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Mormons seem to say that everyone else sees darkly and knows in part, but prayer allows Mormons to see clearly and know completely,

I would say that Mormons would say that revelation, not prayer, allows them to see clearly. True, prayer is intrinsic to the Mormon formulation of revelation, but it seems that most Mormons believe that while others pray, it is not sufficient - What is needed is a dialogue.

Dave wrote In fairness, I should note that there has been a noticeable effort by LDS leaders during the last several years to encourage closer association with other denominations and the adoption of a friendlier form of discourse that plays down the LDS claim to exclusive religious truth and authority.

Dave, I don't agree that LDS leaders have been downplaying the LDS claim to exclusive religious truth and authority. On the one hand, they have been emphasizing friendship with other denominations and cooperation on a conservative social agenda. But on the other hand, to my knowledge, they have been consistently reaffirming LDS claims to religious truth and authority even while they engage in creating "a lot of good feeling" as you put it. In other words, in General Conference, LDS leaders still bear solemn testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that he restored the Gospel to its correct state as found in the primitive church. Both of these elements of testimony are built on an assumption, even if not verbally articulated, that a "Great Apostasy" occured and that the resulting creeds the issued from its bowels are an abomination to God, just as Jesus Christ told Joseph Smith. To my knowledge, LDS leaders have not retreated one inch from this position.

To my knowledge, LDS leaders and LDS doctrine, on the other hand, have never claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an exclusive corner on the truth. You seem to come back repeatedly here to the misconception that just because the Church affirms itself as The True Church, that that means that the Church is claiming that truth only resides in this Church. This is a gross misconception, Dave, and I am at a loss to know what informs this misconception on your part. We have statements by both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young that reveal the inclusiveness of the Restored Gospel when it comes to truth. We recognize portions of the truth in the most diverse places possible and declare to the world that they should bring the truth they have and let us add unto it with the restored truths of the Restored Gospel, as well as with truths revealed to us in the latter-days that perhaps weren't even available to the primitive church. Sure, this isn't as pleasing to the natural ear as saying that everyone has truth and there's no way of knowing if someone has more truth than another, but God is not out to please the masses. He expects people to conform their lives to revealed truth.

But this argument does not go so far as to claim that the Church already has all Truth. You seem to imply at least that the Church used to claim this. But I would disagree there too: the Church has always been cognizant that Truth is an open canon, waiting to be added unto by the voice of God when and where he sees fit.

Finally, I disagree with your last paragraph as well, which implies that the body of the Church does not see things as Paul, through a glass darkly. You write Mormons seem to say that everyone else sees darkly and knows in part, but prayer allows Mormons to see clearly and know completely, despite Paul's statement to the contrary. This is an inaccurate and unkind portrayal of the attitude of most Latter-day Saints. I would argue that most Latter-day Saints understand and agree with Paul, that we at the present time and in mortality all see things as if through a glass darkly. That doesn't mean that we as Latter-day Saints aren't grateful for the additional guidance and knowledge that we enjoy thanks to the Restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith; rather, it means that although we are grateful for it, we are (or should be) humble and aware of the fact that there is much still unknown about our eternal salvation such that we all (in the Church) still see as though through a glass darkly.

John, are you aware that your position paints LDS leaders as two-faced dissimulators, posing as friendly fellow Christians when working with other denominations while truly believing that the tenets and beliefs of other denominations are "an abomination to God" (your term)? That's dated rhetoric. Modern leaders have really come around, I think, to realizing the degree of sincerity and goodness in other denominations and desiring to work with them, rather than against them, in many areas. LDS leaders really have downplayed the LDS position vis-a-vis other denominations, at least in public, the same way that other religious leaders have downplayed their criticisms of Mormonism, at least in public.

I may have been unclear at certain points in the original post, but I did say Mormons view others' faith and belief as "incomplete," which properly conveys, I think, your point that Mormons don't claim exclusive possession of all religious truth and accord a fair degree of truth to standard Christian claims. Mormons do claim exclusive religious authority, including the exclusive right to properly interpret scripture and make authoritative pronouncements.

You seem to be coming from two different directions in your (lengthy) comments. On the one hand, you note that LDS leaders really do view Christian statements of belief as "abominations," yet you upbraid me for not noting how generous Mormons are in recognizing that Christians have a portion (if not a fulness) of truth. I think you need to find the ground you're standing on and argue from that position, not from several positions at once.

"Abomination" is most certainly not my term:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

Joseph Smith History 1:19.

Sure that's your term, John. You used that specific phrase to describe the position you attribute to LDS leaders (that the tenets and beliefs of other Christian denominations are abominations in the sight of God) and from which, according to you, LDS leaders have not retreated one inch. I think your summary of LDS thinking on this issue is about twenty years out of date. That view died with Elder McConkie. It does not represent the present statements or thinking of LDS leaders, as far as I can tell.

I think it is hard to characterize other people's experience. Converts, especially those that were active in other faiths, might have more perspective here. On the other had, we have our emmigrants and would probably discount their claims.

Elder Packer says that we're not trying to put something new (the Holy Ghost) into people, but enhance or activate something they already have (light of Christ). Given that, it is hard to judge how others have made use of the light of Christ.

On the issue of prayer as a conduit to truth, Givens talks about the principle of "dialogic revelation" with regard to the Book of Mormon (think Moroni 10), and how truly revolutionary it is. I spent my mission amazed why people didn't understand the Moroni promise. Now I know that it's "Mormon" not "traditional Christian."

Now, Dave and John: you're talking past each other. Like John, I have not seen any retreat from the notion that the LDS Church is the "only true and living"; on the other hand, I cannot think of a time when I have heard the public description of other religions as an "abomination." Like the Satanic stuggle, that's an element (in its specific wording at least) that is generally left out of the First Vision story nowadays (see the new "Restoration" DVD).

I've been thinking about this a little more. It seems to me that many things that LDS people say they "know," are really belief extensions of what they really know. That is, they know that Pres. Hinckley is a true prophet, therefore they "know" that gambling is bad. (One example of many potentials.)

Why can't it be that other Christians have the same thing going? Can't they know that Jesus is the Savior as well and as strongly as I? Can't they know that the Bible is scripture as much as I do? Perhaps some of their (in our view) false conceptions are really belief extensions of what they really, legitimately know.

Piping in with an Evangelical perspective ...

I think any theologian of any creed or stripe (even a Calvinist!) will admit there is a chasm between logic and faith -- otherwise it wouldn't require faith. In the Mormon perspective, I take it there is an additional chasm between faith and "knowing." Learned something new today.

The question then moves to those who have prayed (assuming sincerity) for the "knowing" of the Mormon Church and failed to receive it. Do Mormons, like Calvinsts, counter with a doctorine of election? Are there people God purposely chose not to reveal His truth? I'd be interested in hearing opinions.

As for LDS getting cozy with other Christians, I'm all for it, but I'm a little cooky compared to my Evangelical brethren. Backing away from any "one true church" claims would be the biggest step and the reason so many "anti-cult experts" zero in on the Mormon Church to begin with. There are other issues that will keep you out of broad fellowship with Evangelicals, such as the claim of a leader holding the Office of Prophet, but Catholics aren't wholly demonized by Evangelicals these days, so I don't see why that would restrain Mormons from enjoying the same priveleges.

Great comment Matt. I don't know for certain, but I would imagine most Mormons would say that you need to work harder to get an answer. Now if you got a different answer than would be suggested by traditional Mormon tenets - here is a good discussion on that possibility. Cheers.

Ronan, I'm suggesting not so much that leaders have retreated from the "one true church" claim as that (1) they are more discreet in their rhetoric (and discretion goes a long way); and (2) they truly do have a better opinion of other Christian denominations than they once did.

Matt, from the Mormon perspective, the difference between faith and Mormon "knowing" has real substance. From the Evangelical perspective, I suspect it is merely a verbal distinction, just Mormons using "I know" where Evangelicals or mainline Protestants use "I believe." But words matter; knowers act with more conviction and dedication than mere believers.

Can I share a convesation I had with Mormon missionaries about their testimony and you can tell me if it's an accurate presentation of Mormon views ('cos I don't think it was).

I mentioned some scripture (can't remember which) to question something one of the missionaries was saying and they responded by almost robotically parotting (no offence meant, that's how it appeared) their testimony.

I then mentioned that I could give a very similar testimony about The bible and that my experience when I'd prayed the prayer and read the BOM was quite different (I felt queasy). I also shared that I had once been speaking to a Krishna devotee who gave exactly the same reason for his conversion to ISKCON whilst reading Bhagavad Gita. And I spoke of people I knew of who would say similar things about Islam etc.

The response I got was something along the lines of, "well, that's because there's an element of truth in each of these things." Not only did that seem a really weak response to a valid concern about using the testimony as a measure of truth, but it seemed to go beyond what I had assumed would be a Mormon response.

So, was I wrong, or had my arrogant badgering forced the missionary to blurt out a less-than-standard response?

I think I used that answer a few times on my mission. It is always a challenge to say something remarkable to someone who's preconceptions and world view are unknown. What answer would have been satisfactory?

To me, that question is one of the things that really determines personal revelation and hence testimony. Are the options really weighted evenly in one's mind? If not, preconceptions usually dominate. Is it possible to be happy with the answer one gets? If not, why should God tell you something that won't work for you?

On my mission I always tried to explain revelation in terms of getting out of a Cartesian Circle. If nothing external and contradictory to current expectations is ever accepted, then all one can do is re-enforce their current positions. Of course this characteristic, as was alluded, facilitates cult like behaviour. So , to my mind, part of the inherit difficulty in receiving remarkable revelation is that it requires a cult facilitating conviction to break preconceptions, but the associated tendency to zone in a single perspective must be absent. If the latter is not truly present, one never gets out of their Cartesian like circle. Their views just get re-enforced under the perhaps misguided view that they are divinely inspired.

Unfortunately, because personal revelation, is well, personal, one can never be sure if another's testimony is based on a closed perspective, or open perspective. Discounting the latter because most people fall on the closed side of the continuum doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means it is rare. Perhaps this is because of the strength of character required to walk the line between zealot empowering conviction and actual zealotry.

I think you're right Chris. The big challenge in religion is in getting out of ones comfort zone. There is a tendency to see religion as purely comforting and not challenging. I halfway wonder if this may be affecting not only our missionary work but our membership. That is, I wonder if, despite increased religosity, religion in the United States is seen primarily as comfort in the sense that watching TV is comforting.

Yes, nice comment Chris. It strikes me that missionaries extending a Moroni prayer challenge to inquiring Christians are really asking them to have an open perspective, that is be willing, even anxious, to receive a prayer response or other change of heart that points them away from or outside of their received beliefs.

But Mormons themselves receive a constant stream of advice to maintain a closed perspective in such matters (not a closed mind or a narrow mind, just a closed perspective). At the same time, only a very small percentage of people LDS missionaries encounter ever adopt an open perspective and make a serious attempt to seek a prayer response. I think it's the case that most believers (or even most people generally, about most of their opinions, religious or otherwise) have a closed perspective.

I wouldn't classify Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision as "dated rhetoric."

Sure, the term "abomination" might be dated, just like God's instructions to Moses on how to build the tabernacle are dated. But it most certainly isn't "rhetoric."

Any student of the history of Christianity knows that Joseph Smith was pretty much on-target when he lashed out against the major denominations of the day (even if he wasn't seeing the whole picture).

I've already had this argument out before. But if you abandon the idea that this is God's chosen church, then there really isn't any point to being a Mormon.

If you don't believe in the LDS faith, fine. But please don't try to trivialize and water it down with touchy-feely tripe about how everyone's ideas are equally valid, all religions are equally correct, and other PC nonsense.

Suggesting that the Mormon Church isn't THE Church really neuters the message.

I think this is one of the biggest quandaries in proselyting, regardless of what religion you are touting. There is basically zero reason for anyone who holds a certain belief to "test" other beliefs. Mormons ask non-Mormons to at least *consider* the truthfulness of the LDS Church and its scriptures, but would Mormons do the same in return? Probably not, but that's because they would consider it pointless. But that's exactly what EVERYONE would think. So the question is: what is our epistemic duty? I don't think everyone should go out and "test" every religion they can think of just to see if it's true, but if that's the case, in what sense is my own testimony valid? This is probably my biggest dilemma, personally...

I don't think one has to water things down to be concientious about other's beliefs. Accepting the fact that others can feel their views are correct doesn't make every other perspective incorrect. Belief is not mutually exclusive even though some specifics may be. Just because this is God's chosen church doesn't necessarily mean he abandons everything else, "abominations" notwithstanding.

Personally I think there are lots of good points to being Mormon. To my way of thinking, it is the only way to accomplish quite a few things. Of course, being infused with normal people, this doesn't mean some compromises are made in what it does. It just means that overall, it focusses on essentials. The idea that another church could run a more successful charity or church pot luck doesn't diminish the claims of the church. It does diminish claims that because this is God's church it has to be the best in everything. Of course I see this as a positive lesson to learn rather than a subtle corruption of foundations.

Of course, as you say Seth, this type of thinking can be problematic unless one is doing it for a good reason. That is part of the reason I find motivations so essential. If little emphasis is given to motivation and much is given towards absolutes, then it is just unecessary complication. However, I tend to think one perspective is a subset of the other. Which is more encompassing depends on what one wants belief to accomplish.

Benjamin, I don't think I would say there is ever zero reason to test other beliefs. Some beliefs are more limiting than others. For instance I think asceticism, while good for getting in touch with oneself is quite limiting. I don't think we have the time or energy to go and test everything. Neither should we dismiss everything. There is a definite continuum in between. To my mind, the range of that continuum gets defined by ones true character and strength. Going beyond this is a foolish as going under it. All it means is the ultimate validity of one's testimony lies within the range in which it has been tested. I think going beyond this, while helpful in certain situations, hinders others. I also think it leads people to interpret things in a black or white mode. This is a valid guarding technique, but doesn't necessarily take you to much new ground. But then again not everyone needs to be as much of an explorer as the next person. To my mind individuals should do what is best for who they are. Building on false foundations is to my way of thinking, an unwise long term goal.

In the Mormon schema, Mormons "know" while others have only faith.

I think this is inaccurate, Dave. We believe God can help anyone "know" anything He wants. That is why so many Christians of other denomination know Jesus really is the Christ and that the Bible really is the word of God. You imply that we claim we Mormons can know these things and non-Mormons can only have faith. This is not the case -- we believe they can know just as well as we can through personal revelation. In fact it is that belief that encourages us to invite other to read the Book of Mormon and ask God about it as well. If God has already personally revealed the truth of the Bible to someone that means that person is close enough to Him to get a clear answer about the Book of Mormon also.

That of course does require some difficult things that Moroni lays out, including "a sincere heart" and "real intent". As has been mentioned, those two are much bigger hurdles for many than the other parts: "having faith in Christ" and "believing that ye shall receive".

Here's a perspective from a Protestant-turned-Mormon. I'm sure it's not the typical LDS perspective.

I must say I'm bothered somewhat by the standard Mormon testimony, or at least the frequency with which I hear it. What's the point of saying "I know ... I know ... I know" when of course you know it, or you wouldn't belong to this church? Who are you trying to convince?

It seems to me that "I know this church is true" (you can fill in the rest yourself) has become almost a mantra of sorts. I see little children being taught to say this when they can't possibly know what it means. What's the point?

And I think it's a little bit arrogant to say we "know" things when others only have "faith." Is there any real difference? In one sense, the only thing I can "know" is that I exist; everything else is matter of faith, and that's even more true of religious matters. I have yet to see anything to indicate to me that LDS have some sort of claim on knowing in a way that other people don't. Like I said, I think it's arrogant to suggest otherwise.

Ultimately, what we come to "know" is based on our experiences (and, yes, those experiences include personal revelation) and how we interpret them. In that regard, we are far from unique.

(Nothing I say here is intended to deny the Church's unique claim to authority. I fully believe what the Church teaches, or at least to the point where I have built my life around it.)

I think, following up on Eric's point, is that our testimonies presuppose that we can know without knowing that we know. Sometimes we go up and speak in the spirit and discover that we know. If we are truly speaking in the spirit, then bearing testimony is a kind of prophecy via the gift of prophecy. We might be surprised to find out exactly what is in our soul.

I, too, am bothered when others say so strongly, "I know." I feel there is sort of an emotionaly blackmail implied by the term. When said in church, the unspoken words are, "thus, you also, should know."

I don't bear my testimony very often for that very reason. When I do, I talk about a principle or an experience I've had, then I usually say, "I'm grateful" that we have a doctrine about life after life, or something.

I know (lol) that's sort of a weenie approach, but I don't like being forced into anything. Plus I can't say I know much because I have something dancing in my brain all over other doctrines.

But here in the heart of Mormon country, "I know" is still the standard phrase and we are regularly chastised for not using it.

And I sit quietly, with my Molly Mormon hair and clothes, my hands on my lap, and think "bite me."

There is no True Church. "True" by definition is "Consistent with fact or reality; not false or erroneous". All organizations have "erroneous" elements within it's structure and the Mormon Church have so many errors (An act, assertion, or belief that deviates from what is correct, right, or true)they cannot be numbered.

What a fantatstic thread! I was just speaking with my wife last night about all this, so I'm happy to see there are others who have similar concerns and questions. I don't KNOW that I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the church. I THINK I might just believe it... at least most of it. I used to KNOW it :) but as I got older, I realized you can't really know anything.

True church: to me, this is a bit of a misnomer, but if we push the discussion a bit further it comes from having a "fullness of the gospel". As someone else has pointed out, we don't claim to have ALL truth, so what's this "fullness" thing? I think I believe that this means a fullness of the gospel of salvation. We have the necessary authority and ordinances to gain salvation. Whether we truly understand what that means and all the doctrine that goes with it is another matter entirely.

Is the "church" true? Too big of a statement to say yes to, for if we are to say yes, then we are saying there is no error within it. There is plenty of error to go around! Everyone reading this thread would most likely agree.

Is the church the most correct church on the Earth? I believe it may be, but I have not studied all other churches, therefore, it is tough for me to KNOW.

Are there those who say "I KNOW..." in reference to the church who really do KNOW? I hope so. I wish I was one of them. But I think I'd rather not be one of those who say and think they KNOW when they really only believe.

One of my problems with the Mormon Testimony is that I am supposed to base my life, my beliefs, my money etc., on an emotional response to thought and prayer. What I believed to be an answer to prayer, the burning in my bosom, is and emotional response that can be reproduced by other emotional stimulus. eg. good movies, beautiful music, feeling in love. How many of us have prayed to know if the girl/guy we loved was the one the Lord wanted us to marry. How many of us actually received a "no"? Most of us hear what we want to hear and feel what we want to feel.

So how do I know that my answer to prayer about the Book of Mormon is any more or less valid than my answer to prayer about a spouse? (I am happily married, but know many who are not who believed they received their answers to prayer on that matter.)

Is my "testimony" in the Book of Mormon nothing more than a self imposed emotional response to my desire to believe? If I stopped believing, what would be the cost? Is that why I desire to believe it?

I won't parrot a testimony... at least not until I find satisfactory answers to these, and more, questions.

Sorry about the length of my post... it's my first time and it feels very therapeutic.

Welcome to the site, Stuart. The Bloggernacle needs more Canadians.

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