Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 1

July 2, 2009 | 40 comments
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(See my disclaimer about the title)

There are many similarities between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity which are generally uncontested by both parties. I thought I would cover these prior to doing a post on the similarities which I suspect will be more controversial.

Typically acknowledged similarities include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Mormons share with charismatic evangelicals a belief in the current practice of miraculous spiritual gifts, as opposed to cessationist evangelicals, who believe miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased.
  • The Mormon mode of baptism generally agrees with that of evangelical credobaptists, as opposed to paedobaptism. Often credobaptists only allow for baptism by immersion, while paedobaptists allow for baptism by sprinkling, pouring and immersion, even for adults.
  • Mormons and evangelicals both believe in the anointing and companionship of the Holy Spirit, though they tend to have different vocabulary for it. Mormons describe this phenomenon as “the gift of the Holy Ghost” while evangelicals call it “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” “baptism by fire,” or very rarely “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” For some reason Mormons seem to prefer the term “Ghost” while evangelicals stick with “Spirit.”
  • Most Mormons share with Arminian evangelicals a belief in both libertarian free will and the absolute foreknowledge of God. The main wing of evangelicalism in opposition to this is Calvinism and, perhaps in part because of this, the majority of counter-cult ministry evangelicals seem to be Calvinist.
  • There are evangelical open theists as well as Mormon open theists, who have very similar beliefs on the free will and the foreknowledge of God.
  • Mormons and evangelicals tend to align on a lot of political and social issues: pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, anti-poverty, anti-pornography, pro-family. We both tend to agree in shooting for modesty, with evangelicals being willing to show a little more leg and shoulder. (Except for me; I’m a brazen hussy they tell me.)
  • Mormons and evangelicals both believe in and preach saving sex for marriage and are generally opposed to divorce.
  • Mormon teachings on gender are surprisingly similar to that of complementarian evangelicals. Subsequently, LDS church organization resembles that of complementarian churches on a local level, with some exceptions.
  • Mormons and evangelicals both tend to be ardent scripture enthusiasts.
  • Mormons and evangelicals share a zeal to convert people to their respective faiths in this life.
  • Each group has a stash of delightfully bad faith-promoting rumors, urban legends, and bumper sticker doctrines waiting in the wings. My favorite Mormon urban legend is Bigfoot = Cain. My favorite evangelical urban legend is that Kirk Cameron is a good actor.

Continue to Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2

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DISCLAIMER: The title is not meant to suggest that there are not significant differences between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity. In The New Mormon Challenge, evangelical scholar Craig Blomberg listed the following major points of disagreement as taught by the LDS church: “(1) a finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine; (2) a view of the universe as not eternally contingent on the will and being of God; (3) the denial of the necessity of prevenient grace to overcome humanity’s sinful disposition in the process of conversion and regeneration; (4) the denial of Trinitarian monotheism; and (5) the denial of the classic Christian understanding of the relationship of the two nature of Christ.” (Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, Paul Owen, eds., The New Mormon Challenge, p. 489) I agree with Blomberg’s assessment of these as major points of division. However, I feel that Mormon-evangelical discourse usually focuses on discussion of our differences, so I’d like to focus on the similarities for a change.

40 Responses to Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 1

  1. Jacob J on July 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    For some reason Mormons seem to prefer the term “Ghost” while evangelicals stick with “Spirit.”

    I may be able to help out here. I think it is because of our reliance on the KJV New Testament, which prefers “Holy Ghost” to “Holy Spirit” in a crushing 55 to 4 victory for the Holy Ghost..

  2. Jacob J on July 2, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I know, I know, you put up a post about similarities and I focused in on the one difference in the post. Sue me.

  3. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Ha. Actually, I figured it was the KJV v. new translations thing Jacob, but I was trying to be brief. Thanks for confirming it for me, I’ve never given it too much thought.

  4. Matt H on July 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Even with the HG terminology victory its pure semantics I think most will agree. In every day Mormon language – at least in my experience, the two terms are used interchangeably.

    PS: Almost died laughing at bigfoot = Cain! Mormon lore is the funniest bit of hilarity. Ever hear the one about the female mormon missionaries who went to the serial killers door but he didn’t attack them because the three Nephites were standing behind them? I was convinced at age 20 that actually happenned in my mission (Texas San Antonio late 80′s) but when my little brother came home from Jackson MS about ten years later and told me the same story happened in his mission with a straight face, the world of Mormon lore was opened to me at last – it’s quite funny!

  5. Matt H on July 2, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    BTW Jack – what happens in Evangelical Heaven? My understanding is Mormons have a much better gig there. Can you shed some light on what the general expectation is? I find laying around on clouds playing harps pretty boring compared to creating worlds.

  6. David Clark on July 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I find laying around on clouds playing harps pretty boring compared to creating worlds. I don’t know that we teach that, I don’t know that we understand it. That’s more of a dichotomy than anything else.

  7. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Matt H ~ I was watching a quiet indie dialogue flick the other day called The Man From Earth which poses the question early on in the film, “What if a man from the Upper Paleolithic survived until the present day?” Of course, the character posing the question then goes on to claim that he is such an immortal man. I began laughing at that point because I was like, “Silly movie. Mormons figured out the answer to that question in the 1800s.” DC Comics also figured out the answer in 1943 with the villainous character Vandal Savage, but now I’m going off on tangents.

    Evangelicals have a much sillier version of that angels-protecting-women urban legend. See, we’re A LOT more alike than some people think. ;)

    I’ll get back to you on evangelical heaven.

  8. Matt H on July 2, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I am perhaps poking fun a bit at Jack – sorry. Would like some sort of explanation of what happens in the hereafter from evangelicals. Sometimes I get the impression that because Mormons believe in continued progression that’s akin to blasphemy in some evangelical circles. I hope I am not sounding confrontational here that’s the last thing I am looking for. I want to understand.

  9. Matt H on July 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    ….looking up Vandal Savage….

  10. Dan on July 2, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Jack,

    Just curious what the point of this is. Most evangelicals simply refuse to think we are Christian, that we believe in Christ. “Their Christ” is apparently not the same as “our Christ.” The fact that we share urban legends, and similar political feelings and all that matters not to me if it cannot be agreed upon the central point of Christianity. That BOTH groups believe in Jesus Christ. If we can’t get that down, there’s no point, at least for me, in trying to bridge the gap with Evangelicals.

  11. Chris H. on July 2, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Wow, Dan. That was quite the overly simple generalization. This is the real problem: neither group seems to really know much more than strawmen about each other. That is why Jack’s efforts are valuable. That is the point.

  12. Dan on July 2, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Chris,

    It’s not a straw man. Read this for example. Do you really want me to do a google search for “Are Mormons Christian” and see how many results come from Christian sites?

  13. Kevin Barney on July 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I enjoyed the list, Jack.

  14. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Dan ~ I’m not examining the “are Mormons Christians”/”Do Mormons believe in a different Jesus”-type questions because I’m doing that in a guest-post for FPR, which I’m taking forever to complete (sorry TYD). However, I would point out to you that the charge that our two groups believe in different Christs is hardly unique to evangelical Christianity. The Church News reported back in June of 1998:

    In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the church who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ. No I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this dispensation of the fullness of times.”

    In the May 1977 issue of Ensign, Elder Bernard P. Brockbank stated:

    It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, from the Church of England’s Articles of Religion, article one, I quote: “There is but one living God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worships a God and a Jesus Christ with bodies, with parts, and with passions. We also believe that the trinity of the Godhead is made up of three separate personages—God, the Eternal Father; Jesus Christ, the Son of God—our Savior; and the Holy Ghost. These two concepts of the Trinity and their attributes are completely different.

    Now personally, I dislike the “different Jesus” rhetoric, whether it comes from evangelical counter-cultists or the rare quote from LDS leaders. My answer to your question is that of course both communities believe in Jesus Christ. We just believe different things about Christ, and some of those differences are significant.

    What’s the point of all this? Well, to me at least, it’s pretty significant that in spite of our theological differences, our two groups function extremely similar in regards to praxis. I’m also setting up for my next post, where I’ll discuss some areas where the two groups sometimes criticize each other even though they allow for similar philosophies and practices in their own systems, and I hope it will promote greater understanding, so stay tuned.

  15. Chris H. on July 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    No thanks, Dan. I tend not to make conclusions based on google searches. Anyways, those blogs and websites are making the strawmen arguments about Mormons, we shouldn’t do the same thing to evangelicals.

  16. Kaimi Wenger on July 2, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Three cheers for greater understanding. :)

    And great thread, Jack.

  17. Bob on July 2, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I like the way the Post is set up just fine.

  18. Dan on July 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Jack,

    Thank you for that response. I also don’t like the “different Jesus” talk. When it comes to what a person believes of his own self, there is no outside arbiter to judge whether that person actually believes what he says he believes. Only one person can be the judge of that: the individual who believes it. If I say I believe in Jesus Christ, there is no one who can say I believe differently. There will be obvious differences in how and what one believes about Jesus, or anything else, but if a group of people can’t even respect such a simple thing, then I have a hard time trying to make further connections, at least theologically or religiously.

    I only bring this up because, for me, this is the elephant in the room in bridging this gap. Is it that hard for Evangelicals to admit that Mormons do actually believe in Jesus Christ, as we state we believe?

  19. Jonovitch on July 2, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Jack, first of all, I’m a huge fan of Blomberg/Robinson, and I think we all need to working on closing the gap, urban legends and all.

    Having said that, I believe it’s quite illustrative that you wer able to post all of two sources, from 11 and 32 years ago, that state that Mormons don’t believe in the same Christ as evangelicals. Compared to the incessant clamoring from evangelicals that our Christ is different than theirs, those two, dated, rather benign Mormon sources seem a bit pithy.

    I don’t want to argue that point. I do need to address something else, though (for the sake of all evangelicals — and Mormons — who might read this): the concept of a “finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine.” We Mormons understand so little about this concept, it’s dangerous. Unfortunately this “merely a man” idea is held against us time and again as if it were one of our major, core doctrines. It’s not.

    If you think about it, the sum total of our entire body of “knowledge” on this topic comes down to a cute couplet and speculative wanderings and vocalized curiosities that were written down after the fact, by someone other than the person who spoke them.

    Extrapolating this idea forward is precarious and presumptuous enough (e.g., “when I get to build my own planets…”). Extrapolating backwards is downright foolish and possibly blasphemous. I really think the entire “merely a man” concept is so poorly understood, and so lacking in real information, that it needs to be restricted to the realm of divine mysteries (perhaps even folk doctrine) until we know more about it.

    It’s dangerous for us to try to bring God down to our level so easily. Even talking about Jesus Christ as “our older brother” makes me uncomfortable. He is a god — the creator and Savior of the world. We are not even close to being on the same level. What we do have going for us is an immense amount of divine potential, and an even greater amount of divine intervention (yes, that’s called “grace”) if we’re only willing to accept it.

    Until we get further light and knowledge, I think it would be wise if we (evangelicals and Mormons alike) shelve the idea of God being anything less than he is.

    Jon

  20. matt b on July 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    It seems to me that the ‘different Jesus’ discussion is a good one to have; there are real issues there. As I argued here, the fact that in Mormonism Christ is not part of the Chalcedonean trinity can raise some problems for traditional Christian atonement theory.

    The rhetoric of ‘different Jesus’ as most evangelicals use it, though, is generally as an ad hominem cudgel.

    Also, as long as I’m linking, I’ve had things to say about Cain and Bigfoot too.

  21. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Jonovitch ~ I never claimed that it was a common theme in Mormonism that non-LDS Christians worship a different Jesus, or that Mormons do it as much as evangelical Christians do. But those two sources were very mainstream and from leaders fairly high up in the church; it’s not like I cited ward newsletters from the 1930s or something.

    Besides, the point of my next post is going to be that Mormons and evangelicals often complain about ideas being taught by the other side which have been tolerated (in smaller amounts or slightly different forms) in their own systems. If I’m only allowed to point to doctrines and philosophies which have carried comparable traffic and prominence in both systems, I really won’t have much of a post to make.

  22. Wilfried on July 2, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Excellent post and interesting comments. Thanks, Jack!

  23. Patrick on July 3, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Jonovitch,

    I think the problem is in accepting the premise behind the phrase “merely a man.” The breathtakingly exalting idea that we are more than “merely” men (and women), but are in fact offspring of Deity and “gods in embryo” is what differentiates our theology from that of other Christian denominations. We are not making God any less than he is – we are daring to believe that we are more than we can comprehend.

  24. Thomas Parkin on July 3, 2009 at 8:01 am

    re: different Jesus.

    The question I ask myself is this: if it were Eternal Life to know Crow, then just how close to Crow’s actual characteristics would you have to get before you could say that you knew him? Could you ascribe to Crow Owl’s opinions, or Snake’s views, or Ox’s work, and still be worshiping Crow? Could you say that Crow has the body of Wolf, or no body at all? How much of Crow’s experience would you have to share? This analogy makes it clear to me that some correct idea of a being’s attributes and views and experience are necessary to worshiping him. Since an understanding Mormon conception Christ does indeed diverge considerably from a Catholic or Protestant conception of Christ it is, it seems to me, fair to say that I worship a different Jesus.

    If that is meant as an insult, so what? It’s nice when other people are nice to you, but they aren’t always going to be. ~

  25. Dave on July 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Great series, Jack. Evangelicals certainly come in a wide variety of flavors. That fact tends to be carefully hidden in the public face Evangelicals present to the world.

    “[T]he majority of counter-cult ministry evangelicals seem to be Calvinist.” Well, that explains a lot. Do they condemn non-Calvinist Evangelicals with the same gusto that they condemn Mormons?

    FYI, I did a couple of off-site posts on Divide recently (here and here). Divide still gets a lot of attention on the blogs (see Clean Cut for another recent discussion).

  26. Jettboy on July 3, 2009 at 8:55 am

    No Thomas, you don’t worship a different Jesus Christ. You worship a different concept of Christ. That is a huge difference. Jesus, you know, actually existed (unless your one of the handful of people who claim he didn’t) in history.

    To say that anyone worships a “different Jesus Christ” is an insult, and frankly a lie. I am sorry that Elder Brockbank said what he did, and I think Hinkley is far more on target with his emphasis on “concept.” That Bridget tries so hard to dismiss what Mormons consider a very serious breach of good will reflects very poorly on any possible “bridging” of a divide. I personally do not speak on good terms with anyone until they acknowledge Mormonism as Christian in very fact. They can hyphenate that with “heretical, non-traditional (similar to what Hinkley says, non-Trinitarian, non-historical, and non-orthodox” all they want. I don’t mind as long as they don’t use “other Jesus Christ” or “non-Biblical” in references. That burns any bridges from the outset.

  27. TStevens on July 3, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Arminian , complementarian, counter-cult ministry, paedobaptists, credobaptists, cessationist, & charismatic evangelicals. That is a lot of variations and degrees you are throwing out and I am getting lost*. Is there available a cheat sheet or better yet a chart that will break down all the different variations and where each established evangelical sect falls within the belief system? Or is that like asking what is doctrine on an LDS blog?
    *Please excuse my ignorance but my religious life before converting to the LDS faith was Church of England, and that was the typical twice a year attendance unless there was a wedding or funeral in the family.

  28. Thomas Parkin on July 3, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Jettboy,

    I could hardly care less whether someone acknowledges me as a Christian, or not. I care very much what God thinks of me, and I hope to be appreciated by those close to me. But Joe Preacher in Texas’ views on whether I’m Christian or not mean little or nothing to me; and the guy on North Temple yelling at me that I’m taking my family to hell matters even less. YMMV, clearly.

    I don’t think we’ll get anywhere, since you didn’t actually comment on my argument but only your feelings; but here goes: If I had a _concept_ of, say, a friend; and loved him as I believed him to be, that concept – since there is no other way that I might; and at some point I discover that he isn’t only a little different but is a radically different person than the one I loved; who did I love at the beginning? Would you or would you not say “you’re not the person I thought you were”? You cannot separate the concept from the reality, since the whole object is to modulate our concept until it matches reality, ie, we understand God, we see Him, know Him. ~

  29. Jerry on July 3, 2009 at 9:31 am

    It is pretty obvious that Mormons are as adamant about not being one of those Christians as they are about not having us. That is another area of mutual agreement.

  30. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Dave ~ Well, that explains a lot. Do they condemn non-Calvinist Evangelicals with the same gusto that they condemn Mormons?

    The more intelligent, civil-minded ones don’t, which is most of them. The extremely rabid ones condemn Arminianism as a non-Christian heresy whose followers worship a different Jesus and should be careful because even Satan can masquerade as an angel of light. Sound familiar?

    There’s an article on bad Calvinist behavior by C. Michael Patton (who is himself a Calvinist) here.

    Jettboy ~ That Bridget tries so hard to dismiss what Mormons consider a very serious breach of good will reflects very poorly on any possible “bridging” of a divide.

    Can’t say I’m surprised to see this sort of inflammatory rhetoric coming from you, Jettboy; you made it pretty clear on my blog what you think of evangelicals. That you cherry-pick through my good-faith efforts at getting both sides to understand each other in search of something you can demonize reflects very poorly on your interest in seeing any divide bridged.

    I personally do not speak on good terms with anyone until they acknowledge Mormonism as Christian in very fact.

    Kaimi introduced me to this blog with a link to my Infrequently Asked Questions where I do just that. So that’s what you have to work with. The evangelicals who like to call Mormonism a non-Christian cult and say you worship a different Jesus aren’t here (yet), everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows they exist in spades, and it isn’t my job to spend ample time acknowledging them and apologizing for their bad behavior.

    It is my job to show people things about their own faith which they complain about in others, which is why I brought up the “different Jesus” quotes from LDS leaders. The claim shouldn’t be, “Evangelicals accuse us of worshiping a different Jesus.” The claim should be, “Evangelicals accuse of worshiping a different Jesus—and occasionally, we agree with them.”

    TStevens ~ Wikipedia makes for a pretty good cheat sheet; every one of those terms has a good introductory article there. Here’s brief definitions of the terms you asked about though:

    Arminian ~ Evangelicals who hold to both libertarian free will and the absolute foreknowledge of God. The main opposing position is Calvinism, which holds that God alone determines who will be saved (and by extension, who will be damned); most would characterize this system as lacking free will, though they call it compatibilist free will. The other school of thought is open theism, which holds that libertarian free will cannot exist if God absolutely foreknows the future, therefore God does not foreknow the future.

    complementarian ~ Evangelicals who believe that men were meant to lead in both the church and the household and refuse to ordain women as pastors and elders; generally encourage men to be providers and women to be homemakers. The opposite is egalitarians, who hold that women can hold all the callings and offices men can and marriage should follow a pattern of mutual submission and partnership.

    counter-cult ministry ~ Evangelical organizations which work to show why certain groups are not true Christian sects, keep people from joining those groups, and target members of those groups for conversion. These are usually the people who teach that Mormonism is a non-Christian cult and Mormons worship a different Jesus.

    paedobaptists ~ Evangelicals who practice infant baptism.

    credobaptists ~ Evangelicals who believe baptism should only be performed on those old enough to make a confession of faith

    cessationist ~ Evangelicals who believe miraculous spiritual gifts ceased not long after the founding of the Christian church. They still believe miracles can happen today, but people with actual gifts of healing and tongues don’t exist anymore.

    charismatics ~ Evangelicals who believe miraculous spiritual gifts, including healing and tongues, continue today.

  31. Thomas Parkin on July 3, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Adding one more thing, since I’ve been wandering about the place feeling a little unfinished, re: different Jesus.

    While I don’t have any particular objection to someone telling me I believe in a different Jesus, for the reasons given, it isn’t something I would say about someone else. Rather, I think all believers have some things right and some things wrong. It seems to me that the true Christian project isn’t to utterly to concepts but to learn using the spiritual tools available. In other words, the real possibility of learning about God, from God, is more important than one’s precise beliefs at any given time, and stasis is the undesirable quality. ~

  32. Dan on July 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Thomas,

    While I don’t have any particular objection to someone telling me I believe in a different Jesus, for the reasons given, it isn’t something I would say about someone else.

    That’s how I think too. It would be very easy to say, “well because they don’t believe in Jesus the way I believe in Jesus, they must not be true Christians.” But it’s just not accurate.

    Would Mormons be in a different state of mind, however, if Mormons had greater numbers than Evangelicals? Would it be easier for us to state, as they state toward us, that they are not believers in the “real” Christ and not be bothered if they are offended?

  33. Jerry on July 3, 2009 at 10:55 am

    One of the things that many of these blogs have in common is the use by eggheads of words that just aren’t used in polite conversations.

    I see more commonality with Christians in general than I do differences. The biggest thing is we both believe that a Christ centered life changes us. One group calls it Born Again and the others calls it faith and works. Both have the same steps pray earnestly and with sincere heart and study his word and feel the change come over your heart. You then show love by following Christ. The bigger difference is one has to have a white shirt on and use big words nobody else uses to do it and the other shorts and a golf shirt.

    Enjoyed the post

  34. Thomas Parkin on July 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Dan,

    Having now been in Utah six months, or so, it’s already difficult for me to imagine clearly that world where we are outnumbered. I bet you’re right, though.

    Kind of funny aside. I talked to a friend of mine yesterday who has just moved to a town north of Houston. He told me that on his drive into work he passes a billboard for a local Realtor. It has the obligatory happy picture of a couple and under it says “Mr. and Mrs. So and So, Realtors Ordained by God.” And I thought, *choke*, oh my, I’m so glad to be in Utah. (But not Provo, Bridget – I still wouldn’t be happy to be in Provo.) ~

  35. Clean Cut on July 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Jack, I look forward to these posts. It is indeed surprising how many similarities Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals share. Because we also have significant and fundamental differences, too often people don’t allow themselves to see where we actually agree. I enjoy exploring both commonalities and differences.

    About the “Different Jesus” argument, I simply acknowledge that both “sides” accept the biblical teachings about Christ, but we interpret them through different lenses. So yes, there this is a difference. I don’t think anyone claims “we’re the same”. However, even though we have differences in our Christian beliefs, (ie: Evangelicals believe in the Trinity where all three persons are one being; I believe in the Godhead where three distinct beings are one completely unified God) do those differences really mean that we’re worshiping a “different Jesus”? I think the better answer is that perhaps we’re just worshiping Jesus differently.

  36. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 3, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    To All ~ I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the kind and thoughtful answers and interactions I’m getting on these posts. I’m probably a lot more nervous about guest-blogging here than I think anyone was about letting me, and I keep worrying that I’m annoying T&S readers who didn’t sign up for an interfaith dialogue blog. I’ve got about three more posts planned, and only the next one is geared toward another interfaith topic, so if you’re getting tired of this I promise I’ll be done soon.

    Thomas Parkin ~ I applaud you for being willing to consider the perspective of those who do use the “different Jesus” rhetoric. I don’t like that argument myself because I think it’s so often employed by evangelicals in a hurtful and insulting way that shuts down constructive conversation, but part of me does see the logic behind it, and apparently you see it, too.

    I gotta warn you though, I’m sure your “Crow” quote is going to wind up on one of Aaron Shafovaloff’s lists showing Mormon bloggers and pro-Mormon sources who back up the arguments of the counter-cult ministry. ;)

    Matt H ~ I’ve been procrastinating on your heaven question because the answer is, I don’t know very much of what heaven is going to be like, and I’m sure it will only open the conversation to more discussion of our differences, but here goes. I can tell you that evangelicals:

    (1) Don’t believe it involves marriage or sexuality (Matthew 22:30—I know Mormons have other interpretations of this verse, but that’s how we take it). Whether we will be sexless or gender will simply not have its earthly functions, we don’t really know. Jesus was described as being male after His resurrection, and the angels are described as being male with possible female angels described in Zechariah 5:9, so I think it’s the latter.
    (2) Know it will involve bliss beyond our wildest dreams.
    (3) Some of us advocate a form of evangelical deification (which I’ll cover in more detail in my next post). We don’t believe we’ll ever be Gods to other people like some Mormons do though.

    Do Mormons have a better idea of the afterlife? I think that depends on your perspective. I can get into that more if people really want, but it’s really not hard to find ideas about the other person’s afterlife which sound really unattractive to us now.

  37. Kaimi Wenger on July 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Jack:

    I think that you’re doing an excellent job. Of course you’re talking interfaith dialogue. Not to knock on your zombie movie skillz, but interfaith dialogue is the reason we thought you would be a good guest. (And I think we’ve been shown to absolutely right on that score.)

    Thanks for your comment engagement, too. You’re not just posting good stuff, you’re taking time to engage in comments on a broad topic which, even among good faith discussants, can tend to generate confusion.

    You’re doing a great job, Jack — don’t change a thing.

  38. DavidH on July 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Jack,

    I enjoyed your post. I agree that LDS have a somewhat different concept of Jesus than do other followers of Jesus. I think that Roman Catholics also have a somewhat different concept of Jesus than do many evangelicals–particularly in their soteriology.

    One might claim that the LDS concept of social trinitarianism is the reason the LDS concept of Jesus is fundamentally different from either the evangelical or Catholic concept of the Trinity. Yet it looks to me like social trinitarianism is not a unique LDS concept of the Trinity, and is being debated in non-LDS Christian circles. See, e.g., W. Hasker, A Leftovian Trinity, Faith and Philosophy 154 (April 2009) (critiquing a critique of social trinitarianism).

    Of course, other religious traditions (like Islam and Judaism), not usually considered Christian, believe in Jesus in the sense that He existed and even that He was a great man, inspired, or even a prophet–but do not accept Him as God the Son.

    In my experience, many people transform (a) the correct proposition that Mormons believe in a different concept of Jesus than traditional Christians to mean (b) the incorrect proposition that Mormons do not regard Jesus as divine, the Son of God, and God Himself (as God the Son). Many think that the LDS concept of Jesus is similar to the concept of Jesus in Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.

    Thus, a few years ago, my assistant at work apologized for giving me a Christmas card with a picture of the baby Jesus and the manger on it. She said she understood that Mormons do not worship Christ and were not Christian and was concerned I would be offended by the religious Christmas card she gave me. I cleared that up with her.

    But I was surprised that after 10 years of working with me and 20 years of working at a law firm about 10% of whom are LDS that she would have this erroneous idea. Moreover, her husband (a Catholic, as she is) had been a police officer in Utah for 20 years and had been married twice (sequentially) there and has children still living there. I gather his concept of LDS beliefs was not much different from hers.

    It leads me to think that many or even most non-LDS conflate the correct notion of the LDS believing in a “different concept” of Jesus with the incorrect view that LDS do not believe in Jesus as Divine and as God the Son.

    In that respect, I agree with and endorse the Brethren’s decisions to reemphasize the connectedness of the LDS Church with a fundamental belief and acceptance of Jesus as Divine, the Core and Head of the Church, as God the Son.

  39. Jonovitch on July 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Jack, for the record, I’m enjoying your posts, too, and I encourage you to keep up the good work!

    In response to your response (21) to my response (19), you’ve certainly shown that it’s possible to find a couple of statements by Church leaders and in Ensign articles here or there that agree with the “different Jesus” sentiment. But there are plenty more that examine/wonder why the heck evangelicals don’t think we’re Christian. To wit (the most recent I could find with a 5-second Google search):

    “I don’t know. I can’t understand it. The very name of the church is the name of Jesus Christ. Our whole message is centered around Christ. The Book of Mormon is an additional witness for Christ. Everything we do is done in the name of Christ. I don’t understand why people say we’re not Christians.” – Gordon B. Hinckley in interview for the PBS show The Mormons.

    Of course I understand that what some people mean is that our style of worship and our understanding of Jesus is different than theirs (though it’s not as much as they think) — I just don’t agree at all with the way they say it, claiming that I worship a “different” Jesus. That’s ill-informed at best, and at worst it’s an intentionally hurtful repetition of a worn-out sound-bite.

    At any rate, keep on posting! Go, Jack, go!

    Jon

  40. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 7, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Jonovitch ~ I may take a deeper look at why evangelicals often argue that Mormons aren’t Christians while I’m here. We’ll see.

    I got caught up doing family stuff this weekend, but I should be posting part 2 later tonight or early tomorrow morning. Thanks all for the encouragement.