Comments about ‘Make no assumptions, LDS doctrine has to be said’

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Published: Sunday, May 15 2011 4:30 a.m. MDT

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Dennis
Harwich, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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