Wednesday, April 30, 2008

M. Russell Ballard on the Principle of Repentance: Response to Aaron Shafovaloff

In a blog post entitled M. Russell Ballard's New Media: A Source of Active Member Missionary Participation that I posted 29 April 2008 Aaron Shafovaloff responded to my saying how busy Elder Ballard was...

"Of course Ballard is an extremely busy man. What I am saying is that he needs to manage his time such that he spends meaningful time in public in a manner that:

- uses the God-given medium of the internet

- comes with an institutional stamp of "official"

- addresses pressing doctrinal issues

I have outlined some suggested topics on my blog post. I have a hard time thinking that an issue like repentance---something that is so basic to authentic Christianity---is not important enough for him to clarify."

Since Mr. Shafovaloff doesn't understand that the LDS Church is very high tech and has indexed all official talks from official Church publications and Conference addresses I have conducted a quick review of what M. Russell Ballard has had to say about repentance for the past twenty years. It took me approximately one hour. I know that Elder Ballard speaks on the the basic principles of the gospel (faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism for remission, and laying on of hands for confirmation of the Gift of the Holy Ghost) on a regular basis as he conducts news conferences across the United States and internationally in his Church assignments. Everything he says is not recorded in the papers or on the LDS website. Many of his talks or interviews are summarized in the LDS Newsroom since he is over Public Affairs which is the official LDS public relations vehicle. You can actually Google M. Russell Ballard's remarks on repentance.

I perused the Internet on some of Elder Ballard's statements in his regional news meetings the last several months in December 2007 he said to the Boston Globe:

"IDEAS: Is there something central that you would want people to know about Mormonism, that you think they don't understand?

BALLARD: That we are very much a part of the Christian community. At the very core and center of all that we do is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Though there are some doctrinal differences...we all need to be together in some common objectives of trying to help the human family at a very difficult time."

I did a search on the official LDS Website under M. Russell Ballard and repentance. I will only given a brief amount of excerpts on what he is said about repentance to show he covers basic Christian doctrines, you can click on a link to find out the entirety of his statements.

How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary

M. Russell Ballard

Of course, repentance is possible and is a great blessing. I plead with the youth, don’t get into that!

Gospel Library > Magazines > New Era > March 2007

O Be Wise

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign November 2006 Brothers and sisters, while I was studying the Book of Mormon recently, one of the teachings of the prophet Jacob caught my attention. O that we may be wise enough to understand, to repent as necessary, and to let go of our guilt.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > November 2006

Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home

M. Russell Ballard

Without the Restoration we would not have the blessings of priesthood ordinances that are valid in time and eternity. We would not know the conditions of repentance, nor would we understand the reality of the resurrection. We would not have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

When we truly understand how great a blessing the gospel of Jesus Christ is in our lives, when we accept and embrace these eternal truths and allow them to sink deep into our hearts and souls, we experience a “mighty change” (Alma 5:14) in our hearts. We are filled with love and gratitude. As the prophet Alma wrote, we feel “to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) to all who will hear it.

“O, that I were an angel,” Alma said, “and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

“Yea, I would declare unto every soul … the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:1–2).

So it should be with us, my brothers and sisters. Our love for the Lord and appreciation for the Restoration of the gospel are all the motivation we need to share what gives us much joy and happiness. It is the most natural thing in the world for us to do, and yet far too many of us are hesitant to share our testimonies with others.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Liahona > May 2006

The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign March 2006 As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in the process of drafting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It was a remarkable experience for all of us.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > March 2006

Finding Freedom

President Boyd K. Packer Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Elder M. Russell Ballard Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “The everlasting peace Jesus promises is an inner peace, born in faith, anchored by testimony, nurtured with love, and expressed through continual obedience and repentance.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > September 2004

Be Strong in the Lord

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign July 2004 Long before the world was formed, Satan and those who followed after him raged against the forces of good and tried to overthrow the work of God. Both approaches have merit, but we need to go to the Topical Guide or the index from time to time and read all that the Lord has said on repentance, faith, or some other principle.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > July 2004

Bishops, branch presidents receive practical counsel

Elders M. Russell Ballard and Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve offered instruction to bishops, branch presidents and their counselors during the June 2004 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting. Below are several of the questions posed by bishops, along with excerpts of responses from Elder Ballard and Elder Eyring.

Question: We are often very overwhelmed with things we have to do or that which we are not doing. . . . In a busy situation, how do you prepare yourself to receive the Spirit? Reading the scriptures is very important in a regular way. Perhaps you can give us a little insight on how you read the scriptures.
Elder Ballard: "I find that if I read towards a subject that I want to enlighten my mind with, I get better focus out of the scriptures than if I just pick it up and just read the scriptures. For example, if (you are) concerned about forgiveness or repentance or the Atonement or any of these kind of doctrinal issues, you can go to the Topical Guide, you can go to the resources, you can look at the cross references on a subject, and you come away — at least I do — come away with some enlightenment on that subject, because (you) study differently."
Elder Eyring: "I find I need to read enough, even as I go from one scripture to another, to get the context — what is happening, who is the person. Because if you're going to have it to use with someone, it isn't just words, it's how the words were used, where they come from."

Question: The first several times I had people come in with significant problems, I realized that Sunday School had not necessarily prepared me for helping someone else go through the repentance process. What is the goal of the repentance process, and how do you know when you've achieved it?
Elder Eyring: "(Members) have to be really penitent to even get started in the process. And you do that differently with different people. Sometimes in certain situations you do it by warning them, and it's quite severe. Other times you tell them about the great opportunities they're not going to be able to have if they don't repent. You have to find some way to have the broken heart and the contrite spirit. When that comes, you're on the way."
Elder Ballard: "(Ask members seeking repentance to) 'share with me how you feel about the Savior? What does He mean to you now? What does His Atonement mean?' And then just sit back and let them talk to you. If that's very shallow, their response, I don't know that they have paid the price yet, to be able to be washed clean by the blessing of the Atonement. There's a price that has to be paid. And one of the ways that I think a priesthood leader can determine whether or not that price is being seriously striven for by the member of the Church that's before you is if they can testify in their own words, with real feeling and meaning, and you can feel it and know that it's genuine and sincere."

(Church News,
Saturday, June 26, 2004, p. 5).

The Atonement and the Value of One Soul

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign May 2004 This past January our family suffered the tragic loss of our grandson Nathan in an airplane crash. It was Jesus who said, “If … you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (; emphasis added).

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > May 2004

The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom

M. Russell Ballard

We sometimes fail to understand that the everlasting peace Jesus promises is an inner peace, born in faith, anchored by testimony, nurtured with love, and expressed through continual obedience and repentance. When we learned that they were going to be baptized, Sister Ballard and I attended the baptismal service.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Liahona > July 2002

“His Word Ye Shall Receive”

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Liahona July 2001 Brothers and sisters, have you ever had the experience of driving around and around the streets of a city with the driver saying, “I know where it is; I’m sure I can find it”? We encourage you who need to repent to go forward with faith and become clean before the Lord.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Liahona > July 2001

Like a Flame Unquenchable

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign May 1999 Brothers and sisters, this has been an inspirational two days, and I hope that my remarks will also add to the instruction and the spirit of this general conference. And when mistakes are made, the wondrous Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ must be understood and accepted so that through the complete and sometimes difficult process of repentance, forgiveness and continued hope for the future can be obtained.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > May 1999

Building Bridges of Understanding

M. Russell Ballard

A second reason why some people think Latter-day Saints are not Christian is their belief that we do not accept the doctrine of salvation through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wise are the members of the Church who can visit with those who have this misunderstanding and in kind and factual ways build bridges of understanding by teaching that we accept the doctrine of salvation through the grace of God and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe our Father in Heaven is a God of love and mercy. He is desirous that all of us have joy and eternal happiness. Therefore, before our world was created, He provided an eternal plan for our salvation. The Book of Mormon calls it the “plan of happiness” (Alma 42:16).

Our Heavenly Father’s loving grace or goodness is demonstrated in part by the creation of this beautiful earth with all its bounties. To each of us He has given the precious gift of agency, through which we choose between pathways that lead to happiness or ones that lead to misery (see 2 Ne. 2:27). With perfect foreknowledge, our Heavenly Father knew what His children would experience as a result of the Fall of Adam. Each of us would be subjected to the conditions of temptation, sin, bodily infirmities, and physical death.

Heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent to this earth His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Redeemer (see John 3:16–17). I mention only two of the many things that Jesus accomplished for us that we could not do for ourselves. First, at the conclusion of His mortal ministry, He suffered the Atonement, through which He took upon Himself all our sins and infirmities, suffering “these things for all, that [we] might not suffer if [we] would repent” (D&C 19:16). And second, He broke the bands of death and made it possible for all mankind to be resurrected. This means that after our physical death, we will gain a resurrected, physical body. And if we exercise faith in Him, repent, and are faithful to the gospel covenants we make in the ordinances of salvation, our body will be glorified like the sun (see 1 Cor. 15:40–41). With great emphasis I want to say that all of this is made possible through the grace of Jesus Christ. That is why the great Book of Mormon prophet Nephi wrote, “And 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 Ne. 25:26).

In the Christian world, there has been much debate regarding the relationship of grace and works. To The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both are core doctrines. Just as a pair of scissors requires two blades to function, the Lord’s grace and our works of faith in Christ, personal repentance, and receiving saving ordinances are required for eternal life in God’s presence.

Our works consist of placing our full confidence and trust in Jesus Christ and then exercising our desire and willingness to live by His teachings. We do this by repenting of all our sins and obeying the laws and ordinances of Christ’s gospel. As we do this faithfully over our lifetime, we are sanctified by the Holy Ghost and our nature is changed.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > June 1998

You Promised

M. Russell Ballard

Repentance is not easy; it takes time—painful time! Repentance for such behavior is difficult and painful and may take a long time.

Gospel Library > Magazines > New Era > February 1994

Steadfast in Christ

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign December 1993 Have you ever watched a large ship weigh anchor?

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > December 1993

Keeping Covenants

M. Russell Ballard

Repentance is not easy; it takes time—painful time! Repentance for such behavior is difficult and painful and may take a long time.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > May 1993

The Blessings of Sacrifice

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign May 1992 Last October we listened to many inspired conference messages. The sacrifice he requires of us is “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” () that can lead us to repentance.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > May 1992

Away from the Blinding Dust

M. Russell Ballard

A related misconception is that repentance is easy. Repentance is a great blessing, but you should never make yourself sick just so you can try out the remedy.

Gospel Library > Magazines > New Era > May 1991

Purity Precedes Power

M. Russell Ballard

A related misconception is that repentance is easy. Repentance is a great blessing, but you should never make yourself sick just so you can try out the remedy.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > November 1990

A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings

M. Russell Ballard

I leaned over his bed and said, “I am Elder Ballard. Since repentance and reformation are the primary objectives of any Church disciplinary action, the bishop may feel that the person has done or is doing everything necessary to repent and that a disciplinary council would serve no useful purpose.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > September 1990

Small and Simple Things

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Ensign May 1990 Brothers and sisters, I suppose you are as amazed as I am with the monumental world events that we see unfolding. They know that faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, service to others, and keeping the commandments are the essentials for exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Ensign > May 1990

Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not

M. Russell Ballard

M. Russell Ballard Tambuli March 1988 I recall attending the funeral of an older man who had taken his life.

Gospel Library > Magazines > Liahona > March 1988

Taking Time to Care

M. Russell Ballard

Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. He said, “Really, Brother Ballard?

Gospel Library > Magazines > New Era > October 1986

I agreed with Mr. Shafovaloff that perhaps LDS General Authorities might join the blogging movement but that they tend to use more traditional methods that employ the Internet officially such as their LDS websites, the LDS Newsroom, and the national papers. Ballard asked the general members to respond. I have his email and will forward on Shafovaloff's request. For now I will respond to counter Shafovaloff's point that Ballard as do the other general authorities do not speak on core doctrinal topics.

Shafovaloff might be right that Elder Ballard should put his money where his mouth is or some LDS general authorities should blog on a regular basis. I can't speak for Elder Ballard or get him to personally use the new media but I will make him aware of the desire by non-Mormons to engage LDS General Authorities in such a medium. I don't know if they would shy away because it can get pretty intense and downright contentious to respond back and forth. It is not a controlled environment like an official website where they can correlate and scrutinize what is posted. I think they would hold their own doctrinally but mostly it would be like preaching to the choir since members would mostly read their stuff. But who knows it is an intriguing idea to be able to personally engage an LDS leader on a daily or weekly basis.


Bookslinger said...

If I'm thinking of the same guy, Mr. Shafovaloff is a professional (or dedicated amateur) anti-Mormon, whose sole purpose and methodology is to engage in contention, and twist LDS gospel and LDS history to suit his anti-LDS agenda.

His methodology and his writings are not indicative of sincerity on his part.

I wouldn't dignify his remarks with a response.

But he's young, and he'll likely learn to be more diplomatic as he grows older.

Seth R. said...

I'd second bookslinger here. You're better off not wading in with Aaron.

I already tried it with him myself last year. He's a bright fellow, pretty articulate and very knowledgeable of Mormonism. He doesn't recycle the same blatant stupidity of a lot of anti-Mormons or countercultists. At first glance, he seems like the sort you could have a nice reasonable conversation with.

You're going to be disappointed there.

Aaron does not do "fair conversation." He does not do self-examination. He is relentlessly critical of Mormonism and will not even come close to admitting anything is wrong with his own faith tradition. No matter what you are talking about - every conversation with him becomes about one theme - why Mormons stink and evangelicals are cool.

I tried engaging Mormon Coffee for several months, until it became pretty obvious that I was just being used as an opportunity spit on Mormonism while pretending to have a "balanced conversation." After a while I discovered that I was doing all the giving and he and his blog lackeys were giving nothing back in return. Only one side was trying to be fair and see both sides of the issue - me. There wasn't any attempt from anyone else on that blog to do the same.

This is a tar-baby you've got here. I'd recommend ignoring Aaron altogether. He is a full-time anti-Mormon (yes, that is EXACTLY the correct word to use on him), well-versed in the ins and outs of Utah culture and he knows all the sore spots to poke at relentlessly.

You are not going to get anywhere with Aaron, and I see little benefit in trying. You may think you'd like to try and be "fair" with him. Believe me, it will not be reciprocated.


Aaron Shafovaloff said...

Seth, are you upset that I won't say that any of the fundamental beliefs of evangelicalism are wrong, or that any of the distinctive beliefs of Mormonism are right? I have Mormon friends who does just the opposite, who vehemently oppose the distinctives of traditional Christianity, and consistently promote the fundamental beliefs of Mormonism are right. But that doesn't make them a waste of time to me. Neither would they be a waste if they were ardent atheists who seem inveterately opposed to theism altogether.

And no, I'm not a "full-time anti-Mormon", I'm a part-time volunteer who writes articles and blog entries and does periodic street evangelism. It sounds like you're upset that I won't give in to any of your main arguments.

Dr. B, I was Googling around and saw that I never answered your blog post (or if I did, I don't remember doing so). I will try to publicly respond this Christmas break sometime.

Take care,


Aaron Shafovaloff said...

I need to slow down when I type...

"I have Mormon friends who [do] just the opposite, who vehemently oppose the distinctives of traditional Christianity, and consistently promote the fundamental beliefs of Mormonism [as] right."

Seth R. said...

I don't think it was so much a desire for a "I'll criticize my beliefs if you criticize yours" arrangement Aaron.

It was more irritation that you seemed incapable of recognizing (whether on purpose, or out of ignorance) that some of the same criticisms you'd shoot at Mormonism apply equally to you.

The whole demanding an apology from LDS leadership over "blacks and the priesthood" being a prime case in point.

This coming from a adherent of one of the most racist faith traditions on the face of the planet - Evangelicalism.

Yeah, that's right. Evangelicalism.

Did you know the Southern Baptist convention didn't even bother to apologize for its preachers presiding over lynch mobs, leading KKK rallies, and teaching lovely doctrines like the Mark of Cain (yes, Mormons actually beggared those doctrines from our baptist friends) and Curse of Ham until the last couple years? Bob Jones University only gave a long awaited apology last year for discriminatory policies.

Compared to Evangelicalism, Mormonism has actually been fairly OK on the racial tolerance scale.

Not that this is even relevant. Because you never wanted an apology from LDS leaders in the first place. All you wanted was a nice hook to criticize Mormonism (a tool to hang next to your "Mountain Meadows" tool, and your "Kinderhook" tool, and your "pedophile Joe" tool).

If Pres. Monson actually HAD given a surprise apology for Mormonism's racial problems, we would have received no congratulations from you. You merely would have tossed out some blog post about "how could Brigham Young have gotten this sooo wrong if he was supposed to be a prophet?" Then all your blog buddies could have talked about what a bunch of obvious frauds the Mormon prophets were (and are). The apology would lie quietly forgotten as everyone moves on to a new target of opportunity.

Nothing would be put to rest with you. You'd simply take a different angle of attack and pretend the positives didn't exist. No quarter, no mercy, no credit. That's kind of what I've come to expect with you Aaron.

Even your recent post on Proposition 8 a couple months back only gave the briefest of lip service acknowledging agreement with the LDS moral position. I think it was about one paragraph. But then it was immediately shifted to yet another critique of why this whole mess shows yet another way that Mormonism sucks.

"No stick too ugly to beat a Mormon with" seems to be the motto over at Mormon Coffee. And I got really, really, tired of talking to people who seemed mentally (or worse - morally) incapable of acknowledging that the same criticisms they shot at Mormons applied equally to them.

I'm not asking you to admit that predestination is not true or that creation ex nihilo is false. I ask no compromise on religious beliefs.

I'm just asking for a little more self-reflection, and refraining from using arguments that smear ALL religious believers in the ignorant delusion that it only applies to Mormons. In short, it's your methodology that is distasteful to me, far more so than your beliefs.

P.S. On the racism thing - yes, I am well aware that you take no responsibility for all that Southern Baptist stuff (by mere virtue of being a rogue Evangelical with a Bible). Just one of a long list of things you refuse to take responsibility for - as we have already had out in previous arguments. I imagine hashing it out again would be a waste of time for both of us.

P.P.S. Acknowledged that you do not do the ministry thing full time. Poor word choice on my part.

Aaron Shafovaloff said...

-- It was more irritation that you seemed incapable of recognizing (whether on purpose, or out of ignorance) that some of the same criticisms you'd shoot at Mormonism apply equally to you. The whole demanding an apology from LDS leadership over "blacks and the priesthood" being a prime case in point.

Perhaps you missed this, which I wrote in response to Allen Wyatt of FAIR:

-- There is no question in my mind over whether the seeds of Mormonism’s institutional racism were planted by Protestants. Racism is only the beginning of the list of the embarrassing sins of my religious ancestors. There are worse skeletons than racism in our closet. Furthermore, you and I both come from the same rotten mom and dad, Adam and Eve. The nice thing about sola scriptura (a belief some Mormons seem to retreat to when forced to deal with things like Adam-God) is that I can discard the teachings of historic Jews and Christians when they don’t reflect (explicitly or by inference) a historical-grammatical reading of the Old or New Testament. My leaders have no more access to God than I do, and I am not bound to any one religious hierarchy. God has promised that his people are securely in his hand, but he has not promised that religious leaders who are professing Christians will never lead people astray.

-- Mormons, on the other hand, have been given the promise that their leaders will never lead others astray. When Mormonism touts what it calls “continuing revelation”, living prophets, living apostles, and a modern stream of prophetic counsel, it ups the ante. I can, and I do right now, unequivocally denounce and condemn what Luther said about the Jews. But Mormonism’s leaders haven’t demonstrated a willingness to stand up and unequivocally and explicitly denounce and condemn what it (”it” being the institution with various institutional channels of communication and control) has promoted, perpetuated, enforced, and acquiesced to.


-- Because you never wanted an apology from LDS leaders in the first place.

That is a presumption about my heart-intentions that I don't think you are warranted in making. Again, let me quote another relevant part of my response to Wyatt:

-- You say it is doubtful that we would be happier if the Mormon institution apologized. If the apology was public, explicit, and unequivocal, I am sure—God as my witness—that I would be happy. I am reminded of the countercult community’s response to my April Fool’s joke, where I convinced quite a few people into thinking the Mormon Church had condemned the teachings of Kimball’s notorious The Miracle of Forgiveness and promoted a more gracious and realistic view of repentance which brings immediate and permanent forgiveness. Yeah, we got a few laughs, but at the end of the day I had caused some deep hurt in the hearts of Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. One told me, “when you pray every single day of your life for something ANYTHING to give … then have a euphoric God high and then be dropped flat … all within minutes, it was to say the least … disturbing and heart breaking.” When many of these Christians really thought that the post was the real thing, they rejoiced. People were calling the friends and their spouse, celebrating, opening up, as it were, the champagne. But then when they found out it was an April Fool’s post their hearts sank with a deep hurt and disappointment. I got some pretty painful e-mails.

-- At the end of the day, it is no joke to us. We really want the Church to make right the wrongs and move in an entirely different direction, toward repentance and transformation and liberation. Our hearts and prayers and tears are profoundly invested in that, and for you to flippantly attack us as hateful or disinterested in real change is hurtful and offensive—and I mean it, it’s personal. The only reason your “anti-Mormon” labels hurt and offend us is that we are so intimately close to our ex-Mormon Christian brothers and so heart-set on seeing more of our Mormon neighbors join us in worshiping the one true God for all worlds.


-- If Pres. Monson actually HAD given a surprise apology for Mormonism's racial problems, we would have received no congratulations from you.

I have a Mormon friend who has written personal letters of complaint to Thomas Monson and (if I remember correctly) Richard G. Scott over the issue of teaching forgiveness and mercy by merit from the pulpit of General Conference. This kind of thing is huge (and I have applauded him for it), and if Monson had the integrity to carry out an apology over bad institutionally fostered theology, then it would even be bigger, because Mormonism has historically killed Mormon doctrine not by direct repudiation, but by the assumption it can die a quiet death by lack of repitition. An actual apology over a theological issue would be extraodinary, for it would potentially signal a change of protocol for Mormonism's way of handling error---with integrity. And if that method indeed changes, there would be much more warrant for optimism over Mormonism's future.

-- I ask no compromise on religious beliefs.

You might not realize it, but you actually are asking me to compromise my religious beliefs. My religious beliefs say that repentance and good works should be done with integrity. And if I don't believe an expression of repentance has been done with integrity, it isn't of God. That's one reason why I don't applaud the Church for its reversal in 1978: it didn't have the integrity to publicly renounce the theological foundation that historically served to undergird the priesthood ban. As a Protestant who holds to sola scriptura, I can renounce things (like past Protestant racism) without reservation. But Mormonism has fostered the notion that it is entirely inappropriate to publicly criticize one's leaders.

-- I'm just asking for a little more self-reflection, and refraining from using arguments that smear ALL religious believers in the ignorant delusion that it only applies to Mormons. In short, it's your methodology that is distasteful to me, far more so than your beliefs.

Contrary to your presumptions, I think it's valuable to reflect on internal religious problems before one engages problems with other religions. This is why I said the following just a bit ago:

-- I think that sometimes we get so caught up in contrasting ourselves with other religions that we forget or even ignore the kinds of diversity and disagreements that exist within our own religion. Sometimes we don't even know they are there. I will give you a couple of examples. Within the historic Protestant Christian faith, the position is that a person is justified, forgiven, spiritually adopted, and indwelled with the Holy Spirit by faith alone apart from works. It is a free gift. Progressive sanctification, the slow process of becoming more holy, necessarily and inevitably follows. Baaaaaaa-ing never turned anyone into a sheep, but sheep do baaaaaa.

-- A minority view which seems recent in Protestant history is the non-Lordship position, the view that a person can be a saved, forgiven Christian, but not be a disciple of Christ. That a person can assent to the facts of the gospel, but have no necessary or inevitable life-change. That such a person can enter the kingdom of God, but not necessarily inherit it. I don't agree with this.

-- In the Latter-day Saint tradition, there is what you might call humanistic Mormonism and redemptive Mormonism. Humanistic Mormonism takes its primary cues from the theology that developed from the King Follett Discourse, especially progression unto godhood and the role of personal merit in achieving exaltation. Redemptive Mormonism instead uses more Protestantish language from the Book of Mormon and claims that personal merit has nothing to do with the basis of our exaltation.

-- Another issue that Mormons widely disagree on is the definintion of the prerequisite repentance which brings forgiveness. Spencer Kimball's book "The Miracle of Forgiveness", takes the view that the only repentance which brings forgiveness involves six pre-qualifying steps, one of which is permanent, successful, and comprehensive abandonment of the sinful habit. I believe the works of Stephen E. Robinson and Robert Millett were partially written to do damage control in response to the perfectionism promoted by this book.

-- All that said, I think acknowledging the existence of and interacting with positions within one's own religion better equips you to talk with other religions and think more deeply about the issues.

I simply disagree that an attack on institutional Mormonism for historic racism applies to Protestantism in the same way, and the reason is our differing views of church government, leadership, etc. I don't believe I have an inspired apolostic leadership, nor do I have a hierarchy to which I am bound. We are more decentralized, and have no system of inspired leadership-succession. Similarly, this is why an ideological attack on the past actions and words of Roman popes matters more than attacks on Reformers. I can discard the teaching of a Reformer on a whim. But Catholics in principle have more invested in the historic reliability of their succession of authority figures. So a Protestant preacher and Catholic pope could make the same exact theological error, but it should in principle have more impact on the system of Romanism than on Protestantism.

For all the smack-talk about Protestants being in a denominational anarchy and disorganized mess, we have the benefit of not having to account for any historic leadership to which we do not put ourselves under. So while you could conceivably hold me accountable for sticking around my local church while my local pastor was doing or saying horrible things, you can't accuse me of being immoral for refusing to take responsibility for someone like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Ted Haggard (let alone any dead guy), etc.

Take care,


Seth R. said...

And, as I have told you directly before Aaron, I find that to be a highly convenient, and extremely irresponsible position.

Evangelicals can weasel out of almost anything by an appeal to "me, my Jesus, and my Bible."

Aaron Shafovaloff said...

And, as I have told you directly before Aaron, I find that to be a highly convenient, and extremely irresponsible position.

Evangelicals can weasel out of almost anything by an appeal to "me, my Jesus, and my Bible."

So we should instead align ourselves with a succession/hierarchy, but then weasel out when we learn about something like Adam-God? And then go the whole Millet/Robinson route when we find our modern leaders consistently teaching in Conference that eternal life must be merited?

I'll take sola scriptura any day over having to weasel out of things like that :-) If my theological heroes are found to have taught such a thing as Adam-God, etc, I don't have to deal with them having purported to have been prophets. If I was Mormon, I'd have to believe that true prophets can teach things in Conference and integrate them into the then-temple ceremony, only to have the teaching later condemned as deadly, damnable heresy by someone like apostle Bruce McConkie. In other words, I'd have to go the irresponsible route of drastically lowering the bar for what constitutes disqualifying teachings of an alleged prophet.