Skip to comments.Mormons: We're misunderstood
Posted on 04/26/2007 6:03:35 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
Ask Mark Briscoe, leader of the Howell ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the greatest misconception about the church, and he doesn't have to think very long or hard.
"Sometimes people would say that we're not Christians," he said. "We definitely are. We believe in Jesus Christ."
An Idaho native, Briscoe has been a Mormon his whole life, and said it is painful to have others think that his church is somehow outside the boundaries of Christianity. He said he was a high school student when he first heard the accusation.
"It was a little bit unsettling," he said. "From my earliest memories, we talked about Jesus Christ." In fact, members of the church believe that Jesus' teachings were changed and weakened soon after the apostles died, and that this "apostasy," or falling away from the truth, led to the withdrawal of the true church from the earth.
Mormons believe that was reversed when Joseph Smith, regarded as a prophet, was visited by God and Jesus in a vision in 1820. That's when Smith was chosen to restore the true church to the world, according to LDS doctrine. Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the sacred text of the Latter Day Saints, which is based on the Bible.
The Mormons' refer to this process as the "restoration."
The religion has received increased attention as Mitt Romney's prominence as a presidential candidate has risen. As happened with John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, some political observers have questioned whether Romney's Mormonism will hurt his electability, or his conduct as president if he's eventually elected.
Jan Shipps, an expert in the LDS church, a professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and a Methodist, said that concern is overhyped.
She said that, unlike Catholicism, in which a politician can be denied communion for votes in support of abortion rights, for example, the Mormon church does not directly influence its members who happen to be politicians.
A local bishop can exclude a church member from the temple, but that's about it, Shipps said.
"They don't have any official way to control their members, except to say that they can go into or cannot go into the temple," Shipps said.
"I just don't think it's a big deal, but a lot of people think it is because the president of the church is also understood to be a prophet," she said. "But the likelihood that the president of the church would have a revelation that the president has to do this or has to do that is less than zero."
Briscoe agreed with Shipps' assessment that any influence the church would have over members would be at the local level. But even that would not include anything political.
"We never say we're for one candidate or the other," he said. "Our view is that's not proper."
There is some evidence, however, that Romney is getting a lot of support from Mormons 13 percent of the money he's raised so far, or $2.37 million, has come from the state of Utah, home of the church's headquarters.
Local ties, global reach Briscoe's title is "Bishop," analogous to a pastor, but he doesn't receive a salary from the church. That goes for all other leaders as well. Briscoe works as a powertrain engineer for Ford Motor Co. in Livonia.
"It makes for a very busy life, that's for sure," he said.
The LDS church on West Grand River Avenue in Howell has 400 members; holds services every Sunday; and has youth activities during the week.
One of the hallmarks of the church is the cooperation and support between members.
"A main focus is to provide service to one another," Briscoe said.
Members go in groups of two to visit each other on the weekends for "Home Teaching" sessions, in which they talk about spirituality and life in general, he said.
"Part of it is to see if people need help with anything," he said. "The goal is that nobody feels they don't have someone to call."
The visiting is separated by gender, with males visiting males and females visiting females.
Mormon services are not the raucous or musical affairs that other denominations celebrate.
"'Reverent' is the word we like to use," Briscoe said.
A typical service starts with the sacrament, a hymn and a prayer. Then, church members who Briscoe has spoken with beforehand give talks of about 10 minutes long on a given subject.
Non-Mormons, however, don't often get the chance to witness these services. The church has a reputation for secrecy, but Shipps said it's not just for the sake of exclusion.
"A better way to say it is what goes on in the temple is sacred and therefore private, rather than secret," she said. "All temples are closed to anyone except those who the bishop recommends."
Outreach also is an important part of the Mormon philosophy. Most men do two years of missionary work when they're around 19 years old, and unmarried women do 18 months. One of Briscoe's own sons is in Brazil right now as a missionary.
College age is an ideal time to go abroad as a missionary because it exposes one to the world, yet still gives a person time to start a family. And family, Briscoe said, is a foundational piece of the Mormon church.
"We do believe in families," he said. "We believe a man and a woman should get married and raise a family, so we encourage that."
Briscoe himself was a missionary in Spain: "I learned probably as much from that experience as I did from college."
Mormons also are aware of opportunities to tell friends and other social acquaintances about Mormonism, Briscoe said, and how to approach people is a subject of conversation in the church.
"As life goes on, you get into discussions about your beliefs," he said. "We feel like what we have is so important ... we really feel deeply that what we believe is the truth."
The church has been fairly successful in bringing more people in. There are about 6 million members of the LDS church in United States, and more than that abroad, Shipps said.
Not universally embraced Many of the church's practices have prompted criticism from other religions. Polygamy, the practice of husbands having more than one wife, may be the most enduring stereotype of Mormons. But it hasn't been practiced since 1890 by the church, and is strictly prohibited.
The LDS past practice of baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims after their death drew fierce opposition from Jewish leaders as well.
Shipps said it was done to give non-Mormons the choice in the afterlife of becoming Mormon. That's also why there's such an emphasis in the church on genealogy so that all one's relatives can be identified and baptized, she said.
Also, black people were denied membership until 1978, when the president of the church at the time had a revelation that they should be included.
Now, Shipps said, the LDS church has made strong inroads into nonwhite areas such as Japan, South Korea and Africa.
"There may be as many people worshipping on Sunday in Spanish-speaking areas than English-speaking," she said.
Theologically, Mormonism is viewed suspiciously by some as well. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, puts the LDS church in the category of "Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements."
Shipps said the thing that sets Mormonism apart and ironically draws the ire of both Christians and Jews is the belief that the church is re-gathering the twelve tribes of Israel.
"It's a very complex and interesting and powerful theology, but for those looking at it from the outside, it seems somewhat strange because it has, in addition to Christian claims, claims to be the restoration of Israel," Shipps said.
Another notable Mormon belief is that the church president is a prophet, and receives the word of God.
"We believe God does talk to man," Briscoe said. "He chooses one prophet at a time."
Regardless of the negativity and criticism they may run into, he said, most Mormons aren't swayed.
"When people say things, we're still confident and confident in what we know to be right," he said.
“We believe God does talk to man,” Briscoe said. “He chooses one prophet at a time.”
Wow. Is it not great that he is LDS.
Here we go again.
The reason people say that is because Mormons do not believe in the Trinity, which is one of the bedrock doctrines of Christianity: requiring not only a belief in Christ but in Christ as the second of Three Persons of a single Godhead.
Plus the doctrine of polytheism sets it light years apart even from non-Trinitarian Christians.
So do the Muslims. Meaningless statement.
Hi Alex !:)
Misunderstood mormon ping
Well, if Briscoe actually said that (one can never be sure with newspapers) he is confused.
We believe in continuing revelation from God, yes. However, we do not believe that God speaks only to one prophet at a time.
In fact, anyone who can testify of Jesus Christ is a prophet, for "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10).
We also believe that individuals can receive revelation through the Holy Ghost to guide them through life. That includes guidance to fulfill their callings in the Church. Thus, a bishop can receive revelation to guide the ward over which he presides.
What I think Bishop Briscoe was saying is that God chooses one man at a time to receive revelation to guide the entire Church. That man is the President of the Church, often called "the Prophet" by the members.
Mormons do believe that Christ is the second person of the Godhead. What we do not accept is the traditional Trinitarian doctrine of three persons in one being.
Plus the doctrine of polytheism sets it light years apart even from non-Trinitarian Christians.
There is no doctrine of polytheism in Mormonism. Polytheism is the worship of many gods, usually considered as representing the forces of nature. Mormons worship God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was a prophet. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
.... let us summarize this grand key, these “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” for our salvation hangs on them.
First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
~Ezra Taft Benson, Thirteenth President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
My apologies if I have misunderstood. But by “second person of the Godhead”, that usually implies 2 persons in 1 Divine Being. You seem to have no problem with the 2 persons, is the one God/Being that is the point of contention?
On the polytheism charge, perhaps my word choice was inexact..sorry about that. Could you explain whether there are multiple gods in Mormonism and whether or not they merit the same adoration that we reserve for God the Father? I’m sketchy on how all this shakes out.
How does HE become your Lord and Savior?
The Demons believe.
And they can quote Bible verses. Oh ya they also know who HE is.
Does that mean that the Pope is a dual authority with the current president of the Mormon religion? Do we have two religions lifting up Christ, by dual authority, or is there one which is more authorized than the other?
"Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works--many works--and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and 'a broken heart and a contrite spirit.' "It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes." (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 324-325)
Wow, that’s pretty culty.
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