reflected in Pauls comments as well.
    For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. (1 Cor. 15:25-26). Nothing to do with Mormonism

  • friedeggonAZstreets Glendale, AZ
    May 17, 2011 9:55 a.m.

    @donn-
    There are many definitions. 1."to praise. is the act of making positive statements about a person, object or idea, either in public or privately."

    So, if you have children you never praise them? Did your parents ever praise you for your good work in something? How is this praise any different than what we say of Joseph Smith? We do NOT (not yelling, it's for emphasis) worship Joseph Smith. As Bill noted, we revere him like others do of Moses,etc.. Do you think they never offered praise to Moses for delivering them from Egypt? It's not written there, but people often thank or honor to those who save them from a problem, their life from death, etc.. Why would it be any different to give thanks and praise to Moses?

    Can you honestly say you have never ever praised someone in your life for a good job? There are always more definitions to one word and to assume we mean epainos is just bad form. In my sort life I have found when you assume what a person is thinking you just might be wrong.