Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Sharing Christ
 


Sharing Christ

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 26, 2012

This is a kind of post I seldom write. Actually, I think I have never written a post like this, but I’m entering my dotage and may have forgotten something.

I believe in preaching – teaching – shouting from the housetops (or the computer screens) the truths of Mormonism. Once in a while, teaching truth requires spotlighting and correcting error – I’ve done that a few times here, when I’ve outlined some colorful bit of mistaken history in order to set the record straight. But I’ve always tried to set out the mistaken history in terms its supporters would recognize; I’ve never stacked the deck by painting the mistaken history in exaggerated and distorted terms in order to make it easier to knock down.

I write a monthly column of Utah history for the Salt Lake Tribune. Because that column was designed as Utah history, not Mormon history, I have made a deliberate effort to tell stories about all kinds of Utahns. I’ve written about Mormons, yes, but also about Catholics, and Salvationists, and Jews; about Welshmen, and Polynesians, and Chinese, and Hispanics; about actresses, and pilots, and businessmen, and prostitutes, and playwrights, and Boy Scouts, and heroes of all kinds. The stories of these people are not my own, and I do not claim an infallible ability to represent others exactly as they would present themselves. Because of that, I have consciously chosen to tell only positive stories about groups that do not include me – if I err, I’d rather it be on the side of generosity than meanness.

That thing I seldom do, that I’m doing here? That’s directly addressing someone who doesn’t share my philosophy of fairly representing a group of which he is not a part.

Yesterday Jeff Brawner, a Baptist seminary professor, posted an article on the Baptist Press website, “How to share Christ with your Mormon friends,” as part of a series on witnessing to “friends of another faith.”

I’m not going to argue with his religious views – they’re his, and he’s the best one to outline exactly what they are. But I am going to contradict his version of Mormon beliefs. Whether his false witness of Mormonism is due to (probable) ignorance, or (unlikely) malice, or some unfortunate idea that his own beliefs will appear in a better light when placed side by side with a cartoon version of Mormonism, he is wrong on almost every count. He is wrong, and I am right, when it comes to delineating Mormon teachings.

He says:

Mormons believe that God is the ruler of our planet. He is the ruler of only this particular planet. He acquired that status over the earth over a progression of time. He has a physical body and flesh.

I say:

Mormon scripture states explicitly that God has created and peopled many worlds: “Worlds without number have I created … There are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:33, 35). Is there anything in the Bible, as it has come down to us, that is as explicit as that? Limiting God to “ruler” over this single world, magnificent though this world is, is a limitation imagined by Prof. Brawner and is no part of Mormonism, which recognizes no end to the power, the majesty, the expansiveness of an eternally creative God.

Revelation is silent on the details of God’s origins. Many Mormons have extrapolated ideas from the few clues available, but I have seldom seen anything as cut-and-dried in responsible Mormon thought as Prof. Brawner’s bald assertion of God’s becoming God.

And yes, God does have “a physical body and flesh”: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). That much is stated explicitly by revelation, and requires none of the imagination sometimes displayed by Mormons who want to discern more than is plainly stated by scripture, and none of the philosophical negotiation by which creedal Christians arrived at their conception of God.

He says:

Mormons teach that Jesus is God’s firstborn spirit son. Jesus, like God, was a human being but attained his godhead status by living an upright life. His death provides for the physical resurrection of all people. This doesn’t mean that on death everyone will go to heaven, but everyone at some point will have an opportunity to be resurrected.

I say:

Mormons teach that Jesus is God’s only begotten son, relying on all the same Biblical verses cited by Prof. Brawner, with the advantage of many additional statements, at least as plain as those in the Bible, revealed by God in this dispensation. Jesus was human in the sense of having been born into mortality through a human mother – but we also understand that he retained his divinity as the begotten son of God.

Far from teaching that Jesus attained godhood by the merits of his mortal life, we join Prof. Brawner’s Baptists in teaching that Jesus has always existed and is “one with” God (meaning that Jesus shares the righteousness, glory, powers, purposes, goals, methods, mission, and attributes, if not the physical substance, with God the Father). But we go much further than Prof. Brawner can go in attesting to the eternal, ante-mortal divinity of Jesus: We declare that Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament; and while Christians limited to the Bible can state that “all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), we have the advantage of the specificity of modern revelation: “the world was made by him … the worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:9-10). There is no people on this earth who can claim a better understanding, a greater recognition, of the eternal divinity and the preeminent position of the Lord Jesus Christ, than we Mormons declare.

And yes, we do teach that resurrection is a free gift of Jesus to all mankind. We also understand that while salvation, like resurrection, is universal, exaltation is not – a distinction that cannot be comfortably squeezed into Prof. Brawner’s wording about “going to heaven.”

He says:

Mormons believe the Holy Spirit does not have, as God and Jesus have, personhood in the Trinity. Instead, he is nothing more than a spirit manifestation that is from the Father.

I say:

We understand that the Holy Spirit differs from God the Father and God the Son in that he “has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). But he is a personage, not a mere “spirit manifestation,” and he is a member of the Godhead: “We believe in God the Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (1st Article of Faith). The Mormon conception of the personhood of the Holy Ghost may be even stronger than the conception of creedal Christianity, in that we recognize the Holy Ghost as not only a member of the Godhead/Trinity, but also that he is a distinct, separate, independent person within that holy council.

Mormonism makes a distinction between the person of the Holy Spirit, and the influence exerted by the Holy Spirit. Prof. Brawner sets aside that distinction, and mistakes one part (the influence) for the other part (the personage).

–oooOooo–

And as long as I am stating Mormon belief, I will include the Mormon position on one last point.

Prof. Brawner says:

Jesus is defined by how he is portrayed in the Bible alone, not by any other book.

I say:

Jesus is defined by who he really is, what he has really done, how he has really revealed himself. Mormonism cannot accept a definition that rules out of hand the revelation of Jesus in this dispensation, as well as the revelation of Jesus in the Biblical dispensations. Jesus is who he is – Savior, Lord, Creator, Redeemer, Advocate, Judge, King, Messiah – regardless of where the testimony is recorded, and he has revealed himself through the Bible, through other scripture ancient and modern, through personal appearance, through introduction by the Father, through testimony borne in our hearts through the influence of the Holy Spirit. I count it one of the great blessings of God to this generation that we have these additional witnesses of Jesus.

That is all. Carry on.



21 Comments »

  1. Outstanding, Ardis. Thanks for this.

    Comment by Paul — October 26, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  2. Well put, very clear and concise.

    Comment by Alison — October 26, 2012 @ 7:17 am

  3. Beautiful clarification and testimony. I am, and have always been, very grateful for your example of respectfully responding to those with whom you disagree.

    Comment by Sarah in Georgia — October 26, 2012 @ 7:32 am

  4. Thanks Ardis. I hope many people not of LDS faith read this, so they can see the things we truly believe, and not just straw men set up to knock down.

    It is sad that someone claiming to be a minister of Jesus Christ would bear false witness against others. Jesus said that if we follow his ways, we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free. Those who bear false witness are not following Christ in that thing, and they cannot be set free, while espousing such lies.

    Some may be kind to suggest he was just wrongly instructed in what we believe. That may be, but it is the person’s responsibility to double check and ensure what he writes/says is accurate, valid and correct. It is sad to see someone who claims to be a minister of God to set such a bad example, as those who realize he has misled the reader will know that he is not being the Christian he claims to be.

    So, what/who is more Christian: one who bears false witness, or one who speaks the truth?

    In this instance, Ardis is shown as the true Christian for speaking truth, without judging or making claims about his religion.

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 26, 2012 @ 8:20 am

  5. Ardis, keep on sharing!

    Comment by Grant — October 26, 2012 @ 8:21 am

  6. That was definitely something that was worth saying. Thank you.

    (And I did enjoy your “in responsible Mormon thought” part. : )

    Comment by Amy T — October 26, 2012 @ 8:45 am

  7. Thanks Ardis, you have done a wonderful job here.

    Comment by Karen — October 26, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  8. Thanks for taking the time to deal with the details (nothing’s a detail, right?). And especially for doing it in a tone and manner that does not argue with Brawner’s religious views. Well done.

    Comment by David Y. — October 26, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  9. Definitely in the spirit of Elder Holland, clear and powerful without malice. We have to dance that divine tension if we are to be true disciples of Christ. Well done.

    Comment by Bonnie — October 26, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  10. Excellent, thoughtful, and charitable response, Ardis.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — October 26, 2012 @ 11:58 am

  11. You ROCK, Ardis. Very well and fairly stated.

    Comment by Sonny — October 26, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  12. Excellent, Ardis. Brilliantly done. I hope that Mr. Brawner takes the time to read it and correct his point of view.

    Comment by Noel Carmack — October 26, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  13. I find Jeff Brawner’s lack of good faith disturbing.

    Yes, it’s possible he actually believes Mormons believe what he says he believes they believe. However, before publishing a critique, I believe the critic has a good faith obligation to check his facts.

    You replied more gently than I would have. I hope I will have the good sense to choke down my snark and leave the answering to those better disposed.

    Comment by Vader — October 26, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  14. Amen and Amen.

    Thank you for this, Ardis. Well done. (As usual.)

    Comment by lindberg — October 26, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  15. Enjoyed. Thanks.

    Comment by Steve C. — October 26, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  16. Excellent response, Ardis – both in tone and content.

    I am amazed constantly at how badly supposed religious experts mangle our theology and doctrine. I shouldn’t be, after decades of witnessing it, but I am, nonetheless.

    Comment by Ray — October 26, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  17. Amen.

    Comment by reed russell — October 26, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

  18. I always like to see good responses like this.

    The value of good reply is on my mind after recently reading a response to a piece published in the Business Insider (see links to both in the BCC sidebar). The original article was certainly in need of a good response. One of my pet peeves is authors who repeat the nonsense that the Book of Mormon recounts the history of the Lost Tribes (of whom this author seems to think there are two). It’s a sure sign that they’ve been reading what other uninformed people have written about the Book of Mormon, rather than reading the book itself. The piece kind of goes downhill from there.

    But the published response is at best inadequate, and may be worse than the original article. It really goes of the rails when the respondent claims that it was legal to “shoot a Mormon on site” in Missouri until 1976.

    Comment by Left Field — October 28, 2012 @ 6:48 am

  19. Your piece/response: Heartfelt….Balanced…and extremely well done! Thank you!

    Comment by John Tippets — October 29, 2012 @ 4:02 am

  20. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Ardis. I hope this isn’t the last of such posts from you.

    And this? This is simply stunning:

    “Jesus is defined by who he really is, what he has really done, how he has really revealed himself. Mormonism cannot accept a definition that rules out of hand the revelation of Jesus in this dispensation, as well as the revelation of Jesus in the Biblical dispensations. Jesus is who he is – Savior, Lord, Creator, Redeemer, Advocate, Judge, King, Messiah – regardless of where the testimony is recorded, and he has revealed himself through the Bible, through other scripture ancient and modern, through personal appearance, through introduction by the Father, through testimony borne in our hearts through the influence of the Holy Spirit. I count it one of the great blessings of God to this generation that we have these additional witnesses of Jesus.”

    Comment by Michelle — November 8, 2012 @ 2:16 am

  21. thank you for the clarity you provided. this is a good example of sharing truth and testimony instead of engaging in a war of words.

    Comment by Britt — November 8, 2012 @ 4:17 am

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