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Raise Expectations

Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries and author of Firing Jesus.

If we're honest, when most of us see those young, clean-cut Mormon missionaries knocking on doors, we quickly assume that the hip, ...

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Displaying 1–94 of 94 comments

Andrew Wright

January 06, 2014  9:47pm

LDS Church: Approximately 3% annual growth rate over the past 20 years. Approximately 5 children per family during that time. If they retained all members born into the Church their growth rate should be double digit % easy. That's why they send out missionaries. To make up for the approximately 50% of members who leave or become inactive annually. Why would any denomination want to follow that example?

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Brent Hoover

August 18, 2013  5:32pm

The article's gist was to help us consider the question of how we disciple youth. Mr. Stier's thoughts have echoed in my heart for decades as I have seen youth in East Asia grow very quickly in their passion for God and missions through very challenging circumstances. The bottom line is this: people grow when they are challenged. So, most youth ministries have no hope of seeing kids grow because either they are afraid to make their groups truly challenging for the teens (fearing less kids would come); or, they don't know how to. Instead of looking to Mormon missions' institutional approach, it might be better to look towards the rising tide of passionate disciples of Christ in developing nations as an example. Empowering opportunities, challenges with real consequences, serious biblical and life equipping, and clear calls from the pulpit on the need of world missions and losing one's life in reckless abandonment...these will attract and inspire the next generation to go.

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Joel Campbell

June 12, 2013  12:04pm

It's too bad that many times these kinds of discussions boil down to doctrinal sparring and proof texting. I hope that people of all faith could benefit from the ideals that energize young men and women to live a selfless live dedicated to others at some point before marriage and a career. Our world would be a better place if we could direct the idealism of youth to help the needy around the world. I am a lifelong Mormon and served as mission in South Korea. I also happen to teach journalism at Brigham Young University. I will respectively disagree with Mr. Divito's jaded view of LDS doctrine and what is motivating young men and women to serve missions. I look forward to some emptier classrooms this fall because of this change, I have had a first-hand view of men and women preparing to serve around the world. Mr. Divito's theological reading of LDS motivation is wrong in this case. I never seen youth more excited to serve Christ and help lift people around the world.

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Daniel Dinnell

June 08, 2013  7:51pm

Christ taught, "... but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments'... " (Matthew 19:16-17) Why do so many who claim to be Christian, seek to prove or state there are ways around that??? Jesus taught, "…If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10) "…Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven…" (Matthew 7:21) “…Nevertheless, a certain one will say: “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.” You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder. But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith apart from works is inactive? Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works..." (James 2:18-24)

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 31, 2013  6:49pm

Well Robert, I posted a 12-part response (I told you it was long) but it was removed by a moderator so I guess you'll have to contact me directly if you want to read it. I'm on Facebook and an ask-the-apologist volunteer at fairlds.org if you want to contact me.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 29, 2013  5:03pm

Robert, I see a reviewer has removed my email address so please contact me through Facebook or through our LDS FAIR group. I have answers to your questions I'd like to send you but I cannot do it using 1000 character comments as my answers are too long. Contact me or leave a way for me to send my answers to you.

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Robert Jordan

May 29, 2013  12:05am

Michael, --- Re your statement, “Prophets, like all men, gain understanding ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’... and until they do so on a particular subject, may lack knowledge and may err in their understanding”. . . Then why are they allowed to speak at General Conference when they don’t yet have their facts straight? cf. the quote from Thomas S Monson, “Such blessings are earned”. . . Moreover, why is this errant teaching still available on the official LDS Church website? You see why I doubt the Restoration? If a matter this simple to understand, this simple to correct, has remained unattended for decades, then it hardly looks like the Holy Spirit of God is leading the LDS Church.

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Robert Jordan

May 29, 2013  12:01am

Michael, --- Re failure to correct the Bible Dictionary on Grace. . . If something as crucial for understanding God and what He’s done for humanity through Jesus the Christ can’t be gotten straight in 180+ years, well, you’ll pardon my stubborn skepticism as to the reality of the Restoration of Power and Authority through the LDS Church.

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Robert Jordan

May 28, 2013  11:56pm

Michael, --- Re your statement, “It is true that our LDS theology amalgamates two schools of thought on salvation which effectively reconciles the teachings of both Paul and James on the subject”. . . I can only state that I wasn’t aware the teachings of Paul & James needed reconciliation. . . --- Re adding repentance to the “formula” for salvation. . . . Sure, as a conceptual brush maybe that works. But what I want to know is: Who’s got my back when I fail to see I need to repent?. . . --- Re Free Grace Theology . . . Like Openness Theology, from what little I’ve heard of it, I don’t care to know any more about it. Both appear brittle & hollow to me so I feel no need to investigate further. There is so little time to read... --- Re “counter-cult and anti-Mormon characterizations of LDS beliefs”. . . I wouldn’t know. I don’t have the time/inclination to read that kind of literature. It’s in the same enormous pile as the books on Free Grace Theology & Openness Theology & countless more.

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Fred Anson

May 28, 2013  11:33pm

Sadly it appears that Greg Stier is committed to regurgitating the same errant thesis that he has been confronted on elsewhere. From an open letter to Mr. Stier that I published in January of this year: "...when this article was originally posted 5-years ago [that is 2008] I contacted you privately and asked you this simple question: “Doctrine and/or theology aside the LdS Church is (using sociological criteria alone) a Mind Control Cult. What’s the point of comparing our behavior with such a group – let alone holding up their practices as an example of things that we should/could be doing? ... Yet, here we are 5-years later and here it is all over again – I’m utterly baffled by this Mr. Stiers, especially since not only has NOTHING changed in the LdS Church in this regard, things have actually gotten worse." (from "An Open Letter to Greg Stier", Beggar's Bread 1/27/2013) Why is Christianity Today enabling Mr. Stier's errant reasoning and arguments by republishing his folly?

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 28, 2013  10:56am

President Joseph Fielding Smith has told us: "It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203-4).

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 28, 2013  10:51am

Robert, as to your question regarding "Where is the Restored Power & Authority?" I think you misunderstand how little of what we believe is actually considered doctrine and how much latitude we have in our own personal beliefs. Our scriptures and official statements by the presiding quorums (1st Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles) of the Church are the repository for LDS doctrine. We do not censor members for what they believe, we only ask them to justify what they teach others using our scriptures. Wilcox et. al. do that. By the same token, we believe our agency is a God-given right and is sacrosanct. There is no doctrine of infallibility in the LDS Church. Prophets, like all men, gain understanding "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Isa. 28:10; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12; 128:21) and until they do so on a particular subject, may lack knowledge and may err in their understanding.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 28, 2013  10:33am

I have not read “The Cost of Discipleship" but I have read a few of Bonhoeffer's writings on line. I have read more of John MacArthur writings on Lordship. From what I've read, they both seem to agree with our LDS soteriology and disagree with Free Grace Theology. Would you agree? BTW, I don't claim to be an expert on anyone's beliefs but mine. I'm glad to hear that you now realize you know less about our beliefs than you thought. That indicates you're now beginning to recognize that the counter-cult and anti-Mormon characterizations of LDS beliefs are false. They are! As to your questioning if I know what I believe, you may want to google my name and check out the links to "Answering Challenging Mormon Questions." As to why our Bible Dictionary definition on grace has not been corrected, I don't know. I believe the Book of Mormon quotes I cited previously contradict part of that definition. I believe the reason no one is correcting Wilcox, et. al. is because they're right.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 28, 2013  9:47am

With regard to syncretism, I only commented that our beliefs come through revelation from God which is recorded in our scriptures. We do not attempt to amalgamate the various beliefs of others. Our doctrines come directly from God. It is true that our LDS theology amalgamates two schools of thought on salvation which effectively reconciles the teachings of both Paul and James on the subject but I believe your summary of our belief is still lacking. The concept of working as hard as you can, then God comes in and makes up the rest is true but you have to include repentance in that formula as well. Our own best efforts will always come up short but the Lord forgives us when we recognize that and repent. That's what our communion (we call it sacrament) is all about.

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Robert Jordan

May 27, 2013  10:09pm

For example, when you say, “I am a member in full fellowship as are Williams, Wilcox, Robinson, and Millet and we all disagree with Brother Williams”. . . . I say, OK, but if Brother Williams is so clearly out of line why does the Restored Power & Authority not correct him? And why doesn’t Brother Williams change his teaching? Why in fact is he allowed to edit critical books on LDS teaching and doctrine(e.g. The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter)?

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Robert Jordan

May 27, 2013  10:09pm

Michael, When you say, “Given that there is nothing in scripture which mandates the use of the cross as a symbol or item of worship...” I must say you completely misunderstand what Bonhoeffer was getting at. Have you read “The Cost of Discipleship”? . . . . In fact, as I read down through your contributions to this comment thread, and take them at face value, I must confess I know less about the LDS Church with each successive post. This has been one of the most confusing conversations I’ve ever been a part of. Are you sure you know what you believe? . . . . For example, my point in quoting the Bible Dictionary on grace is that particular definition has outlasted at least 6 First Presidencies. If it is as wrong as you say it is, and if it’s that obvious to you (and Wilcox, Robinson, and Millet), then why has no one corrected this false teaching? Where is the Restored Power & Authority?

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Robert Jordan

May 27, 2013  10:07pm

Michael, You need to broaden your understanding of the word syncretism to include it’s full definition: “The amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.”. . . The last term is most apropos to the present discussion - LDS theology amalgamates two schools of thought on salvation. That of grace (the unmerited gift of God in-and-through Jesus the Christ) and that of works. . . . As my previous quotes show only too well the LDS GA’s teach, and have always taught, a syncretism of human effort + God’s effort = salvation. . . . First you work as hard as you can, then God comes in and makes up the rest. It’s a nice formula but as no one can manage the first step it becomes only a ‘plan of salvation’ in theory, not in practice.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  4:25pm

You also asked, “… where the power and authority is to keep [our members] in line? And … I want to know why the LDS Church teaches Syncretism?” You need to understand that prophets are not infallible and scriptures are not always to be taken literally. The Holy Ghost is the source of all truth for us. Through it we can better understand what truths the scriptures are meant to teach. If it’s not true, it’s not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brigham Young taught, “Our religion is simply the truth. It is all said in this one expression – it embraces all truth wherever found, in all the works of God and man that are visible and invisible to mortal eye….” (Brigham Young, JoD, vol. 10, p. 251) He also stated, “the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord." (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, pp. 162-3)

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  4:14pm

Robert, you asked, “Where is the cross in LDS teaching?” Latter-day Saints do not object to the cross; they simply do not come out of a historical period or tradition in which its use was common. Given that there is nothing in scripture which mandates the use of the cross as a symbol or item of worship, Latter-day Saints prefer to make their Christian discipleship evident by the conduct and caliber of their lives. In our communion services which we celebrate weekly, we remember the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ and covenant to follow him. Joseph Smith when asked what the fundamental principles of the Church were, responded: ”...the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121)

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  4:00pm

Robert. You said, “The Bible Dictionary is part of the Standard Works - you can’t get any more “official” than that. Those definitions have outlasted how many First Presidencies? You are being disingenuous when you claim the Bible Dictionary is not official.” If you look at the preface to our Bible Dictionary you’ll see it states: Many of the entries draw on the work of Bible scholars and are subject to reevaluation as new research or revelation comes to light. This dictionary is provided to help your study of the scriptures and is not intended as an official statement of Church doctrine or an endorsement of the historical and cultural views set forth.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  3:55pm

You seem to think all Mormons believe alike. I am a member in full fellowship as are Williams, Wilcox, Robinson, and Millet and we all disagree with Brother Williams. The prophet Joseph Smith taught, "We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316.) "One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth. Let it come from where it may." (An American Prophets Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, p. 395.) "...the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter Day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived it's members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter Day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time." (The Journal of Joseph)

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  3:49pm

Robert, you say we are accused of “syncretism.” I’m not sure who accuses us of that philosophy but article 6 of our Articles of Faith states: We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth. (See http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng) We also believe that the doctrines of our church are the doctrines of the church Jesus founded and has been restored through revelation. If our doctrines happen to be doctrines found in other churches then that is only because those churches are basing those doctrines on teachings in the Bible. I did not ignore the small selection of quotes I supplied from recent GA’s (including then apostle Monson [1984]). See our official statement on doctrine at: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine This especially applies to Clyde J. Williams who is not an LDS authority.

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Robert Jordan

May 27, 2013  2:23pm

You name a number of Free Grace proponents - I’ve never heard of nor read any of them. As I said previously, cheap grace is in the current lexicon because Evangelical leaders have taken Bonhoeffer’s lesson and carried it forward. Syncretism is a form of cheap grace. Bonhoeffer expressly taught against the Syncretism the GA’s of the LDS Church teach and have always taught. . . . Bonhoeffer says cheap grace is “grace without the cross”. Where is the cross in LDS teaching? The cross is the crux of the grace of Christ. Why, except as mere historical fact, is that missing from LDS teaching? . . . . Considering those 4 men (Williams, Wilcox, Robinson, Millet) are officially employed by the LDS Church I want to know where the power and authority is to keep them in line? And if they are in line, I want to know why the LDS Church teaches Syncretism?

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Robert Jordan

May 27, 2013  2:20pm

Michael... You are obviously well read on these topics. Therefore I know you already know that the LDS are accused of Syncretism, not purely works-based salvation. And I note you handily ignored the small selection of quotes I supplied from recent GA’s (including President Monson) that make this point clear. . . . As CLYDE J. WILLIAMS has said (with the hearty approval of the GA’s); ”When we deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ then and only ‘then is his grace sufficient’ for us (Moroni 10:32)”. . . . The Bible Dictionary is part of the Standard Works - you can’t get any more “official” than that. Those definitions have outlasted how many First Presidencies? You are being disingenuous when you claim the Bible Dictionary is not “official”.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 27, 2013  10:07am

Robert, Cheap grace is also called Free Grace theology; It is the soteriological view teaching that everyone receives eternal life the moment they believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Grace_theology Some of the historical advocates of the Free Grace position are Johannes Agricola, Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Andreas Osiander, John Cotton,[6] Anne Hutchinson,[7] Henry Vane, William Dell, Thomas Boston, Robert Sandeman[8] and Jesse Mercer. Its more recent adherents include L. S. Chafer, Lance Latham, J. Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Miles J. Stanford, Warren W. Wiersbe, Zane C. Hodges, Charles Stanley, Tony Evans, Ernest Pickering, Curtis Hutson, Bruce Wilkinson, Erwin Lutzer, Andrew Ahrens, and William Newell.[9][10] Its prominent present-day expressions are the Grace Evangelical Society, the Free Grace Alliance,[11] the Plymouth Brethren, and the local churches.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 26, 2013  10:37pm

Robert, It seems like comments with several links are quickly deleted here so I suggest you look up "Lordship Controversy" or the writings of John MacArthur on grace. Here are several such sites: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/2263 http://www.gotquestions.org/cheap-grace.html http://barrycooper.com/2012/07/25/why-we-dont-disciple-1-our-churches-pre ach-cheap-grace/

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 26, 2013  10:06pm

Because members and missionaries of the LDS Church may at times emphasize the importance of obedience and works, some might think that the concept of grace is not part of LDS theology. References to grace are found throughout LDS scriptures and writings. The Book of Mormon speaks of grace at least 35 times and the Doctrine and Covenants 28 times. We find Lehi, the first Book of Mormon prophet teaching, "There is no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). Jacob, in the Book of Mormon, likewise taught, "...remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. Wherefore may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine (2 Nephi 10:23-25). There are many more.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 26, 2013  9:49pm

Robert asked, "Why aren’t men like Bradley Wilcox, Stephen Robinson, & Robert Millet under church discipline for teaching, expressly and repeatedly, doctrine flatly contradicted by 180+ years of LDS Church leadership?" First of all, we do not consider our Bible Dictionary to be official doctrine and LDS apostles have taught the importance of grace. See http://www.lds.org/search?lang=eng&collection=global-search&query=grace&x=2 &y=1 An LDS apostle named Bruce R. McConkie has affirmed: "Salvation is free." (2 Nephi 2:4) Justification is free. Neither of them can be purchased; neither can be earned; neither comes by the law of Moses, or by good works, or by any power or ability that man has...." (The Promised Messiah, pp. 346). Also, the Book of Mormon, which is considered doctrine, clearly teaches salvation by grace. See Mosiah 4:6-7; Alma 24:10-11; Moroni 10:32. I cannot include all these quotes due to comment character constraints so please look them up at lds.org/scripture?lang=eng .

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 26, 2013  9:17pm

Robert, as you said, the term was defined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He said, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” If any Evangelical authority preaches any one of the above, that authority is preaching "cheap grace." I'll let you decide if you've heard any of the above being preached. I have known Baptists that tried to convince me that some of the above is indicative that we do not trust in the "finished work of Jesus Christ."

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Robert Jordan

May 26, 2013  12:51pm

Michael, I challenge you to quote any Evangelical authority who teaches cheap grace. I don’t think you can because I don’t know of any. In fact, cheap grace is a term defined (as we use it today) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a devout Lutheran - not some LDS GA. It’s a term still popular today because Evangelical leaders picked up the concept from Bonhoeffer and have consistently carried it forward... And here’s another unanswerable challenge... Why aren’t men like Bradley Wilcox, Stephen Robinson, & Robert Millet under church discipline for teaching, expressly and repeatedly, doctrine flatly contradicted by 180+ years of LDS Church leadership?

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 26, 2013  10:47am

Robert said, "What I never, never, see is an explanation as to why every single LDS President & Apostle knows 2 Nephi 25:23 to mean just what the Bible Dictionary still says today..." You are correct. I have wondered the same thing. I believe the answer is that per the Bible both faith and repentance on our part are essential to salvation while reliance on God's grace and good works are derivative from our faith. The key is that faith is not just a onetime confession of belief but a born again life-changing experience. Thus, saying you're born again and actually being born again can be completely different just as claiming we are saved and being saved are. Christ never preached salvation by grace alone but he did teach obedience to his gospel and the teachings of LDS leaders reflect that same emphasis. Maybe we should ask why Evangelicals are still preaching cheap grace when Jesus never did?

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Robert Jordan

May 25, 2013  6:15pm

I see quotes from Bradley Wilcox, Stephen Robinson, Robert Millet,... What I never, never, see is an explanation as to why every single LDS President & Apostle knows 2 Nephi 25:23 to mean just what the Bible Dictionary still says today; "However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, "It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do"... JAMES E FAUST, "After all we can do to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, the Savior's grace is activated in our lives through the Atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us"... BRUCE C HAFEN, "If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings"... THOMAS S MONSON, "It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings are earned”... Eph 2:10-God is the worker, we the clay are given the grace of Christ as a gift & our choice is no work of merit.

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Pop Seal

May 22, 2013  7:10am

"Because they received not the love of the truth, I will send them strong delusion...." When a soul rejects the simplicity that is in Christ and therefore misses Heaven's redemption and regeneration, that still hungry soul will find a dose of spiritual poison to fill the emptiness that accompanies an unrepentant life. American pop culture religion (TV Christianity) is being shown up for the shame that it is.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 20, 2013  7:05pm

Chris, As far as Mark 16:15, that command was given to the surviving eleven apostles but I believe all Christians should be involved in missionary work as much as possible to fulfill that great commission. I can't speak for the whole church regarding our LDS beliefs regarding African Americans prior to 1978, but I felt all men are created equal and was glad to see the priesthood being given to all worthy males. The members I knew in California were glad to see the change. I feel the leaders were awaiting a revelation on this principle and got it just as the leaders of the church did in Acts chapters 11 and 15. You'll recall that Acts chapter 11 concerns the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles while chapter 15 deals with the continuation of circumcision among Gentile converts. Each involved a significant change in a long-time practice that was accomplished through a revelation to the church leaders.

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Chris Payton

May 20, 2013  4:57pm

Mr. Hickenbotham, I agree with your comment about not looking at ex-adherent-sites, but instead ask people directly. We shouldn't make blanket statements about people, but ask them directly. Just as there are evangelical Christians that have different beliefs and understanding, so there are LDS followers with differences based on my conversations with many over the years. So, based on that, could you talk about your understanding of Mark 16:15 and the LDS position regarding African Americans prior to 1978?

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 19, 2013  12:02pm

The real key to our LDS understanding of scripture is not proof-texting which Christian apologists seem to prefer but revelation. We believe that the original church was established on a foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19-20; 4:11-14). This means that any church that is not led by revelation is not truly led by Jesus Christ but by men. That is where we differ from all other Christian churches today. We base our doctrine not on the Bible but on what the Bible is based on, revelation given through prophets called of God. Our missionary program is founded on the same principle.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 19, 2013  11:37am

Peter, you’re doing exactly what I warned against - quoting Paul while ignoring the rest of the Bible. It leads to misunderstanding. Scriptures can not be read in isolation. Consider the following: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16) Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5) Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:15) … saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5) The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. (1 Peter 3:21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21) See also James 2:14, 17 on faith and works.

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Peter Clark

May 19, 2013  12:12am

Nice article and fun to read all the Mormon comments with all their zeal and scripture references. But the Gospel is simple not necessary to have any more books to be save I have not even begun to get the ones we have down yet. Rom_10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. No more no less. the working out of that can be a little tricky but we don't need another gospel. The whole thing comes down to Sociology, the culture of a minority persecuted group must be tight and supportive or it will not survive. It is the same force that drives people to blow themselves up, Not that Mormons would ever even close do any of those things but their culture tells everyone what to do an what to think. Main stream Christianity has had it moments of zeal and dedication too. But alas now we are fat and comfortable. We would much rather have our children get good paying jobs than missions.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 18, 2013  8:23am

@ Audrey. Going to ex-Mormons and anti-Mormon sites (like utlm) to learn what Mormons really believe is like going to Judas to learn who Jesus was. Just ask a believing Mormon what he or she believes or go to lds.org or mormon.org.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 18, 2013  8:15am

@ Oun Kwon Like most Protestants you apparently have not understood the biblical concept of theosis or deification. Look it up on the Internet. Ask yourself if Jesus was a man and yet God then what is the significance of John 5:19? Now read Revelation 3:21. C. S. Lewis, considered by many as the twentieth century's foremost proponent of "orthodox" Christianity claimed, "There are no ordinary people. We live in a society of possible gods and goddesses" (Weight of Glory, William B. Eerdmans Publishing). "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). As God's children we all are capable of growth beyond our own expectations if we but pattern our lives after the Son's as he patterned his life after the Father's (1 Pet. 2:21; Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:6-7; Jam. 2:5) and inherit all things as Christ has inherited all things (1 Cor. 3:21-23; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 21:7). Read the whole Bible!

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audrey ruth

May 17, 2013  10:46pm

I didn't know there had been a "surge of Mormon youth missionaries". We used to see the guys on bicycles a lot in our community, but I haven't seen them in a couple of years. It is VERY important for Bible-believing Christians to know what Mormons actually believe. Thelma Geer's book Mormonism, Mama, and Me (available at Amazon, maybe at your local library as it is in mine) is a great place to learn the basics. This is a good site to go deeper (many articles from original writings), and also learn from ex-Mormons the most effective way to be a witness to Mormons: www.utlm.org

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 17, 2013  10:37pm

Chris, I have said you need to read the whole Bible, not just those books Paul has written. Our church does not ignore what Jesus taught about faith, repentance, and baptism by water and the Spirit, or obedience to his commandments. It is Evangelicals that have forgotten what Nathan pointed out: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship) Remember "...repentance is bound up with the forgiveness of sins..." (C.H. Spurgeon) Obedience to the gospel (Christ’s law) and gospel ordinances is not legalism. It is what the Lord and His disciples taught. Salvation is not received solely as a result of a confession of faith, but follows a life of faith accompanied by works (Luke 10:25-28; 11:27-28; Acts 2:47; Rom. 11:26; 13:11; 1 Cor. 3:15; 1 Tim. 6:11-12, 18-19; Titus 1:16; Rev. 2:26; 3:5, 21; 12:10-1).

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Oun Kwon

May 17, 2013  10:15pm

O yes, we can learn things from Satanish message - but into opposite direction. As to Mormons, we have to let people know what they are talking about under the cover of nice sounding Christmas songs by Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even with all the enlightenment and general knowledge including science and history and literature, most of people in the world, including the westernized, are mesmerized by cultic nonsense (God, the Creator, was once a man.) Why not say He was once an android to appeal to modern thumb-generation.

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Chris Payton

May 17, 2013  6:22pm

This is exactly what makes talking about matters of faith so much fun. Look at all those scripture references Mr. Hickenbotham references. What a great time of studying and learning from the Word of God. But, don't just read the reference, read the entire chapter of each reference and pray, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in understanding truth, thinking about the polar differences in these two beliefs: laws and ordinances that lead to salvation or Jesus does it all by faith. Good times abound.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 17, 2013  5:42pm

Chris is partially right. There is a difference between the Good News Gospel of Jesus Evangelicals find in the Bible, especially the epistles of Paul, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Mormons view it but both are found in the Bible. See for example: 1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer (Mk. 16:15-18; Jn. 3:16-18; 8:24; Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:8; Heb. 3:17-19; 10:38-39;1 Pet. 1:9; 1 Jn. 5:5) 2. Repentance from personal sin (Matt. 21:28-32; Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; Heb. 6:1-2; 1 Jn. 1:8-9) 3. Baptism by immersion by those having authority (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 7:28-30; John 3:5; Acts 2:37-38; 10:47-48; Gal. 3:27; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21) 4. Receipt of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:37-38; 11:16; 1 Cor. 2:11-14; 12:3; 2 Thes. 2:13) 5. Enduring to the end through obedience to gospel teachings (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; Heb. 6:15; Jam. 1:12, 22, 27; 3 Jn. 11; Rev. 2:26; 3:21; 21:7) Both are there if you look.

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Chris Payton

May 17, 2013  4:47pm

Reader: Pay close attention to Mr. Hickenbotham's comments and words. I think we can agree that we desire "converted followers and disciples of Jesus Christ." I, for one, want to follow Jesus Christ all the days of my life. But, he mentions "disciples of Jesus Christ who strive to live his gospel." This is where there is a clear difference. Here is a link to an lds site where the Gospel is Defined: http://bit.ly/109SYda. Note on that page this statement: "The gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses a system of laws and ordinances that leads to salvation." This is different from the "Good news (Gospel) of Jesus" spoken of in the Bible: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf and the new nature we receive by faith, being in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). Our deeds then confirm our being in Christ, but are not the means for salvation. Without deeds (obedience), the new life may not have occurred which means true faith in Jesus hasn't happened. Pay close attention. Be careful.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 17, 2013  2:54pm

I believe John Divito’s criticism boils down to a difference in emphasis in teaching the youth in Evangelical churches and the LDS Church. Evangelical Churches emphasize teaching about God’s grace as exemplified by Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice while the LDS Church emphasizes “following Christ” by obeying His doctrines and gospel. It seems to me the first produces Christian converts who reverence Jesus while the second produces converted disciples of Jesus Christ who strive to live his gospel and want to teach it to others. The Book of Mormon teaches the gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ with such clarity that the youth of our church have no doubt what they are. See, for example: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/31?lang=eng and http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/27?lang=eng. The Bible contains no comparable passages to these. Ask yourselves, Do we want Christian youth or converted followers and disciples of Jesus Christ? That’s the true difference in our programs.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 17, 2013  11:28am

Good comments Dwight. Apparently Chris Payton didn't read them. When I read the above article several days ago, I was struck with how John Divito attempted to discount the value of the LDS missionary program by bringing up grace. Even though he claims to be a former Mormon, he seems never to have really understood the LDS teachings on grace and works. As Dwight has pointed out, we accept all the Bible teachings on the need for obedience to the gospel and good works on our part but acknowledge that it is only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are finally saved from our sins. Repentance has been said to be the most frequently mentioned principle in the Bible. Ask yourselves how often it is preached in your churches. There's a reason biblical writers called us to repent more often than they preached grace. Grace is a free gift to all but we accept that free gift by repenting and obeying Christ's doctrine. (1 John 2:2-6; 2 John 9-10)

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Chris Payton

May 16, 2013  4:16pm

Great article. Appreciate the words from John Divito, a former Mormon on imputed vs infused righteousness. Hits the nail on the head and the whole point is God seeing each person as righteous through faith in Christ, because sinning once makes us imperfect. Good call to Christian youth workers: Make it all about focusing people on Christ. In Christ Alone, as the song says. The ultimate key is always being in Christ.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  4:12pm

To Bob Bobo: The apostle Paul tells us that he received revelation from God and wrote it to the Ephesians in an epistle prior to the Ephesians we have in our Bibles today. This is an epistle we don't have now.(Eph.3:3) Since Paul indicates that he received this information by revelation then it is scripture. If revelation from God is not scripture, than what is? Obviously, there is much missing that was once available to the early Christians. So, by the standard set up by some Christians today, the early Christians can’t be Christians because they had other books and other epistles that they believed were scripture but which are not now in our New Testaments. Even Paul is not Christian because he wrote other epistles. Both the Old and the New Testaments tell us of other scripture that is now missing from our Bibles. See: Exodus 24:7, Numbers 21:14, Joshua 10:13. 1 Kings 11:41, 1 Chron. 29:29, 2 Chron. 9:29, 2 Chron.12:15, 2 Chron. 20:34, 2 Chron. 26:22, 2 Chron. 33:19, 1 Cor.5:

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  4:11pm

To Bob Bobo: The 27 books of New Testament is a collection of separate books which was not proposed until Athanasius’s Easter letter of 367 AD. Before that different Christian branches preserved or believed in various texts as scripture. For instance, The first known list of New Testament books is from a fragment found at Rome dating to the late second century written by Marcion. It includes Hebrews, 1st and 2nd Peter, James, 3rd John, Wisdom, The Apocalyps of Peter, and The Shepherd of Hermas. These were believed to be canonical at that time. Other early lists of canonical scripture, compiled by early Christians, have survived. These include books that are no longer in our canon today.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  4:09pm

To Bob Bobo: Some groups claim the Mormons believe in scripture outside the 66 books of the Bible and that makes Mormons non-Christian. OK. Let’s take that standard and apply it to Christians. The Catholics have a Bible that contains a number of other books not in the Protestant Bible. . The Catholic Bible includes books, such as Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, The History of Susanna, and Maccabees, which are not included in the Protestant Bible. Does that make Catholics not Christian because they have canonized more than 66 books? And if so, where does that leave the Protestants who came out of the Catholics? If the Catholics are not Christian then the Protestants who came out from them aren’t either.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  4:07pm

Bob Bobo asks “how can you add another book to the bible thousand years after its been excepted as Canon?” There is nothing in the Book of Revelations which says that it is the end of prophecy. In fact, the Book of Revelations itself says that there would be future revelation from angels and future prophets. See Revelations chapter 11 and chapter 14. Revelations 22:18-19 says do not add to or take from the words of “this book.” “This Book” means the book that John was writing. The Bible, including the NT was not yet assembled. In Deuteronomy 4:2 God says don’t add or diminish from his word. But God gave most of the Bible after Deuteronomy. Clearly, man is not to add or subtract from God’s word once it is given. But it is equally clear that God can give more whenever He wants to. And he always does so by revelation to prophets.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  4:03pm

Crab Grass says "Mormons don't acknowledge the Jesus Christ is eternal God." Well, being a little better informed would be helpful. Note what Mormons believe from their own source: 2 Nephi 26:12(From the Book of Mormon) 12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; 2 Nephi 11:7 (From the Book of Mormon) 7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:54pm

2 Nephi 24:26 (from the Book of Mormon) "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26) 2 Nephi 10:24-25 (From the Book of Mormon): 24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. 25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:53pm

Note what Mormons believe taken from their own sources: Alma 22:14 (from the Book of Mormon) 14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king. 2 Nephi 25:23 (from the Book of Mormon) 23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:52pm

“The early Christians [and Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it's conditioned on obedience.... “The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.” (David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999[1989]), 57, 61–62)

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:51pm

One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians: “If there's any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it's the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don't hold to this doctrine aren't really Christians… “Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there's an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the "false dilemma," by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it's either (1) a gift from God or (2) it's something we earn by our works. " Continued next post.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:50pm

Mormons are often accused of ignoring Christ’s grace and of trying to work their way to salvation. However, an accurate look at what Mormons actually teach shows a very balanced approach which mirrors the balanced teaching of Grace and Works found in the Bible.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:49pm

“…For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works...” (Mt. 16:27) “…and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour…” (1 Cor. 3:8) “…But because of thy hardness and impenitence of heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the Day of Wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by patient continuance in welldoing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;..” (Rom. 2:5-7) “…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad…” (2 Cor. 5:10)

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:49pm

We read the teaching of the Savior where He lists some of the commandments we must keep to “have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:20-22). Again, we can’t keep those commandments without His grace. We can’t do it on our own. Nevertheless, we can’t deny Jesus’ words that we must do it. Jesus taught that whoso breaks the commandments, even “the least of these” and “teach men so” will be “the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Here, Jesus is saying the same thing that Mormons say, or more accurately, Mormons teach what Jesus taught. Mormons are following the teaching of Jesus concerning keeping the commandments when we “do and teach them.” Those are the words of Jesus: “do and teach them.”

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:48pm

Obeying God is clearly the other side of the coin to the teachings of grace in the Bible. It is incomplete to stress only Grace or only Works. They are both part of the gospel as taught in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Even confessing that Jesus is our savior is a work that we must actually do. If we were saved from sin solely on grace alone than salvation would be automatic regardless of what we do. There would be no need to even confess Jesus as our Savior let alone try to live a good Christian life.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:47pm

People who think they can work their way to salvation have missed the grace side of the coin. However, in Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and other places, Paul also stresses the necessity to obey the commandments. He gives lists of sinful behavior such as adultery, fornication, lying, and so forth, and says that people who do these will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. For instance see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. And let's not forget about James 2:14-20,24. Clearly, the teachings of Paul and James on works are also Biblical doctrines. Clearly repentance and obedience are necessary else Paul is lying when he says that people who continue to live a lifestyle of sin will not enter into the Kingdom of God.

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Dwight Rogers

May 16, 2013  3:46pm

In the Bible we find both the teaching of salvation by Grace and the teaching of repentance and obedience to the commandments. They are both true. They are both Biblical. Some Christians cherry pick the teachings of the Bible, focusing on one thing that they like and ignore the other parts. Mormons try to understand and believe ALL of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace and Works are two sides to the same coin and are both taught in the Bible. The Apostle Paul writes a lot about salvation by grace. This was to combat the tenancy in many early Jews who converted to Christianity to fall back on obeying the works oriented law of Moses. People who think they can work their way to salvation have missed the grace side of the coin.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 15, 2013  9:27am

As to the restrictive environment that LDS missionaries live under, I can affirm that it does foster a love of Christ and a reliance on the Spirit. Most missionaries return home referring to their mission experience as the best two years of their lives. There was even a LDS movie produced with that title. I have served two missions; one as a youth and one with my wife as a senior couple. We accepted the mission rules willingly and found them to be very helpful and not harmful to our own spirituality. Others can criticize our mission service all they want but it has a proven track record of producing mature men and women with strong testimonies and a love for God and those they serve. Missionary work is not easy but few who return from that experience would choose not to do it again. If your experience is with those that leave the LDS Church, your views will obviously be skewed.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 15, 2013  9:01am

@Martin. By the "Biblical concept of grace," you mean Paul's concept of grace. Beliefs about grace cover a spectrum between two doctrinal extremes. At these extremes there are two theological traps. The first being a belief in salvation by grace alone which can lead to the conclusion that obedience and good works are irrelevant. The second consists of a belief in salvation by works which could cause men to trust wholly in their own labors and genius, erroneously supposing that they will be rewarded hereafter solely upon their own achievements. Both of these beliefs are dangerous and potentially could cause us to fall short of exaltation. The apostle Peter warned us that in the specific area of salvation, it is dangerous to rely solely on the epistles of Paul because these writing were difficult to understand and if misunderstood could lead to destruction (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Evangelicals do just that while ignoring any Bible scriptures encouraging obedience and good works.

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Martin Jacobs

May 15, 2013  5:05am

@Raymond. No, we don't resent the missionaries' self discipline in steering clear of temptation. Jesus commanded us to not even look at temptation, which makes self-discipline commendable. However, when you operate a system when the missionary partners sleep in the same room, wake together, study together, proselytize together, eat together, avoid the internet and other non-approved sources of information together, watch over each other's shoulders all the time, and then have to report any sign of deviancy to the Presiding Bishop, you operate a comprehensive thought-control regime. The most troubling thing about this is that this constant peer pressure isn't about fostering faith in Christ, it's about retaining a testimony that the Mormon Church is true and Joseph Smith is God's foremost prophet. That there is a difference is borne by the testimony of many ex-Mormons who profess to finding faith in Christ, and yet get ostracized because they leave the Mormon church.

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Raymond Swenson

May 14, 2013  11:51pm

Once Mormon missionaries complete their initial training, about one month for those not needing language training, about two months for those immersing in a new language, they have great freedom to plan their schedules. Where they will go each day is completely up to each pair of missionaries. The self discipline exercised by missionaries is no more harmful to them than the self discipline of soldiers or Catholic religious. Much of what looks like unusual levels of self-discipline to some Christians is just normal self-control for Mormons, including abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, dating and hobbies. Some of the comments from ostensible Christians seem to resent the self control that Mormons and missionaries exercise. But remember that Paul repeatedly called on the early saints to not fall back into the moral sins they left behind when they were baptized.

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Martin Jacobs

May 14, 2013  10:17pm

Returning to the article, there is a negative side to the Young Mormon Missionary movement. I don't doubt that the young people involved and their mentors have an ideological motivation, and that they believe they are doing the work of Christ. But, it also locks them down for the key years in their formation as young adults. The purpose is a mixture of converting the world, and converting the missionaries. And I really do mean "lock down" - you can find a list of rules for Missionaries here - some of them are quite sensible, and others ensure that the missionary's mind never strays from the program (e.g. 'Seek advice from your mission president if your companion is "having difficulties') ... http://www.lds4u.com/Missionaries/rules.htm

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Martin Jacobs

May 14, 2013  9:59pm

In a recent discussion among a group of Mormons transitioning to Christianity that I'm involved with, the biggest single motivator for people to transition from Mormonism was the discovery of the Biblical concept of grace. Several people here have posted that Mormonism teaches grace, but the experience of my group is that it is nowhere near their plain reading of the Bible. The "after all you can do" is the predominant thought in the culture and attitude of the Mormon movement. These are people who have done their missionary service, gone through the temple, got married and took their kids through the program, received their Patriarchal Blessings, gave their tithes, obeyed the Word of Wisdom, read and prayed over the Book of Mormon, who previously defended Mormonism, who have been reluctant to leave Mormonism, which makes them key witnesses. When they say its a different Jesus, we ought to listen.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 14, 2013  5:30pm

The charge that Mormons believe in salvation by works is a misrepresentation of LDS doctrine. As I have indicated in previous posts, the teachings of the Church and the Book of Mormon affirm that Christ's sacrifice and God's grace are both essential to our salvation. Our works are important in the sense that they are a token of both faith and obedience (Heb. 5:9; Jam. 2:26) but without Christ's atoning sacrifice no man may be saved (1 Nephi 10:6; 2 Nephi 2:5-7; Jacob 7:12; Mosiah 3:17; 16:10-13; Alma 21:9; 22:14; 41:3-4). On the other hand, those who rely solely on the grace but lack the good works which accompany true faith, will fulfill Christ's prophecy in Matthew 7:21-23. Even though they may claim faith and miracles in Christ's name, to them he will say, "depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” If these are rejected, surely those who only profess Christ's name while failing to obey his gospel will be rejected as well at the day of judgment.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 14, 2013  5:24pm

Emphasis on works is not unique to the LDS Church. It is also found in every major book of the New Testament. Consider the following scriptures: Matthew 5:19; 7:21-23; 16:27; 25:46; Mark 7:6-8; Luke 11:28; 13:3, 27; 14:12-14; John 5:29; Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 10:35; 19:4; Romans 2:5-8, 10, 13; 14:12, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:8, 14; 6:9; 10:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:4, 7-9; Ephesians 6:8; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 1:10; 3:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Timothy 1:19; 6:18-19; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 2:14; Hebrews 4:11; 5:9; 6:4-6; 10:24, 26; 12:15; James 2:24; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 2:20-21; 3:17; 1 John 1:6-9; 2:3-4; 3:10; 2 John 9; 3 John 11; Jude 15; Revelation 2:23, 26; 14:12-13; 20:12-13; 22:14-15. If good works spontaneously springs from faith, why would every New Testament writer feel it necessary to exhort us to keep God's commandments?

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 14, 2013  5:21pm

Chris Payton said, ...visit their Sunday services and Sunday school. There you will see the true LDS follower... rarely speak of grace and rarely speak of Christ's love & the Bible in their services..." While it is true that we rarely speak of grace, we often talk about Christ's love and we study the Bible 2 of every 4 years in Sunday School. Have you noticed that the word grace, according to all four gospel writers, was never used by Jesus Christ? One would think that if grace alone were sufficient to salvation and exaltation then Christ would have taught us this important truth himself. Yet we search in vain for this doctrine among Christ's own sayings. On the other hand, Christ repeatedly emphasized the importance of obedience to gospel teachings and the necessity of good works on our part (Matt. 5:16; 7:21-23; 11:21-23; 16:27; 25:46; Mark 10:17-21; 12:28-34; Luke 7:31-38; 10:25-28; 11:28; 13:3, 24-27; 14:12-14; John 5:29; 7:17; 8:31-34; 13:34-35; 14:15, 21; 15:10). Why is that?

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Jared Lesueur

May 14, 2013  4:22pm

Thank you for your positive article. I am a Mormon and would like to defend our faith from some of the comments John 14 and mattew 7 KJV 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. . it is very clear, from his own mouth, Jesus doesn't just want us to profess his name, but also try to do his works. No place in our scriptures, does it say we will have our own planet. READ Them instead of passing down filth from you pastor about us. Think of all the Jews that missed the greatest thing that has happend to their faith--Christ came and they didn't know it. we claim to have another testament of scripture! doesnt that atleast warrant prayerful reading of it to find out if this is a possibility? Do you trust God enough to ask him after studying it, if its true? careful you could get brainwashed!!

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Roger Wasson

May 14, 2013  1:38pm

They need to be attacked on their belief in God, as well as scrutinized for logical validity and general rationality in their theological arguments. But questioning the belief that God exists reveals all, and causes reassessment of everything else. It also gets immediately to the logical core of all subsequent and more specific spiritual issues. Until and unless the God issue itself gets comprehensively audited and reconstructed, the future of any sect of people who call themselves Christian is precarious, especially because of the current massive abandonment of Christianity by youth. The rolling eyes of Christian youth are the most prophetic empirical phenomenon of our time, and the delayed reaction of over a billion Christians exposed to the so-called new atheism is still ahead.

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Raymond Swenson

May 14, 2013  12:58pm

Surely Paul the apostle was a great exemplar and teacher of the grace of Christ. He was also a great missionary, who worked incessantly to take the good news of Christ's atonement for mankind to cities across the Roman Empire, suffering imprisonment and physical danger, hunger and thirst, so he could teach the gospel. It appears from the essays here, and several of the comments, that many of you have not figured out how Paul's faith in salvation through Christ was related to the hard work he engaged in of proselyting to bring others into the Church of Christ. Mormon missionaries do not work because they reject Christ's grace, but because they have accepted it, just as Paul did. If you continue to misrepresent Mormon beliefs and motives, you will never understand how they can field a force of what is already 60,000 missionaries, with 30,000 new missionaries each year, let alone make progress to match it.

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Raymond Swenson

May 14, 2013  12:44pm

A pair of young Mormon missionaries will spend weeks at a time without direct supervision by their mission president. What gives them confidence that they can find people who are willing to listen to their message, that they can effectively carry the message of the resurrected Christ in a language they never heard a few months before, is based on their lived experience of God's grace and gifts, through the Holy Spirit. In their years of Sunday School, and weekday Seminary, and even more intensely in their days as missionaries, they learn to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide them and advise them, so they can accomplish things they know they could not do without God's help. God's grace is a daily experience for Mormon missionaries, one that they depend on each time they step out the door, in withering heat or blowing snow, to take the message of salvation to all of God's children on earth. If you don't understand this, you do not understand them at all.

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Bob Bobo

May 14, 2013  12:34pm

I just read "gary sanders' post and "Daniel Dinnell"s post. If Gary's explanation of Morminism is true, then I have been misinformed as I hope all Mormons understand salvation that way, and the saved from explantion. Wonderful! If Daniel is LDS, then he/she supports a "works" theology mixed with faith, as is my understanding of LDS. Daniel didnot say if he/she is LDS, but her post sounded that way. If so, we have two different views on salvation (if i'm wrong Daniel forgive me but I dont' understand your point otherwise). BTW, how can you believe marriage is erternal when Jesus made it so clear its not? And how can you add another book to the bible thousand years after its been excepted as Cano n, andconsider it as authoritive? Just asking.

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Raymond Swenson

May 14, 2013  12:32pm

It is great that the authors recognize the reality of what Mormon young adults are accomplishing, in giving their lives to service at a time in their lives when most people are concentrating on their own needs and desires. Unfortunately, denigrating what the Mormon missionaries do by claiming that it is not based on faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ causes you to misunderstand what is happening. In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah Chapter 3, verse 19: "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." The Latter-day Saints are sanctified through Christ's atonement.

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Bob Bobo

May 14, 2013  12:26pm

I understand and see the point that the mormon way spits out serious "believers" that act on there faith, and most evangelical churches are lukewarm comparatively. I take issue with the position of this article. I have great respect for mormons moral and family code, but do I want to teach evangicals the same way or perspective? You siad, "however, we need to adopt their perspective". There perspective is that marriage is for etenity so how do you think they approach a failed marriage? You could say the same when comparing Johova Witness youth knocking on doors. Any family will get results in there religion if they live, breath and teach it 24 hours a day. But do we really want to teach religion? I"m not saying I have the answers, and yes, we need to take Jesus more commited in our lives, and I know your intentions are good, but taking their prespective can only bring chains to Grace.

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Chris Payton

May 14, 2013  11:55am

Evelyn, thanks for the insight on the lowering of missionary age. I hope the Christian readers (non-Mormon) will see from these comments that they need to study and learn their Bible, but more importantly they need to pray fervently for others and like the author, Dare 2 Share. The LDS foundation is not the Bible otherwise they wouldn't work so hard to get you to believe Joseph Smith is a prophet and BOM is true and LDS is true church. My challenge: visit their Sunday services and Sunday school. There you will see the true LDS follower where they rarely speak of grace and rarely speak of Christ's love & the Bible in their services, but instead spend much time talking and sharing about the good deeds they are performing; the charity they are showing to their neighbors. They sing hymns like, "Have I Done Any Good" and "You can Make the Pathway Bright." When talking to a Mormon, understand their terms for they define Christian words differently.

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Crab Grass

May 14, 2013  11:09am

You guys at Christianity Today, a magazine purportedly about Christianity, a faith where the founder said he alone is the way to God, want Christians to look to a cult such as Mormonism as an example? Mormons don't acknowledge the Jesus Christ is eternal God and the only way to heaven. They think one can become a God in the afterlife and get one's own planet. I don't hate Mormons, but they're not Christian. I don't think legalism is the answer, either - making kids get up at 6 AM every morning to do Bible studies and stuff and other things will only make them tired or resentful.

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Gary Sanders

May 14, 2013  8:55am

LDS view on Grace: "His Grace is Sufficient" - Brad Wilcox http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1966&view=1 born-again Christian friends: “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.” They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?” I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!” Then I ask them a question that perhaps they have not fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?” They are so excited about being saved that maybe they are not thinking enough about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for. The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can live after we die but that we can live more abundantly (see John 10:10). The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed (see Romans 8).

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Daniel Dinnell

May 14, 2013  8:41am

Among many that say the same teaching, "... if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments'... " (Matthew 19:16-17) It is so simple, yet we often fail to see it. . . faith and works together are necessary. . . "...If you love Me, you will keep My commandments..." (John 14:15) “…Nevertheless, a certain one will say: “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.” You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder. But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith apart from works is inactive? Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? You behold that [his] faith worked along with his works and by [his] works [his] faith was perfected...” (James 2:18-24) “…For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works...” (Mt. 16:27) “…and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour…” (1 Cor. 3:8) “…the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by patient continuance in welldoing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;..” (Rom. 2:5-7) “…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad…” (2 Cor. 5:10)

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Joel Hardy

May 13, 2013  10:47pm

I appreciate the fact that you and those of other Christian religions are making notice of the missionary service performed by our LDS youth. You said: "What if we inspired them to be fueled by grace and love, not religious duty or pressure? In Christ, we have the security and the strength to faithfully serve him in love." While some of the things you said about why our youth serve missions is true to a small degree and can vary from one person to the next, I can assure you that they are not the main reasons. They serve because of their love of God and Christ which they have developed over their years in the gospel. It is because of this love that they want to be obedient to the command Jesus gave His disciples which still applies to us today: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt 28:19)

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Evelyn Zimmerman

May 13, 2013  6:14pm

As an escapee with my husband after nearly 40 years of Mormonism, I will offer the follwing. 1. The recent surge in the numbers of Mormon missionaires is purely a product of lowering the missionary age from 19 to 18. This spike in missionaries will be entirely short-lived, as the LDS church has cannibalized from teh ranks of future missionaries for this class. 2. The "discipline" the authors discuss is surely there in some forms, but it is anything but genuine. It is instead the reflection of pure indoctrination. Mormon children learn from 18 months old (when they are put in nursery) to bear their testimonies in public that (a.) Joseph Smith is a prophet; (b.) That the LDS church is "true;" (c.) That the Book of Mormon is true; and (d.) That the current president of the LDS church is a prophet. Note that there is rarely anything mentioned of Christ. This indoctrination continues year after year. 3. Morning Mseminary classes are a joke. More students slumber than listen.

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Vic Christian

May 13, 2013  5:21pm

Thanks Cluadio - I have noticed the same. It seems that the managment of "Christianity Today" has am agenda that is contrary to the scriptures. Also - Nathan, how can we discuss the secondary aspects of Mormonism vs Christianity when the primary is completely different as we worship a different Christ? No I do not wish to argue - but if you would like to communicate I am at vicndonna@bluemarble.net.

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Claudio Rodriguez

May 13, 2013  4:13pm

This is the second article on 'let's learn from the Mormons' I have read in Christianity Today so far. This begs the following question: Are you CHRISTIANITY TODAY slowly but surely merging into a some sort of universalistic redemption like many others out there? Scriptures (the Judeo-Christian Bible, the only inspired Word of God) is very clear on the why's and why not of many religious phenomena. I mean, let's cut to the chase in here, what is Christianity Today's editor final agenda? It seems to me that there is one developing in here and it has nothing to do with the inspired Word of God.

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Michael Hickenbotham

May 13, 2013  3:00pm

Actually the "after all you can do" phrase from 2 Nephi 25:23 is compatible with grace. Those who quote this verse often misunderstand the meaning of the last phrase. It reads: For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. Alma 24:10-11 makes it clear that “all we can do” is repent. See http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/24.10-11?lang=eng#9 LDS beliefs are not a system of works-righteousness. LDS beliefs are in accord with the teachings of both Paul and James. We believe in salvation by grace through faith (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:8) but we also believe that faith without works is dead (Jam. 2:17). True faith will be accompanied by good works. Other portions of the Book of Mormon make it clear that our works in no way save us. See http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/2.20-24?lang=eng#19 for example.

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Nathan Jones

May 13, 2013  1:45pm

Hi Chris- I see nothing in contradiction with my theology in what I read from those two theologians. Faith without works is truly dead! “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship "...repentance is bound up with the forgiveness of sins. In Acts 5:31 we read that Jesus is "exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of sins." These two blessings come from that sacred hand which once was nailed to the tree, but is now raised to glory. Repentance and forgiveness are riveted together by the eternal purpose of God. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder. Repentance must go with remission..." -C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace

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Chris Payton

May 13, 2013  1:21pm

Hi Nathan - "After all you can do" is really incompatible with costly grace. I would challenge you to read Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer or All of Grace by Spurgeon. And also examine in your church whether your steps of repentance are being tracked. And then ask yourself, if I don't choose these systems (i.e. ordinances; repentance) that the LDS Church has told me (Heavenly) Father has commanded, what is my outcome?

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Nathan Jones

May 13, 2013  1:03pm

Hi Chris- I was totally with you until your closing line. Of course we have a choice! We are not robots. In fact, we hold free will and "free agency" to be a sacred and essential doctrine in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Chris Payton

May 13, 2013  12:56pm

A true Christian works. We were created for good works. Not by our power, but by God working through us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, works is not a condition for God's acceptance but a response to His love for us. If we are looking out and seeing so few Christians with lives marked by obedience, then we should be concerned that people are misunderstanding grace. It's not cheap grace, but costly grace. When a person truly understands their sin and Christ's fulfillment of the Law, then that person will follow Christ completely. Mormons have erected a very impressive system--but they have no choice, their theology demands it.

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Nathan Jones

May 13, 2013  11:07am

Hello, I am an active Mormon and convert to the church through the missionary efforts of it's youth. I was a junior in college when two 19 year old young men introduced me to the Book of Mormon and since I was raised an agnostic, to the Bible as well. I appreciate the fact that you as a mainstream Christian group are looking to us as examplars of how to engage your youth. How great that minds are being opened to learn from others! I have three children who I am raising in the Gospel and am very grateful for the youth programs which we have which teach them how integral Christ is in our lives. Nathan Jones

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