November 11, 2011
Sometimes, it helps to just keep ones mouth shut and let people “hang” themselves,” as my dad says, and such is the case with the recent incident of Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church, Dallas, for calling Mormonism a “cult.” Since that statement, the detractors of the Christian Faith have landed a few verbal low-blows against Jeffress calling him “intolerant” and comparing his statements to those of President Obama’s “former” pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Jeffress, however, hasn’t lashed out against his own country nor hidden his black liberation theology behind the curtain of some pseudo-civil rights message. Jeffress merely distinguished his traditional Christian faith from that of the Mormon “faith,” something, as this piece asserts, that Mormon’s also do. The only difference being, of course, that Mormon’s actually deem the traditional Christian faith itself the theological oddity.
So, let’s just keep our mouths shut and let Mormons speak for themselves, an idea I gleaned from Albert Mohler. Mohler pointed out, in fact, that traditional Christians don’t really need to distance themselves from Mormonism, because for those who know anything about the “Latter-Day Saints” at all, Mormons actually set themselves apart from traditional Christian thinking. It was Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, who declared all prior forms of Christianity corrupted and any other conclusion ignores the history of the organization – thus the terminology “Latter Day Saints.”
They first defined themselves as a variant form of “Christianity,” and according to them, the “right” form. Mohler says it this way, “Mormonism does not claim to be just another denomination of Christianity. To the contrary, the central claim of Mormonism is that Christianity was corrupt and incomplete until the restoration of the faith with the advent of the Latter-Day Saints and their scripture, The Book of Mormon. Thus, it is just a matter of intellectual honesty to take Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, at his word when he claimed that true Christianity did not exist from the time of the Apostles until the reestablishment of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods on May 15, 1829.”
The “Latter-Day Saints” themselves say it this way, “God chose Joseph as a prophet, seer, revelator and translator to restore The Church of Jesus Christ in modern time, and the Book or Mormon was essential to this restoration.“ The word choice is important, because Smith’s mission did not include reforming or reviving the then current Christianity, but “restoring” it, or as the word also means, reinstating and returning to the way Christianity was “meant” to be. It meant that Smith and those who understand him are the “right” sect, i.e. the true church, while others represent the perversion from which Joseph claimed to moved. At least that is their story and they’re sticking with it.
Mohler continues, “By its very nature, Mormonism borrows Christian themes, personalities, and narratives. Nevertheless, it rejects what orthodox Christianity affirms and it affirms what orthodox Christianity rejects” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/10/10/mormonism-democracy-and-the-urgent-need-for-evangelical-thinking/). In other words, Jeffress stated the very reality that informed Mormons themselves state; namely, that they are not associated with traditional Christianity, because they, so they say, are the only true branch of Christianity in the first place. Laying claim to the term “Christian,” they also commandeered the traditional Christian vocabulary, and those more versed in Mormon doctrine admit that they perceive traditional Christianity in the same manner, as patently false and perverted, the very reason they, at least supposedly, arose in the first place.
With Mormonism setting itself apart from traditional Christianity, the scathing of Jeffress is unwarranted. As far as the facts are concerned, simply letting Mormonism speak for itself reveals Jeffress’ familiarity with both his and Mormon theology.