The Minimal Mormon

Discussions of Mormon doctrine often end up confusing to an outsider as they struggle to understand what the faithful believe. Many times outsiders don’t understand the nuances and possible interpretations of the faith. Most are used to specific articles and statements that define a religious sect or denomination. It is said that Mormonism is like jello; hard to pin down. There is truth in these observations because systematic theology has been rejected since at least Joseph Smith who considered the necessity to believe in creeds as objectionable. But, this hides the very real doctrines that are specific to Mormons that make it unique and its own.

A creed can be defined as a set of doctrines and teachings that must be accepted by religious believers to be a sect or denomination member. Some religious organizations are more flexible than others in what constitutes official creeds. Regardless, the point of creeds is to have a unity of faith. Even the Unitarian Universalists have a set of principles and purposes that guide the membership. Their doctrine can be summed up as spiritual based humanism. Encompassing as it sounds, this sets it apart from other religious organizations. It would be hard to believe very many Evangelical Christians or pious Muslims would be members of the organization.

There aren’t very many hard and fast rules to what can be considered Mormon doctrine, but there are enough to recognize. It might even be said that Mormons have a loose, but binding, dogma that flows from the very reason for its founding and continued existence. Outsiders are constantly bringing up doctrinal and historical teachings of the LDS Church almost without hesitation. They might be mistaken in the interpretation or critically over-dramatic in the presentation, but for the most part do notice cohesive beliefs.

This is not to say the “dogma” is necessary to be part of Mormon membership. The actual Scriptural requirements are slim and vague, especially as related to doctrine. Moroni 6 insists on changes of the heart and overall faith of the individual in general Christian concepts:

1And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

2Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

3And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

4And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

What can be learned from this? That a Mormon must enter baptism with a repentant heart and faith in Christ. After that, they must continue to be taught the words of God so they will continue in righteousness, pray for their souls, and rely on Christ’s atonement and grace. Easy enough up to this point, but the reliance on doctrinal necessities becomes more complicated. It must be asked exactly who has the authority to baptize according to Mormon doctrine? It isn’t just anyone off the streets.

As taught in Doctrine and Covenants 42, only those ordained by recognized LDS Church authorities have authority themselves to teach and baptize:

11Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.

This section goes on to say that the mere giving of authority doesn’t mean there aren’t strings attached. An officer of the Gospel must live the commandments and have inner religious convictions that guide them, with the Scriptures as a source material:

12And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fullness of the gospel.

13And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.

14And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.

Where did the LDS Church get this authority? According to the religion, not from churches that existed at its founding. The first prophet Joseph Smith Jr. could have joined any one of them, but was commanded not to by a vision of Jesus Christ who warned of the creeds they confessed without the power. They had all fallen into what is now called “The Great Apostasy” where both the fullness of the Gospel and the authority to act in the Lord’s name became lost. Those who follow this announcement farther understand that a new book of Scripture, the Book of Mormon, was soon to be made available. Parallel to the publication came the development of a Church with new authority from the Lord as given by angels who formerly were known to have the Priesthood given to them while mortal. Of course, this would be John the Baptist with Peter, James, and John known from the New Testament pages.

It almost goes without saying that one must believe the Lord gave Joseph Smith Jr. divine authority to accept the LDS Church claims. He had the First Visions that got things started, he translated the Book of Mormon that inspired him to seek out Priesthood authority, and he as a divinely appointed Prophet wrote the revelations known as the Doctrine and Covenants that are considered official canon. The Doctrine and Covenants contain the guidelines of both belief and practice for the general Mormon membership.

Going through all that is taught in the Doctrine and Covenants is a task beyond the scope of this discussion. However, the point is that what makes Mormonism can be found inside it and other Scripture pages. It might be a jumble of ideas and revelations that can be mixed and matched into several interpretive frames of reference. The lack of systematic theology is not in doubt. What can be said is that there are specific and sometimes detailed doctrines, practices, covenants, and pronouncements inside the collection. It can be argued that, given the history of Joseph Smith’s claims, no Mormon can lightly reject any of the revelations without putting into question the legitimacy of his calling. To be clear this isn’t about interpretations of his revelations. It is about the veracity of the revelations themselves. To those who might question the truth of what it says, the Doctrine and Covenants section 1 warns:

6 Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth . . .

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments . . .

29And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon.

30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually . . .

Having established that Joseph Smith Jr. is the divinely appointed authority to set up the LDS Church, then it follows what he says under that authority is binding. It is true that he wasn’t always acting as a prophet in his actions and words, but he did act in that capacity. Recognizing when he was doing his prophetic duty is a matter of having faith in the canonization process. This includes a fundamental belief in the continued divine nature and authority of the Church and Priesthood organization where the member belongs. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that means a belief in the continued authority of their Apostles and Prophets and other offices. Thus, because of past authoritative dictations members can safely assume the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great price are “Standard Works” or yardsticks the faithful use to establish what constitutes Mormonism.

Despite the confusion that an non-systematic theology creates, there are some concise doctrines that can be pointed out. One of the main basic declarations of belief is the 13 Articles of Faith often recited by younger members. It has become, and not without reason because of its position as canon, a de facto Mormon creed. Its assertions of “We believe” come directly from founder, Prophet, and First Elder Joseph Smith Jr. as published in a newspaper editorial. Later LDS Church Priesthood authorities, duly recognized, included it as Scripture. Therefore it has become part of the Word of the Lord binding on the membership.

To conclude, the logic of what constitutes Mormon faith is that original Christianity had fallen into Apostasy and lost authoritative legitimacy. This was Restored to Joseph Smith Jr. by Angels (who were at one time mortal) with the Lord’s divine approval. He was called as an elder, translator, a revelatory, a seer, and a prophet (see Doct. and Cov. 124: 123-128 ) and ordained others to Priesthood offices. Only those who are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, a religious frame of mind and heart, can be called and officiate. With divine Priesthood authority the Church was established and doctrines and teachings declared the Word of the Lord binding on the Saints. Interpretation and emphasis aside, a Mormon believes a lot and is required to believe even more than they started with (see Alma 12: 9-11 ). The goal of Mormonism is to perfect faith and not compound doubt. At a minimum a Mormon should believe in the divine Priesthood authority of the LDS Church and the saving power of Jesus Christ. However, these faith concepts are the start and not the end of where a member must go in our spiritual journey.

23 thoughts on “The Minimal Mormon

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention » The Minimal Mormon The Millennial Star -- Topsy.com

  2. Jettboy, we definitely share a similar vision of what the Church stands for and its doctrine.

    I especially like this sentence: “The goal of Mormonism is to perfect faith and not compound doubt.”

    You use the word “must” a few times. How do you deal with and what is your advice to Church members who do not have testimonies of the things you mention? What must they do?

  3. Geoff B, you bring up some good questions and ones I will have to think about more. One of the purposes of this post was to explain what exactly Mormonism is and why it exists. As the saying goes, its a religion and not a social club even if you treat it as such. There are some underlying assumptions in Mormonism that can’t be overlooked or treated lightly; at least not without changing drastically enough to make it unrecognizable and perhaps useless.

    Again, I’m not punting your questions. I’m mulling them over.

  4. OK, I’ll check back in every once in a while to see what you say. Great to have you at M*, Jettboy! You often write controversial things, and some things I don’t agree with, but new and different viewpoints are always a good thing.

  5. I doubt very many of these “minimal Mormons” have any desire to reduce the church to a social club, and it is a bit of a red herring to suggest that they do.

    There is an enormous range between those who have essentially no religious belief and those who believe in the monopoly authority of the LDS Church. To claim that their faith and participation is “useless” is to write off the contributions of every other denomination on the planet as harmful or worse.

    Would we all be better off if Christianity “petered” out eighteen or nineteen hundred years ago? If not, why not?

  6. This just sounds alot like your trying to see just how Mormon someone is, or really just trying to see how righteous someone is and I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, NO ONE, gets to say who is more Mormon(righteous) than anyone else. I think we will all be surprised when we get to the Celestial kingdom and realize just how silly some of these conversations truly are.

  7. Geoff B, It would depend on the member’s faith. Sometimes there must be a leap of faith and other times an assessment of spiritual health and beliefs. That goes for everyone at whatever level they are at in Mormonism. If the person is a teenager than it might be up to the parents how much activity and involvement. Once a person leaves the house or become an adult the choices shift toward the individual.

    I would suggest those who don’t have faith can stay or leave according to their desires. However, they should as was discussed before be honest with themselves and others. I believe it is wrong for them to participate as Priesthood officiates if they don’t believe in the spiritual authority. The Scriptures warn that acting without faith in such capacity is at best without effect and at worst blaspheme. The Temple is a sacred place as it always has been and to enter without the requisite faith and righteousness is absolutely wrong.

    Those with mediocre or nascent faith is really all of us, but there are degrees. I would never, for instance, seek to move a mountain unless having an amazing revelation about doing that. I just don’t have enough faith and I know it. To pretend I do would be both embarrassing and ineffective. That means I must continue to pray, follow the commandments, read the Scriptures, and generally continue in the Gospel of Jesus Christ until the day (in this life or the next) when I have the faith for such a feat. I would suggest those without testimonies of those things I mention to also pray, follow the commandments, and read the Scriptures with faith in Jesus Christ. There is no different list for spiritual growth.

    “I doubt very many of these “minimal Mormons” have any desire to reduce the church to a social club.” If you read my article you would realize that minimal Mormons are not the concern about the social club since they would have the basic faith necessary for spiritual growth. That said, my experience is that too many without even the basic level of faith do treat it as a social club and seek to shape it into their image. To be honest Mark D., I really don’t understand your question because I don’t see how it relates to what I wrote. They seem like a red herring to me. I am not talking about other Christians or even non-Christians here. I am talking about Mormons and those who claim to be such. How others might come in is another discussion altogether.

  8. Jettboy, the problem is that there are a lot of members who believe in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost who don’t necessarily have a lot of confidence in the claim to exclusive priesthood authority, or the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or half a dozen other ecclesiastical quirks.

    You suggest that such persons are not actual Mormons, and worse are imposters. So what do you want them to do? Stay home, quit paying any tithes or fast offerings, disavow the church? Should they join the RLDS or some other denomination instead?

    There are perhaps some number who are overtly dishonest. That sort of thing should be condemned. There are some who take the opportunity to teach false doctrine or non-doctrines. That should be condemned too.

    But I really can’t agree with marginalizing all the members of the church who don’t have an abiding faith in some of the stronger claims of the church, especially those who do have faith in more basic principles of the gospel. I am not sure I have met – in person – any relatively active member of the church who has no faith at all.

    Perhaps that is not what you intend, but otherwise I don’t see the point. What you have plainly cited is LDS orthodoxy and everyone knows it. My only claim is that the membership and participation of individuals who have less than an “orthodox” faith does them and the church a world of good, and that it is enormously unfair to suggest that such persons are imposters. Not only unfair, but counterproductive. How many people do we invite to church that are halfway looking for an excuse never to darken the doors again?

  9. How do you deal with and what is your advice to Church members who do not have testimonies of the things you mention? What must they do?

    Could I jump in with a thought on this?

    I think in a real sense, the answer for any of us wherever we are is what jettboy said:

    “That a Mormon must enter baptism with a repentant heart and faith in Christ. After that, they must continue to be taught the words of God so they will continue in righteousness, pray for their souls, and rely on Christ’s atonement and grace.”

    …except we’d replace baptism with the sacrament once someone has entered the waters of baptism.

    The individual journey of faith is a line-upon-line thing for everyone. We’re all at different places in that journey, and I really believe God blesses those who seek Him. I think a key is found in Alma 32 — just not to cast the seed out by unbelief.

    So my thoughts for those who may not have a firm testimony of any one particular principle or teaching is to keep a place in their hearts for a time when they might, and in the meantime, perhaps trust in the faith of others who do and hope that these things are true, and continue in the journey of faith.

    I think part of what it means to have faith is to keep making choices consistent with a hope toward faith and testimony. So to me, if someone is, say, struggling with the temple, I think that going to the temple in good faith with a desire to believe is not inappropriate. It’s sort of the “if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” I think we often have to DO to be able to have a testimony confirmed. And sometimes that can take time. Another example…I was listening to the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast today and they talked about men who may not yet be fully temple worth but are striving to be being able to participate in some ordinances. I think this is a good example of how we can and should encourage those who may be struggling along the path or who may have different opinions about what is ‘truth’ within Mormonism.

    On the flip side I would hope that those who may not have a firm testimony of some of the basic tenets of Mormonism would show respect for those who do. It’s one thing to have struggles or different opinions. To me, it’s another thing to want to change the Church to mold around one’s doubt or opinion, or criticize the very things that for many/most Mormons are pretty foundational. Compassion and respect should go both ways.

    As I thought about this, what came to mind tonite was <a href="http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html"Elder Holland’s PBS interview. I think his thoughts present a nice balance of leaving (quite a bit of) space and a lot of compassion when people may have varying levels of faith or belief in Mormon tenets (say in the literalness of the BoM), but he also doesn’t budge on what those foundational truths are, and he does suggest that there are limits when personal opinion or doubt crosses into the realm of advocacy that threatens the identity of the Church (although drawing those lines to me seems to be a priesthood leadership function, not the job of lay members).

  10. “There are perhaps some number who are overtly dishonest. That sort of thing should be condemned. There are some who take the opportunity to teach false doctrine or non-doctrines. That should be condemned too.”

    First, Mark D, thanks for saying this. I think this is the first time I’ve heard this. Yes, we should condemn dishonesty. If we aren’t doing this, we are not yet having the conversation we should be having.

  11. “”I’ll say it again, NO ONE, gets to say who is more Mormon(righteous) than anyone else””

    Dblock,

    If what you are saying here is that everyone get to decide this in their heart for themselves, then I agree with what you are saying.

    But it should be obvious — literally beyond doubt — that the LDS Church does have priesthood leaders that get to decide on questions of our Church membership. So your statement can’t be taken as true within that context. The current LDS Church policy, that comes down from the leadership, is that certain people get to be baptized, but not all. That of those, certain get to go the temple, but not all. And that certain people get to hold certain types of callings and others do not. There really is a set of stateable policies in place that includes belief, testimony, and practice. There are some allowances for the individual. There are some exceptions based on situation. But these policies really do exist right now.

    I can see someone disagreeing with them. I can see someone sayin, “I feel it should be otherwise.” But we should at least admit that policies do exist right now and that they do come from the leadership.

  12. I think Jettboy is stating the obvious here: the LDS Church exists for a specific reason within it’s own narrative. If that reason is false, then there isn’t (within that narrative) a reason for the LDS Church to exist.

    Specifically, it is either restored Christianity because there was a need for a restoration or it’s just another Christian sect in which case it’s special teachings about restoration (which is, um, all of it) serve no purpose.

    There is a rationally uncompromising position here and I haven’t been able to figure out a way around it.

    People who don’t agree with the message of the restored gospel after the apostacy would not be that concerned about the narrative that creates this ‘either/or’ divide. But they should at least see that their position undermines all that believing people within the LDS Church care about.

    Instead of continually reading Jettboy as somehow saying, “you are not Mormon enough”, realize that he is seriously trying to answer the question if ‘what is the purpose of the LDS Church if it isn’t what it says it is.’

    If you disagree with Jettboy on this point, that is fine, but you must then show us a better way. Merely telling him that what he is saying is hurtful is not enough because what you are saying is hurtful too. (i.e. you are saying that the most profound aspects of the LDS Church — the restoration — are false.)

    The point is that Jettboy is having dialog. Have it back. Don’t shut him down via the ‘you’re saying something hurtful’ tactic. Because that’s a hurtful tactic in and of itself.

    There is no easy answer to this problem. It deserves some serious dialog and discussion.

  13. @bRUCE

    Not only is that what I’m saying, but I can assure you and others that when I’m standing at the court of justice in the Celestial Kingdom waiting for my entrance to the other side, the only persons’ whose voice will matter is Heavenly Father.

    Church officials will be able to say squat because they don’t know what’s in your heart. Only myself and Christ KNOWS and that’s the only thing that matters.

  14. “Jettboy, the problem is that there are a lot of members who believe in faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost who don’t necessarily have a lot of confidence in the claim to exclusive priesthood authority, or the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or half a dozen other ecclesiastical quirks.”

    Mark D,

    I think something to keep in mind here is that the Church’s current policies do create what we might call ‘levels.’

    You only have to have certain beliefs and willingness to practice to be baptized. It’s something different to go to the temple, say. And there are policies and practices over who should be in certain callings. (Pastoral callings generally requiring the high level of fidelity to the message of the restoration, including belief in unique authority, historical BoM, etc. Grant there can be exceptions for special circumstances.)

  15. Bruce N, I fully support the extra fidelity required for temple recommends and leadership positions. I also support the extra requirements for baptism itself (albeit mostly on practical grounds).

    What I object to is the idea that baptized members aren’t to be considered “Mormons” any more if they do not have a lot of confidence in some of the stronger claims of the LDS church.

    That is nothing other than an informal attempt to excommunicate anyone who doesn’t meet a standard that is even higher (in some respects) than what the church requires for temple recommends.

  16. @12 – Dblock

    Peace bro. I’m with you on that. If it comes down to it, I’m always on God’s side.

    But if that is your full point, then you are not denying anything I’ve said nor Jettboy has said. Indeed, the Church leaders would be the very first ones to admit that they sometimes make mistakes and that God’s will is what ultimately matters, not theirs.

    One can, for example, easily imagine someone getting excommunicated for a false accusation that God then ‘overrides’ at the last day, but that God still wanted the leaders to do their best and follow the policies that He laid out for them through revelation. In other words, these two points are not mutually exclusive.

    I guess what I’d like to get explanation from you on is if you are *only* saying “God’s will is what ultimately matters” (hey, no contest) or if you are in fact hinting at the idea that the Church’s current polices (as we’ve been discussing) are perhaps not really God’s will and God would prefer we have different polices in place and do away with the current practices.

  17. “What I object to is the idea that baptized members aren’t to be considered “Mormons” any more if they do not have a lot of confidence in some of the stronger claims of the LDS church.”

    Do you believe I’ve advocated for that? Because I certainly don’t believe that in the slightest.

    Or is it Jettboy that you believe has advocated for that? I can’t speak for Jettboy, but I would call upon him to admit that by current LDS Church policy, once you are baptized, until your name is removed from their official record, you are considered a member of the LDS Church even if you stop believing and practicing every last ounce of it. You may not be eligible to practice with your priesthood, nor attend the temple, nor hold certain (or in some cases any) callings, but you are still considered a member of the LDS Church. And it would be fair to say of such a person that they do not believe in the teachings of the Church any more. But they are still members of the Church according to current policies.

  18. “That said, my experience is that too many without even the basic level of faith do treat it as a social club and seek to shape it into their image. ”

    Those treating it as a social club aren’t the only ones trying to shape it and redefine it, as we’ve seen in recent posts.

  19. Bruce, I was responding to Jettboy. In one sense I agree with him – membership alone is not quite enough to give a claim to be a Mormon some practical viability. However, I would count nearly any level of faith in God that leads to a higher personal standard of conduct and behavior as more than ample to give weight to the claim.

    I don’t think one should go around implying that any such individual is not Mormon enough to be considered a Mormon. Faith sufficient to motivate to any kind of repentance anywhere ought to be more than enough for such purposes.

  20. I just wanted to say that Bruce has stated my own feelings pretty well in his own words. A Mormon is a Mormon by way of baptism. That much is clear. Where I have said otherwise I don’t know. However, membership alone doesn’t save you unless somehow the person remains sinless and with sure knowledge at the time of baptism. Only one person has ever been that righteous and worthy and that is Jesus who is Christ.

    I am at a level that might be higher than some and much lower than others. My Exaltation won’t be assured until the Judgment Day. Still, I would assume that “Mormonism” means something different than Catholicism, Methodism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and etc. I strive to maintain faith in the minimum (basic) requirements necessary to call myself not just a Christian, but a Latter-day Saint. From the baptismal interview:

    “Do you believe the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does that mean to you?”

    Those who think this is about me judging others are wrong, although I can’t change their minds that isn’t the case. What I am hoping this discussion will do is help people to start judging themselves and what they believe more closely. I want the individual to ask themselves “how Mormon am I really?” In this way they can determine if they have faith enough to gain even more faith in the religion or perhaps decide its time to move on with their life. Stop standing still or moving backwards and make a real choice on who you are and what you believe. That goes for all of us, me included.

  21. What I had in mind as I read Wilson’s post that started all this, were particular kinds of statements (in both posts and in the comments) that I used to read at T&S and BCC. I can’t remember names, dates, and posts at this time, so I can’t link to them. I understand why he doesn’t quote quotes, and name names, because it would get into a did-to/did-not argument along the lines of when Adam Greenwood made similar accusations when he quit T&S in a huff.

    What I’ve assumed that Wilson (and jettboy and Bruce Nielson) were referring to were statements along the lines of (not an actual quote): You can disbelieve the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and still be faithful and ‘in the mainstream’ of the Church. Usually written by those who openly admitted that they held such active disbelief themselves. It is as if they were _promoting_ the idea of non-historical Book of Mormon.

    Worse yet, not only in claiming that they hold the idea themselves, they are telling others that they too can hold such an idea and still be in the mainstream of the church.

    I have to fall on the side of Elder Holland who clearly put the smack-down on the idea of an inspired but non-historical Book of Mormon in a recent conference talk. The idea of an inspired but non-historical Book of Mormon is not just logically inconsistent and sophomoric in reasoning (according to Elder Holland), it is _out_ of the mainstream of the church.

    What I perceived Wilson and Nielson as saying was this: Don’t promote something so out-of-the-mainstream on the blogs, and be sure to tell your local priesthood leader your belief on the matter.

    Based on Elder Holland’s conference talk, I conclude that those who promote (or appear to promote) the idea of an inspired but non-historical Book of Mormon are not in the mainstream as definited by the Brethren.

    As far as the official standing of any given _person_, the actual judgement is up to the Brethren, or such person’s priesthood leader, not me, and not anyone else here.

    But we all have our rights to give our opinions on the _ideas_. My _opinion_ is that such _promotion_ of the idea of an inspired-but-non-historical Book of Mormon is apostasy, or at least nigh unto apostasy. (I know, it’s odd coming from an ex-member.)

    I’m not talking about people who only _believe_ (versus know) that the Book of Mormon is true. I’m not talking about people who only _think_ (versus know) that it’s true. And I’m not talking about people who only _hope_ that it’s true. I’m refering to people who’ve stopped seeking and stopped struggling because they’ve now come to a conclusion that it’s not historical, that there weren’t two groups of people descended from Lehi, and that Jesus did not visit them.

    So these are the two ideas that I disagree with:

    - I disagree with the idea that the Book of Mormon can be inspired but not historical.

    - I disagree with the idea that a person can be in the mainstream of the church while disblieving the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    Further, if I interpret Wilson/Jettboy/Nielson correctly, I agree with them in that:

    - If someone wants to claim to be in the mainstream of the church, they should not publicly put forth their belief that the Book of Mormon is not historical, nor should they tell others that they too can be in the mainstream while holding such a belief;

    - In a confidential interview (for a recommend or a calling) in which the temple recommend questions are asked, the most honorable and forthcoming situation would be for the interviewee to volunteer that they hold the Book of Mormon to be non-historical.

    Bruce, and Jett: did I restate your positions correctly?

  22. I would assume that “Mormonism” means something different than Catholicism, Methodism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and etc. I strive to maintain faith in the minimum (basic) requirements necessary to call myself not just a Christian, but a Latter-day Saint.

    The issue here is that the church is the Church of Jesus Christ. All Christians are natural members of that Church. Broadly speaking, all religious people everywhere are. The scriptures are reasonably clear that you cannot be saved unless you repent and are baptized.

    It is almost certainly true that one needs to attain to Latter-day Saint standards of sacrifice and participation to be exalted. That is what the temple is all about. But the Church of Jesus Christ is not just for the people with the faith to be exalted – it is for everybody, and in particular those with the faith unto repentance:

    The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation (D&C 138:58-59)

    That is why I count all members of Christian faiths in particular as informal members of the Church of Jesus Christ, even if they don’t recognize its proper incarnation in the here and now, and completely disagree with disavowing anyone who has any kind of faith unto repentance.

    John said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. (Luke 9:49-50)

  23. Jettboy,
    Eons ago in blog time (so, like, a couple of years), I did a blog poll tournament where I pitted various doctrinal ideas each other for supremacy in the church. It came down to The Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the Priesthood, the latter of which won. Do with that what you will.

    Everyone else,
    I’m actually pretty much in agreement with jettboy here. I think that there are is a minimum number of beliefs that you must hold in order to consider yourself a member of the church of Jesus Christ. I think that they are defined by the temple recommend questions and, possibly, the articles of faith. I don’t have a problem considering folks who think that the Brethren are wrong as a rule or that Jesus didn’t exist and didn’t atone as a rule non-Mormons. Strangely, I still exhibit in my online persona a different sort of Mormonism than jettboy. Which is fine, actually, because, as he notes, we are only talking about the minimum standard of belief here (which I also consider the maximum of necessary belief). Where you go from there is where your heart and the Spirit take you. Of course, I am one of those people who belief that you can believe in the church, but not in the historicity of the Book of Mormon (even I though I don’t subscribe to that myself), so dismiss me at your pleasure.

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