Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

Judging a Hospital for Sinners

Those familiar with me know that I have plenty of soapboxes. Some of them have to do with the non-gospel practices of LDS Church members. For example:

These soapboxes have nothing to do with the doctrine of the Church, or legitimate practices encouraged by the Church, but rather with personal orthodoxies (that I see as contrary to the gospel) preached as the gospel.

I’ve recently taken a stance on the way a BYU student reprimanded a peer for breaking the dress standards of the BYU honor code, and I commented on a follow-up story published by BYU’s paper, the Daily Universe. A Facebook friend had this to say:

You are way too worked up about this incident. Aren’t your judgmental words about the boy worse than his own?

(Never mind the irony of these kinds of statements, with the criticism of being judgmental a judgment in its own right.)

I replied that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and summed up the stance you can read about in the post mentioned above. I also inferred that the letter-writer was a “sheltered, bubble-craving isolationist” and straight-out called him “a cowardly, small-minded boy”. As an example of how short-sighted, childish actions can convict the Church in the court of public opinion, I brought up the proxy baptism scandal that has resurfaced in the wake of President Romney’s campaign (recently, LDS “dweebs” have disregarded prophetic counsel regarding the baptism of holocaust Jews). The same friend replied:

Sorry, but I still don’t see name-calling within our own religion as ‘righteous judgement.’ You are obviously free to make your opinions known; however, your negative comments may have the very effect you see these ‘dweebs’ having: harming the image of the church. Some negative opinions are better left unsaid.

And then, a few days later, a stranger posted this:

Don’t you think the guy has gotten enough flack for it by now? Who would come forward and dare express their opinion with the entire world ragging on them? The guy never intended this to go to the press. He was shy enough not to just talk to Brittany about it in the first place. Whether he was right or wrong, he probably feels terrible and wishes he never would have written the note. It was probably a built-up of all the things he saw and considered to be immodest on campus, and he thought he should do something about it this time. I’m not saying it was the right method or it was a good judgement call, but give the guy a break. We all have motes and beams from time to time, do we not? I personally wish I could find this guy, give him a hug, and say, “Okay, that might not have been the best decision, as we’ve seen, but I’m sorry for all the hate thrown at you right now.”

(Speaking of my soapboxes, why can’t people online use paragraphs?)

There are two arguments in these Facebook comments, both of which I take issue with. The first deals with concealing internal issues, and the second with withholding all judgment. While I welcome people who disagree with me, I take issues with those who discourage open dialogue and healthy disagreement. That, in my humble opinion, is reprehensible.

Internal Name-Calling

The first argument is that we shouldn’t “name-call” within our own ranks. This mirrors the view of C. S. Lewis, who said in Mere Christianity,

“So long as we write and talk about [our disputed points] we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.”

I talk about this argument when I discuss the preface to Mere Christianity. You can read more there, but in brief, I think that this position is off. Why?

An Active Faith

First, who says that talking about disputed points will deter others from investigating the gospel? Could it not encourage them to investigate further instead? I think so. In the words of William James, those otherwise uninterested in a religion can have a previously “dead” option made “genuine” as they study deeper.

All the times I’ve dug deeper into my beliefs, or investigated a controversial issue, or struggled internally with some gnawing question, I’ve come out of it with stronger faith.

What’s more, religious organizations, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not cookie cutter groups. We are not all the same. Why would we want to sweep internal conflicts under the rug, particularly in this age when things will always come out? (Brittney Molina’s own twitter picture is what originally went viral on the modesty story.) I’m not like the note-writer, or the LDS dweebs baptizing Ann Frank for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time after the First Presidency has told members not to. I want others to know! We’re not all crazy, and white-washing the mosaic that is the LDS Church is not the way to encourage people into the fold.

Religious Dishonesty

Second, it seems slightly dishonest, if not at least disingenuous, to sweep our disputes entirely under the rug. I like what Dan Peterson said in his article “The Restoration stands up to history”, which I recommend you read in its entirety.

He describes the three “versions” of history that are often used to describe the LDS Church.

  • “Thesis” is the rose-colored history taught by the LDS Church.
  • “Antithesis” is the opposite to thesis, the hardened and critical history taught by anti-Mormons.
  • “Synthesis” is the combination of the two – the fullest, most complete history that incorporates elements from both.

The history taught by the Church is not all-encompassing or historically complete, but why? Peterson offers,

“Because souls can be and are lost on [antithesis]. And, anyway, the church isn’t some sort of floating seminar in historiography. Regrettably, perhaps, most Latter-day Saints — many of them far better people than I — aren’t deeply interested in history, and, more importantly, many other very important priorities demand attention, including training the youth and giving service.”

If I were in a leadership position, I would probably make a similar decision to stick to thesis history. The purpose of the Church is to invite people to come unto Christ, not to educate them in exact historical matters that have no bearing on that invitation.

And yet I am not in a leadership position, and I am not the Church. Neither is the media the Church. The Church is more than welcome to censor its Sunday school material, but I can make my own choices about what I discuss in an open forum. An early LDS poet wrote,

Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through,
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you:

No, no, ’tis designed as a furnace,
All substance, all textures to try,
To burn all the “wood, hay, and stubble,”
The gold from the dross purify.

Think not when you gather to Zion,
That all will be holy and pure;
That fraud and deception are banished,
And confidence wholly secure:

No, no, for the Lord our Redeemer
Has said that the tares with the wheat
Must grow till the great day of burning
Shall render the harvest complete.

And what of my friend’s insinuation that it’s not okay to name-call internally, but okay to name-call others? I’ll leave that to you.

Judging and “Judge Not”

The second argument, and by far the more important one, is that I was wrong to judge, and “way too worked up” over something that didn’t merit it. I should have kept to myself, and tended to my own beams rather than pulling at the motes of others.

I repeat my affirmation that “love everyone, judge no one” is junk religion, and that discouraging open dialogue is reprehensible. Where does judgment fit in to our every day behavior?

Maybe we would do well to define some of our terms before we get started.

Final Judgments

In 1972, N. Eldon Tanner talked about what he called “unjust criticism and judging without the facts.” What did he mean by this?

He gave a few examples. One example involved what’s commonly known as “self-fulfilling prophecy” or the Pygmalion Effect, when we pigeonhole someone else by treating them based on who we expect them to be. Another example involved what Crucial Conversations calls telling yourself stories, or attributing motives to the actions of others. Both of these behaviors are inappropriate, and examples of prejudice and gossip. President Tanner decries the “vituperative talk of personalities” and “trying to tear down another”.

Dallin H. Oaks gave a devotional at BYU in 1998. You can find the transcript of it here, or a copy of it in the Church magazine Ensign. He further clarifies the type of judgment that President Tanner condemns. He says,

“I believe this commandment was given because we presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular time…. The effect of one mortal’s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on athletes and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still underway.”

Gossiping, stereotyping, or ignorantly attributing motive is “proclaim(ing) the outcome of an athletic contest” before it concludes. We don’t give others the chance to make redemption.

Intermediate Judgments

So is all judgement inappropriate? President Tanner says,

“Each must try to understand the questions and then stand firm by his convictions.”

Elder Oaks says,

“In contrast to forbidding mortals to make final judgments, the scriptures require mortals to make what I will call “intermediate judgments.” These judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency…. The Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people.”

How can one “stand firm by his convictions” without judging? How can we make intermediate judgments “both of circumstances and of other people” without judging? The truth is we can’t.

Righteous Intermediate Judgments

We are not left to our own in determining how to make righteous intermediate judgments. Elder Oaks gives us six principles as a guide.

  1. “First of all, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire….
  2. “Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest….
  3. “Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities….
  4. “A fourth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment of a person is that we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts….
  5. “A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations….
  6. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous.”

I’ll be the first to volunteer my comments to the standard given by Elder Oaks. Arguably, it may not meet that standard.

But that is not the point here. The point is that this stance, that we should in no circumstance judge other people, is far from the gospel truth.

Conclusion

I make judgments all the time. I judged that the student who wrote Brittany Molina that note did so inappropriately. I judged the actions of those who disregard the teachings of the Church, whether it be in terms of Prop 8 or proxy baptisms. These judgments aren’t in violation of the commandment to “judge not”.

Keep a close eye around you, and you’ll see righteous judgments all over the place. I can even help. Excuse an analogy that may help put my own judgment in perspective.

  • A BYU professor makes a blatantly racist statement (you can find it in the Washington Post article “The Genesis of a church’s stand on race”)
    • Remember how a BYU student wrote a remorsefully critical note of a fellow student
  • The LDS Church clarifies the doctrine and stance of the Church in a press release which clearly denounces the stance attributed to the BYU professor
    • I respond to the action and position of the BYU student using the scriptures and modern prophets.

Don’t be so quick to vilify those who take a stance against a position with which you agree. You may find yourself at odds with your own Church.

UPDATE: This past general conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a fantastic talk about this subject entitled “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”. Check it out.

Advertisements

Mormon Observations on “Mere Christianity” – Preface 4

This is a post continuing my analysis of Mere Christianity from an LDS perspective. See my table of contents here.

The Parable of the Hall and the Rooms

At the very end of his preface, Lewis gives an analogy, a parable if you will. He says,

“I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.”

I talked about this idea briefly in Part 1. I laid out briefly my personal stance, which is echoed by the stance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We unequivocally and unapologetically claim to be the one true church on the earth today, the one door that offers the fullness of salvation. The Lord himself told Joseph Smith that this Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). Yet Latter-day Saints do not believe that they have a monopoly on truth. They believe that the Lord has given to all nations the portion of truth that he sees fit that they should have (Alma 29: 8; see also 2 Nephi 29:10-13).

In 1978, the First Presidency of the Church (at the time, Spencer W. KimballN. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, all pictured above) released an official statement which summarizes this position. In reads, in part:

“The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals… Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.

We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fullness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.”

Thus, even though there is one true church, that does not make all other churches wrong. It just makes them not enough. Some Christians may have a problem with a statement such as this, but isn’t this essentially what they are saying to everyone else? “There may be some truth in your religion, but to be saved it is not enough. You must come to Christ.” That is, of course, the truth. And to their statement we only add, “And you must come to the true Christ, and the Church wherein you can find the fullness of his gospel, his priesthood power, and his chosen leaders.”

The contradictions that are set up if one believes in a plurality of truth will not be covered in depth here; perhaps I will write on that later. Suffice it to say that God will contradict himself if he allows multiple churches, who all teach different things, to be true. This is not the God I believe in. The God I believe in teaches, instead, of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5, emphasis added).

For those who share beliefs similar to this, in the biblical position of one true church, it seems that Lewis may not go quite far enough. While many of the rooms may contain, as Lewis puts it, a “hint of truth,” there is only one room that provides eternal life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. That room is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Waiting in the Hall

Lewis gives some profound advice about choosing a door near the conclusion of his analogy. He says,

“You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper?'”

It is true that I have grown up in the Mormon Church, and so I have very little experience of “hallway” time. I gained a testimony for myself that I was where I wanted to be, and I have learned much of other churches and religions, but I admit that I have spent little time in the hallway.

I have, though, served as a full-time missionary for two years (you can see me to the left at a baptismal service). Many of you have probably met someone much like me. We come in pairs, knocking on doors, clean cut and in white shirts and ties. Though we are young, we go by the title of “Elder.” We probably tried to talk to you about eternal familiesmodern day prophets, or the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And unfortunately, few of you have probably spent time with us in places other than on your doorstep for a few brief moments.

I did have the opportunity, though, of teaching quite a few people over the course of those two years, people that spent time in the hall deciding whether or not to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I can tell you from personal experience that there were many things they considered that were not important. They were worried about what their friends or family might think, or about how hard it might be, or about a “pet sin” they would have to give up. Concerns about things like these kept them from entering into the door.

Being Kind to Others

Lewis concludes his metaphor with an admonition. He says,

“When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still In the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

How to we balance kindness with the need to share the gospel?

This is a very difficult question to answer, but it is absolutely essential to answer it. The difficulty is in finding balance between two seemingly conflicting gospel ideas. The first idea is the need to be Christlike to those around us, even (and perhaps especially) our enemies. In following his example, we would expect to use kind words, to be generous and accommodating, and to have all the other qualities the Savior exemplified perfectly during his life here on earth. The second idea is the need to be a witness for the gospel, and to testify fearlessly to our friends and neighbors of the truth we hold so dear. We believe these are eternally significant principles, so why wouldn’t we want to share them?

The reason these ideas conflict for so many is that we naturally prioritize our missionary duties above our Christlike-living duties. We think, “Certainly our neighbors should forgive us for being bold, when in the long run they can learn to qualify for eternal life!” Many do not know where to draw the line, and boldness quickly crosses over to overbearance. I talked about how being a Latter-day Saint made me especially sensitive to the issue of defining what it means to be Christian. It is the same with this issue of being kind to those of different denominations. Other Christians often loose sight of the line between boldness and overbearance, and end up saying very hurtful things about me in the name of saving my soul.

How can we avoid this kind of behavior, which is certainly disappointing to our Savior? I believe the key is in something said by Rex Lee, a BYU law school dean. He said,

“It’s not enough to do the right thing. We have to do the right thing in the right way” (see here, page 4).

I think there is great wisdom in this statement, but I would go one step further. We need to do the right thing, in the right way, and for the right reasons. If we remember that the ends do not justify the means, and always have as our motive the love of God and for our fellow man, it will be difficult to go astray.  Chip Ingram suggests that we “add more light, not heat.”  We want to illuminate a subject, and discover truth, but heated contention will prevent that and often cause more harm than good (see 3 Nephi 11:29).

If all else fails, it never hurts to make the issue a matter of prayer.

Study Questions from this Section

The Parable of the Hall and the Rooms

  • Is this analogy valid?
  • How does being in a “room” differ from being in the “hall”?
  • Is it right to believe in one true church? Or are there a plurality of true Christian religions or true world religions? What implications does this have on who we believe God is?
  • If there is one true church, does that make all the other churches completely wrong?

Waiting in the Hall

  • What should we do and consider when looking for a “door”?
  • What should we not do or consider when looking for a “door”?

Being Kind to Others

  • What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to be unkind?
  • How might this relate to Alma 38:12?

Mormon Observations on “Mere Christianity” – Preface 3

This is a post continuing my analysis of Mere Christianity from an LDS perspective. See my table of contents here.

The Meaning of  “Christian”

Lewis addresses the objection that he should not be allowed to define who is and who is not Christian. He says,

“People ask: ‘Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?’: or ‘May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?’ Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it. I will try to make this clear by the history of another, and very much less important, word.”

He goes on to tell how the word “gentlemen” once had a useful meaning. It meant someone who had a coat of arms and some landed property. Over time, it eventually came to be used more as a compliment when someone else did something you liked. As a result, it becomes quite useless if anyone tries to use it in its old sense. As Lewis says, “it has been spoiled for that purpose.”

He concludes that it’s important to define who is a Christian so that it does not become useless. It, like the word gentlemen, will simply be used as a compliment. Instead, he suggests that

“We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles.”

I think Lewis’ analogy is a good one. It is important to define who is Christian so that the word doesn’t lose it’s meaning. He is not looking to exclude people; he is simply trying to make sense of the hundreds of Christian denominations he sees and find a common ground.

The question of who is Christian will be one that he tries to answer for the rest of the book, and I think generally he does a good job (though I don’t agree with everything he says). But while he takes an entire book to answer that question, it is important to note that he answers it wonderfully in just two lines – someone who is a follower of Christ and of the apostles whom Christ chose to speak for him after his ascension.

Are Mormons Christians?

But are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Christian? As a member of the Mormon church, this question has particular import for me. I have worshiped and followed Jesus Christ all my life, but often mainstream Christians would call me unchristian, or worse, a member of a cult!

(For an in-depth discussion of this, see my post on Mormonism and Robert Jeffress. Briefly, though, the claim that Mormons are members of a cult is also one of semantics. Much like the word “gentleman” has been corrupted into little more than a compliment, the word “cult” has been corrupted to little more than an insult. We’re a little weird, sure, but who isn’t? Perhaps someone who is abiding be the rule Lewis mentions as “common to the whole house” should choose different terminology (see Part 4).)

This is not a simple question. If, when we say “Christian” we mean something akin to what Lewis identified above, a follower of Jesus Christ and his apostles, then certainly Mormons are Christian.

Usually, though, the term “Christian” means something entirely different for those who use it. Instead of a follower of the apostles, one must also be a follower of the Church Fathers and all their creeds, including the doctrine of the Trinity (for a discussion of the authority of the Church Fathers, see here). They must also adhere to only the Bible, and believe that God has stopped speaking to his Church as a whole. In this respect, Mormons are unlike other Christians.

I am somewhat unique (among Latter-day Saints) in my belief that there is great power in focusing on what makes us ‘non-Christian’ rather than shouting, “We’re Christian too!” In the introduction to his book “Here We Stand,” Joseph Fielding McConkie expounds on this idea:

The message of the Restoration centers on the idea that it is not common ground we seek in sharing the gospel. There is nothing common about our message. The way we answer questions about our faith ought to be by finding the quickest and most direct route to the Sacred Grove. That is our ground. It is sacred ground. It is where the heavens are opened and the God of heaven speaks. It is where testimonies are born and the greatest truths of heaven are unveiled. It is of this sacred ground that we say, here we stand.

Do Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ? Of course we do! We believe that he was born of a virgin, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth. He died for the sins of all men, becoming the only way we can gain salvation (Mosiah 3:17). He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. As a church,

“we bear testimony… that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son” (for a summary of what Mormons believe about Jesus, see this statement written by the apostles of the Church; compare it to what makes someone a “Christian”).

But we also believe in a Jesus Christ that appeared to Israelites in the Americas, showing to them as well as other scattered tribes that he indeed had died for them and had been resurrected (See 3 Nephi 11; also 3 Nephi 11-30). We also believe in a Jesus Christ who is a separate and distinct personage, separate from the Father and the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). We also believe in a Jesus Christ who appeared to answer the prayer of a 14 year-old boy and end the dark night of apostasy that had swept over the world since the death of the apostles (see Joseph Smith – History; see also here and here). We also believe in a Jesus Christ who stands at the head of this Church, leading it today through a modern prophet.

Is that different? Yes! And it’s wonderful! So are Mormon’s Christian? As we can see, the answer is yes and no depending on what you mean. But Latter-day Saints can find great strength in not abandoning those things that make us different. We can find great strength in not abandoning our “sacred ground.”

For more information on the Restoration, see here.

Study Questions from this Section

The Meaning of “Christian”

  • Is the analogy about the term ‘Christian’ a good one?
  • Who is a Christian?
  • Are Mormons Christian?

Mormon Observations on “Mere Christianity” – Preface 2

This is a post continuing my analysis of Mere Christianity from an LDS perspective. See my table of contents here.

“Common to Nearly All Christians”

Lewis explains that he wants to talk about what has been “common to nearly all Christians at all times.”

It is very difficult to decide what is common to all Christians. If we do happen to accomplish such a thing, not only is it a very short list, but it is a very empty list, including perhaps only a belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We not only exclude people and groups unnecessarily, but we strip religion of all that makes it what it is. Allow me to explain by using some comments by William James as to how all religion is uniform from his lectures The Varieties of Religious Experience.

James details a “uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to meet.” He offers that there is an “uneasiness,” a need or problem with which the human race is accosted. This need is met with a “solution,” where somehow the human race is saved from this need by making appropriate devotions to the Divine Reality. Where religions differ is in how they describe this need, and in what way a solution is given. For many Western religions, sin is overcome through a savior. For many eastern religions, men gain needed enlightenment in communion with the whole of the universe. But though these interpretations are different, it can be argued that they are still interpretations of the same Divine Reality. The interpretations differ simply because the experiences are taking place within different cultural frameworks.

While the uniform deliverance James pointed out can be seen in all religions, they had to be boiled down to the utmost simplicity in order to create that uniformity. To do so is to purposefully exclude all those things that differentiated religion in the first place. One might say that all sports are essentially the same; their object is to put some sort of ball in some sort of goal despite some sort of organized obstacle. The shape of the ball, or the size of the goal, or the manner of the obstacle are different, but these differences can be attributed to the “interpretations” of cultural framework.

Still, football is much different than golf, which is much different than water polo, which is much different that cricket. In boiling these sports down to their most basic essentials we are able to find common denominators, but in doing so we have also lost the essence of what makes each sport unique and endearing.

To boil down the religions of the world is to do the same, and we trivialize vital qualities of belief. Even in Christianity, the only thing that we can truly consider common is that sin is our uneasiness and Jesus Christ has provided the solution to that uneasiness. Even before we add in Mormonism, finding a common denominator among Christianity leaves a hopeless shell of the belief systems they truly are.

“A Vague and Bloodless H.C.F.”

Lewis addressed the concern I raised above later in the Preface. He says,

“It may possibly be of some help in silencing the view that, if we omit the disputed points, we shall have left only a vague and bloodless H.C.F. The H.C.F. turns out to be something not only positive but pungent; divided from all non-Christian beliefs by a chasm to which the worst divisions inside Christendom are not really comparable at all… It is at (Christianity’s) centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if’ not in doctrine.”

When it comes to comparative religion involving more faiths than those of Christian descent, I can relate to the Lewis when he says that “I should have been out of my depth in such waters.” I do not know enough about the Muslims or Buddhists of the world to be able to say one way or the other with any degree of certainty how different Christianity really is. I will leave that to you.

A more important point to consider is the way Lewis continues to downplay the differences between Christian sects. He has done this since the beginning of the Preface, and continues to do so until the end. The question of where exactly is Christianity’s center deals very much with themes in Part 1 (when discussing Lewis’ first reason for avoiding the topic) and Part 3 (when discussing what it means to be a Christian). Rather than rehash either of the themes here, I commend those sections to you.

Study Questions from this Section

Common to Nearly All Christians

  • How might this relate to 1 John 4:1-3?
  • In what ways may we consider Christianity to be uniform? Can we consider Christianity to be uniform at all?

A Vague and Bloodless H.C.F.

  • Is it true that differences between Christianity and other world religions are enough to eclipse the differences between Christian sects?
  • How can we decide what Christianity’s “centre” is?

Mormon Observations on “Mere Christianity” – Preface 1

This is a post continuing my analysis of Mere Christianity from an LDS perspective. See my table of contents here.

The Purpose of Mere Christianity

In the Preface, Lewis clearly defines his purpose. He says:

“The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian ‘denominations’… Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.

How you feel about Lewis’ decision to forgo any treatment of fragmented Christianity will very much depend on how you view religious truth. Do you believe in religious pluralism? That is to say, can Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all lead men to the same God, and to the same reward in this life and after death? If not, then can Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, or the host of other Christian sects all lead men to the same God, and to the same reward in this life and after death? Maybe not all of them, but only the Protestant or Evangelical sects? Maybe only one or the other? Is there only one true path?

Your position in regard to religious pluralism will effect how you consider Lewis’ purpose.

It is difficult to know Lewis’ own position from just the content of Mere Christianity. In fact, he purposefully writes so as to hide his own position, and does so effectively. Yet there are a few statements which infer that he might lean towards believing in some sort of Christian pluralism. First, in his analogy of the hall and the rooms, Lewis says that he believes that “the worst of the rooms” is preferable to remaining in the hallway. Second, in another work he commented,

“I couldn’t believe that nine-hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false, and the remaining one true.”

Still, Lewis says,

“If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all other religions are simply wrong…. You are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of truth.”

What Lewis is saying is that a true church does not necessarily have a monopoly on truth. Other religions are not necessarily completely wrong if there is a single true path.

As someone who believes, as the Bible teaches, in one true church, I am inclined to think that Lewis does not quite go far enough. You can find more about the LDS position on this topic in Part 4, where I cover Lewis’ hallway analogy.

After defining his purpose, Lewis gives the reasons behind his decision, which we’ll discuss below.

Reason 1

“In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others.”

In his first reason, Lewis seemingly downplays the differences between Christian denominations. In his eyes, such questions of “high Theology” and “ecclesiastical history” have little to do with the saving power of Jesus Christ, and need only be treated by “real experts.”

And yet, the contradictions between denominations are anything but minor. How essential is baptism? How are we to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, or other ordinances for that matter? How should we revere important figures in church history? How important is grace in comparison to works? Where does one receive the authority to minister in the name of Jesus Christ?

There are countless questions, and the majority of them have to do with matters that directly influence our salvation and our daily walk with God. If left only to the experts, then almost all of us would find ourselves without knowledge essential to bring us back to God. These are important questions; whether or Lewis knows the answer to them all, they are important to at the very least present.

Who gets to decide what issues are important and what issues are negligible? The question of who gets to decide doctrinal issues is itself one of the most important questions, and a key point when discussing the veracity of the LDS Church. Ours is a church built upon revelation from Jesus Christ, revelation that is received by prophets and apostles in our day. Because of this, we never have to worry that our beliefs are based on the philosophies of men.

Reason 2

“And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.”

I take issue with Lewis’ initial statement, that discussing these questions “has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold.” I disagree, and add that discussing these questions can have a positive effect on the Christian world. I see this positive effect coming in two ways.

The first way that this positive effect comes is that it develops an atmosphere of scholarship. The gospel of Jesus Christ has the truth. We have nothing to fear from religious scholarship, and so much to gain – a growing reputation in the eyes of the world, and a more intelligent and faithful group of followers (see my post on faith and philosophy), for starters.

The second way that this positive effect comes is that we can create “genuine options” for of non-believers. The term comes from William James‘ essay “The Will to Believe.” He uses, as an example, the option for us between becoming a follower of Mahdi or not. The option is not genuine, but dead; neither choice has the least bit of appeal for us.

I believe that in discussing these kind of questions, we can potentially make questions genuine for unbelievers even though they may have been previously dead. They can hear something that sparks their interest, a doctrine suddenly appeals to them, and who knows but that the interest may one day be fanned into a faithful flame (I highly recommend that those interested read the essay by James).

What’s more, Lewis’ admonition that these questions be discussed only in the presence of believers seems somewhat deceptive. While it is important to have milk before meat, that needs to be balanced against honestly presenting the case of Christianity in its fullness and letting the hearer decide its validity. At the very least, we cannot exclude questions that are as important as the ones Lewis seems to skirt. Remember, the gospel of Jesus Christ has the truth. We have nothing to fear.

Reason 3

“Finally, I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters than in the defence of what Baxter calls ‘mere’ Christianity. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.”

Lewis’ third reason is the one that makes the most logical sense. It seems natural to want to go where the need is greatest, or where you can do the most good. This reason would be sufficient for me to accept Lewis’ purpose. And yet by virtue of the fact that Lewis gives the above two reasons when he doesn’t have to shows me that his purpose is an important part of his overall argument.

Conclusion

The bottom line, it seems, is this: there is value in not discarding the differences we find between Christian denominations, and when we do discard these questions we do so at our own peril. Besides, in avoiding questions, we have no better standard for what Christianity should be than what the masses have thought it is; and we have no reason to believe that they were correct, or that they were correctly interpreting the words of the apostles and the Savior.

Perhaps it was appropriate to abandon the discussion for this book, but to do so indefinitely is unwise.

Study Questions from this Section

The Purpose of Mere Christianity

  • Do you agree with Lewis’ purpose?
  • What does you think about religious pluralism?
  • Are all Lewis’ reasons behind his purpose valid?
Reason 1
  • Lewis downplays the importance of doctrinal questions. Is it right for him to do so?
  • What type of differences do we find between various Christian denominations today?
  • Is it true that these questions should only be treated by “real experts”?
  • Which differences matter, and which differences don’t? Who gets to decide which is which?

Reason 2

  • Is it true that discussing these questions “has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold?”
  • Is it true that our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of believers?

Reason 3

  • Is it good to go to the areas of discussion that are most unoccupied?
  • How might this relate to 1 Peter 3:15?

Mormon Observations on “Mere Christianity”

C.S. Lewis is considered a talented writer and Christian apologist.  The HarperOne publishers write, “Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day…  He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.”  He is also perhaps the the non-Mormon that is quoted most often by General Authorities and Church leaders of the LDS Church.  His writings are valued by many Christians, regardless of their denomination.

I began reading Mere Christianity recently.  I thought that it might be valuable to look at it from an LDS perspective.  Please note that the analysis will be mine, as a Latter-day Saint, and not the official opinion of the LDS Church itself.

I include a table of contents below, with hyper links to the appropriate sections as I complete them.  As of right now, I have no plan on how often or how soon installments will be released.

Preface

Book 1.1: The Law of Human Nature
Book 1.2: Some Objections
Book 1.3: The Reality of the Law
Book 1.4: What Lies Behind the Law
Book 1.5: We have Cause to be Uneasy

Book 2.1: The Rival Conceptions of God
Book 2.2: The Invasion
Book 2.3: The Shocking Alternative
Book 2.4: The Perfect Penitent
Book 2.5: The Practical Conclusion

Book 3.1: The Three Parts of Morality
Book 3.2: The ‘Cardinal Virtues’
Book 3.3: Social Morality
Book 3.4: Morality and Psychoanalysis
Book 3.5: Sexual Morality
Book 3.6: Christian Marriage
Book 3.7: Forgiveness
Book 3.8: The Great Sin
Book 3.9: Charity
Book 3.10: Hope
Book 3.11: Faith
Book 3.12: Faith

Book 4.1: Making and Begetting
Book 4.2: The Three-Person God
Book 4.3: Time and Beyond Time
Book 4.4: Good Infection
Book 4.5: The Obstinate Toy Soldiers
Book 4.6: Two Notes
Book 4.7: Let’s Pretend
Book 4.8: Is Christianity Easy or Hard?
Book 4.9: Counting the Cost
Book 4.10: Nice People or New Men
Book 4.11: The New Men

The Priesthood Part 2 – Restored Priesthood Authority

Is there priesthood authority on the earth right now? Yes! We can perform ordinances that God will recognize, we can preach the gospel, and we can perform miracles. Below I will discuss the restoration of the priesthood. I will also show how I can trace my authority, through this restoration, back to Peter, James, and John who received their authority from Jesus Christ. I will also give some reasons as to why priesthood is so essential to the church.

The Restoration of the Priesthood

Priesthood authority was given by Christ to the apostles while he was still on earth. This authority allowed the apostles to preside over the growing church and to baptize, confirm, and ordain others.

After the death of Judas, the apostles called Matthias to fill the vacancy in the Twelve (Acts 1:20-26). Paul was called as an apostle as well. Yet persecution increased, and it became harder and harder to keep the church together. Eventually the apostles were all gone, and the church fell into the Great Apostasy. The priesthood was lost from the earth till the early 1800s.

In 1820, Joseph Smith prayed to know which church he should join. In response to his prayer, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. They said that there were no true churches on the earth at the time and that through him the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored.

Divine visitations did not end there. Joseph was visited by other angels who restored priesthood power and keys. John the Baptist appeared to restore the lesser, preparatory priesthood.

Later, Peter, James, and John appeared to restore the higher priesthood. This is the same priesthood power that allowed the apostles to preside over the church and perform other priesthood duties.

Because of these appearances, the priesthood power that was lost with the death of the apostles was restored. Every priesthood holder in the LDS Church can trace his authority back to the appearance of Peter, James, and John, and from them to Jesus Christ. This trace is called a Line of Authority.

My Line of Authority

Like other priesthood holders in the LDS Church, I can trace my authority all the way to the Savior via this ordination of Joseph Smith by Peter, James and John.

I was ordained on 22 August 2004 by Douglas Larsen (my father), a high priest.

He was ordained on 27 January 1996 by J. Richard Larsen (my grandfather), a high priest.

He was ordained on 26 June 1951 by Delbert L. Stapley, an apostle.

He was ordained on 5 October 1950 by George Albert Smith, an apostle.

He was ordained on 8 October 1903 by Joseph Fielding Smith, an apostle.

He was ordained on 1 July 1866 by Brigham Young, an apostle.

He was ordained on 14 February 1835 by the Three Witnesses to the truthfulness of Book of Mormon: Oliver CowderyDavid Whitmer, and Martin Harris.

They were ordained on 14 February 1835 by Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith was ordained in 1829 by Peter James, and John, who were ordained apostles by the Savior during His earthly ministry.

Why Authority?

You can find a Gospel Principles lesson on the priesthood here and a family home evening lesson on the priesthood here.

You can see many reasons for why priesthood authority is so important before reading any lessons, though. All it takes is an honest look at the Christian world after the turn of the first century.

One of the first casualties of the lost priesthood authority was the corruption of doctrine. Greek philosophy became mixed with Christian teachings. This is known as Hellenization.

Another thing to notice is the abundance of Christian sects today. As much as Christians like C. S. Lewis like to stress Christian unity, we are far from united. The Bible can be, and usually is, interpreted hundreds of different ways, and without the apostles to clarify God’s word we are left with enough Christian denominations to fill eight or ten pages in most phone books. They can’t all be true. They are not all true.

Yet another thing to notice are that great atrocities have been committed in the name of the Church. The Crusades and the Inquisitions were violent and left graves upon graves of innocent people. Bad feelings from those events still exist today among the ancestors of their participants. Are such events really examples of a church led by the Prince of Peace?

And yet another thing to notice is the corruption that has taken place in positions of power and leadership. The Catholic papacy has seen it’s share, as have the leadership positions of other churches. People ascend hierarchal ladders, and once there serve their own selfish interests. The teaching of the gospel, and the saving of souls, is put on the back-burner. Instead, leaders forward their own agendas, unchecked by missing apostles.

There are many, many reasons as to why authority is so essential, and perhaps I will leave the subject to you. Give it more careful thought. Think of the benefits of authority in secular institutions, like the law enforcement example we examined in Part I.  As you do, you will find similar reasons why authority would be important to the government of God, and you will see problems in modern Christianity that have arisen from lost authority.

Hugh B. Brown’s Authority from the King

Hugh B. Brown, who later became an apostle and member of the First Presidency, related this story on the subject of authority.

“I was at one time an army officer. As such, I became accustomed to having men stand at attention and salute me and call me ‘sir,’ and frankly, I liked it.

“Often men came and asked for favors—perhaps a furlough or a leave or some thing that they thought I could grant—because they knew that I was an officer of the King [of England] and that I had the right to speak in his name. And so as they came I handed the ‘blessings’ down to them and I became more haughty and self-important with each event.

“One day a messenger came to my hotel just off Piccadilly Circus. He said, ‘You are wanted immediately in the hospital.’

“I thought, ‘Well, here is another boy that wants something. I will go down and see what is wanted.’

“I called a taxi and went to the hospital.

“When I arrived the doctors stood at attention and saluted, and that fed my ego. The nurses treated me with great respect and that pleased me even more.

“They directed me to a little room and as I pushed open the door, I saw an emaciated young man lying on a cot. I recognized him as a former Sunday School student of mine in Cardston, Canada.

“When he greeted me, he did not use my rank in his salutation, but simply said, ‘Brother Brown, I sent for you to ask if you would use your authority in my behalf.’ (I thought, ‘Well, this is what I expected. What does he want?’)

“ ‘Brother Brown,’ he said, ‘you know I have a widowed mother; I am her only son; the doctors say I cannot live; will you give me my life!’

“I thought, ‘My goodness, the King of England can’t give him his life. To what is he referring?’

“Then he startled me with a request: ‘Will you administer to me!’

“At that moment … my uniform, with the insignia on it, seemed to melt away, and I stood before that young man in a uniform with insignia indicating authority. I could not have worn that uniform, which was next to my skin, if I had not had some authority given to me. I stood there thinking of that authority, and I was humbled but inspired.

“I went over to his cot and knelt beside him. I put my hands on his head and said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the holy priesthood, I bless you and promise you that you will get well and return to your mother.’ God honored that promise.

“I went into that hospital a proud British officer, and I came out a humble Mormon elder. Ever since then I have earnestly tried to remember that there is a power and authority given to man, not from the king or the president, but from the King of Kings, and if we live properly and do not forget that we have been so endowed, we may exercise that authority in behalf of those who need our ministration.”

Continuing the Series

  • Part 1 – Where does priesthood authority not come from?
  • Part 2 – The restoration of the priesthood, and why that restoration is so important.
  • Part 3 – Exercising priesthood power and authority with style – Men in Black style, that is.


Mormonism and Robert Jeffress Part 3

The introduction to this series.

Redefining Christianity

While I do think that it is important for non-Mormons to recognize that Jesus Christ is the focus and foundation of our faith, I am not usually found among Latter-day Saints who so often cry, “Hey, we’re Christian, too!” This may seem like a strange position to take considering what we’ve just covered in Part 2, but hopefully it will make sense in a moment.

Mainstream Christians often include as their definition of “Christian” much more than a belief in Jesus Christ. There is no uniform or exclusive list of these additional qualifying elements, but among them could be found the following:

  • Adherence to important creeds established by early church leaders, like the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.
  • Belief in salvation by grace alone through faith alone (as defined by mainstream Christians)
  • Belief in the Trinity
  • Belief in the infallibility and sufficiency of the Bible

While these elements aren’t part of a formal definition of what makes someone a Christian, they are often considered informal qualifications. What’s more, I don’t necessarily take issue with this. Christians aren’t trying to be exclusive in this definition (I would hope); rather, they, like C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity,” are just trying to define what a Christian is and what a Christian isn’t. Part of what makes mainstream Christianity “mainstream” is there adherence to these elements, and into this mold Mormonism does not fit.

Not Seeking Common Ground

I like how Joseph Fielding McConkie describes this issue. He says,

“Our inconsistencies may be more apparent to others than they are to us. A letter recently addressed to the editor of a Utah Valley newspaper by a local pastor illustrates this point. Bearing the title “On Common Ground,” it chided Latter-day Saints for not knowing where they stood. “Most Mormons I meet,” the minister wrote, “seem to be looking for common ground with the Christian community at large. Mormonism then relates to the outside world in two ways. On the one hand, there is the desire for acceptance, the desire to be able to say, ‘We are Christians too. [The not-too-subtle implication here is that Mormons are not Christians.] On the other hand, there is the actual theology of Mormonism that grows out of the idea of the Apostasy and the belief that the LDS Church is the restoration of Christ’s one true Church. This theology motivates the missionary movement of the LDS Church, which seeks to win converts from churches that are a part of apostate Christianity. The two different approaches are not compatible. What I find myself asking is why the LDS Church is so intent on finding common ground with the very churches it considers to be apostate? Why does it seek acceptance from the very people it seeks to convert?”

“The minister’s criticism is a little embarrassing. It gives us the feeling that we have been caught. Certainly we want to avoid giving offense and of course we want to be accepted as Christians, but at what cost? Should we trade our birthright to be thought acceptable by a corrupted form of Christianity? And what becomes of our faith if we embrace the notion that we are sharing common ground with the churches of the world? In religion classes that I teach at Brigham Young University I have found with some consistency that if I say, “We are members of the only true and living Church on the face of the earth,” not even a ripple passes through the classroom. If, on the other hand, I say, “We believe all other churches to be false,” I can expect someone to take offense at my intemperate and intolerant expression. It is as if we thought we could stand for something without being against anything. It is as if we could pick up one side of a stick while leaving the other undisturbed.

The message of the Restoration centers on the idea that it is not common ground we seek in sharing the gospel. There is nothing common about our message. The way we answer questions about our faith ought to be by finding the quickest and most direct route to the Sacred Grove. That is our ground. It is sacred ground. It is where the heavens are opened and the God of heaven speaks. It is where testimonies are born and the greatest truths of heaven are unveiled. It is of this sacred ground that we say, here we stand.”

Latter-day Saints and Jesus Christ

Do Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ? Of course! As a church, “we bear testimony… that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son” (The Living Christ).

But we believe differently than other Christians, and I personally relish that difference. I believe in a Jesus Christ that appeared to Israelites in the Americas, showing to them as well as other scattered tribes that he indeed had died for them and had been resurrected (See 3 Nephi 11; also 3 Nephi 11-30). I  believe in a Jesus Christ who is a separate and distinct personage from the Father and the Holy Ghost (D&C 130:22). I believe in a Jesus Christ who appeared to answer the prayer of a 14 year-old boy and end the dark night of apostasy and confusion that had swept over the world since the death of the apostles (see Joseph Smith – History; see also JosephSmith.net and The First Vision at JosephSmith.net). I believe in a Jesus Christ who stands at the head of a living church, leading it today through a modern prophet.

That, friends, does not fit the tiny and exclusive mold set up by mainstream Christianity to define what qualifies as “Christian”. And that is okay.

Continuing the Series

  • Part 2 – How Mormons are Christian
  • Part 3 – How Mormons are not Christian
  • Part 4 – How the LDS Church is a cult
  • Part 5 – How the LDS Church is not a cult

Mormonism and Robert Jeffress Part 2

The introduction to this series.

Defining Christianity

In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis introduces the importance of defining what it means to be Christian. He begins this discussion by giving a brief history of the word “gentlemen”. Once upon a time, “gentleman” meant someone who had a coat of arms and some landed property. Now, though, the term is used more as a compliment. As a result, it has become quite useless if anyone tries to use it in its original sense. As Lewis says, “it has been spoiled for that purpose.”

Lewis concludes that it’s important to define who is a Christian so that the term does not become useless. If we do not, the term, like the word “gentlemen,” will simply be used as a compliment. Lewis suggests:

“We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles.”

Latter-day Saints and Jesus Christ

Joseph Smith said,

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

Arguably, Latter-day Saints accept the teachings of the original apostles to the same degree, if not more so, than the rest of Christianity. True, we have additional sources of faith, but those with children would agree that the addition of a son or daughter does not detract from the love felt for other children. Likewise, our other scriptures that compliment the Old and New Testaments do not detract from our faith in Christ or love for the Bible. Quite the contrary – they enhance and strengthen that faith and love.

In General Conference just this month, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke about the importance of the name of our Church. He was not the first to do so, either. In his comments he cites multiple occasions when the Church emphasized our belief in Jesus Christ, which I encourage you to investigate. He also said,

“The name the Savior has given to His Church tells us exactly who we are and what we believe. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. He atoned for all who would repent of their sins, and He broke the bands of death and provided the resurrection from the dead. We follow Jesus Christ. And as King Benjamin said to his people, so I reaffirm to all of us today: “Ye should remember to retain [His] name written always in your hearts” (Mosiah 5:12).”

Google tells me that a Christian is “a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.” I can tell you what we believe – that my Church really does believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings – but some of you may want to investigate further on your own. I can make that easier, and give you a starting point or two:

That’s a fair start. If you can make it through those resources, and then use them as a springboard to find others, you will have a solid understanding of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes about the Savior, who’s name we bear, and you will certainly agree that, using these common definitions, Mormons are Christian.

Continuing the Series

  • Part 2 – How Mormons are Christian
  • Part 3 – How Mormons are not Christian
  • Part 4 – How the LDS Church is a cult
  • Part 5 – How the LDS Church is not a cult

Hope from The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letterswritten by C.S. Lewis, is a collection of letters written by the senior demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. In these letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood on how to secure the damnation of a man Wormwood is tempting, known in the book as “the Patient.”

The Same Material

In one letter to Wormwood, Screwtape says,

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena, the great Saints.

This is meant as encouragement to Wormwood – he has hope in destroying the soul of “the Patient” as long as he keeps doing as he has being taught. The great men of the earth are no different than those that have succumbed to temptation; the only difference is that one is further down the road to hell then the other. It’s only a matter of persuasion. It is only a matter of time.

Screwtape is focusing on the saint; the saint can be brought down to the level of a sinner because they are made out of the very same material. Yet what of the converse? What if we focus instead on the sinner? We realize that the sinner can be brought up to the level of the saint because they are made out of the very same material.

Bringing Us Back into the Fold

Sometimes we succumb to the temptations of the Adversary. When this happens, it is easy to feel despair and sorrow, or feelings of worthlessness and guilt. What’s worse, the Spirit withdraws and we can no longer feel its’ influence as strongly as we once had.

These feelings have purpose. That purpose is not to plunge us into a pit of hopelessness.  God, our Father, does not want us to feel that there is no way out, that we have no choice but to give up. Instead he wants to help motivate us to change. Paul said that godly sorrow “worketh repentance unto salvation“(2 Corinthians 7:10). Alma, speaking to a son that had committed grievous sexual sin, counseled him,

And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance. O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:29-30)

There is hope. We don’t have to give in to despair. We can become saints, through the atonement of Christ, even if we are the vilest of sinners (Mosiah 3:19).

Don’t loose hope if you are entrenched in sin. Believe that you, in fact, are made out of the very same material as the elect, and can truly be cleansed and changed. That is the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, unto all who are willing to believe in and follow him – that you, personally, can become clean and freed from the depths of sin. You can be elevated, and feel the power God’s mercy, love, and long-suffering in your very heart.