My Faith vs. Your Faith

© 1997 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.

These are further debate extracts. The following is excerpted from a lengthy reply to a Mormon who had responded at length to me on various subjects, including his resentment of evangelical Christians condemning Mormonism. In various exchanges on these boards, I found very many individuals identifying themselves as Mormons who begrudged born-again believers the right to oppose Mormonism as a deviation from Christianity--while at the same time insisting on their right to assert that orthodox Christianity was wrong and that Mormonism was the true "gospel." I thought it would be useful to re-post here what I said there, as an explanation for the fair-minded (rather than those partisans who only want freedom for their side) of why I feel that neither side should complain of the other's right to speak out about what it believes.

(From a series of posts dated 4/28/96 on AOL's Christianity Online Message Boards:)

. . .In your reply, you ask:

"Please explain how someone proclaiming THEIR OWN faith (as opposed to declaring a position on someone else's faith) is disingenuous. It seems that logic dictates the opposite."

I am happy to respond . . . . My take on this is that the Mormon proclamation of the gospel is not only "someone proclaiming their own faith," but also is "declaring a position on someone else's faith." This was the impression I got from the very first, when confronted on the KJV folder by K-------. This is the impression that I get from reading that Joseph Smith in one of his earliest revelations was told by God to "Join none of them [i.e., Christian denominations of his day], for they were all wrong," and that "all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt." This is also the impression I come away with on reading the 13th chapter of the Book of Mormon's 1st Nephi, which states the following:

1ST NEPHI 13:29. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it [i.e., the "book" of 13:23--obviously the Bible] goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest--because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God--because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

Who has removed "plain and precious things" from the Bible? According to 13:26, the "great and abominable church" did. And, 1 Nephi 13:27 informs us, "all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men." The same chapter calls the state of these individuals (who are evidently to be identified with Protestant America--cf. the colonization in verses 12-16, and the American Revolution portrayed in vv. 17-19) an "awful state of blindness (v. 32)," which is to be remedied by other "records" being revealed to men which "shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them" (v. 40).

This is the kind of thing that leads me to conclude that "someone proclaiming their own faith" in Mormonism is fundamentally the same as "declaring a position on someone else's faith." For the very essence of what Mormons have been saying to me, as I understand it, has been that my Christianity is a corrupt version of what Joseph Smith "restored" 170 years ago, and that if I truly want to know God and not be in "blindness," I should grab a Book of Mormon, get a "testimony" from the Spirit that it is true, and join the Latter-Day Saints. And this isn't "declaring a position on someone else's faith"?

I think I can see why many Mormons honestly don't see their evangelizing as an indictment of born-again Christians. The assumption seems to be that the latter group doesn't have a genuine relationship with God, as the former group believes its own church members do; therefore, the latter group should be grateful to receive the former group's "fuller" version of Christianity.

What Mormons fail to appreciate is the deep offensiveness of their implication that born-again Christians have something less than the full gospel of God. But born-again Christians (at least the best of them) react, not by getting offended, but by demonstrating what they believe from the Bible, which inevitably involves showing the Mormons the differences between evangelical doctrine (which evangelicals uphold as the Biblical way) and Mormon doctrine. This seems to be the point at which we hear the Mormons complain that they are being slandered, that evangelicals are preaching "negativism" and marshalling a "negative onslaught" against them. (But how can evangelicals be preaching "negativism" unless--as I contend you Mormons wrongly assume--there is nothing positive about the evangelical faith in the first place? This does not follow unless Mormons deny to evangelicals the authentic relationship with God and "testimony" that the former group so vociferously claims for its own members.)

I submit that it is therefore clear that your claim, "Claiming what one believes about one's OWN religion is very clear from attacking another through hundreds of fault-finding organizations," is erroneous with regard to Mormonism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but an essential point of the doctrine of Joseph Smith seems to be that Christianity outside Mormonism is corrupt and in a state of spiritual blindness. And again, please correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, Mormon missionaries make great efforts to evangelize "other" Christians from the denominations. One doesn't generally evangelize those who are not in a state of spiritual "blindness," does one? (Here's a standard of comparison: how many missions does the United Methodist Church undertake to convert the Baptists? How many do the Baptists have to convert the Lutherans? Isn't it obvious that these denominations disagree with each other, but do not regard each other as spiritually blind, as Mormons regard the denominations?)

Personally, I feel that if the Mormons want to preach that my religion is "blindness," as per the Book of Mormon, that should be their right. It's not necessarily respectful, but I think the marketplace of ideas is big enough from Mormons and evangelicals to both have a forum. IMO, the problem seems to lie in the fact that Mormons don't like their religion considered as "blindness" by evangelicals. And if that's so, it would seem to be a double standard on the part of the former.

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