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10 years ago  ::  May 15, 2008 - 12:47PM #21
Ironhold
Posts: 12,363
[QUOTE=Unicorn1972;501346]What is even more interesting imo is the law in Illinois that said killing Mormons is legal was only repealed about 20 years ago    O.o[/QUOTE]

Missouri, not Illinois.
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10 years ago  ::  May 15, 2008 - 7:51PM #22
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
[QUOTE=moksha8088;500581]They probably worship a different Joseph too. :D[/QUOTE]

Hahahahahaha.

Okay, admittedly, there's a juicy slice of irony in Mormons who get bent out of shape because Catholics and Protestants won't accept their claim to be Christians - but who are the first to say that other LDS groups can't be Mormons.  On first approach, it looks like that historical twist - where the Puritans came to America seeking religious freedom only to deprive it everybody else once they got here.  How, in the world, could a group that was hunted down for having divergent beliefs end up responsible for the Salem Witch Trials?

But that's a facile argument.  Anybody can make it because it's just a cookie-cutter slap.  It's a story that writes itself, and does in the face of the facts.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not above giving Moroni a good swift kick when I think he's stuck in his trumpet where it didn't belong.  (See my comments regarding Adam-God, Blacks and the Priesthood, and the Federal Marriage Amendment.)

But here, I would feel bad if I took advantage of the situation, just to stick it to Moroni when the latest scandal was more flash than substance.

I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that all of those groups in the eastern states - including the Community of Christ, the Bickertonites, the Strangites, et cetera - are doing their own thing.  They have no interest in coopting the "Mormon" name.  The Bickertonites don't even like being called Bickertonites.  If anything, these groups - which have inched closer and closer to Protestantism (with the exception of the Strangites) - want nothing to do with "the Mormons,' whom they largely blame for their troubles.  All of them would get sand kicked in their face, for believing in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but the "Mormons" heaped gasoline on a fire. 

The "Mormons" went into seclusion.
The "Mormons" went public with polygamy, at one point claiming it was necessary to salvation.
The "Mormons" disenfranchised blacks as "the race of Cain."
The "Mormons" had a standoff with the federal government.
The "Mormons" created all these temples, with holy underwear and secret rituals.
The "Mormons" slaughtered the innocent at Mountain Meadows.
The "Mormons" claimed they were done with polygamy but kept doing it in secret for a generation.
The "Mormons" were the subject of a Congressional investigation.
The "Mormons" chose leaders who demonized the Civil Rights Movement.

To many Latter-day Saints who chose not to unite with "the Mormons," the first word out of their mouth is more likely to be, "We're not with them," rather than, "We're Mormons, too."

The groups most interested in coopting the Mormon name are those who were kicked out for seeking polygamous marriages after the practice was discontinued.  These are the folks who have rejected change in the Church and who have reacted to their excommunication with, "We're still Mormons."

And these are exactly the groups the Church wants nothing to do with.  They're the groups inviting some kind of raid, especially when they sequester themselves to Waco-like compounds where some old goat has a Jim-Jones-like power over 12-year-old brides.  As protectors of the faith, the Church bureaucracy has every right to protect the Church from a showdown with authorities, caused by practices the Church condemns.

Nor is it a fair comparison to say that Mormon control over the Mormon name is akin to the exclusions aimed at Mormons by Catholics and Protestants.  It's fairly presumptuous for any group to arrogate to itself the right to determine which groups are Christians.  It's bad enough when Catholics do this, but at least with the Catholics, there's the belief that Catholicism is the very church Christ started, and that its leaders have the same authority, granted to Peter, to bind and loose on earth what will ulimately be bound and loosed in heaven.  It then takes a glance at Catholic history to realize the huge mismatch between words and actions.  If Catholicism is "the one true church of Jesus Christ," Christianity itself is in trouble.  Christ's "holy church" started the Crusades, blessed the Spanish Conquest and unleashed the Inquisition - all of  which were a little bit of Hell on earth.

And if the Catholics look stupid saying they're the only true Church of Jesus Christ, how much more arrogant is it for Protestants to decide who can be a Christian?  Once you leave the Church of Rome, how many divisive, rabid, little sects can one religion produce?  Which of these orphans is in any position to call someone else a bastard?

But "Mormons" are in a different position.  You wouldn't tell the Jehovah's Witnesses that they couldn't enforce their brand against anybody else trying to pass their organization off as The Watchtower II.  You could laugh at Scientology for its unnecessarily cultlike practices, but you can't say the Scientologists don't have the right to be the only group calling themselves Scientologists.  Mormons may or may not be Christians, but they are - if nothing else - Mormons.  All of these "Mormon Fundamentalists" are break-offs that recognized the authority of Brigham Young (which was based on apostolic succession), and of John Taylor (who succeeded Brigham on the same basis).  They just stopped believing in "Mormon" claims of authority and succession when Wilford Woodruff gave the revelation announcing the end to polygamy.

Where were these people when Brigham's claim was opposed by that of Sidney Rigdon, James Strang and a host of others - including those who wanted Joseph Smith III to take over?  Their leaders were faithful followers of Brigham Young.  They accepted the argument that, upon the death of the prophet, the keys pass to the Quorum of the Twelve - and that its president then becomes the president of the Church.  Their leaders followed Brigham.  Their leaders followed John Taylor, who succeeded Brigham on the same basis.  They would have followed Wilford Woodruff if Woodruff hadn't announced an end to polygamy.

When they didn't get what they wanted, they began subscribing to conspiracy theories about secret orginations unsanctioned and unrecognized by the Mormon Church.  Their basis for establishing alternate lines of authority is inconsistent with the method of succession already established and already agreed-to before they got upset about a change in doctrine.  They have no legs to stand on.  They're just a group of folks who got angry with a change in doctrine and refused to follow it.

And when they got excommunicated, they refused to accept that they'd been cut off from the Church.

I don't have a problem with people following their conscience.  I admire that.  But if you leave the Mormon Church, you're out.  You're not a Mormon anymore.  You can call yourself whatever you want.  You can go somewhere and set up your own new-and-improved version of things - even if it's one that accepts Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  You have the right to embrace whatever beliefs you like, and to act upon those beliefs.  What you don't have the right to do is hold yourself out to the world as the group you just left. 

Mormons may feel they are creating a "community in Christ," but they have no right to call themselves The Community of Christ.  That name has been taken.  It's not even an issue of faith.  For all it matters, The Community of Christ may be the legitimate successor to the church started by Joseph Smith.  Who's right is not the issue here.  The issue is one of intellectual property.  Having turned "Mormon" into something with a definite meaning in the marketplace of ideas, the "Mormon" Church has a right to its exclusive use.
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10 years ago  ::  May 15, 2008 - 7:52PM #23
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
And that raises another point.  Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that the true church will call itself the "Mormon Church."  A "Mormon" is not anyone who believes in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  Lots of groups claim belief in the Book of Mormon.  Lots of folks revere Joseph Smith as a prophet.  Each has a right to practice their belief.  To the extent that such belief merits a generic term, let it be Latter-day Saint or Latter Day Saint or Saint.  Let it be any number of labels.  But "Mormon" is taken.  It refers specifically to the folks who went west with Brigham Young and all those who've thrown their lot in with the church he set up.  You don't need to be a "Mormon" to be a follower of Joseph Smith, but if you're not part of that group set up by Brigham Young, you're not a "Mormon."  You may be a follower of Joseph Smith - making you LDS - but you're not a "Mormon."

That isn't a judgment about a person's salvation or exaltation.  It's possible that some other church is closer to what Joseph Smith taught.  It's possible that God called up some other group to be his church on earth.  Lots of things are possible.  What's not possible is that folks who have left the Mormon Church, or who were never part of it to begin with, are properly "Mormons."  Luther's followers may have been Christians, but they certainly weren't Catholics - not after their break with Rome.  Jean Calvin set up a belief system which he felt to be more biblical than the Catholic tradition, but he didn't call it Catholicism.  Henry VIII asserted the right to set up a Church of England, but the Anglicans (and their Episcopalian counterparts in America), never called themselves Catholics.

Mormons don't claim to be Catholics or Protestants.  They feel more than willing to embrace the difference between themselves and these groups of rival Christian traditions.  But they do assert the independent right to be Christians.  As followers of Christ, they have the right to make that claim.  They may be considered heretical Christians, but none of the groups who would exclude them are in any moral position to deny them that status.

Neither the Catholics nor the Protestants own the name, "Christian."  "Mormons," on the other hand, own the name.  Their version of Christianity may be misguided and heretical but none of the groups who would expel them from Christianity are in any position to decide who gets in and who doesn't.  On the other hand, Mormons - like any other group - own their own name.

If there's any argument to be made that Mormons "left Christianity," when they left Protestantism, it's a little like one thief claiming another thief stole an item he stole somewhere else.  If Mormons are no longer Christians, because they left Protestantism, what does that make of Protestants who left Catholicism to do their own thing?  Mormons can only lose their "Christian" status - in leaving Protestantism - if Protestantism was Christian to begin with.  But none of the Protestant churches can trace themselves back to Christ.  They didn't exist in the first century, when Jesus was setting up his Church.  They didn't exist in the second century, either.  Protestantism didn't come about until 1500 years after Christ.  The first Protestants, it turns out, were Catholics.

If Catholicism was the true church of Jesus Christ, the Protestants lost their status when they left.  But if Catholicism was not the true church of Jesus Christ, because that church had already fallen away before the rise of Catholicism, then the Protestants still end up out of luck.  There are only three possible solutions to this problem:

1) Catholicism is, in fact, the one true church of Jesus Christ.  It's the church Jesus started.  If so, it could never fall since Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it.

2) Catholicism is not the one true church of Jesus Christ, because no church holds that title.  Christianity is not a license to run a private club.  It's an idea that can be embraced and shared by anybody.  It's the ultimate open-source faith.  This allows any group who believe in Jesus - no matter how quaint or eccentric those beliefs may be - to be included within the wider circle of Christian faiths.

3) Neither Catholicism nor Protestantism are 'the one true church of Jesus Christ."  Neither group goes back to the early church, which went out of existence when its prophetic and apostolic leaders were rejected and killed by an ungrateful generation.  If this is so, the only answer is a restoration.  Mormons claim their group is the rightful successor to Joseph Smith, whom they revere as the prophet of the Restoration.  They may or may not be right about their status as such, but Restoration is the only game left.  It's either Open Source, Continuation or Restoration.  I don't see a fourth option.
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10 years ago  ::  May 16, 2008 - 1:23PM #24
Gaia-j
Posts: 636
[QUOTE=ThinkNLove;497212]\
Wouldn’t living the Golden Rule suggest that all followers of Christ allow the other followers, no matter their specific beliefs, to adopt the label?



GAIA:

I think you may be underestimating the argument somewhat.

Not that i agree with it, but the argument goes more like this:

Mormons don't bleieve in the Jesus Christ that (we think) is affirmed in scripture and traditional Christian dogma -- in fact, their teachings are completely at odds with traditonal Christian teachings; therefore how can we possibly call them "Christian"?


THINK:
  Wouldn’t living the Golden Rule suggest that all believers in the Book of Mormon allow the other followers, no matter their specific beliefs, to adopt the label? 




GAIA:

With all due respect, when did "living by the Golden Rule" (ie, doing unto others what we would have them do unto us)  come to mean giving them any label - or setting aside "our" (whoever "we" happen to be)  definitions of Christianity, or Mormonism? 

I think they would answer you, that You seem to be making some assumptions -- for example, that "doing unto others" includes setting aside convictions, definitions, and doctrines that characterize what is essential to/about a particular sect.  I am not sure that is a valid assumption....


Blessings --
~Gaia

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10 years ago  ::  May 16, 2008 - 2:22PM #25
ProfitOfGod
Posts: 1,020
EXCELLENT stuff, Bill, as always.

And the points you make clearly illustrate why almost every single religion (and derivations thereof) is a cult.
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10 years ago  ::  May 18, 2008 - 1:36PM #26
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
[QUOTE=ProfitOfGod;503844]EXCELLENT stuff, Bill, as always.

And the points you make clearly illustrate why almost every single religion (and derivations thereof) is a cult.[/QUOTE]

Why qualify the point with "almost"?

At its purest, and by that I mean its most honest, religion is an activity akin to interactive theater, where everybody plays a role and where the story - known in advance - is an opportunity to entertain and edify ourselves with great, operatic, truths that are expressed through an agreed-upon mythology.

Wha-wha-what?

At its least toxic, least manipulative, and most honest, religion is show biz.  Church is a theater.  People dress up for their part.  They are ushered in.  Part of the performance takes place on stage, led by the guy with the microphone.  Part of it occurs down in the pews, as the folks in the "audience" play their part.  It begins with "music and the spoken word."  Someone gives the opening prayer.  Announcements are made.  Another song is sung while a ceremonial meal is prepared and shared with all in attendance.  The "sacramental prayers" explain the meaning of the gesture - which is performed in remembrance of Christ.  Inspirational messages are given, usually by members of the audience who were called up in advance.  At the close, another hymn is sung, followed by another prayer (from somebody in the audience). 

Even the group prayer is a bit of theater as one person says aloud what he or she thinks the rest of us might have said - had it been our turn - while the rest of us bow our heads and pretend that these words are ours and that we're really saying a prayer through him or her.  In fact, nobody is praying - as prayer is an act of intimacy, not performance art - but everybody is engaged in the act.  Everybody is helping to create this group performance that models the soul's journey through the world.  The other Sunday meetings - Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society - mimick the general pattern of Sacrament Meeting, but without the sacrament, and with more intimate, interactive lessons.  In these other meetings, members of the congregation lead each other in group instruction, broken down by gender, age/experience, or topic.  These meetings involve the kinds of Q&A unavailable in a Sacrament Meeting.

Whether the content is by topic or by chapter, Sunday meetings provide a behavior model for everyday living.  Participants consider a topic or story.  The moderator acts as a kind of tour guide as familiar plot points and/or instructional issues are presented for discussion.  When questions arise, scripture provides the authoritative answer, but even scripture needs to be interpreted.  The discussions that follow tend to center on scriptural interpretation and application.  In every case, there's a drop-off where the shallow reef gives way to the open ocean.  Simple certainties ultimately give way to uncertainty.  The simple storyline of a scriptural narrative has to be projected upon the uncertainty of life.  Some issues are easy to match up.  Others remain elusive.

It's all about dealing with life.  A person is less defined by what they hear in church than by what they do afterwards.  In that sense, doctrinal squabbles about whether the pearly gates swing out or in (I vote for "in") are much less important than the practice of applying myth to life.  In the Book of Mormon, Nephi says, "We did liken the scriptures unto ourselves."  It's a case of a cartoon character, reading the Brass Plates (cartoon scripture), which itself involves other cartoon characters, as he tries to use that source as a model for his own actions.  It's a great modeling of what Mormons are doing when they live their religion beyond the four corners of the church property.  Presented with a novel situation, a practicing Mormon is supposed to use the databank of narratives, hymns, talks, lessons - and prayer itself - to come up with the right response.

It makes me think of Buddhism and its Eightfold Path.  The Four Noble Truths tell us that (1) Life is suffering; (2) The cause of suffering is desire (what Mormons would call "lust"); (3) To overcome suffering, we have to overcome desire; and (4) The way to overcome desire is through the Eightfold Path: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

I think the Buddhists are right - at least about the role of attachment/lust in causing conflict and sorrow.  Life is a challenge to begin with, but desire can "lead us into temptation."  "Temptation" gets that name because something we want gets us to do something we don't want to do.  Our desire to solve one problem often creates another.  It's like trying to satisfy one's thirst with a long, tall, glass of saltwater.  Whether you call them societal rules, God's commandments, natural laws, or just cause and effect, life presents problems (suffering) to be addressed by some form of action.  But rather than follow desire/lust/temptation, one must "stop and think," suspending judgment long enough to act from something other than impulse.  As we think through our actions - contemplating the rules/causation, our values and what it is we really want, safer and better actions present themselves.  While the Buddhist's go hogwild with the Eightfold Path, it all boils down to mindfulness, which is probably why the Buddhists are so into meditation.  Christians, Jews and Muslims like to pray - asking God for guidance - while Hindus and Buddhists meditate, withdrawing from the world, if only long enough to look at the big picture before being swallowed up in the moment.
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10 years ago  ::  May 18, 2008 - 1:37PM #27
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
One of the conflicts I find  is in the issue over the "building up of Zion."  Most members I know of are eagerly building "Zion," which they identify in terms of church growth.  They take great comfort in the progress of the Church, particularly its stats: membership counts, baptisms, numbers of stakes and wards, et cetera.  John the Baptist had told his generation that "The Kingdom of God is at hand," a mantra Jesus tweaked when he told his hearers, "The Kingdom of God is in you."  In fact,, the Greek word involved - much like its counterparts in several languages, including Spanish - can mean "in" or "among."  It's the kind of ambiguity that leads to a divergence of approaches between those for whom "The Kingdom of God is IN you" and those for whom "The Kingdom of God is AMONG you."  Simply put, are we selling the Gospel or the Church?  Are we pushing a way of life or simply running a membership drive?

Far too often, Mormons are running a membership drive.  They are selling the Church as if it were Amway.  Serving my mission in Utah, I heard countless tales of the hot bread left on people's porches, hot bread that stopped the moment newcomers made it clear that they were not interested in joining the Church.  There's something exploitative about treating nonmembers like points to be earned for the afterlife.  There's something hypocritical about telling people they should adopt your rituals and practices, so that they, too, can be so freaking perfect.  There's something condescending about assuming that your group is the light in the darkness, that somehow everybody else is blind while you have "the way."

One of the ironies of the silly "Are Mormons Christians debate" is that, while Mormons aren't un-Christian for being Mormons, the idea that Church membership has anything to do with being "Christian" is certainly at odds with the teachings of Jesus.  In this respect, there are people on both sides of the debate who are missing the boat.  If Jesus had been about group identity, he would not have stood out among the Jews of his day.  Jesus's contemporaries saw themselves as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  They saw Jerusalem as the Holy City.  They wanted the Roman occupiers out.  Some had resorted to violence.  Others were more non-violent.  But either way, there was a great divide between Jews and Gentiles.  Despite what Christianity would later become, the Jesus of the sermons, especially the Sermon on the Mount, is selling a way of life, not running a membership drive.

To be fair, the Gospels contain their share of the opposite, such as Jesus's parting words at the end of Mark, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.  He that believeth not shall be damned."  The problem is that the Gospels have clearly been tampered with - with amplifications and modifications (such as "without a cause" added to Jesus's warning about "He who is angry with his brother") - designed to spin the text into endorsing some doctrine.  It's not just the stuff added to later translations that's curiously absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts.  It's some of the text itself, which reflects some unknown updating of the original storyline, with attributions and embellishments tacked on for partisan purposes.

Jesus's actual sermons, as recorded in the Gospels, reflect a much greater focus on Christian living than on Christian belief.  Nowhere in these sermons is there any discussion of the "Holy Trinity," one of those shiboleths used to distinguish Mormons from "real Christians."  There is, however, a lot of emphasis on individual reform.  The so-called beatitudes bless those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for rghteousness's sake.

Jesus tells his Jewish audience that if they are the salt of the earth, not to lose their savor.  If they are the light of the world, a city set on a hill, then they should let their light "so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."  Jesus tells them to follow the law and that, if their righteousness doesn't exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, they won't enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Here is where things get interesting.

Jesus takes the command against murder and speaks of reconciliation.  Don't be angry.  Don't hurl insults.  Don't seek reconciliation with God until you've made it with your brother.

Jesus takes the command against adultery and speaks against lust.  Pluck out the offending eye.  Cut off the offending hand.  Don't use technical sophistry - like divorce - to commit adultery by some other way.

Jesus takes the old command against making false oaths to focus on being honest in all communication.

Jesus takes the old limitation of "an eye for an eye" and questions all forms of resistance.  Why not just turn the other cheek?  If someone sues you for your coat, why not turn over your cloak as well?  If compelled to walk a mile, walk two.  Instead of loving your friends and hating your enemy, why not love everyone?

Jesus's idea of almsgiving is to do it quietly.  So is his idea of prayer - which should be done in private, without vain repetitions and with an eye toward asking (and giving) forgiveness for trespasses.  Fasting should also be a private matter between the individual and God.

Jesus's idea of the fulfilled life is one that inolves laying up treasures in heaven by keeping one's eye single to the glory of God.  He preaches a life free from concerns of materalism.  It's a life of learning not to judge and condemn other people.  His "strait gate" is the path of doing good.

In that respect, simple Christianity has a lot in common with Theravada Buddhism.  The ever-present question is always one of "Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration."
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10 years ago  ::  May 18, 2008 - 1:36PM #28
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
[QUOTE=ProfitOfGod;503844]EXCELLENT stuff, Bill, as always.

And the points you make clearly illustrate why almost every single religion (and derivations thereof) is a cult.[/QUOTE]

Why qualify the point with "almost"?

At its purest, and by that I mean its most honest, religion is an activity akin to interactive theater, where everybody plays a role and where the story - known in advance - is an opportunity to entertain and edify ourselves with great, operatic, truths that are expressed through an agreed-upon mythology.

Wha-wha-what?

At its least toxic, least manipulative, and most honest, religion is show biz.  Church is a theater.  People dress up for their part.  They are ushered in.  Part of the performance takes place on stage, led by the guy with the microphone.  Part of it occurs down in the pews, as the folks in the "audience" play their part.  It begins with "music and the spoken word."  Someone gives the opening prayer.  Announcements are made.  Another song is sung while a ceremonial meal is prepared and shared with all in attendance.  The "sacramental prayers" explain the meaning of the gesture - which is performed in remembrance of Christ.  Inspirational messages are given, usually by members of the audience who were called up in advance.  At the close, another hymn is sung, followed by another prayer (from somebody in the audience). 

Even the group prayer is a bit of theater as one person says aloud what he or she thinks the rest of us might have said - had it been our turn - while the rest of us bow our heads and pretend that these words are ours and that we're really saying a prayer through him or her.  In fact, nobody is praying - as prayer is an act of intimacy, not performance art - but everybody is engaged in the act.  Everybody is helping to create this group performance that models the soul's journey through the world.  The other Sunday meetings - Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society - mimick the general pattern of Sacrament Meeting, but without the sacrament, and with more intimate, interactive lessons.  In these other meetings, members of the congregation lead each other in group instruction, broken down by gender, age/experience, or topic.  These meetings involve the kinds of Q&A unavailable in a Sacrament Meeting.

Whether the content is by topic or by chapter, Sunday meetings provide a behavior model for everyday living.  Participants consider a topic or story.  The moderator acts as a kind of tour guide as familiar plot points and/or instructional issues are presented for discussion.  When questions arise, scripture provides the authoritative answer, but even scripture needs to be interpreted.  The discussions that follow tend to center on scriptural interpretation and application.  In every case, there's a drop-off where the shallow reef gives way to the open ocean.  Simple certainties ultimately give way to uncertainty.  The simple storyline of a scriptural narrative has to be projected upon the uncertainty of life.  Some issues are easy to match up.  Others remain elusive.

It's all about dealing with life.  A person is less defined by what they hear in church than by what they do afterwards.  In that sense, doctrinal squabbles about whether the pearly gates swing out or in (I vote for "in") are much less important than the practice of applying myth to life.  In the Book of Mormon, Nephi says, "We did liken the scriptures unto ourselves."  It's a case of a cartoon character, reading the Brass Plates (cartoon scripture), which itself involves other cartoon characters, as he tries to use that source as a model for his own actions.  It's a great modeling of what Mormons are doing when they live their religion beyond the four corners of the church property.  Presented with a novel situation, a practicing Mormon is supposed to use the databank of narratives, hymns, talks, lessons - and prayer itself - to come up with the right response.

It makes me think of Buddhism and its Eightfold Path.  The Four Noble Truths tell us that (1) Life is suffering; (2) The cause of suffering is desire (what Mormons would call "lust"); (3) To overcome suffering, we have to overcome desire; and (4) The way to overcome desire is through the Eightfold Path: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

I think the Buddhists are right - at least about the role of attachment/lust in causing conflict and sorrow.  Life is a challenge to begin with, but desire can "lead us into temptation."  "Temptation" gets that name because something we want gets us to do something we don't want to do.  Our desire to solve one problem often creates another.  It's like trying to satisfy one's thirst with a long, tall, glass of saltwater.  Whether you call them societal rules, God's commandments, natural laws, or just cause and effect, life presents problems (suffering) to be addressed by some form of action.  But rather than follow desire/lust/temptation, one must "stop and think," suspending judgment long enough to act from something other than impulse.  As we think through our actions - contemplating the rules/causation, our values and what it is we really want, safer and better actions present themselves.  While the Buddhist's go hogwild with the Eightfold Path, it all boils down to mindfulness, which is probably why the Buddhists are so into meditation.  Christians, Jews and Muslims like to pray - asking God for guidance - while Hindus and Buddhists meditate, withdrawing from the world, if only long enough to look at the big picture before being swallowed up in the moment.
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10 years ago  ::  May 18, 2008 - 1:37PM #29
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242
One of the conflicts I find  is in the issue over the "building up of Zion."  Most members I know of are eagerly building "Zion," which they identify in terms of church growth.  They take great comfort in the progress of the Church, particularly its stats: membership counts, baptisms, numbers of stakes and wards, et cetera.  John the Baptist had told his generation that "The Kingdom of God is at hand," a mantra Jesus tweaked when he told his hearers, "The Kingdom of God is in you."  In fact,, the Greek word involved - much like its counterparts in several languages, including Spanish - can mean "in" or "among."  It's the kind of ambiguity that leads to a divergence of approaches between those for whom "The Kingdom of God is IN you" and those for whom "The Kingdom of God is AMONG you."  Simply put, are we selling the Gospel or the Church?  Are we pushing a way of life or simply running a membership drive?

Far too often, Mormons are running a membership drive.  They are selling the Church as if it were Amway.  Serving my mission in Utah, I heard countless tales of the hot bread left on people's porches, hot bread that stopped the moment newcomers made it clear that they were not interested in joining the Church.  There's something exploitative about treating nonmembers like points to be earned for the afterlife.  There's something hypocritical about telling people they should adopt your rituals and practices, so that they, too, can be so freaking perfect.  There's something condescending about assuming that your group is the light in the darkness, that somehow everybody else is blind while you have "the way."

One of the ironies of the silly "Are Mormons Christians debate" is that, while Mormons aren't un-Christian for being Mormons, the idea that Church membership has anything to do with being "Christian" is certainly at odds with the teachings of Jesus.  In this respect, there are people on both sides of the debate who are missing the boat.  If Jesus had been about group identity, he would not have stood out among the Jews of his day.  Jesus's contemporaries saw themselves as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  They saw Jerusalem as the Holy City.  They wanted the Roman occupiers out.  Some had resorted to violence.  Others were more non-violent.  But either way, there was a great divide between Jews and Gentiles.  Despite what Christianity would later become, the Jesus of the sermons, especially the Sermon on the Mount, is selling a way of life, not running a membership drive.

To be fair, the Gospels contain their share of the opposite, such as Jesus's parting words at the end of Mark, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.  He that believeth not shall be damned."  The problem is that the Gospels have clearly been tampered with - with amplifications and modifications (such as "without a cause" added to Jesus's warning about "He who is angry with his brother") - designed to spin the text into endorsing some doctrine.  It's not just the stuff added to later translations that's curiously absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts.  It's some of the text itself, which reflects some unknown updating of the original storyline, with attributions and embellishments tacked on for partisan purposes.

Jesus's actual sermons, as recorded in the Gospels, reflect a much greater focus on Christian living than on Christian belief.  Nowhere in these sermons is there any discussion of the "Holy Trinity," one of those shiboleths used to distinguish Mormons from "real Christians."  There is, however, a lot of emphasis on individual reform.  The so-called beatitudes bless those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for rghteousness's sake.

Jesus tells his Jewish audience that if they are the salt of the earth, not to lose their savor.  If they are the light of the world, a city set on a hill, then they should let their light "so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."  Jesus tells them to follow the law and that, if their righteousness doesn't exceed that of the scribes and pharisees, they won't enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Here is where things get interesting.

Jesus takes the command against murder and speaks of reconciliation.  Don't be angry.  Don't hurl insults.  Don't seek reconciliation with God until you've made it with your brother.

Jesus takes the command against adultery and speaks against lust.  Pluck out the offending eye.  Cut off the offending hand.  Don't use technical sophistry - like divorce - to commit adultery by some other way.

Jesus takes the old command against making false oaths to focus on being honest in all communication.

Jesus takes the old limitation of "an eye for an eye" and questions all forms of resistance.  Why not just turn the other cheek?  If someone sues you for your coat, why not turn over your cloak as well?  If compelled to walk a mile, walk two.  Instead of loving your friends and hating your enemy, why not love everyone?

Jesus's idea of almsgiving is to do it quietly.  So is his idea of prayer - which should be done in private, without vain repetitions and with an eye toward asking (and giving) forgiveness for trespasses.  Fasting should also be a private matter between the individual and God.

Jesus's idea of the fulfilled life is one that inolves laying up treasures in heaven by keeping one's eye single to the glory of God.  He preaches a life free from concerns of materalism.  It's a life of learning not to judge and condemn other people.  His "strait gate" is the path of doing good.

In that respect, simple Christianity has a lot in common with Theravada Buddhism.  The ever-present question is always one of "Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration."
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