What do Mor­mons be­lieve?

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

I am a Chuck Col­son fan. Col­son is the for­mer Nixon aid who was “Born Again,” started a prison min­istry, and who now writes the most in­ter­est­ing com­men­taries — re­flec­tions on the news from a Chris­tian per­spec­tive. It is hard to dis­agree with some­one with whom you find so agree­able. But re­cently Col­son has made com­ments ques­tion­ing whether or not the re­li­gion of Mitt Rom­ney, Repub­li­can can­di­date for pres­i­dent, is a Chris­tian re­li­gion. Mitt Rom­ney is a Mor­mon. Col­son has writ­ten, “Mor­monism ei­ther af­firms his­toric Chris­tian­ity, or it doesn’t. Since it doesn’t, it can’t call it­self Chris­tian­ity.”

In Col­son’s view “ his­toric Chris­tian­ity” is the whole of “ Chris­tian­ity.” This is like say­ing that “ the ocean is blue.” It is true, ex­cept where it isn’t true. There are plenty of places where the ocean looks brown. (Have you ever been swim­ming at Ty­bee Beach, just south of Savannah? The wa­ter is def­i­nitely brown.) There have al­ways been groups of Chris­tians who stood out­side of the main­stream. This is due in part from the fact that Chris­tian­ity ex­isted for hun­dreds of years prior to their be­ing a main­stream. The term “Chris­tian” was first used at An­ti­och at about 50 AD. (See Acts 11:26). But the first Church Coun­cil was not un­til 325 A.D. — the Coun­cil of Ni­caea. And as you might ex­pect, not ev­ery­one agreed with the Coun­cil de­ci­sions. Did they cease be­ing Chris­tians? No. What they be­came was un­ortho­dox Chris­tians, or “ heretics.”

Un­ortho­dox Chris­tians have made great con­tri­bu­tions to Chris­tian thought. Pe­lag­ius was la­beled a heretic, but his de­bates with Augustine were the first place that freewill and pre­des­ti­na­tion were ar­gued. Augustine taught pre­des­ti­na­tion; Pe­lag­ius taught freewill. Augustine won the de­bate and Pe­lag­ius was la­beled a heretic.

Which do you think was right?

An­other per­son was la­beled a heretic for post­ing 99 dis­agree­ments with church prac­tice and the­ol­ogy to the doors of a church in Wit­ten­berg, Ger­many. Heretic or not, Martin Luther said, “ Here I stand and I can do no other.”

Col­son needs to re­al­ize that Chris­tian­ity is broader than the main­stream. Chris­tian­ity ben­e­fits from di­ver­gent points of view. The low­est mo­ments, the “ dark ages” in the his­tory of church were when con­form­ity was manda­tory and the heretics were burned.

Mor­monism cer­tainly rep­re­sents a dif­fer­ent point of view. It ques­tions ideas that most Chris­tians hold to be un­ques­tion­able — like the very na­ture of the Trin­ity.

The founder of Mor­monism, Joseph Smith, was mar­tyred, and there seems to be an un­der­cur­rent of hos­til­ity to­ward Mor­mons still to­day. This should not be the case.

While I think that Mor­mons would have a clearer pic­ture of re­al­ity if they be­come more ortho­dox or “ his­tor­i­cal,” like an artist try­ing to paint a sun­rise from inside a house with the win­dow shades drawn would ben­e­fit from go­ing out­side, or at least open­ing the blinds; yet, even as they are, Mor­mons have some light. They read the Bi­ble. They have a high view of Christ. We prob­a­bly agree on what is es­sen­tial.

The Apos­tle Paul wrote, “ If you con­fess with your mouth, ‘ Je­sus is Lord,’ and be­lieve in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” ( Ro­mans 10: 9). By Paul’s def­i­ni­tion, Mor­mons are Chris­tians.

What would Je­sus say? In the last para­ble that Je­sus gives in the gospel of Matthew ( Matthew 25: 31- 46), Je­sus says that some­day he will re­turn to judge the world, di­vid­ing hu­man­ity like a shep­herd di­vides sheep from goats. In the story, you want to be a sheep; they end up in par­adise. The goats don’t. What makes the sheep, sheep?

Je­sus said, “ I was hun­gry you gave me food. I was thirsty; you gave me some­thing to drink. I was naked and you clothed me. I was home­less and you pro­vided shel­ter. I was sick or in prison and you vis­ited me.”

Ac­cord­ing to Je­sus, Chris­tian­ity, real Chris­tian­ity, is de­fined by acts of com­pas­sion.

In­stead of fo­cus­ing so much on what Mor­mons be­lieve, we ought to ask, how do they live? Ac­cord­ing to Christ, this is what Chris­tian­ity is all about.

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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