Meat & Potatoes: Protestant view on differences from Mormonism

First, a note from Associate Pastor Curt McFarland of Moses Lake Presbyterian Church, who is featured in this week’s video:

As a preface to this video, which some will see as controversial, I believe what is needed in faith conversations and general community discourse is not silence on the things one holds closest to the heart but instead the willingness to listen to each other, to respect each other, to soften the tone and increase the dialogue. This particular video reflects my understanding of the key differences between historic orthodox Christian faith and LDS faith. My understanding of the differences is a result of conversations with leaders within the LDS community and my own research using LDS produced material. I do not mean to disrespect those within the LDS faith, instead I mean to highlight points for further discussion. A significant majority of historic orthodox Christian leaders believe there is a clear distinction between their core beliefs and those of the LDS faith. Friendship and conversation across faith lines is not only possible, but desired.

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  1. Pastor Curt,
    Thanks for being part of the site and sharing your thoughts on this issue.

    You laid out three issues that you feel are the key points of LDS departure from historic Christianity: A triune view of God, Grace vs works, Bible vs progressive revelation(prophets, writings etc). Those matters are not addressed by the Apostle’s Creed, an early church statement of common confession. I know creeds are not scripture and the list of creedal confessions expanded and continues to expand even today but is it fair to say it was a glimpse into early Christianity’s view of what was significant to adhere to as one who claimed to be a Christian? Do you think this confession of belief is enough to claim faith in Christ and be a follower of Jesus? Also based on your criteria, couldn’t Catholics be lumped in with Mormons too based on their understanding of two of your criteria, or Oneness Pentecostals, etc?

    Apostles’ Creed
    1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
    2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
    3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
    4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
    5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
    6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
    7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
    8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
    9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
    10. The forgiveness of sins:
    1l. The resurrection of the body:
    12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

  2. Pastor Curt,
    Thanks for the great start to the conversation. Even though there is much more fundamental doctrine that is not shared by these two groups, I think your choice of these core issues is critical.

    I am also grateful that you upheld the scriptures as the Christian’s absolute source of how we can know God, Who He is, and what His will for the world is. I believe His preservation of those 66 books is the means by which Jesus Christ has built and continues to grow the true church.

    My question would be to ask what the objective of the dialogue would be? The illumination of the real differences would be worthwhile if that could be accomplished. Comparison of the writings of both would also seem to be the most effective way, sometimes merely trading impressions or opinions just make things more cloudy.

  3. Tracy, you want to pass these questions along to the writer for some responses???

  4. Hi everyone! Thanks for the great responses. I have told Curt about your comments, and he will try to make time in the midst of his full time job to respond directly. Thanks again!

  5. Thank you for the opportunity to share my views on the distinctions between LDS faith and theology and historic orthodox Christian faith and theology. I appreciate the gracious tone, kindness, personal perspective and helpful questions each has posted.

    At my core I believe it most helpful in faith dialogues to understand, as clearly, fairly, and honestly as one can, what we each hold dearly, both in common and in disagreement.
    Hopefully my following comments, brief and limited by the constraints of this forum, will add rather than subtract from the generous discussion here.
    While there are several aspects of faith which a number of different religious traditions hold in common, it is not honoring to those traditions, or to those who hold the beliefs of those traditions close to their hearts, to minimize the differences.
    Those within the historic orthodox Christian family, and those within the LDS family share several things in common. For instance, they both use common terms for many of the central figures of faith. But while the language is similar, the definition of those terms often reveal important differences that are passionately held by each.
    The historic orthodox Christian community has, from the early years of the Church (Galatians 1:6-9), set the boundaries for acceptable Christian belief on the identity and work of Jesus. Where there is a variation in belief about who Jesus is and what Jesus accomplished for us debate (often vigorous and at times mean-spirited) has taken center stage.
    The final authority for acceptable belief on core aspects of Christian faith has rested on the Bible. While certain suggested beliefs through the centuries have had an appeal and made things easier for some to understand and live out, they have been summarily rejected when found contrary to the weight and evidence of the Bible.
    There are certain verses in the Bible, separated from the larger context of the Bible, which have been used to develop systems and theologies far beyond the boundaries of the Bible.
    Beliefs that suggest there is/are any other God or Gods anywhere apart from the One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit communicated in the Bible, have been regularly regarded as outside historic orthodox Christian faith.
    Beliefs that suggest we must do … instead of Jesus has done … have been regularly regarded as outside historic orthodox Christian faith.
    Currently, various denominations and organizations that are understood to be within the historic orthodox Christian community have differences on some of the second, third and fourth level points of belief … but the common bond has been and remains agreement on the primary points of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
    Creeds, commentaries, current trends, prophets, professors and pastors are fallible … sometimes they can be helpful, but they are always subservient to the authority of the Bible. Ongoing progressive revelation that can contradict, change, add to, delete or redefine the protected witness of the Bible has routinely been rejected as outside the historic orthodox Christian faith. That does not give Christians permission to disrespect the devotion of those within traditions that value new and modern revelations, but it does mean that such a difference can not be overlooked or swept into the broad historic orthodox Christian Church.

    The question of the Roman Catholic Church, and its understanding of the role of the Pope, is a good and fair question. The gracious relationship and common Christian bond between the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of the historic orthodox Christian community is real (although some on both sides would vehemently disagree with me on this). I believe that common Christian bond would be shattered if any Pope claimed to speak with the absolute authority of Christ and changed, deleted, or added the Bible on anything of significance regarding core primary beliefs held by the historic orthodox Christian community.
    Again, I hope this adds to the gracious discussion here. Any offense felt is the result of my error and limitations, and for those I apologize in advance. Gaining a greater understanding of the faith and values we each hold is essential to good civil dialog and the demonstration of friendship across differences … especially in a society that is losing that ability as it seeks polarities rather than relationships.

    humbly submitted, Curt

  6. Curt, thank you so much for responding to these questions. This is what FAVS is all about!

  7. Curt,
    Thanks for the clear and non-confrontational, but steadfastly true presentation.

    I would respectfully submit however that the comment regarding the pope and the RCC leaves me quite confused. The popes over the centuries have continually claimed authority equal to scripture itself and have on several occasions, in the view of many biblical scholars, gone outside of orthodox Christian doctrine. One that comes to mind is worship of and prayer to Mary. Another would be transubstatiation, the continual and literal, in their thinking, sacrifice of Jesus over and over, in the mass. Could you comment on those? Thanks!

    • Hi Dennis!
      Thanks for your comment. I would more than welcome a reply from Curt, but let me first direct you to a new video from Meat & Potatoes that I just posted recently (and has not been reposted by SpokaneFAVS yet). It is a Catholic talking about the misconceptions of Catholicism. She addresses all of the points that you just brought up, and I hope it’s helpful!

  8. Hi Rosemary,

    I did listen to the video, but most of what she said tried to make the case by referring to what the early fathers did or said, or what took place at the reformation. I want to make the comparison to what the bible actually says. In my opinion, the biggest problem with the RCC is their divergence from the actual teaching of scripture. It is well known that they were vehemently opposed to the common people being able to read the scriptures for themselves, as they would see how far off the church was from it.

    As for the worship of Mary, she tried to redefine what worship is, and the word veneration came up, which to my knowledge is pretty much a practice unique to Roman catholocism. Again, the bible never sanctions prayer to anyone besides God, whether Father, Son or Spirit, never, ever to a person. Asking another believer to pray for you is actually commanded in the New Testament, but prayer to a person who has died is totally foreign to doctrine. The fact is, the New Testament portrays Mary as no more to be venerated than any other person. Another case where the RCC has instituted a practice not revealed in scripture. That is what I so liked about Curt’s approach, that he held tightly to what the Bible says.

  9. I would submit that most modern churches add or subtract from the bible in adherence to or neglect of practices that were founded on apostolic belief or tradition. Any head coverings in your congregation? Are you greeting each other with kisses? How silent are the ladies? Do you have any baptism’s for the dead practiced in any fashion? How many sinners have been “handed over to Satan” this year in your congregations? Do 2-3 prophets speak and others weigh and judge? Any remarrieds counseled about their current state of adultery? Anyone told slaves to go back to their masters lately? Any conservative fundamentalists forbidding speaking tongues out there?

    There’s some snags in this statement for me: “…they both use common terms for many of the central figures of faith. But while the language is similar, the definition of those terms often reveal important differences that are passionately held by each.”

    How can we judge what ‘meaning’ people attach to any idea, doctrine or views? That is so subjective and would require many trials to determine. Do we truly want to resurrect such examinations by ecclesiastical hierarchy? “Differences” about concepts that are hard to even apprehend, let alone comprehend like: trinity, eternity, co-equal, one substance, virgins birthing, spirit infilling, forgiveness, blood and body sacrament issues, hell, hades, gehenna? On and on.

    It seems to me, we have overgrown the path to salvation from the clarity and simplicity of earlier days:”
    Acts 16:29-34
    “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
    They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”

  10. I wish Curt had more time to be able to answer some of these questions, because I don't want to answer for him, but you know me, I have convictions about many of these myself and I just got a keyboard for my ipad so it's much easier to ramble on!  Most of those you mention, Eric, have good scriptural answers if studied out and prayed over hard enough.  The author of Hebrews, (I'm thinking Paul, but not provable), through the Spirit, somewhat scolds his readers for needing to be re-taught the milk when they should have been eating meat.  What is kept as unknowable is sometimes just an unwillingness to study, or perhaps to submit to what is discovered.

    As far as the comparing of terms, what I mentioned earlier about comparing written doctrine would apply here I think.  The actual written documents of the Mormons is very clear as to what they say they believe, and it does not agree with scripture.  One example would be that Mormonism teaches that the Father has a body and joined to Mary to father Jesus, whereas the bible clearly teached that God the Father is invisible and a Spirit being.  Another would be that the Mormon Jesus is considered to be just one of God the Father's childen and was actually a brother to Lucifer.  Don't think I need to proof text that one.  Jesus in the letters to the churches in the Revelation, also as instruction to our churches today, was very concerned about what was and was not being taught and believed.  We are responsible to grow in faith and in the knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and to be careful not to be deceived by teaching that clearly falls outside of biblical doctrine.

  11. We will have to agree to disagree Dennis, almost everyone of those ‘bible’ answers end up falling into the category of debatable and often end up using the same culture and context arguments that progressives are accused of in other matters. I think it’s fair to say the creeds represent the attempt to define orthodoxy in a way that avoids the ‘my personal bible reading and interpretation crowd’, as well as the an ‘angel visited me and told me everyone else is wrong’ crowd too. Creeds are not perfect but they do help establish a safe home base that should be satisfactory for unity. If it was good for the disciples of the apostles, or the disciples of the disciples of the apostles, I think it’s good ground to stand.

  12. Fair enough Eric. God bless you my brother.

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