Skip to comments.More Than Christian? [Lds wrestle with definitions, mainstreaming & becoming 'another' denomination]
Posted on 06/02/2012 8:54:01 AM PDT by Colofornian
Two recent essays provide a new perspective on the never-ending discussion centered around the question, Are Mormons Christian? Mormons claim to be Christian, while at the same time denying divine authority and full legitimacy to all other Christian denominations. Consider the specific topic of rebaptism. Previously baptized Christians who join the LDS Church are required to be rebaptized by an LDS priesthood holder, which seems quite natural to Mormons. Baptized Mormons who later choose to join another Christian denomination are generally required to be rebaptized by that denomination because, in their eyes, Mormon baptism doesnt count, which rather incongruously strikes most Mormons as wrong. We seem to think everyone else should accept our baptism as valid while we are free to reject anyone elses baptism as invalid. Obviously, we havent adequately thought through this question of Christian identity and Mormon identity.
The first essay is Romney is Mormons Path to the Christian Mainstream by Noah Feldman, a Harvard law prof. Do we want to be part of the Christian mainstream? Yes, in the sense that we want to claim the title Christian and be part of the club. No, in the sense that we dont want to surrender our claim to have the sole authority to perform valid Christian ordinances such as baptism and marriage. [We recognize marriages performed in other denominations as valid civil marriages in legal terms, but not as being valid in the eyes of God in the next life unless there is a later sealing performed in an LDS temple by that married couple if they convert to the LDS Church or unless, after death, such a sealing is performed by proxy in an LDS temple.] So again, we want it both ways: we want to be recognized as Christian by other Christians but, at the same time, we dont want to grant reciprocal recognition to other denominations. We want to be Christian but also better than Christian, or at least more than Christian.
The first point that Feldman makes is that the Romney candidacy is forcing religious normalization regardless of the sectarian views of Christians:
[A]s a Mormon, Romney is a participant indeed, he is the most important participant in the long-term project of convincing mainstream American Protestants that Mormonism is a normal denomination like all the others. By embracing evangelicals and being embraced by them, he is bringing Mormonism into the denominational scheme that characterizes mainstream American Christianity. Evangelical Protestants who once believed that Mormonism was a deviant sect, not a legitimate denomination, may come to believe something very different as they prepare to cast their votes for a Romney. The practice of pluralism can come first. The beliefs can come later.
So far, so good. The second point Feldman makes is that religious normalization may bring unexpected changes to Mormons as well:
On the other hand, seen through the lens of history, entering the mainstream poses major risks. If Mormons think of themselves as another Christian denomination, the risk of defection rises. The distinctive Mormon beliefs in a new scripture and in the possibility of joining the supernal realm for eternal life will come into jeopardy precisely because they mark differences with the Protestant mainstream. If you believe you are not that different from others, there will be a tendency to downplay those practices and beliefs that suggest otherwise.
The great model for this assimilationist danger is the German political emancipation of the Jews, which directly led to Reform Judaism. Removing the perception that Jews were fundamentally outside Christian society was a tremendous sociological boon to the German Jewish community in the early 1800s. Entering the mainstream, however, encouraged Jews to adopt practices and beliefs that corresponded to the very modern world that was welcoming them.
Feldman is suggesting that Romneys candidacy will produce the mainstreaming of Mormonism which will naturally, perhaps inexorably, result in the emergence of Reform Mormonism. Not so fast, I hear you say.
LDS blogger and historian Christopher Jones replied to Feldman in The Limits of Mormon Assimilation. Jones stresses that Mormonism is not just another denomination and is unlikely to become so:
Even as Mormons participate in interfaith dialogue with evangelical Protestants and seek to find theological common ground, they remain distinct, and intentionally so. Recognition of a shared commitment to Christ is not, for Mormons, the end goal. Rather, it is a starting point for Mormons to then explicate the ways in which their own teachings build on the biblical foundation of Protestantism.
Jones agrees with Feldman that Romneys candidacy is an external force that will move Mormonism toward the mainstream, but emphasizes the internal dynamic of Mormonism that will resist assimilation or the emergence of anything like Reform Mormonism. Like corporate executives managing their brand, LDS leaders carefully and actively manage LDS identity to the extent they can do so, the Im a Mormon ad campaign being just one of many examples. While Im a Mormon sounds an assimilationist note, the overall push imparted by LDS leaders over the last two generations has been in the direction of separatism, not assimilation. Right now, that means they are swimming against the current.
So will the currents unleashed by an LDS candidate at the top of the ticket force assimilation upon the Church? Or will LDS leaders dig in their heels and stay the separate course? I am confident Mormons twenty years from now will still be saying, Im a Mormon, but what kind of Mormon will they be?
As a descendent of a Mormon polygamist myself, I can speak firsthand that there is a carry-over effect to diminishing the institution of one-man, one-woman marriage.
I've seen it in the Mormon culture. And I would say a trickle of that trickled down to Massachussetts when Mitt utterly FAILED to stand up to the MA Supreme Court, which had no authority to institute same-sex marriage.
It was there even from the get-go when Lds began moving away from polygamy (1890). From 1890-1910, Lds leaders solemnized another 250 or so plural marriages...on the sly...
It was there in 1898 when Utah voters voted in B.H. Roberts to Congress. Roberts had taken yet a third wife around 1893 -- three years AFTER the manifesto moving Mormons away from polygamy. Do you think evaluating a Congressional candidate who openly ignored "prophet" Wilford Woodruff's manifesto bothered Utah Mormons enough not to vote for Roberts?
Do you think that collective action by Utah Mormons bothered Republicans around the nation?
You bet. Grassroots, pre-mass media America got together 28 banners and signed 7 MILLION signatures asking Congress NOT to seat B.H. Roberts as Congressman. (And they didn't; they sent him back to Utah)
By extension, you can disparage grassroots people in 1898 all you want, VR...
You can somehow claim that Mormonism's long-time dissing of monogamy and Muslim's long-time dissing of monogamy hasn't had ANY effect upon Romney's lack of defense of it in MA or Obama's lack of defense of it now, but I'll vehemently disagree!
I'll stand with those 1898 grassroots Americans.
I won't buy into your false choices that we either have to vote for Romney or Obama...because we don't have to be part of their falsehood voter-clans.
You and I have both have been saying something to that effect for a while. The LDS are going to have to mainstream to survive. At some point a great “prophet” will come forth and set everything straight, explain away the BOM perhaps as some test of the faithful or something. It will come to pass somehow. Probably end up in some mix of old school Protestantism.
Hey if that happens will you and I be “prophets”....
#1 For the record, an early 1960s survey showed that 40% of Mormons would embrace polygamy if their leader told them to...
"Another survey taken in the 1960s found that not only do contemporary church members overwhelmingly disapprove of polygamy but only two in five said they would enter the principle if commanded by the prophets." [B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant, p. 339, citing survey published in 1963 by John R. Christiansen, "Contemporary Mormons' Attitudes Toward Polygamous Practices," Journal of Marriage and Family 25 (May 1963): pp. 167-170)].
#2 Mormon culture did indeed lead Mormons to heavily frown upon monogamy:
"The need for prostitution...was seized on by Mormons as evidence that monogamy was manifestly an incorrect system of marriage...From the 1850s until the end of the century, Mormon writers and speakers struck at what they considered their detractors' hypocrisy for criticizing Mormon marriage when, as the First Presidency affirmed in 1886, adultery and prostitution were the consequences of the monogamic arrangement.... (Hardy, A Solemn Covenant, p. 89, citing "An Epistle of the First Presidency..." March 1886, Messages 3:68...Hardy cites in the same footnote about 8 other sources from Heber C. Kimball to Brigham Young to John Taylor to George Q. Cannon to apostle Erasmus Snow).
So there ya go! The embracing of polygamy naturally led to an elitist position where polygamists looked down upon, frowned upon, and even openly dismissed or criticized "monogamy!"
When Mormons had an LDS "prophet" in 1886 claiming that adultery and prostitution were the consequences of monogamy, that's a major, major problem!!! In fact, Hardy devoted a full chapter to how LDS regarded polygamy as sexually superior--not for erotic or orgy reasons--but for what they regarded was the "opposite"--associating prostitution and the resulting ill-health with monogamy, etc.
Oh, and for those who think mainstream Mormon polygamy is so passe' -- so yesteryear -- I've yet to see any Lds leader shoot down what Lds "apostle" Bruce McConkie wrote in "Mormon Doctrine":
"Obviously the holy practice (of polygamy) will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium." (Mainsteam Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition, see pp. 577-579 for context)
This was a book, mind you, republished with close oversight of two Lds "prophets" (Lee & Kimball, 11th & 12th Lds presidents); republished again in 1979...and then twice again in '91 & '93 under the 13th Lds "prophet's" watch... no wonder it achieved "almost a scriptural stature...near-canonical status."
The Mormon church ensured it got ahold of the direct copyright by acquiring it from Bookcraft and published under its direct ownership umbrella (Deseret Book Publishing) in 1993.
This book was published under 7, count 'em 7, Mormon "prophets" (McKay, Lee, Kimball, Benson, Hunter, Hinckley, Monson). Only McKay -- over 50 years ago -- conveyed strongly that alterations needs be forthcoming...and the above quote wasn't part of that!
Charles, you and I both know that the only time the Bible references "religion" is the book of James -- re: helping the poor.
Otherwise, even the Bible isn't an "exemplar" about "how to be 'religious'"...unless, of course, we're talking only about feeding the poor.
[Kind of surprised you of all people went this direction]
I mean, the "Pharisees" and "teachers of the law" were religious...and Jesus essentially said told the people to listen to them but NOT to practice their faith inwardly as they do.
In this case, Obama vs. Romney, I don't look up to either, as far as their religion, or lack thereof, is concerned. I judge on political grounds.
And you would be consistent, of course...if a jihadist Muslim spouting "conservative" politics ran...
...or a "conservative" Satanist or Wicca candidate?
And, mind you, we're not talking about your local dogcatcher here...but THE leader of the free world.
(Oh, even Romney probably flunked dogcatcher candidacy by taking his dog cross-country on the roof of his station wagon)
As far as your hypothetical "jihadist Muslim" "conservative" politician, that is a contradiction in terms. If he is a jihadist Muslim, he is by definition anti-American and would use the sword against this country. That's part and parcel of militant Islam.
The Mormon Or The Muslim?
Q (from 80120): Who can we support? Romney is a Mormon and Obama is a Muslim. Never has the lessor of two evils been such a disgrace. Ron Paul is a better choice, but if we vote for him, we put Obama back in office. What has happened to my country?
A: Dont fall for this Mormon stuff. That would be falling for the Obama game plan. Now that the general election is here, its going to be respectable in the eyes of the mainstream media to engage in all sorts of demagoguery about Mormons. None of us will ever get our ideal candidate but this country is headed for a cliff and it has very little to do with organized religion. Weve gotta go with Mitt. Obama selections for the Supreme Court for another four years will have an adverse effect on the proper role of religion in our country and in our schools as well as a host of other issues.
I agree with Fred Thompson.
Charles, that's rather short-sighted...especially for somebody who shepherds both the young and the spiritually immature.
You may not (do not) look to a POTUS for that kind of guidance, but as my tagline shows, the spiritually vulnerable do.
You know as well as I do that one of our nation's problems is that the ceiling of authority for too many people ends @ the govt's hand (and/or Supreme Ct).
You and I probably BOTH saw that in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, when the liberals saw only govt as their "savior." IOW, people in power & authority are almost -- Psalm 82-like -- treated as "gods."
That cultural outlook rains upon the young (& spiritually immature) as well...
You know as well as I do how grandiose and even legendary a POTUS can become in the minds of the young. (Look @ how Kennedy's reputation was for so long -- despite his mini-orgies in the White House).
Romney-as-puppet-of-a-'prophet' -- coupled with the massive PR effort to be undertaken by the Lds church -- will seek to "Mormonize" the nation.
They won't care if they "only" reach another 1.7% of the nation -- their current size. If they can double themselves from 1.7% to 3.4% -- plus put in the minds of the young and spiritually vulnerable that they should seriously consider Mormonism @ some future juncture, that's a 100% hike with seeds planted to triple and quadruple themselves.
I am frankly surprised that you look @ this only from the angle of the spiritually mature Christian leader. What if our Great Shepherd Jesus had done the same thing?
Well, the opportunity for "condemnation" is during this "Mormon moment."
Time for you & other shepherds to "step up to the mike," so to speak -- and lose the soft-spoken two-step.
Time to be a Titus-like pastor: He [context is an "elder" in v. 6; an "overseer" in v. 7] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:9)
An opportune time, Charles, to engage in the dual ministry of encouraging others via sound doctrine -- and refuting those who oppose it...(such as Bishop Romney and his fellow Lds leaders).
But he can still do some good in the civil realm. There are lots of non-Christians who have been good citizens and public servants.
Charles, we both know God can choose who He wants to do accomplish His purpose in any realm. The issue is, "Does God want His Church closely linked with people who portend to be rival gods and who openly pay for a false gospel?"
We can't hide ourselves from recognizing how Romney has spent his $millions.
And I think he'll be a heckuva lot better at president than Obama.
And a reincarnated Hitler might make a helluva lot "better" president than THE anti-Christ. (Are you into political relativism now? Political pragmatic utilitarianism? Is this what you want to pass onto your children, grandchildren, and flock? Are you telling us all now that in 2024 if the GOP runs somebody well to the socialist-left of Obama we should vote for that person because they'd make "a heckuva lot better president" than whoever the (D) put up?)
Wow! Just Wow!
In any case, it comes down to Obama vs. Romney. One of these two men will be the president. Who will do the better job for our country? I think Romney. There's no way I could possibly vote for Obama. I want to see him out of there. And the only way for that to happen is to elect Romney. In no way is that an endorsement of his false religion.
I suspect it may be something close to what the RLDS have progressively gone through. However, I think it will be hard for them to give up the money factory temples - and the associated stuff. What I can’t answer is just how embedded the old ‘orthodoxy’ is.
I am only voting for him for president, not pastor, which is a more important office.
Are you saying that the office of president of the United States (in which Obama now sits)
is more important than
the office of the president for life and “prophet” of the Mormons (in which Tommy Monson now sits) ???
Office of First President & Living Prophet
November 1st, 2011
The message for this month is -
Huh?? Where did you get that from what I said?? All I said was that I would vote for Romney for President of the United States, where he might do a good job, but I would not vote for him to be a pastor, since he is an adherent of a false religion. It's the distinction between the civil and the spiritual realms.
While; I COULD not vote for him to be The PRESIDENT, since he is an adherent of a false religion. It's the fact that ROMNEY, being in an EXALTED position; would lead more folks into a FALSE salvation than Barak EVER could!!
My religion has been fun and my country has been fun, but now they are in collision; and I am FORCED into deciding which one is more important to me.
Where and when have Mormons ever attacked any Christian Church? It is the Baptists who are constantly attacking Mormons. They fear them because Mormons stand up for what they believe and are not hypocrites.
#1 For the record, an early 1960s survey showed that 40% of Mormons would embrace polygamy if their leader told them to...
Yeah most of the men...
the other 10% of the men had their wives next to them and were too chicken to admit it...
I cannot think of any president in my lifetime who has led people into his religion by being president. Kennedy? There was a lot of attention on his religion, but I don't think people became Roman Catholics because of him. Carter? There was a lot of attention on his religion, too, but I don't think anyone became a Baptist because of his being president. And I have seen no evidence so far--in his governorship or in his campaign--that Romney would use the presidency to proselytize for Mormonism.
If I were to judge political candidates on the basis of their religion, for fear that someone might adopt their religion because they're in office, there'd be hardly anybody I could vote for.
cause that false religion guy is to whom Romney as president of the United States would be answering and bowing..
Its his blood sworn oath and duty to do so...
The people of the United States would not be important ...
Tommy Monson and when he dies whomever sits in the office of the president for life and prophet of the Mormons would be...
If you didnt like the bowing Obama did you sure arent going to like what Romney does...
and BTW Romney is a Mormon high priest for life and a Mormon bishop..
Pastors are in Christianity..
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