Baptist Press – Mormonism’s cultural rise likely to continue – News with a Christian Perspective

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Aaron Earls article, found here Baptist Press – Mormonism’s cultural rise likely to continue – News with a Christian Perspective, one cannot escape the flawed statements made.

At first, one reads and finds some congruence with what Earls is saying, and the informational statements made by Tal Davis and Ant Greenham, about Mitt Romney and the rise of the “Mormon Moment”.

Earls begins by saying this:

Although Mitt Romney lost his presidential bid, Christians should be prepared for higher Mormon visibility and credibility inAmerica, an interfaith witness expert and seminary professor told Baptist press.

This is based off the statement that Davis is quoted as saying:

When Mormon missionaries knock on people’s doors, they will be seen in a more positive light when people know that [Romney] was once a Mormon Missionary … They will likely gain entrance into homes where they formerly would have been denied.

Whether this is entirely true is yet to be seen. However, one cannot ignore that Romney’s faith has been central to many political conversations (whether good or bad) and many people have become aware of the Religion of Mitt Romney. It is interesting that on the cusp of the 2012 elections, President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the age for young men and young women to serve as missionaries.

The premise that one soon discovers in Earls article is that of the rise of Mormonism in a postmodern culture. Well, not exactly the rise of Mormonism, but the rise in perceptions of Mormonism in a postmodern society. Again, quoting Davis, Earls provides this:

The ascendancy of a Mormon leader to the cusp of the presidency, Davis said, “testifies to the fact that most Americans no longer regard Mormons as out of the cultural mainstream, as was true in the 19th and early 20th century.”

While this particular observation is true in our modern social context, reality settles in on the predominate stigmatization of the early Saints by their fellow members of society. This stigmatism brought about heavy persecution, violence, and even political machinations against the growing body of believers who gave all that they had for the new found faith that had been restored in these last days. They were pushed out of their homes, cities, even had a temple desecrated and set fire – all in the name of what we now refer to as religious intolerance and religious bigotry. The religious freedom of the early Mormon saints and pioneers were violated at every turn of American history and development. Thus, the only reason for Mormons and Mormonism to have been placed out of the cultural mainstream were because of the very same falsehoods that continue to perpetuate through today’s culture and society – it is just not as predominately forceful as it was then.

Regarding the statement of Davis, we also find the concession of Ant Greenham where he is quoted as saying how Mormonism is on track for complete acceptance in American culture, and that this is not because of the efforts of the Church to become more acceptable in modern society, but society’s postmodern tendencies in accepting Mormonism as a cultural mainstream religion.

It is when we move past the politicking of Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith (and whether or not it was Romney’s faith or policies that proved harmful to losing to Barack Obama), where Earls mentions how Davis and Greenham are in agreement over how Christians ought to become better informed of their own faith and the particulars of the Mormon belief system. Earls further provides this statement from Greenham:

Based on a number of very gracious receptions LDS Leaders have afforded me and Southeastern students, they strongly desire acceptance within the broader Christian mainstream … They are offended when Christians call them a ‘cult’ and they downplay, but don’t deny, unique elements of their faith in discussions with influential outsiders.

Greenham further makes this statement:

For Christians … knowing their faith revolves around the essentials of our biblical, Gospel-focused faith, repeatedly affirmed through Christian History.

It is after this statement that another is made (whether by Earls or continuation of Greenham’s thoughts):

After that, Christians should explore various resources to learn more about the distinctiveness of Mormonism and what separates it from historic Christianity.

What are these various resources Earls (and quite possibly Greenham) is referring to? There are a handful of links within the article that leads people to known Counter-cult ministry groups (i.e. Mormon Research Ministry). Greenham is then quoted:

Mormonism is not Christianity. .. No matter how much Mormons would like to be considered part of the Christian mainstream.

Thus, while Earls, Greenham, and Davis agree that Mormons and Mormonism is being perceived as being acceptable as a mainstream religion, they continue to hold to the false belief that Latter-day Saints are not Christians and refuse to accept Mormons as part of Mainstream Christianity. Despite many attempts of reconciliation and interfaith dialogue.

Earls, then, quotes Davis with the idea that modern Christians should not ignore the need to share Christ with them. Mormonism is undeniably a false system and those in it are lost and need the salvation only Jesus can offer.

This false statement is the crux of the dilemma among many evangelical Christians. They are constantly led to believe that Latter-day Saints do not accept Christ, nor accept the efficacy of the Atonement of Christ. They refuse to listen to what modern day Prophets and Apostles have to say about the importance of the Savior and the Atonement is in our faith, our life, and in our devotion. Many claim to have read the Book of Mormon, yet deny its efficacy where it truly testifies that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God who came to redeem people from the efficacy of the Fall. It is nothing but the same trite, ignorant, and blindly accepted position of uninformed Christian apologists and ministers.

This is self-evident in the following Ways to minister to Mormons:

  • Davis says that Christians are to pray that [Mormons] are exposed to Biblical truth and to come to know the true God and the true Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
  • Greenham advises that Christians should take some time to find out more about Mormonism because this particular foundation of knowledge  of Mormon beliefs can yield a more confident witness to them.
  • Greenham also suggests that Christians should be open to witnessing opportunities when they cross paths with a person who is a Mormon.
  • Greenham further suggests that despite Latter-day Saints having deep moral roots, Christians should thus be prepared to befriend Mormons and look for opportunities to engage them in meaningful biblical-oriented conversations over a considerable length of time. He also advises that evangelical Christians should do so as an investment of time because Mormon’s do not “come to Christ” over time, or through a one-day conversion.
  • The final advice, Greenham shares that evangelical Christians must adopt a realization that when it comes to leaving the Church, it is quite a significant step by having a social network of other fellow Christians and Christian churches to accept the person who comes out of “Mormonism” into the respective “Christian community” and “fellowship of believers”.

What then, how do we as Latter-day Saints respond to a gesture of religious discussion where the agenda is for our faith to be analyzed, our belief in the Savior challenged, and the doubts surrounding the Book of Mormon and other Church doctrines are placed out on the table? Well, let us follow the similar advice that Earls mentions by the statements given from Davis and Greenham.

How Latter-day Saints should respond to evangelical Christian Witnessing:

  1. Pray: Since we believe that we can receive personal revelation, pray for the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. Much like Davis encourages evangelical Christians to pray for the “lost souls” of Mormons, we should pray that there is no spirit of contention within our interactions and dialogue with our fellow brothers and sisters that are outside of the faith. This will help guide is to share spiritual insights and discuss spiritual truths with such a conviction and testimony of how and why we do actually believe in Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father, and have received redemption and salvation – and that we are not “lost souls” entrenched in a “false religious system”.
  2. Learn: We are constantly counseled by the Prophet and Apostles to read and study our scriptures. Participation in the Sunday School lessons, and even studying each lesson that is coming up are components that will help us engage in honest dialogue about particular scripture passages. In addition to this, learn from the best sources and common criticisms that are constantly launched against the Church, the history of the Church, Joseph Smith, and our scriptures. This does not mean to go into every detail and hunt down every criticism, but have a foundation of knowledge about the types of criticisms. If one is not familiar with these types of questions and criticisms, let the person evangelical Christian know that you are not knowledgeable and would like some time. Write down their question/criticism, and then find those sources that help explain and share insights into the particular criticism. The best resources are Social media networks where members of the Church can answer questions, or to even send a question via the Foundation for Apologetic and Information Research contact page – Ask an Apologist.
  3. Be open: For us, this means to be understanding and accepting of the person without bias or prejudice. We should not immediately respond with knee-jerk emotive responses, or merely dismiss their claim. Being open means to understand that the person who is taking the opportunity to share their faith and love of the Savior with you is giving you the opportunity to share your love and faith of the Savior with them as well. It is an opportunity for one to share their own insights and faith with someone who maybe critical and questioning. It is through our own openness where we can engage in the conversation and offer correction, reproof of false errors, and sincerely discuss our faith.
  4. Invest time: Evangelical Christians are investing time, so why shouldn’t we? Investing our time in sharing with our fellow evangelical Christians, we are developing (or hopefully developing) a healthy relationship where there is trust, honesty, compassion, empathy, and an invitation to share our respective faiths and the qualities we have in after the teachings of the Savior. This also includes the recognition that it will take time to help an evangelical Christian come to terms and realization that we do in fact follow the Biblical Savior, that we do in fact, accept the Bible, and that we do in fact, believe in many of the essential core doctrines of Historical Christianity. Again, this takes time and is not something that will happen over night. We also must resign to the fact that it is not up to us to convert the person, but allow the workings of the Holy Spirit to give the necessary conviction that will bring people around to understand our faith through our own experiences and perceptions than what could be gleaned from known counter-cult ministry groups.
  5. Encourage: Here, we should encourage our fellow evangelical Christians to read some of the articles or General Conference talks that are specific to the particular discussion. If we are conversing about the Savior, find articles and speeches of the Savior. Through this type of encouragement, our hope is to further give the necessary foundation for understanding. In addition, it provides us the opportunity to do a unique missionary opportunity by allowing our fellow evangelical Christians to see and understand what we truly teach, believe, and accept. In addition, we should offer up our own services to help them out and not be afraid of them or afraid of their questioning, doubts, and/or criticisms that they may continue to have. Through our encouragement, they may have a mighty change of heart where they may see the reality of the Gospel and see how it does work in the lives of each member.

The reality is, as the Church has become a predominate fixture in the thoughts and minds of our society, we must arise and dust ourselves off and offer a reasonable response to the many criticisms launched against the Church. Our engagement through the modern convection of social media networks should be used to help inspire, encourage, uplift, and share the message of the Restored Gospel. Not all people will be receptive. In fact, through the course of our engagement, there are going to be those hardcore critics that will stop at nothing to mock and ridicule our faith. When we cross path’s with those types of ravenous wolves, we merely stand firm on our own conviction and testimony of Jesus Christ, the efficacy of His atonement and that we are saved through the atonement, and the reality and personal testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. For, this latter minority of people, they are not concerned with niceties or common shared brotherhood – to them, we are the enemy deserving of eternal punishment and they will engage in brow beating us because of their own intolerance and disdain for the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

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