Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mormon Religion

In an earlier post I wrote about the offshoot of the Mormon Church referred to as FLDS, led by Warren Jeffs who was convicted and sentenced to prison for having sex with underage girls. Let me make a few personal observations about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, known as Mormons). Since we may have one or two Mormons running for President of the United States in the primaries, it is useful to know something about their religious faith. Note that I’m referring to the main LDS church, not one of its offshoots. Also, some people may disagree with my observations, especially (3) and (4) below.

(1) Mormons tend to have what has come to be called “traditional values” or “family values.” Such values are mocked by some as hopelessly old-fashioned and out of touch with modern culture. Yet it was exactly those values that made this country great (think “The Greatest Generation”). Mormons try to live clean lives, with church and family the most important elements in their lives. If more people of all religious persuasions lived like they do, the world would be a better place.

Mormons are expected to tithe to the church (give 10% of their earnings), devote one evening a week to family activities, and refrain from consuming alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. They believe they can retroactively convert ancestors to Mormonism, so they study their family’s ancestry to be able to do so. Hence they have a huge genealogical database.

(2) Mormons have an emphasis on evangelism (going out into the world to convert others) that is often missing today from mainline churches. Jesus commanded his followers to go out into the world and make disciples, so the Mormons are diligently following that command. While we may get annoyed at their unannounced visits to our front doors, they are fulfilling a biblical command.

As you may know, young Mormons are expected to give several years to missionary work before getting on with their lives.

(3) Despite their protests to the contrary, Mormons are not “Christian” in the sense of the traditional and orthodox understanding of Jesus, the Trinity, and eschatology (end times and judgment). They do believe Jesus died for their sins, but their theology is different enough that they can’t be considered Christian in the sense of the apostolic churches (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox). Moreover, they have a scripture in addition to the Bible, which is The Book of Mormon. This further distances them from orthodox Christianity.

Saying they are not orthodox Christian is not to diminish them in any way, it is just stating a fact that we should be aware of. The reason I bring this up is that it explains the concerns expressed by some Christian leaders such as Dr. James Dobson about having a Mormon as president. That leads me to the next point.

(4) Should the fact that a candidate is a Mormon influence our decision to vote for or against him or her? Quite frankly, I don’t care as much about a candidate’s religion as long as he or she has faith in God and lives out his or her faith appropriately. I believe a person should be guided by the transcendent values found in the Bible, not by situational ethics or man-made values which are subject to change. As I mentioned earlier, the Mormons have excellent values (in my opinion) generally consistent with Scripture, and live good, clean lives. In the case of a Mormon candidate, I would vote based on his or her policy positions, because we aren’t voting for a pope or “Theologian in Chief” but the “Commander in Chief.” If anything, I would view a Mormon positively because of their values.

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