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hobsen
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This story about a Presbyterian church refusing to allow Mormon parents to act as Scout leaders seems a better thread for discussing the meaning of "Christian" than one on Islam.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/nation/7254607.html

[ October 20, 2010, 02:58 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Grant
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Sounds shady. Is this a BSA group? If so, what does the church have to do with it? If it is a church organization, then they can do whatever they like, unfortunately, no matter how stupid it is.
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hobsen
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The Roman Catholic finding seems pertinent to the above. Roman Catholics consider Presbyterian baptisms valid, as both sects worship the same god. Mormons allegedly worship a different God.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20010605_battesimo_mormoni_en.html

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Grant
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Still, can the Presbyterian church run the BSA? Or is the BSA a seperate entity? Or is this not a BSA organization. If it's not a BSA organization, I see no need for debate or discussion, other then reems of comments such as "Presbyterians are stupid", and the following apologia.
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msquared
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Most BSA troops/packs etc have a sponsoring organization. It can be a religious group, a civic group, a school, etc.

msquared

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LoverOfJoy
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Yeah, the BSA is run more like I've heard some franchises are.

A dollar store may be quasi-independent in that they choose what to stock in their store and run it more or less the way they want but they pay for the trademark and perhaps some training and agree to follow X rules.

I'm not sure what limitations the BSA has on the individual troops' "hiring" practices for their leaders.

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Carlotta
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I've been doing some research online and I found an explanation for why the Catholic Church doesn't accept Mormon baptisms as valid.

Basically, the Mormon and Catholic understanding of what is meant by "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" is so different that even though the words are the same, the thing they're referring to isn't. There were some other reasons given too, you can read them here if you are so inclined:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/mormbap1.htm

I didn't find anything saying that Mormons and Catholics worship a different God, but I'll keep looking since I didn't find anything that stated one way or another. Personally, I like the part in The Last Battle (last book in the Chronicles of Narnia) where Aslan, the Christ-figure, is speaking to a Calormene (representative of pagans). He says that anyone who did something good in the name of Tash (the pagan god) still has it counted as if he had done it in the name of Aslan, and anyone who does something evil in the name of Aslan, Tash accepts that sacrifice. Likewise I believe that anyone who calls upon "God" with goodness in his heart will be heard by the true God.

And I have to add, to my Mormon friends, I was really appalled by the snide jabs and small inaccuracies sprinkled through most of the online articles I read written by Catholics about Mormonism. I apologize. I had no idea that this attidude was so prevalent even in supposedly informational websites. I have seen nothing but respect for my faith from the Mormons here and I am so sorry that the members of my church have not extended the same respect. [Frown]

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starLisa
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Cue all the Mormons who smiled when the Boy Scouts kicked out gay members and said, "Hey, they're a private group; they can do whatever they want" complaining about discrimination.
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LoverOfJoy
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I doubt you'll find many. Mostly they'll just be a tad miffed that they are still not considered Christian.

edited to add: For instance, I highly doubt a lawsuit will come out of this. There definitely won't be any picketing outside Presbyterian churches or BSA offices.

Even if the BSA made a policy that segregated mormons from other church troops I think the most you'd see is a simple statement from the church and a withdrawal of support for BSA programs. We'd probably end up with a better program for our young men (we're already in the process, I believe, of lowering our reliance on the BSA program for our young men).

[ October 20, 2010, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: LoverOfJoy ]

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Clark
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Thanks for the link Carlotta.

An interesting point is the exact wording of the Mormon baptism which is done in the name of "the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." (emphasis mine) The addition of the "of"s is another nod to the LDS doctrine of 3 distinct members of the Godhead.

(note: There is a slight error on the website which indicates that the wording is "Holy Spirit" when it is, in fact, "Holy Ghost". Mormons very rarely use the term "Holy Spirit" opting for "Holy Ghost" though they would certainly think of the two terms as completely synonymous.)

ETA: actually they messed up the quote a bit more than I thought. The scriptural citation given is correct.
Incorrect: "Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Correct: "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
If the words are not completely correct, the baptism is considered invalid and will be repeated.

[ October 20, 2010, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: Clark ]

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Grant
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If the BSA allows their "sponsors" to have that kind of control, then fine. I wouldn't let my kid be in such an organization. When I was a scout, we didn't owe poop to any church. That's the way I feel it should be.
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Carlotta
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Okay, I read the original linked article. I don't see anything remiss here, except that the Presby church's policies on who could be scout leaders wasn't clearly spelled out beforehand. Their boy scout troop is something sponsored and run by their church, and if they want all the leaders to be members of their church, or of a Presbyterian church in general, or of a specified set of Protestant denominations, that's their right. It's not even necessarily rooted in a bad intent - a lot of parents see church-sponsored groups like the boy scout troop as an extension of the youth group, which I think everyone would agree it's reasonable to want the leaders of a church youth group to share beliefs within certain parameters.

The big sticky point I see here is that this wasn't spelled out beforehand, so the parents are left in the situation of trying to explain to their kids why they started going to meetings and now don't go anymore. As a mom it hurts me to see my kids get excited about something and then have to tell them we can't do it anymore.

Maybe I'm less sensitive to this point because around here, there are plenty of conservative Bible Christians who think Catholics aren't Christians. Which I find kind of funny, because the way I see it, Catholics were the ORIGINAL Christians. [Razz] But it all comes down to how they define "Christianity" and how they understand my beliefs. Many of them will say Catholics aren't Christians because we dont' believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God (because we say that it is not necessary to believe in a literal 6 day creation story), or because we don't believe Christ's death and resurrection saves us (because we place such emphasis on the sacraments), or because we dont' believe salvation comes through faith alone. Some of these objections are based on a disagreement/misunderstanding of what Catholics actually believe, others (like the faith alone part) are a disagreement or misunderstanding of what Christ actually taught. But all this is simply a discussion of whose doctrine is correct and not on who is a better person.

Clark, one of the reasons I find it so fascinating to talk to Mormons is that their hierarchical church authority structure and their insistence that small points of doctrine really do matter lends itself well to in depth discussions about these things. In this aspect I think Catholics and Mormons have more in common than either of us do with the kind of non-denominational Protestant found a lot around where I live.

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Pete at Home
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IIRC the New Testament suggests rather that a bunch of Jews were the original Christians. [Big Grin]

Culturally I'm probably more comfortable with Catholics, but then I grew up in Mexico and Paris, went to mass with my friends, etc. If I had to design a religion most likely to keep me awake during the services, I'd take the preaching of the black Assembly of God preachers I saw in Detroit, with the dancing prayers of the Hare Krisna (except worshipping Jesus instead, obviously). Every so often we'd have religious, legal, and philosophical arguments in the style of French Jews, and we'd apply Jewish scholarship to the New Testament and the Tao to Ching, but most of the time, we'd hang out with our extended families and friendship networks like Catholics. We'd only be Mormons when the community needed to mobilize, like for a funeral or in response to a crisis.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I have seen nothing but respect for my faith from the Mormons here...
To be fair, Carlotta, individual Mormons can be as snarky about Catholics as Catholics can about Mormons, although generally only in the same way that Baptists are.

---------

quote:
In this aspect I think Catholics and Mormons have more in common than either of us do with the kind of non-denominational Protestant found a lot around where I live.
I think, rather, that people invested in their religion and its dogma, regardless of what that religion is, are more likely to understand each others' epistemologies -- and are more likely to be baffled by the epistemologies of people who claim to share their faith but do not manifest the same interest or concern.
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starLisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
IIRC the New Testament suggests rather that a bunch of heretical Jews were the original Christians. [Big Grin]

Fixed that for you.
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Pete at Home
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You added detail. Nothing in what you said actually contradicts what I said. Correct me if I'm mistaken, Rebbe Lisa, but is an heretical Jew not still a Jew under Halacha?
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starLisa
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Mostly.
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Pete at Home
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Does that mean that under Halacha that it's OK for heretical Jews to eat food that's mostly Kosher? [Wink]
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Does that mean that under Halacha that it's OK for heretical Jews to eat food that's mostly Kosher? [Wink]

Like my college friend, who would just pick the pepperonis off before eating the pizza? [Big Grin]
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I have seen nothing but respect for my faith from the Mormons here...
To be fair, Carlotta, individual Mormons can be as snarky about Catholics as Catholics can about Mormons
That's what I said above, and I used to see it frequently among some American mormons, but I haven't seen it since the early 1990s.

Most Catholics that I have met have been very respectful of my religious differences with them. I also love stained glass windows, and the padded knee things in Catholic churches. What a wonderful detail that a group could actually kneel to pray in church without awkwardness.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
I've been doing some research online and I found an explanation for why the Catholic Church doesn't accept Mormon baptisms as valid.

Basically, the Mormon and Catholic understanding of what is meant by "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" is so different that even though the words are the same, the thing they're referring to isn't. There were some other reasons given too, you can read them here if you are so inclined:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/mormbap1.htm

I didn't find anything saying that Mormons and Catholics worship a different God, but I'll keep looking since I didn't find anything that stated one way or another. Personally, I like the part in The Last Battle (last book in the Chronicles of Narnia) where Aslan, the Christ-figure, is speaking to a Calormene (representative of pagans). He says that anyone who did something good in the name of Tash (the pagan god) still has it counted as if he had done it in the name of Aslan, and anyone who does something evil in the name of Aslan, Tash accepts that sacrifice. Likewise I believe that anyone who calls upon "God" with goodness in his heart will be heard by the true God.

And I have to add, to my Mormon friends, I was really appalled by the snide jabs and small inaccuracies sprinkled through most of the online articles I read written by Catholics about Mormonism. I apologize. I had no idea that this attidude was so prevalent even in supposedly informational websites. I have seen nothing but respect for my faith from the Mormons here and I am so sorry that the members of my church have not extended the same respect. [Frown]

Good post, Carlotta.
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Carlotta
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Thanks, kmbboots.

Pete, I love the kneelers too. It helps me focus on praying instead of how bad my knees hurt! If I had to pick my favorite things from other religions, I'd like to incorporate:
-the way the Pentecostals actually sing instead of mumbling along with the choir
-the gorgeous icons of the Orthodox church, as well as the incense (still used in Catholic churches, but much more rarely)
-Wednesday night church/family dinners at the Methodist church.

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msquared
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Careful what you ask for Carlotta.

At my wife's UCC church, they sing every verse of evey song. And most of them are at least 200 years old.

I liked having some songs that were written in the last 1/2 of the last century. The occasionally sing those as anthems, but almost never as hyms.

msquared

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Clark
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Carlotta said (from "the real Islam" thread):
quote:
Basically the position from the link goes that one can be Christian in two ways - ontologically or theologically. Ontologically, anyone who has been baptized Christian is a Christian, because we believe that baptism imparts an indelible spiritual mark to one's soul. This ontological Christianity says nothing about the person's moral state or their beliefs. the second definition would be theologically Christian, which means that the person or group's theology is consistent with historical Christianity. It looks like Mormons don't fall into either of these categories, so I suppose by those definitions the CC does not consider the LDS christian.
Thanks again for the link. I'll point out that Mormons don't meet the ontological definition of Christian because they don't meet the theological definition. (Per your other link, the Mormon baptism is not valid because their definition of the Godhead/Trinity is too far removed from the CC.) So the two definitions really aren't independent of each other. But that's really beside the point. I think I understand the Catholic reasoning. I like that the CC makes logical sense and is consistent, at least in my experience. (Please, we don't need anyone jumping on board here saying snarky things about how all religion is illogical.)

It seems to me that the CC puts a boundary around which groups they would call "Christian" which is defined, at least in part, by their understanding of the Trinity. As Mormons differ significantly from that definition, they are not "Christian". The LDS church does not, to my knowledge, have any way to define who is or isn't "Christian". To the LDS, it would serve no purpose theologically. (For example, no baptisms from any other churches are accepted, period.) Unofficially, I think most Mormons would have a much looser definition of "Christian" than the CC has. I'll throw out what I think most Mormons would agree to, and invite any other Mormons to throw in their opinions. (Keeping in mind that this is just the opinions of individual people.)

According to Mormons, a "Christian" is someone who:
- Believes in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- Believes that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

As you can see, my definition of "Christian" would be quite broad. In fact, I am not aware of a single group that would self-identify as "Christian" that I wouldn't consider to be "Christian". (Maybe there is one out there that I just don't know about.) So, there you go. You may all start poking at my definition. (I'll be w/o internet for about 2 weeks, so defending or explaining my definition could prove tricky.)

To be clear, I don't get worked up one way or another over whether I fit in someone else's definition of Christian. In this specific case of Carlotta and the CC, I'm convinced that none of what we have discussed here will stop her from respecting me as an individual, or respecting my religion and the goodness found within it. Likewise, I strive to treat others similarly, Christian or not.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Clark:
Carlotta said (from "the real Islam" thread):
[QUOTE]Basically the position from the link goes that one can be Christian in two ways - ontologically or theologically. Ontologically, anyone who has been baptized Christian is a Christian, because we believe that baptism imparts an indelible spiritual mark to one's soul. This ontological Christianity says nothing about the person's moral state or their beliefs. the second definition would be theologically Christian, which means that the person or group's theology is consistent with historical Christianity.

Except ... the Catholic church refers to Arians, to Alberginsians, and other historical Christian groups as "Christian heretics." No Catholic AFAIK has ever questioned that those groups were Christian, even though they rejected the Nicean doctrine of the Trinity, and difered *far* more from that doctrine than we do.

Origen, one of the Church fathers, is said to have drifted into "heresy" for his musings about the Godhead (which resemble our beliefs more than they do those of the CC) but no one questions that Origen was a Christian.

If the Catholic Church said that Mormons were "Christian Heretics," that would be consistent with its previous statements about other Christian groups that differed with the CC as to the Trinity. I suspect that the CC isn't trying to be malicious, that they think that saying that we aren't Christian is less offensive somehow than saying that we're Christian heretics.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Clark:
It seems to me that the CC puts a boundary around which groups they would call "Christian" which is defined, at least in part, by their understanding of the Trinity.

If they'd done that consistently, then I wouldn't make an issue of it. But the CC has throughout history referred to Christians who don't agree with the CC concept of the trinity as "Christian heretics." So have the Protestants. Mormons are not the first group to come along saying that we believe in Jesus Christ's divinity but we don't quite agree with your doctrine of the Trinity. The CC and many Protestant groups make up a different definition when talking about whether Mormons or some other groups are Christian, than the definition that they've historically used -- and also different from the definition that they use when talking about historical groups like Arians, Albiginsians, cathars, etc. Some of them also make false statements about LDS beliefs in order to exclude us from Christianity.
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Carlotta
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And the false statements I will condemn, because that method cuts both ways, as you pointed out in the case of the Mormons using anti-Catholic materials that were written by people who were also anti-Mormon.

You make an interesting point about the difference between "not Christian" and "Christian heretics". Here are my thoughts on that. The first, which I think is the bigger reason, is that the word "heretic" conjures up images of burning at the stake in many people's minds and as such it's probably best to avoid that term in everyday conversation, or at least to use it carefully. The second thought is that all the groups and individuals you mentioned started off being Christian by the CC's definition, and then departed from Catholic teaching into "heresy". At what point do you make the distinction between saying something has been separated for so long it is now its own thing? By your argument, Christians in general are more properly known as Heretical Jews, right?

@Clark: many Baptists and evangelical Protestants would disagree with your definition of Christian. For them, salvation comes through the Atonement of Christ, but not by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, but by a one-time profession of faith in Jesus.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
And the false statements I will condemn, because that method cuts both ways, as you pointed out in the case of the Mormons using anti-Catholic materials that were written by people who were also anti-Mormon.

Exactly.

quote:
You make an interesting point about the difference between "not Christian" and "Christian heretics". Here are my thoughts on that. The first, which I think is the bigger reason, is that the word "heretic" conjures up images of burning at the stake in many people's minds and as such it's probably best to avoid that term in everyday conversation, or at least to use it carefully. The second thought is that all the groups and individuals you mentioned started off being Christian by the CC's definition, and then departed from Catholic teaching into "heresy". At what point do you make the distinction between saying something has been separated for so long it is now its own thing? By your argument, Christians in general are more properly known as Heretical Jews, right?
Not at all. Christian Jews might be called Heretical Jews, but most Christians never were Jews, and never called themselves Jews. Mormons OTOH never departed Christianity, and our fellow-Christians ever claimed that we were "not Christian," until some time in the 20th century after the government started telling them that they could not kill us anymore.

We called ourselves Christian before some Christians changed the definition of Christianity in order to exclude us.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
At what point do you make the distinction between saying something has been separated for so long it is now its own thing?
Catholics and Protestants have been separate far longer than the existence of the LDS church, and yet only a handful of them say that each other aren't Christian. So it's not a matter of time. Note that even Lisa doesn't say that Jews who become Christians cease to be Jews. She simply says that they are less Jewish, that they are "heretical Jews." But then Jewishness is different since Jewishness is not defined by belief but by ancestry; a Gentile can believe in all of the tennets of Orthodox Judaism and live one's entire life down to every detail according to an Orthodox rabbi's instructions, and yet not be a Jew. (Some Orthodox Jews refer to such people as Noachides).
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Carlotta
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From the Islam thread, continued over here. Originally posted by TommySama.

"I would imagine that it is against the interests of the Catholic church for there to be a competing church around that so clearly shows how religion is manufactured. Especially when that church is making some the same incredible claims the Catholic church has pimped for hundreds of years."

I see it the other way, actually. I'm fascinated that when you start from a few shared premises, like apostolic succession and divine revelation through a historical chain of authority, how you get very similar structures. Obviously any church is at least in part a human-made organization, and it's not surprising that human organizations with similar purposes based on similar premises have similar features.

And as far as making the same claims the CC has been making, again, I don't see this as a threat. It can be a positive thing - here we have two groups both claiming that these things are important: that God became man and established a church to continue to teach in his name. That's quite a claim. The fact that there are two groups (at least) claiming to be this church makes me take it more seriously than if it was only a lone group.

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Viking_Longship
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It sounds like this church isn't really very Christian either.
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Pete at Home
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Nicely said, Carlotta.

Back onto the original topic, the Presbyterians, my response is ambivalent.

On the one hand, I hope that LDS people see the opportunity to at least understand a bit what we are putting people through when we say that gay kids and athiest kids can't go to scout camp. Yes, I know that on other threads I've defended those policies against the charge of irrational bigotry; I think that there's some rational, non-bigoted basis for such exclusions. That doesn't mean that I agree with the exclusions. While there is rational basis, there may not be sufficient basis to outweigh the hurt and the missed opportunities due to exclusion.

As for excluding LDS scoutmasters, here's my take:

If they are using a definition of Christianity or a set of rules that pre-dates the LDS church, then I respect their decision even if I don't like it.

If they are re-defining Christianity or making up rules with the specific intent to exclude Mormons, or to justify their exclusion of mormons, then I owe them no respect; I'm annoyed at their hypocrisy. I always enjoy trapping that kind of a twerp in a discussion with an Orthodox Jew, because it's funny to see them defining Christianity one way to persuade the Jew that Christians worship the same God as the Jews worship, and then turning around and defining Christianity in a different way in order to say that Mormons aren't Christian.

If they are proclaiming us as non-Christians based on falsehoods about what we believe, then I'm angry and think we should go out of our way to denounce the lies.

Most of the big time antis do both -- change the definition of Christianity, and make false statements about what we believe, in order to exclude us.

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Viking_Longship
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I think it would be nice if they made a list in advane to let evrybody know who is and isn't really Christian. For example are Jehova's Witness really Christian? What about Christian Scientists? Do Unitarians count? What about Quakers? Historically Presbyterians were violently anti-Catholic in the extreme so do they count? Don't want the kids dropped on their heads getting that bobcat badge when it gets out that mommy and daddy are heretics.
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Carlotta
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Jehovah's witnesses do not believe Jesus is divine, at least from what I remember of my conversations with them.

Pete, my only quibble with what you said here,

"If they are using a definition of Christianity or a set of rules that pre-dates the LDS church, then I respect their decision even if I don't like it.

If they are re-defining Christianity or making up rules with the specific intent to exclude Mormons..."

is that often specific points of doctrine aren't spelled out until they are challenged. Pretty much every Catholic church council that was called was called in response to a theological controversy. So if a certain belief doesn't come up, or doesn't become relevant to a particular group, until a certain time, I wouldn't say they're being hypocrites for addressing issues as they come up.

Can I just say that I'm so pleased we're all able to have this conversation without attacking each other? It gives me a lot of hope for ecumenism. (Which reminds me - will Mormons pray with other Christians? I know the JW's who come to my house will only pray with me if they lead the prayer and I only say Amen.)

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LoverOfJoy
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
Which reminds me - will Mormons pray with other Christians?

Yup, we'll even fast with Muslims.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
Jehovah's witnesses do not believe Jesus is divine, at least from what I remember of my conversations with them.

Pete, my only quibble with what you said here,

"If they are using a definition of Christianity or a set of rules that pre-dates the LDS church, then I respect their decision even if I don't like it.

If they are re-defining Christianity or making up rules with the specific intent to exclude Mormons..."

is that often specific points of doctrine aren't spelled out until they are challenged.

Well sure. But these points have been challenged before, by Origen, one of your church fathers, and generally acknowledged as the first real Christian Theologian after Paul. Even though Origen died from being tortured by Romans for being a Christian, and faithful to your church his whole life, he was postumously declared a heretic for believing pretty much the same thing that we believe about the Godhead. So he was de-martyred, and many of his books burnt, but *never* declared un-Christian.

So the rules seem to have been changed, just for us. The Catholic Church, to its credit, really *is* consistent about these things, and I'm confident that eventually someone is going to scratch their head and issue a clarification. Also, other than that one Cardinal, I've never heard any CC leader say that Mormons weren't Christian. You can infer that from certain stuff, like that they don't accept our baptisms, but they don't run around declaring it like the holy roller anti-mormons. (again, except for that one Cardinal).

Back in the mid-1970s there was one LDS apostle who wrote some fairly hostile opinions about the Catholic Church, but the Church quickly forced him to retract the statements and subsequent editions of his book removed the offending (and IMO erroneous) interpretations of scriptures. There were other items removed, opinions that black church members should never receive the priesthood. To the guy's credit, he actually turned around and vigorously persued church teachers who were quoting what he'd retracted, saying "I was wrong, and misunderstood the scriptures," and argued quite compellingly against his previous statements. If God can change Saul's heart, there's hope for the rest of us.

quote:
Can I just say that I'm so pleased we're all able to have this conversation without attacking each other?
Absolutely. While the CC as a historical institution has been inconsistent in its terminology, I don't think that institutional malice exists (just that one Cardinal) and *you* have not personally been inconsistent. And I would not want to abuse your good nature or our friendship to try to pressure you to compromise your deep-felt beliefs. I feel passionately about my position, but if you disagree with me, that does not impugn your honor.
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Carlotta
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I just thought of something. Perhaps Origen was never declared to be not a Christian because he was baptized with a baptism that the CC recognized as Christian. But yes, he was not canonized a saint and even today his later writings are not used in studying the Catholic faith because they were no longer in accord with it. I'm assuming he was baptized though, and he might not have been - lots of early Christians put off baptism till later in life.

Our friendship is fine, don't worry. I'm saying I love the freedom to disagree deeply while still respecting each other.

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0Megabyte
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You know, had the Arian Christians (Not Aryans!) succeeded in place of the Nicene Christians back in the fourth century, these conversations would have a very different feel to them. Or at least a somewhat inverted one, for it would be Catholics and Baptists and others who would all be considered heretical.

These weird quibbles have always existed in Christianity. Take the Manichean heresy. (I think it was described as God and the Devil being two gods with equal power.)

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Carlotta
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Well, yes, heresies always pop up. Besides the Arians and the Manicheans (and Augustine was a Manichean before he was a Christian), there were also the Gnostics and later on, the Albigenses in France. They believed the body was bad and only the spirit was good, so they didn't have any kids and practiced ritual suicide - maybe why they didn't last very long.

Question for Pete at Home: In the Islam thread you implied that the quibble over "three persons in one God" or "one God in three persons" was purely semantic. If this is the case, even assuming the Catholics are the ones being silly, why wouldn't the Mormons simply change their wording, if it's really irrelevant? Seems to me that one thing our churches agree on is that the two different phrasings really DO mean two differnt things.

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Pete at Home
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It is really relevant, and it's a substantial difference. Enough to say that we are more different from Protestants and Catholics than you are like each other. But not big enough to term us non-Christians. Particularly given the Catholic history of referring to Arians and other groups that differed from Trinitarian beliefs as heretics from Christianity.

One key difference is that the LDS Godhead doesn't can be explained and understood; it's not a "mystery." That these are three different persons, united in purpose and in mind. When Jesus commanded his disciples to be One, "as I and my Father in Heaven are One" (John 17) he wasn't saying that they needed to fuse into one biological being. Jesus is one with the Father because he submits his will to the Father's.

Here's General Conference sermon from one of our Late apostles, Neal Maxwell, that discusses what it means to have your will swallowed up in the Father's will. Swallowed up in the will of the Father. While many LDS believe in what Tom said about "becoming gods," the actual teachings of church leaders suggest something more along the lines of what Elder Maxwell says in this talk, and I think it will also give you insight into our understanding of the relationship betweeen the Father, his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.


Please let me know if you have any questions. the scriptural references are linked to the scripture in the full article.

One LDS usage that you might be unfamiliar with: consecration, the highest law, means that you have dedicated all of your time, resources, and energy to God's will, in hopes that His spirit might guide you in anything.

quote:
Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father’,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 22

Whenever Church members speak of consecration, it should be done reverently while acknowledging that each of us “come[s] short of the glory of God,” some of us far short (Rom. 3:23). Even the conscientious have not arrived, but they sense the shortfall and are genuinely striving. Consolingly, God’s grace flows not only to those “who love [Him] and keep all [His] commandments,” but likewise to those “that [seek] so to do” (D&C 46:9).

A second group of members are “honorable” but not “valiant.” They are not really aware of the gap nor of the importance of closing it (see D&C 76:75, 79). These “honorable” individuals are certainly not miserable nor wicked, nor are they unrighteous and unhappy. It is not what they have done but what they have left undone that is amiss. For example, if valiant, they could touch others deeply instead of merely being remembered pleasantly.

In a third group are those who are grossly entangled with the “ungodliness” of the world, reminding us all, as Peter wrote, that if “[we are] overcome” by something worldly, “[we are] brought in bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19).

If one “mind[s] the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5), he cannot “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) because his thought patterns are “far from” Jesus, as are the desires or the “intents of his heart” (Mosiah 5:13). Ironically, if the Master is a stranger to us, then we will merely end up serving other masters. The sovereignty of these other masters is real, even if it sometimes is subtle, for they do call their cadence. Actually, “we are all enlisted” (Hymns, 1985, no. 250), if only in the ranks of the indifferent.

To the extent that we are not willing to be led by the Lord, we will be driven by our appetites, or we will be greatly preoccupied with the lesser things of the day. The remedy is implicit in the marvelous lamentation of King Benjamin: “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13). For many moderns, sad to say, the query “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:42) would be answered, “I really don’t think of Him at all!”

Consider three examples of how honorable people in the Church keep back a portion and thus prevent greater consecration (see Acts 5:1–4).

A sister gives commendable, visible civic service. Yet even with her good image in the community, she remains a comparative stranger to Jesus’ holy temples and His holy scriptures, two vital dimensions of discipleship. But she could have Christ’s image in her countenance (see Alma 5:14).

An honorable father, dutifully involved in the cares of his family, is less than kind and gentle with individual family members. Though a comparative stranger to Jesus’ gentleness and kindness, which we are instructed to emulate, a little more effort by this father would make such a large difference.


...

These deficiencies just illustrated are those of omission. Once the telestial sins are left behind and henceforth avoided, the focus falls ever more on the sins of omission. These omissions signify a lack of qualifying fully for the celestial kingdom. Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission, but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions.

Most omissions occur because we fail to get outside ourselves. We are so busy checking on our own temperatures, we do not notice the burning fevers of others even when we can offer them some of the needed remedies, such as encouragement, kindness, and commendation. The hands which hang down and most need to be lifted up belong to those too discouraged even to reach out anymore.

Actually, everything depends—initially and finally—on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls, tilting us toward or away from God (see D&C 4:3). God can “educate our desires” (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 297). Others seek to manipulate our desires. But it is we who form the desires, the “thoughts and intents of [our] hearts” (Mosiah 5:13).

The end rule is “according to [our] desires … shall it be done unto [us]” (D&C 11:17), “for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Alma 41:5; D&C 6:20, 27). One’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it nor overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want!

Another cosmic fact: only by aligning our wills with God’s is full happiness to be found. Anything less results in a lesser portion (see Alma 12:10–11). The Lord will work with us even if, at first, we “can no more than desire” but are willing to “give place for a portion of [His] words” (Alma 32:27). A small foothold is all He needs! But we must desire and provide it.

So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.

Ever observant, in both the first and second estates, consecrated Jesus always knew in which direction He faced: He consistently emulated His Father: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19), for “I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne. 11:11).

As one’s will is increasingly submissive to the will of God, he can receive inspiration and revelation so much needed to help meet the trials of life. In the trying and very defining Isaac episode, faithful Abraham “staggered not … through unbelief” (Rom. 4:20). Of that episode John Taylor observed that “nothing but the spirit of revelation could have given him this confidence, and … sustained him under these peculiar circumstances” (in Journal of Discourses, 14:361). Will we too trust the Lord amid a perplexing trial for which we have no easy explanation? Do we understand—really comprehend—that Jesus knows and understands when we are stressed and perplexed? The complete consecration which effected the Atonement ensured Jesus’ perfect empathy; He felt our very pains and afflictions before we did and knows how to succor us (see Alma 7:11–12; 2 Ne. 9:21). Since the Most Innocent suffered the most, our own cries of “Why?” cannot match His. But we can utter the same submissive word “nevertheless …” (Matt. 26:39).

Progression toward submission confers another blessing: an enhanced capacity for joy. Counseled President Brigham Young, “If you want to enjoy exquisitely, become a Latter-day Saint, and then live the doctrine of Jesus Christ” (in Journal of Discourses, 18:247).

Thus, brothers and sisters, consecration is not resignation or a mindless caving in. Rather, it is a deliberate expanding outward, making us more honest when we sing, “More used would I be” (“More Holiness Give Me,” 1985, Hymns, no. 131). Consecration, likewise, is not shoulder-shrugging acceptance, but, instead, shoulder-squaring to better bear the yoke.

Consecration involves pressing forward “with a steadfastness in Christ” with a “brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men … [while] feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Ne. 31:20). Jesus pressed forward sublimely. He did not shrink, such as by going only 60 percent of the distance toward the full atonement. Instead, He “finished [His] preparations” for all mankind, bringing a universal resurrection—not one in which 40 percent of us would have been left out (see D&C 19:18–19).

Each of us might well ask, “In what ways am I shrinking or holding back?” Meek introspection may yield some bold insights! For example, we can tell much by what we have already willingly discarded along the pathway of discipleship. It is the only pathway where littering is permissible, even encouraged. In the early stages, the debris left behind includes the grosser sins of commission. Later debris differs; things begin to be discarded which have caused the misuse or underuse of our time and talent.

Along this pathway leading to consecration, stern and unsought challenges sometimes hasten this jettisoning, which is needed to achieve increased consecration (see Hel. 12:3). If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. If we are too contented, a dose of divine discontent may come. A relevant insight may be contained in reproof. A new calling beckons us away from comfortable routines wherein the needed competencies have already been developed. One may be stripped of accustomed luxury so that the malignant mole of materialism may be removed. One may be scorched by humiliation so pride can be melted away. Whatever we lack will get attention, one way or another.

John Taylor indicated that the Lord may even choose to wrench our very heartstrings (see Journal of Discourses, 14:360). If our hearts are set too much upon the things of this world, they may need to be wrenched, or broken, or undergo a mighty change (see Alma 5:12).

Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over.

Long before that, however, as Jesus declared, we must “settle this in [our] hearts” that we will do what He asks of us (JST, Luke 14:28). President Young further counseled us “to submit to the hand of the Lord, … and acknowledge his hand in all things, … then you will be exactly right; and until you come to that point, you cannot be entirely right. That is what we have to come to” (in Journal of Discourses, 5:352).

Thus, acknowledging God’s hand includes, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, trusting that God has made “ample provision” beforehand to achieve all His purposes, including His purposes in our lives (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 220). Sometimes He clearly directs; other times it seems He merely permits some things to happen. Therefore, we will not always understand the role of God’s hand, but we know enough of his heart and mind to be submissive. Thus when we are perplexed and stressed, explanatory help is not always immediately forthcoming, but compensatory help will be. Thus our process of cognition gives way to our personal submission, as we experience those moments when we learn to “be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

Then, the more one’s will is thus “swallowed up,” the more his afflictions, rather than necessarily being removed, will be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).

Seventy years ago, Lord Moulton coined a perceptive phrase, “obedience to the unenforceable,” describing “the obedience of a man to that which he cannot be forced to obey” (“Law And Manners,” Atlantic Monthly, July 1924, p. 1). God’s blessings, including those associated with consecration, come by unforced obedience to the laws upon which they are predicated (see D&C 130:20–21). Thus our deepest desires determine our degree of “obedience to the unenforceable.” God seeks to have us become more consecrated by giving everything. Then, when we come home to Him, He will generously give us “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38).

In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!

Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!

May we deeply desire that victory, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



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