Why I am not an Evangelical - Part 4

See the links on the left for previous posts in this series of personal apologetics.


3: Attitude of Evangelicals towards Mormons

One major reason why I could never be an Evangelical is what I see as the very unchristian behaviour of some (but by no means the majority of) Evangelicals towards Latter-day Saints. I have already mentioned in a previous post that I was forbidden from attending a Bible Study group. In addition, Christian bookshops stock books which misrepresent, mock and insult my beliefs; Christian ministers warn their congregations against the “cult”, and Christian groups will even protest at Church buildings and try to disrupt Church meetings. This does not endear them to me any.

It happened this past weekend, in fact. It was General Conference weekend, which means no church since the Conference Broadcast doesn't begin until 5 p.m. our time. I usually take the opportunity to visit other churches on these occasions. This Sunday I went to an Evangelical church I attended as a teenager. I found it delightful: the people friendly, the service relaxed, and I enjoyed singing the traditional hymns. I felt the Spirit more than I have in any church apart from my own, and as the meeting concluded I was left feeling that this really was my kind of church.

Afterwards, however, the man next to me started to chat (like I said, the people were friendly) and asked what church I usually attended. I wish I hadn't told him. He was very nice about it but I got the usual "You believe that Jesus and satan are brothers", "baptism for the dead is a pagan ritual", etc. It was very helpful for me, however, as it confirmed what I talked about in this post in that I asked him whether the two Cambodian girls I sponsor, who have never even heard of Jesus and to whom I am not permitted to mention religion, are going to hell when they die. And he said that they are. And like I said two weeks ago, I am not about to worship any God who could do that, or go to any church which preaches that.

Whilst I was admittedly the most vociferous of anti-Mormons once, it annoys and upsets me now to be told by Christians that my church is a cult, when they will, with the next breath, admit that they know little about it, have never met a Mormon before, and recoil in horror when I suggest that they might like to come to a church meeting. 

Evangelicals regularly gather at Temple Square in Salt Lake City at conference time where they attempt to provoke anger and incite violence. In a recent example, when a “Christian” was pretending to wipe his backside with an item of Temple clothing, one of the LDS passers-by grabbed the garment from him to prevent it being desecrated in this way. The “Christian” then had him arrested and charged with theft. Again, such behaviour leads me to think that I want nothing to do with people who would mock the deeply held beliefs of others in this way. I would never dream of pretending to wipe my backside with a Jewish prayer shawl in front of devout Jews.

In comparison, the LDS church is a vociferous proponent of freedom of religion, encourages dialogue and ecumenical projects, and our eleventh article of faith states, "We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." It's also very careful never to be critical of the beliefs of others. A few years ago our ward was organising a blood drive, and as part of that I wrote an article for our ward newsletter about the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to accept blood transfusions, and the scriptures it was based on. Although I wasn't criticising the Watchtower Society in any way, the Bishop refused to let me print it. He told me that we never do anything which could be interpreted as critical of other religions. (Gosh, I hope he's not reading this blog.)

What I have experienced personally from a few Christians, and seen online, leads me to observe that a minority of Christians are filled with hatred for Mormons. I can live with that - I think the number is falling, and things are certainly better than they were in the days when Mormons were killed or driven out of their homes. But it troubles me that this hatred is encouraged by churches which put literature about “cults” on their back tables, donate money to anti-Mormon organisations, or attend conferences and festivals which have speakers talking about the evil threat of the cults*. My feeling now is that I have no wish to be part of a religion that encourages such hatred.

* Several years ago the New Wine conference included a "Mormon expert" speaker who told those listening that Mormons celebrate the birthday of Joseph Smith more than they do Christmas. I don't even know when Joseph Smith's birthday is!

Comments

  1. I'm with you all the way on the hatred thing, but that's all too common in all walks of life - fear of the unknown or the stranger.

    It is part of the nature of most religions to want a monopoly on God. Many will claim that they worship the true God and that all the others have got it wrong. Having been round the block a bit, I'd say they all have a piece of the picture, but all are missing something. 1 Corinthians 13. 9-12 sums it up for me.

    Sometimes I am disheartened by stuff I read from folks who think they are able to tell me what God thinks, or says about various subjects - usually from a partisan viewpoint. There is also a risk, I think, of getting very lost in the detail and completely losing sight of what matters. So I'm an evangelistic evangelical anglo-catholic nonconformist. For me, John 3.16 and Matthew 28.19-20 work quite well for starters. Revelation 22. 18-19 add a little spice, but that's a very difficult book to interpret and I worry less about the apocalyptic books because nobody really knows exactly what they mean. I hope!

    Where I do have problems (hang-ups?) is where a church teaches something that is totally contrary to what the Bible says, or where someone shouts and rants about something he doesn't understand or has deliberately misinterpreted. Don't preach against, I was taught: preach for.

    I could never be a Muslim, and I don't think I could ever be a Mormon. I respect both (the latter very much more than the former, I have to say) but will remain an Anglican.

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  2. I like that one in Matthew, and hadn't realised before that it includes "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you". Worth some consideration. Revelation 22:18-19 is just the copyright warning on the book of Revelation itself. However, I entirely agree that any doctrine or philosophy loses me the minute it parts company with what the Bible says. And "Don't preach against, preach for" is about what I was trying to say. Being nasty doesn't help anyone's cause, ever.

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