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That's why I was a little taken aback by Elder Holland and President Hinckley's talks in that they so forcefully repudiated the Christian creeds.

They did so respectfully but I have never heard it done so bluntly before.

But I love that the Church does not attack or criticize other churches.

An interesting post. It's nice that Mormons have decided to dump the "Gentile bashing" that was so common in the first half of the 20th century. In an effort to distinguish the LDS from other Christian religions, and in an effort to keep the wagons circled in the Intermountain West prior to WWII, it was not unusual to hear negativity from the pulpit. Some of those attitudes survived long enough to be published in "Mormon Doctrine", and folk teachings about the Great and Abominable Church discussed in the BoM persisted into seminary classes as late as the mid-1980s.

More recent pronouncements have been a breath of fresh air, yet what does it mean when we hear again that Mormons are supposed to be the best at something by virtue of the fact that they have "greater light and knowledge" or because they know of their eternal, divine nature and roles while the rest of the world suffers in darkness?

Of course, any religious organization claiming to be The One Way to God will necessarily communicate to its members and prospective members that those not following its particular pathway are less-than-valiant, or sinners, or unsaved people doomed to hell for eternity. At least Mormons allow for all non-Mormons to be saved in the end, after suffering a few hundred years of hellfire in the worst cases.

Finally, I wonder if there's better language to use concerning conversion stories. Is it fair to say people are converted to the LDS faith and then de-converted to another faith? Why are they not simply converted from Mormonism to _____-ism? It's a fine line, and perhaps too nuanced to matter, but does identifying a person's change of faith as a "deconversion" fall on the borderline of rude or unacceptable?

I don't disagree, LRC. My point is partly that rather than structure their accounts as straightforward conversion stories (how they came to be Evangelical), many instead tell what amounts to a deconversion story (how and why they left Mormonism). From time to time one hears an LDS conversion story told that way (dwelling on how and why they left denomination X), but not often.

And I think your comment about all religious organizations making some sort of privileged claim to knowledge or insight doesn't stop at religious organizations. It's not like atheists consider themselves ignorant or unenlightened compared to believers. Their rhetoric is no different than anyone else's.

I have to disagree with Dave. I think lots of Mormon conversion stories involve the reasons for leaving one's previous denomination. I can say this for sure in my own personal case. In teaching and occasionally in testimony I will relate why a particular Catholic doctrine did not resonate with me, and why then a Mormon doctrine did. And I have heard many others testify of their search for the truth and how other churches didn't fufill their longing for it. Certainly this doesn't happen all the time, but I think this is more for the reason that many people join the LDS church after previously not being involved in an organized religion, than it has to do with such rhetoric being considered rude.

That being said certainly Mormons do not devote much time to discussing the faults of other churches. And even those who make note of the contrast between the Mormon church and their previous church, almost never do so in a mean-spirited manner.

I thought Lisa's story was quite good actually. Have to confess, as I read it, I could totally see that happening in a Mormon ward. Lots of things going wrong in that instance.

1. Mormons pushing conversion from a position of coercive authority (ie employer-employee relationship)

2. Dumping the new convert in the Primary isolation chamber (let's face it, it is exactly that for adults) where they feel overwhelmed by the new responsibility, while at the same time isolated from any of their peers in the ward

3. Advising a divorce of a non-WoW keeping spouse

4. Failing miserably at the New Member Discussions (a chronic problem in LDS wards)

Re: My point is partly that rather than structure their accounts as straightforward conversion stories (how they came to be Evangelical), many instead tell what amounts to a deconversion story (how and why they left Mormonism).

By contrast, atheists almost always have deconversion stories: "How and why I stopped believing in religion X" (and you can find essentially all religions represented) is the whole point. The exception is the "I never believed" set. Thus atheist rhetoric is perhaps a bit different.

On the other hand, why should atheists consider themselves "ignorant or unenlightened compared to believers"? If they thought people of faith were right, they would change their beliefs and become people of faith. So I guess on that point you're right that all people are the same in thinking their own conclusions are right (if that's not a tautology...)

Dave, I have been hanging out at this evangelical/LDS conference in SLC. I have to smile. Right now, Aaron S, is heavily embroiled in conversation with a BYU-Idaho prof. The guy is passionate.

You have mentioned that LDS do not criticize other religions. Wait till I get back home to I.F. I need to find the Christian History textbook this BYU-Idaho prof. is using.

I have a theory about LDS proselytization to run by you. But I need to look up a quote in this book first.

"LDS do not criticize other religions ..." Well, that's not quite what I said. I'm sure in private conversation it happens from time to time, and it's not hard to find passages in books or articles, especially older ones, that sound rather harsh. I said that you won't find criticism of other particular denominations being voiced from Mormon pulpits or in Mormon classrooms, and that Mormons have learned to be good religious neighbors (implying they haven't always been).

I'm looking forward to your next installment in the series, Todd.

Atheism almost by definition is about not believing and the reasons not to believe. It's just not about positive beliefs. So most atheists giving de-conversion stories is unsurprising.

I do agree that de-conversion is primary among some. I think we just don't hear about those who are much more low-level. Also there's a big difference between a longer-term educated Mormon and someone who may have only been a member a year or so and never really learned much about the faith.

I agree, to a point, about Seth. Although I do think WoW can be more serious than he suggests. (Ditto porn and a few other major factors about divorce) I'm not saying divorce. But I think WoW addictions can have much longer term effects some don't realize. Typically someone with a WoW problem (i.e. drugs or alcohol, not coffee or tea) has an addiction and not just casual use. And almost always addicts have other problems in their home lives.

But I do agree some pull the "divorce anyone not in line with mainstream Mormonism" call way too readily. And presumably some do find consolation among that class of Evangelicals more accepting of such faults. (Let's be honest - there are many Evangelicals if anything far more strict than Mormons about such matters)

Regarding the not criticizing other religions though. I think that while it's not as common as among many conservative Protestants (some who criticize Mormons, Catholics, and liberal Protestantism), it is more common in Mormonism than some suggest. I've heard plenty of cringe-worthy comments about Catholicism. (Mainly due to the post-BRM aftermath) And I think most Mormons have had run-ins with obnoxious Evangelicals such that we unfortunately tend to label the whole movement. (Not only do I find myself needing to watch that myself, but I'd argue that this series of posts by Dave, despite the caveats, ends up falling into that category) Then there are approaches to Mormonism which, while appearing positive, end up being negative towards other faiths. Consider talks like the 7 points of the true church. (Or whatever the number was - a fairly influential talk even if it is pretty misleading at best)

Ok, Dave, I am back on this fine Monday afternoon.

Sitting in front of me is the book, The History of Christianity: An Introduction by Nystrom and Nystrom

P. 6

"Though Alexander's dream of a unified political empire did not survive him, his career did result in a lasting cultural unity. This extraordinary development was due to three cardinal factors. The first is the religious and philosophical syncretism that marked Alexander's foreign policy. When Alexander conquered a people, he did not assert that his gods had defeated those of his enemies. Instead, he argued that all peoples worshiped the same gods but knew them by different names. Politically, this policy tended to pacify the conquered. The Greek philosophers had already that the mythological stories of the Olympian deities must be taken not literally, but rather as allegories that point to a deeper truth. Alexander applied this idea to all religious systems he encountered. He allowed each culture to retain its traditions while inviting conquered peoples to perceive a deeper unity in which all religions shared."

Clearly, LDS don't use the sword. But what I am interested in is the "religious and philosophical syncretism." Are LDS more open to this than conservative evangelicals? (I remember at Temple Square talking to an LDS sister missionary who was quite comfortable with her Buddhist upbringing. She felt like she was only 'adding' to her already established faith.)

For me, this is problematic. Not all LDS worship Jesus or worship him in the same way. I critique LDS lack of critique, if this makes any sense. For I wonder if syncretism rather than critique is the very tactic of young LDS elders for bringing people into the LDS flock.

Sidenote - Quite frankly, Dave, I am being honest . . . critique is often interwoven with encouraging edification in my messages. We had LDS with us this past Sunday morning as I was bringing out application from John 6. I was critiquing the mega-church movement among evangelicals. I have been very outspoken about this. I am glad for the recent articles where Bill Hybels of Willow Creek has admitted, "We have made a mistake", in relying on program-driven philosophies. All the massive progams and constant activity has done little in growing people toward a deeper love for God.

It depends upon what one means by syncretism. After all to Mormons there is a whole lot unrevealed (although there are often unofficial folk doctrines on many matters) On all those other issues people are free to find truth via revelation. Will all agree on those matters? Of course not.

But if I find some truth in Zen Buddhism, in Science, or in ancient Judaic belief, what's wrong with that?

Brigham Young was pretty clear truth is truth and that Mormons don't have a monopoly on truth. We take it where we find it.

One more thing. What does it mean to worship Jesus? It seems that's a fairly open topic with the very meaning of "worship" being fairly vague. So I can't really tell what you even mean by, "not all LDS worship Jesus or worship him in the same way."

If I worship Jesus by aiding the poor, building up my family, fulfilling my Church callings, and developing a personal relationship with the Father such that I come to understand the son, what's wrong with that?

It seems to me that you are conflating doctrinal belief (creeds) with worship. Which has long been an LDS criticism of more "traditional" Christianity. (Although in my opinion often unfairly - but still true surprisingly often)

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