Monday, July 24, 2006

isms

A friend of mine wrote a book about why he is a Latter Day Saint ("Mormon" for all you folks outside of UT who have no idea what that means). It is a well written presentation of his reasons for converting to the Mormon faith from being an evangelical.

The title, "Why I am a Latter-day Saint", always bounces back to me because every time I read or hear a bit of Mormon theology I can't swallow - I hear my own mental book title, "Why I am not a Latter-day Saint" running through my mind.

I could sit here and list my technical disagreements, but yesterday when listening to the radio, I heard something said that makes all my other objections inconsequential and really gets down to why I feel Mormonism and most isms spend a lot of time missing the point.

I was listening to Bob Lonsberry (whom I enjoy) on the way to church and he was discussing Mormon missionary practices and the text they use. He asked himself the question, "How does a missionary go about reaching someone who has no Christian background? What is the starting point for someone who has no Christian history or experience?" He answered, “You tell the story of the prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration".

There it was, the true crux of my objection.

Bob should have answered, "You tell them about Jesus! Jesus loves them! Jesus can redeem them from their sin! JESUS!"

Bob is not alone in this behavior. Many Christian churches elevate a person or a doctrine above Christ in some format or other. In any case, if the church isn't doing it the individuals often are.

Before you say otherwise, think about it. One of my mentors, Fred Market, used to say "Whatever we think about most, whatever we talk about most, whatever we invest our time in... that is our god." He was explaining at the time how he had allowed Christian ministry to become an idol in his life.

I grew up in charismatic circles and they talked about faith, healings, and material gain a lot. Not so much about Christ. When Christ was talked about, he was usually mentioned as a means to an end... not the end itself.

Mother Teresa said, "The prize with which God rewards our self abandonment is Himself".

It is all about HIM..... HIM.... HIM..... HIM!

In Superman II, Clark and Lois are at Niagara Falls. Clark is startled that Lois is not more impressed with the grandeur of Niagara Falls. She replies, "Once a girl has seen Superman .... Niagara Falls leaves you kind of cold".

But we as a people seem to have a habit of choosing the lesser thing rather than the greater. The Israelites had just been delivered from Egypt, and they made themselves a gold cow to worship. When God revealed himself on Sinai, the Israelites begged Moses to go talk to God in their place.

George MacDonald said, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it".

There was a Christian Rock artist I used to go see whenever he was in town back in the 80's and early 90's. I used to love the fact that he would preach most of his concert. Regardless of where you were spiritually, he could hit you right between the eyes because he loved to talk about Jesus.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus....

He left music eventually and it had been years since I had heard from him. Then by chance, I found he was going to be preaching at a local church. I couldn't wait. When I listened to him that Sunday my heart sank. He didn't talk about Jesus anymore. He talked about his pet doctrines and poked fun at people who didn't buy into those doctrines.

I love the way CS Lewis presents the supremacy of Christ and his light in The Great Divorce. Next to his light, everything else is mere shadow.

I believe many isms serve as tutors. In fact, I think God often calls people to spend a considerable amount of time in an ism... sometimes a lifetime. But the ism isn't Christ and it is a dreadful mistake to become so bound in it that you miss HIM.

Hebrews 1:1 says, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, He has spoken to us by his Son!"

He has spoken! He is wonderful! He forgives! He renews! He equips! He is All!

If we bear his name, I think everything else should leave us kind of cold.

3 comments:

Jill G said...

yeah, you hit that one on the head. the ism thing has been bugging me a lot lately, and I just haven't been able to put my finger on it. Thank God that Bible Study starts up next month, I need a ism-less path to wander!
~Jill

steve b said...

I agree with most everything you said. It is about Jesus. The thing that throws me off is the "Christian" comment. I know there is a need to label all people who claim to be believers in Christ, but I feel the term Christian is inappropriate. In an effort to categorize and recruit early believers, Constantine coined the term Christian as people who believed/followed Jesus Christ. In it's simplest form, they were defined by the creeds (Nicene and Apostles). I understand that there are people that you would call Christians that don't meet the definition. I am not saying the definition is good or bad - it just is. Because of the existing definition, I go to great lengths to avoid calling members of the KKK Christians. I do not want people to associate Christianity with anything to do with hate. Likewise, if someone calls themself a "Pauline Christian", it gives me great pause as to who they are truly following. If a Jehovah's witness says they follow the teachings of Charles Taze Russell they do not meet the requirements of what it means to be a Christian. That leads us to what you heard on the radio. Sometimes we all say stupid things, but if he truly believes that he follows the teachings of Joseph Smith, he certainly does not meet the definition of being a Christian. Whether he is or not is God's issue, but I certainly wouldn't let him teach my kid's Sunday school class.

In an age of tolerance and acceptance, I would ask believers everywhere to not blindly accept deception in the name of tolerance. My personal opinion is that next to pride, tolerance is one of the greatest sins...

There, I gave you 3 and one half cents worth: probably 3 cents more than you wanted.

David Alvord said...

Andrew, thank you for your comment on my blog! I read your last post and I think that you make some good points.

The message of the restoration is this: That He lives! Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the spring of 1820.

It's really not about Joseph Smith...it's about what he saw and the truths that were revealed through a modern-day prophet.

If you will study the teachings of the prophet Joseph, you will find that they are centered around the Saviour...much like the prophets of old.
The message of the restoration is not a distraction to one's belief in Jesus Christ...any more than was Isaiah's message a distraction to Moses' or Paul's message a distraction to Peter's. All of the prophets throughout history have pointed to the Messiah...and Joseph Smith is no exception.

I have prayed earnestly that I may know the truth of the testimony of Joseph Smith. In that prayer I covenanted with the Lord that if Joseph Smith was not a true prophet that I would go against my upbringing and forsake Mormonism forever. But that still small voice filled my heart with joy and I had to confess that Jesus is the Christ and Joseph his prophet in the latter-days. I have found that any person who will humble themselves and ask in sincerity if Jesus is the Christ, they will have the truth of it made known to them by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by that same power he/she can have made known the truthfulness of the testimony of Joseph Smith.

Thanks for reading.

Respectfully,

David Alvord

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