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Are Mormons Less Dogmatic Than Christians?

This reasonably well informed article shows that Mormon beliefs on certain key issues are more flexible or less doctrinal than those of Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics. They’re not against all abortion and don’t regard abortion as murder, because they have no particular view on when a fetus acquires a soul. They disagree on killing embryos to acquire stem cells for research, and a majority of them are not against it. Not only that, as a recently persecuted religious minority they’re all for a rather strict separation of church and state. So they’re against government’s funding of faith-based initiatives, because that would inevitably compromise the integrity of a chruch’s spiritual mission. (Mormon religious officials for the most part don’t even accept salaries.) And they take no position on evolution and don’t really care whether it’s taught in public schools or not. They don’t let public education shape their kids morally or spiritually; they take care of that at home and through private, "seminary" instruction.

But maybe we should be troubled that Mormon founder Joseoph Smith ran for president in 1844 (although nobody noticed it) and was a communist and an abolitionist, not to mention a polygamist. Although Mormons are rather uniformly conservative and Republican today, the LDS church does not really have a conservative tradition. But neither does America, really.

Discussions - 14 Comments

At a gut level, the important consideration would seem to be what Mormons are like culturally, not what their church theoretically teaches or doesn’t teach. I suspect this would tell us more about both Romney and whichever Mormons are close to him. And I suspect it’s a point in Romney’s favor.

Not to be argumentative, but Mormons are Christians.

Mormons certainly aren’t Christians in any sort of historic-orthodox understanding of Christianity.

I personally find Neuhaus’s analysis persuasive.

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0003/public.html

Peter, an excellent post; you and Drake are really onto something. Leaving aside the "Christianity" of Mormonism, it is truly an American religion. It is a strange mix of Bible, philosophy, and revelation held together by a fast growing bunch of hard-working capitalists. Mormons are optimistic and full of can-do spirit.

Although Mormons are rather uniformly conservative and Republican today, the LDS church does not really have a conservative tradition. But neither does America, really.

Peter nails it right here. Americans kind of follow a political path of least resistance (provided a few basic precepts are upheld) and role pretty easy. Mormons religiously are quite adept at finding paths of least resistance with their lack of dogma on salvation, afterlife, sin, abortion...etc. The question, and potential problem with Mormons (and America too) is knowing if a principle is really there. I mean this is a religion that mainstreamed by changing a quite fundamental tenant of polygamy.


So Mormons are conservative for now, like Americans kind of are. However, they seem to more prone to blow in the political wind than stalwarts like the SBC and Catholic church. If and when Romney is rejected, I would not be suprised, in fact I predict, a large swing of the Mormon vote to the liberal left. It seems the religion is edging that way socialy. Why? Because given Reid and some of the hurtful things some evangelicals/catholics will say, Mormons will pragmatically see more advantage to splitting up their current one party patronage. Hmmm...sound familiar?

Not to be argumentative, but Mormons are Christians.
They claim to be Christians, but they are entirely different than all other Christians. For one, they have another holy book that a farmer claimed to have dug out of the ground in the 19th century, the Book of Mormon (as well as other writings like the Book of Abraham and the Pearl of Great Price), they believe that Zion will be rebuilt in America, there have a different view on the common Christian view of the Holy Trinity, and (as far as I know) they are the only religion to claim to be led by a living Prophet of God.

I know a couple of Mormons and they are good guys...they also claim to be christian. I would disagree that they are christian...I think ROB has a point. On the other hand these mormons do claim that salvation is only possible via belief that christ died on the cross and was resurected to claim victory over death and sin, and that by asking forgiveness of sin and in believing that it was granted by the death of Christ they are saved. I would guess that loosely speaking this particular belief is enough for qualification as christian, since I would guess that if sincere it is also all that is required for salvation. I am no expert...So I wish Dr. Moser would clarify. In any case I can’t agree more with David Frisk who says that the real question is what Mormons are like culturally, vs. the theoretical dispute over what a Mormon is or is not. That is...what if the Mormon is just a theoretical abstraction? What if the Christian is just a theoretical abstraction? What if the muslim is just a theoretical abstraction? My contention: Mormons, Christians and Muslims do not really exist...or rather absolutely resolute followers of very specific distinctions and formulations do not exist, or at least do not always behave in the fashion that would be assumed by those Ontological positions. 1.1 Billion Christians...1.2 Billion Muslims...what does this really mean? Obviously I don’t mean to say that 2.3 Billion people don’t exist...they exist. I almost wish I had taken a class in Sociology.

I’m perfectly willing to avoid the argument over whether or not Mormons are Christians, simply because they’re people with much stranger beliefs who call themselves Christian. But they do have plenty of doctrines etc. that they don’t share with their fellow Christians. Those are some interesting posts of there. More later.

Clint wrote: "Americans kind of follow a political path of least resistance (provided a few basic precepts are upheld) and role pretty easy."

I think that’s essentially correct. I’ll add to it: the "path of least resistance" tends to be what individual Americans perceive serves their individual interests. In almost everything we do, we tend to go with what satisfies our selfish interests. In general, that’s a truism. Exceptions exist, of course. But they’re just that -- exceptions

Romney is going to get hammered for his Mormonism. His opponents are going to try to show Romney being a Mormon isn’t in the selfish interests of the voters. His job is to show that to the extent his Mormonism does influence his governing ability, it results in a net benefit to the voter. How that will manifest itself I do not know. It may not ... he may go down in defeat.

What about "National Security?" Ultimately it’s an individual issue -- what’s good for me and my family. Few people are truly willing to sacrifice for the good of others, myself included. So to the extent that issue will play a role in 2008 it’ll be, again, based on which candidate presents a vision of security that percolates down and satisfies the selfish interests of the voter.

"All politics are local?" Yes, but only because the boundary of my selfish interests are local.

On the other hand these mormons do claim that salvation is only possible via belief that christ died on the cross and was resurected to claim victory over death and sin, and that by asking forgiveness of sin and in believing that it was granted by the death of Christ they are saved. I would guess that loosely speaking this particular belief is enough for qualification as christian, since I would guess that if sincere it is also all that is required for salvation. I am no expert...So I wish Dr. Moser would clarify.

I’m hardly an expert either, but if what Mr. Lewis is describing isn’t Christianity, then what is? Perhaps I’m a little sensitive on this point, since I’ve heard plenty of evangelicals suggest that Catholics aren’t Christians either.

John Moser wrote: "I’m hardly an expert either, but if what Mr. Lewis is describing isn’t Christianity, then what is? Perhaps I’m a little sensitive on this point, since I’ve heard plenty of evangelicals suggest that Catholics aren’t Christians either.

I’m a fan of spending time searching for the essence of things -- what constitutes the core that should be undeniable. Deny the core and you deny refute the whole.

I doubt most Evangelical Christians have a sense for this. I see way too much energy spent on peripheral doctrines. Full immersion baptism vs. sprinkling? Entirely academic. Whether Jonan literally spent three days in the belly of a fish? An interesting debate, but the centrality of Christ is not affected by the outcome.

So what is a "Christian?" Sometimes I think the very effort to define the term causes problems. Jesus didn’t seem terribly interested in definitions. His focus was more on what was in a man’s heart, and whether there was a true trust and reliance on Him (Jesus, as God incarnate) in the heart. Nobody starts out with a full trust; saying some "I believe!" prayer doesn’t do it; few die with a complete trust. But it seems Jesus called on us to dedicate our lives to learning from him how to invest our complete trust in him. Hence his call to be his "disciples".

I fully recognize this is open to wide debate.

Could a faithful Mormon say the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed and mean it? Probably not. Then again, neither could the "Presiding Bishop" of the Episcopal Church.

But Americans are a bit leery, it seems to me, at having public figures poke around folks’ theological beliefs. I can just imagine some well-heeled tv reporter sticking a microphone in Romney’s face and demanding to know whether he accepted this or that doctrine - and that the rude shrug-off would do wonders for Romney’s candidacy (not unlike George H.W. Bush’s brush-back with Rather).

Look, on the Christian question, I think that most reasonable people don’t say one denomination is or is not Christian. Any group that wants to be classified as Christian can be called that for broad identification purposes without offending me.

I also think that in the land and era of individual liberty we have moved past labeling individuals as Christian or unchristian based on their religious denominations or churches. Most agree that there are both Christians and non Christian people in Evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon churches. Now certain ones might be more effective or have higher percentages of individual Christians, but all are broad enough to produce both.

I suppose that this is in some ways a very protestant viewpoint of salvation as a very individual thing. However, it seems that in American Christianity--and Christianity in general--only very archaic forms of Catholicism still practice and believe that membership in a specific Church saves via some communal salvation. Most Americans are too focused on the individual for that anymore.

Mormons use Christian language and claim to be Christian, so fine classify them as such. But like David said at the beginning:

At a gut level, the important consideration would seem to be what Mormons are like culturally, not what their church theoretically teaches or doesn’t teach.

The truest test of politics and perhaps religion is more ones personal actions rather than their words, party, or place of worship.

11: Good points, Mr. Simpson. A theological, rather than cultural, focus could lead us to prefer Bill Clinton or JFK -- whom I would describe as nominal and insincere Christians -- to a guy like Romney. It would certainly lead us to prefer Jimmy Carter to Romney. The "religious test," then, would land us in the soup. As navel-gazing often does. I also think there is a lot to the argument that people who claim in good faith to be Christians should, to some extent, be accepted as such. I was brought up as a Christian Scientist. By strict theological standards, they cannot be donsidered Christians. Culturally, they clearly are. I would say that in my (admittedly, dated) experience, they stack up well against evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics, in terms of just behavior, compassion, and the like, and in terms of what they demand of themselves.

Michael Simpson wrote: "Could a faithful Mormon say the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed and mean it? Probably not. Then again, neither could the "Presiding Bishop" of the Episcopal Church."
That last statement made me laugh outloud...in appreciation for the current theological exactitude - and seriousness - it displayed. (Glad I wasn’t drinking something when I read it; I’d be cleaning a monitor now....) It was perfect, down to the telling "quotation marks" bookending "Presiding Bishop".
There’s really a simple test for whether a "group" is Christian or not. (The question being too important to be left complex......) Si Roma dicit....est. The Latinist can correct the wording, but you get the point.
Back to the political point: the overwhelming number of American voters don’t/won’t follow the niceties of the "Christian/not Christian" debate. They’re concerned about clear thinking, character and consistency. Deal Hudson’s eLetter today raises serious questions about all three issues as they pertain to Gov. Romney. Which surprised the heck out of me. But there it is. Maybe one of the site meisters could post a link to Deal’s comments.

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