Converting to Christ or to the church?

In the community where I am currently privileged to live, many churches abound. These churches fill various niches: some serve students, some serve the low-income community, others are historically black, some are conservative, and others are liberal. Many are Evangelical, but there is a large diversity of brands. While having a diversity of churches in an area might seem unsurprising, I have recently been startled by the perspectives of many people who attend these churches.

As a Mormon, I am accustomed to the idea that a proper belief in God must be accompanied by a belief in his authorized church. Although I do not always believe that everything within the LDS church is inspired or even representative of what God might deem “best practices,” I am nevertheless a product of a theological culture in which my participation in God’s church often seems like a measure of my faith in God. In other words, I carry in my head the idea that a decision to stop participating in the Mormon church would be an act of de-conversion not only from the church but also from proper belief in God. In our church, after all, we profess our knowledge that God loves us in the same breath that we profess His church is true. 

However, as I interact with people from the many churches in my community, I begin to notice a pattern. Many of these people are very strong Christians, yet they don’t have allegiance to a particular church. Instead, they often switch churches without guilt or compunction as their lives change in ways that make some churches more conducive to their spiritual growth than others. As one of my neighbors recently put it to me, her testimony is of Christ, not of a particular church. Although she loves The Book of Mormon and programs like Relief Society, she feels that she can add these into her life without actually converting to our church.  They are simply other testaments of Jesus Christ that add value to the core faith she already has.

Surely, our success at propogating ourselves as an organization stems in part from its members’ theological commitment to believing that they can only attend this church.  But these faithful Christians raise questions in my mind.  Are we a culture that focuses on conversion to a specific church and culture more than on conversion to Christ?  And, if so, what does belonging to this church really add to the relationship with the Savior that faithful Christians already have other than access to ordinances that we believe are necessary?  Although church doctrine construes Mormon ordinances as necessary to return to Christ, does our belief in our church risk overshadowing a message about Christ?  Can it make sense within the theology of Mormonism to have a faith in Christ but not a faith in the church?  Has conversion to the church always been such a strong aspect of Mormonism, or in early times was conversion to Christ and his gospel more detached from an organization?

Comments

  1. Unfortunately, I am afraid that an awful lot of us are converted to the church and not the Savior. Your post, along with one or two others I have read recently, has lead me to make a decision. In SS and RS, I am going to pick out the references to Christ in that particular day’s lesson and somehow work them into the class discussions. Without Him, none of these other things we are being taught would matter at all.

  2. Anonymous here says:

    I am a poor Mormon. I might have made a decent Christian. The LDS church has layers of stuff on top of Jesus that are part and parcel of the faith. Jesus isn’t enough. You need authority and ordinances done properly and living prophets who show the way. Strip away all that stuff and you have Jesus left. Strip away all that stuff and it’s not Mormon. If you believe that all you need is Jesus, then there’s no need to be Mormon.

  3. Jonathan Green says:

    A false dichotomy, perhaps?

  4. I would just point out the idea that LDS churches worldwide are pretty similar…from how they are built (well, there’s some variation, of course) to the lessons that they will teach each Sunday. That’s actually somewhat reassuring IMO. Not only that, but generally, everyone is encouraged to be in the same ward. There are distinctions (student wards, singles wards, family wards, etc.,) but generally, we don’t just say, “If you’re more liberal, go here…if you’re more conservative, go there.” It’s based on your geographical location.

    …I guess that dodges the question about whether we *convert* to the church or to Christ…but I guess I wanted it like that.

    I guess I would say (on the issue) is that when I hear traditional/nonMormon Christian views and interpretations of Christ, it *does* sound foreign to me…and quite frankly, I do not prefer these views (perhaps that’s because I’ve spent so many years being heckled by Christians who want to “witness to” Mormons). So another possibility is that instead of people converting to the church instead of to Christ, they convert to Christ *through* the church, which is to say that they still are converted to Christ, but an idea of which doesn’t make much sense outside of the church.

  5. Theologically, in Mormonism, I think coming to the Church and coming to Christ are the same thing–one is no more important than the other. I believe this is part of the point of the revisions Elder Poelman made to his talk on the Church and the gospel. I believe there is a similar thrust in Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity–that coming to Christ and coming to the authorized Church are inextricably intertwined.

    While theologically, the two are likely of equal importance, culturally, I think that belief and loyalty to the Church are first for many Latter-day Saints. Please note my word “culturally.” As primary evidence, I would point to a typical testimony of a young child in every ward I have lived in: “I’d like to bear my testimony that [1] I know the Church is true and [2] I love my family.” From the mouths of babes . . . .

    Of course, there is nothing wrong with that testimony. That was my testimony when I was young. By stating that I knew the Church was true, I was including the truth of everything–believing in God, believing and loving Jesus, keeping the commandments, the truth of the scriptures, the story of Joseph Smith. The coming to Jesus was included under the umbrella of being an active believing member of the Church.

    As I have aged, my worldview and faith have changed. At least I think it has. I now see my faith in a loving God (including Jesus Christ) as the overarching umbrella under which my commitment to the Church falls. That is, I once believed in God because I believed in the Church. I now believe in the Church because I believe in God.

  6. MikeInWeHo says:

    “…in early times was conversion to Christ and his gospel more detached from an organization?”

    My sense is that in early times (I assume by “early” you mean the period just after the Restoration) it was all about conversion to the Church, because the early converts came from Christian backgrounds.

    When I investigated the Church over 20 years ago the message was all about the Restoration, the restored priesthood, etc. I came from a Christian background so it was assumed that I already had faith in Christ.

  7. I think if you asked every member which was more important, the Church or Christ, and made them pick only one, the answer would be nearly 100% Christ.

    Mike’s #6 is instructive, since I believe a lot gets assumed and too often overlooked because of that assumption. A bedrock faith in Christ is one of those assumed things.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Right on David (#5).

  9. Jonathan (3) beat me to it, only I wouldn’t have said “perhaps?”

    I do not understand the tendency so frequently expressed or implied lately that because God loves all his children, or because there is some truth in all churches, or because all men are born with the Light of Christ, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the priesthood conferred upon its members, with the ordinances and knowledge of things past, present and future restored to it, may be just one of many acceptable paths.

    Christ leads the church — THIS church — in a way that is unique among all organizations that claim to follow Him, and true conversion implies a conversion to both the organization and its Head. Anything less is kidding yourself.

  10. StillConfused says:

    I actually there is something to wanting and/or needing something different from a religious perspective at different parts of your life.

  11. I was first led to Christ through the Church, Christ keeps me here. It’s all chicken and eggs to me. Nice post Natalie.

  12. David said, “coming to the Church and coming to Christ are the same thing”

    I am not so sure this is true. I think these are 2 different things. I think converts come to Christ first and then to the Church but those born in the Church come to Christ after. These things don’t happen at the same time so they really can’t be the same thing. For me the church was my basis of faith from about 12 to 19 which is when I was converted to Christ.

  13. I came to the Church, and the Church led me to Christ. Before that, I knew almost nothing about Christ and his ministry.

  14. #9 Ardis Parshall–

    I agree! Well said.

  15. Great post. I think you are able to raise these questions because most Christians have succeeded in redefining what it means to be converted to Christ. These days it means to so many of them having a personal relationship with Christ. But I wish they could believe that we manifest our conversion to Christ by doing his works, striving towards his perfection, and serving in his kingdom.

  16. @ Jerry (12.)

    I think (5.) actually agrees with you. DavidH said “theologically” they are the same thing, but culturally (or as a matter of practice) they are not. Thus, your description of your progression in the Church (which is similar to my own), is more or less exactly what DavidH described in the latter half of his comment.

  17. I actually find the denominational malleability of American Protestantism somewhat wishy-washy. I like the idea of belonging to a specific church, to a specific Zion, rather than wandering about in the broad Protestant space. And I don’t even know what this idea of “converted to Christ” actually means. In practice, it sounds to me a little bit like “converted to a higher power.” I don’t intend to demean those who are believers of this system on general principles, but I don’t find that position to have any theological or emotional or religious hold on me.
    The failure to engage a community in the pursuit of Christ feels to me both insipid and “market-oriented,” neither of which I prefer in my religion. If I weren’t Mormon, I’d be Catholic. If I weren’t Mormon or Catholic, I would choose a Protestant denomination and stick with it.

  18. I have many friends that whose works, striving for perfection, and serving Christ is the focus of their lives and they get that from from churches other than the LDS church. We do not have any more claim to works than they do. If you really listen to them the belief system if very close. Believing in Christ and being saved always leads to better works. They have a different emphasis but they do teach works.

    There are differences like repentance but in how people are taught to behave and act is very similar across the Christian faiths.

  19. So what does one do when he finds the church distracting him from knowing Christ?

  20. Jerry: Do they believe they are building Christ’s literal kingdom or just working on their individual pursuits?

  21. GatoraideMomma says:

    What bothers me is that requirement that a person cannot be baptized unless they are living all the basic commandments and rules–micro management “laws” of Moses like the WOW. These are a barrier to being baptized on the same par as breaking the big 10. We really don’t seem to want “newbies” if they are not perfect and are showing signs that they will stick with it and not falter rather than seeing it as “entrance” into the path to the kingdom instead of arrival.

  22. nasamomdele says:

    #19 Mark,

    Without delving into my personal experience of doing so, I would suggest reconsidering your notions of Christ, the Church, and yourself. I think it is a very healthy thing to do. The connection you have with deity is more important than Church, but at the same time is strengthened only in the Church.

    I found Christ through this Church, and I have been anchored in this Church by Christ. I think that being converted to Christ means a number of things:

    1) Accepting Him as savior and Lord, the Most High Priest God, etc.
    2) Accepting His example as the way, the truth, and the life and recognizing that living a life dissimilar leads to spiritual death and failing in one’s purpose on Earth.
    3) Accepting the power of the Priesthood and Church organization of authority and ministry.
    4) Accepting one’s own mortality- the impotent will, our pompous philosophical creeds, our worship of, or inability to, reason, our tendency to project our desires on Christ and mold Him to our ideals rather than know Him, etc. Basically that we tend to let our thoughts, feelings, and desires take us away from Truth for the sake of familiarity or pride.
    5) Accepting that the “Footsteps” poem is just plain cheesy. Okay, that’s editorial.

    Those are just a few things I could think of.

    I don’t think you can separate Christ from the Church or the Church from Christ. Men might run willy-nilly doing all kinds of strange things in the Church, but it is where the power of God and the power of Christ unto salvation are.

  23. nasamomdele says:

    #21,

    ???

  24. GatoraideMomma says:

    #22..someone who is taking the missionary lessons becomes converted to Christ and believes the church is true and Christ is his/her Savior and desires to be baptized…so the quit living with their boyfriend/girlfriend, they stop shoplifting, they stop swearing, and even given tithes, but they are “weak” and haven’t been able to break the cup of coffee in the morning…that “Law” of Consumption/food regulations which harken unto many dietary rules of the Old Testament and is certaintly not a “moral” issue (but a lack of obedience) will keep the person from being baptized as much as if he/she had continued to live with the significant other without benefit of marriage or was not following the other of the 10 commandents. Should this keep a person from Christian Baptism if they have faith and repented of so many significant “sins”?

  25. GatoraideMomma: Reference #24. Let’s use a drivers license as a comparative analogy. Supposing I’m willing to obey all the rules of the road, except I’m “weak” and haven’t been able to break the habit of running Stop signs. Should I be granted a license anyway?

    The Church is not intended to be easy to get into – it’s intended to be worthwhile. It all revolves around the type of eternal future you want. Do you want to go straight to the top, or will you be content with lesser glory?

    There’s no disgrace in aspiring for terrestrial or even telestial glory, but the mission of the Church is to prepare people for celestial glory. Consequently, the Church would not be fulfilling its mission if it dumbed itself down to make itself more accessible. In an age where moral relativism runs amok and everything seems negotiable, I want at least one entity that boldly proclaims “I am the Truth and the Way”.

  26. Antonio Parr says:

    ~Although church doctrine construes Mormon ordinances as necessary to return to Christ, does our belief in our church risk overshadowing a message about Christ?~

    This is an important and relevant question.

    I have seen in many wards, and in many stakes, a profound absence of Christ-centered talk and focus. By “Christ-centered”, I mean comments that refer specifically to Jesus of Nazareth and his mortal ministry (including the things that the Master Teacher taught and did). I am not alone in this observation, as Elder Oaks gave a talk on this very topic at a BYU devotional (“The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ – http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7103)

    Elder Oaks began his talk by noting:

    ~This evening I will speak about a subject of immense importance. Because of my earlier responsibilities, I have given many talks from this pulpit at BYU. Yet I have no hesitancy in saying that this message is the most important I have ever given here.~

    He then shared this experience and made the following observation:

    ~A few years ago I received a letter from a man who said he had attended an LDS testimony meeting and listened to seventeen testimonies without hearing the Savior mentioned or referred to in any way. He also wrote that the following Sunday he listened to a priesthood lesson, a Gospel Doctrine lesson, and seven sacrament meeting speakers without hearing any reference to Jesus Christ (see “Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, November 1990, p. 30). Some may have considered that report an exaggeration or an extreme case. The similar accounts I have received in subsequent letters persuade me that this was not an isolated experience. In too many of our classes, in too many of our worship services, we are not teaching of Christ and testifying of Christ in the way we should. This is one way we are failing to “remember the new covenant.”

    To cite another example, I believe that for a time and until recently our public talks and our literature were deficient in the frequency and depth with which they explained and rejoiced in those doctrinal subjects most closely related to the atonement of the Savior. A prominent gospel scholar saw this deficiency in our church periodicals published in a twenty-three year period ending in 1983 (Daniel H. Ludlow observation, cited in Bruce C. Hafen, The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989], pp. 3 4). I saw this same deficiency when I reviewed the subjects of general conference addresses during the decade ending in the mid-1980s. ~

    Thus, observations about an absence of Christ-centeredness in the Church should not be written off as the mere ramblings of naysayers, but, instead, reflect a very real problem in modern Mormonism.

    I fear that the Church’s current curriculum magnifies this problem. With the New Testament covered only once every four years, and with the four gospels being mashed into one, the Church as a body limits its study of the life of Jesus to approximately 6 months out of every four years. Contrast this with the current curriculum, in which one goes from Sunday School studying the life of Joseph Smith to Priesthood where the current manual is the Teachings of Joseph Smith. If the Sacrament Speakers do not talk of Jesus’ life and/or teachings, then one can leave a 3 hour block with a complete absence of talking of Christ (and, I believe, a corresponding absence of rejoicing in Christ). This is a very sad thing, since there is great power and light and life and hope that is found in our Saviour and Examplar, and a failure to truly ~worship~ ~Jesus~ is a problem that simply should not be, since LDS doctrine is quite clear that Christ is the way and the truth and the life. (For a remarkable summary of the proper place of Jesus of Nazareth in our personal and collective lives, see the General Conference address by then Elder Howard W. Hunter entited “What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?” (http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=7994425e0848b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1).

    Thankfully, in spite of the very real (and, at times, severe) problem of an absence of Christ-centered discourse in the Church, the organization nevertheless offers sublime Christ-centered moments. The Temple reminds us of the supremecy of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. And, most powerfully, the weekly Sacrament prayers set forth as succinct and powerful statement of life in Christ as I have found anywhere:

    “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may

    eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and

    witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and

    always remember him, and

    keep his commandments which he hath given them,

    that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”

    As we as a people strive to remember ~him~ always, as we strive to remember his body and his blood and his footsteps and his hands and his voice and his teachings and the look in his eyes as he blessed and served the outcast and the hungry and the sick and the lonely, we shall have his spirit to be with us individually and collectively.

    I hope and pray that a visitor would never leave an LDS meeting without a very clear impression that we as a people worship Jesus. When we do it right, there is no better place on earth to be than meeting at a table prepared in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, gathered together to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus; to follow him and keep his commandments.

    To remember him always.

  27. “they often switch churches without guilt or compunction as their lives change in ways that make some churches more conducive to their spiritual growth than others”

    It is possible for me to imagine a young man who joins a church as a teenager and finds Christ in the great youth activities the church runs. But then he becomes sexually active and finds this conservative church non-conducive to his spiritual growth so he moves to a more liberal church and finds Christ in their acceptance of his new lifestyle. But then as a young married with small children he finds this church isn’t family orientated enough so he moves to a more family-focused church and finds Christ there. But then this church starts to make demands on his time that he isn’t comfortable with so he moves to a church with a paid clergy where he doesn’t have to be so involved, which is more conducive to his spirituality at that time in his life. But then he finds this church doesn’t agree with his position on some hot topic political issues of the day so he moves again.

    While this hypothetical man would like tell you he moved churches as his spiritual journey changed it seems just as likely he moved when his church made inconvenient demands of him.

    Natalie, I really liked your post, but I think in the culture you describe individuals run the risk of shaping God in their own image rather than the other way round.

  28. I also think Eugene England’s excellent “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel” is relevant to this discussion.

    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/115-6-61-69.pdf

  29. Natalie, priesthood authority is not only the key to the Restoration of the Gospel, it is also the reason that the Church institution is important. The authorized ordinances are not a mere trifle. Jonathan Green is right in hinting that this is a false dichotomy (ordinances or Christ, one or the other).

  30. If you truly believe in Christ, you believe in His life, His example, His words, and His authority and ability to do what He did.

    If I truly have faith in Him, the question is not what I feel I need right now in my life, but what Christ has said I need. Although this post presents a good thing to ponder, I am left with the feeling that choosing a Church should not be about what fits me, but should be about what fits Christ.

  31. Peter LLC says:

    I do not understand the tendency so frequently expressed or implied lately that … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … may be just one of many acceptable paths.

    That is a pretty strained reading of this post, I have to say.

  32. Asking ourselves “Will this teach me of Christ?” is a much weaker question than asking “Will this lead me to Christ?” Similarly, “Will this lead me to Christ?” is a weaker question than “Will this transform me to be as Christ is?” Once one is asking the stronger questions, the next question to ask is “Will this enable the fastest growth rate?”

    As the strength of the question increases, the number of acceptable options in response decreases.

    If one is asking the stronger questions, then Christ and the Church really do become a union.

  33. I once overheard a group of black women talking about their faith and noticed the amazing portability of their faith. I couldn’t help but compare this to people I have known over the years who have left the church — and seemingly also left Christ — and wondered if they were in fact converted to the church or to Christ. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing for people to leave the church. I guess I would just feel better if they didn’t leave Christ in the process. Who knows where they might end up….possibly even back in the church???

  34. That is a pretty strained reading of this post, I have to say.

    No, Peter, you really don’t have to say it — it’s understood by now that you won’t agree with anything I write, ever.

  35. I came to Christ first, then Christ led me to the church. Without the church, Christ alone was a tremendous benefit in my life, and a huge change of heart, however, the church with its teachings made so many things clear to me that I don’t think I would have gained separately on my own. I’m not as true a seer as Joseph Smith was. The revelations he received and blessed all of us with are extremely important. Without them I would have much less light.

    In a practical sense, Christ saved my life and lifted me up, freeing me from the chains of the bitter hell I inhabited then. Later when I found the church, its teachings prompted me to embark on working toward averting human extinction. Without the understanding that this is God’s work, that my hands only have to do their part, that throughout my life and when I die there are many others who will be there to continue the work because they’re called to it, and together we’re being directed by a higher power, without that knowledge that it’s our job to build Zion, to transform the earth into a living paradise, I would never have had the audacity to work toward such ambitious goals. Now I realize no goal is too ambitious. I wouldn’t have been able to think on this level without all the knowledge I’ve gained from being LDS, without the understanding that I’m a divine eternal being, with my powers limited only by my own slowness in progressing toward a more Christlike state. This is what resonates so deeply for me about the church. This is why I’m a Mormon.

  36. Antonio #26, Long but very well said. I had this thrown at me several years ago by a Catholic friend that wondered why we never talkof Christ. I started paying attention and I can go months without hearing more than a side reference about Christ in our church meetings and never in our daily lives. But I am just as guilty as anyone for not be more vocal. I got up then every fast sunday there would be 1.

  37. re # 35, great, inspiring insight, Tatiana!

  38. If we want to receive salvation and exaltation, then we need to be committed to Christ. This commitment comes through the waters of baptism – where we take on His name. Therefore, we will become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – as it is the only Church with the Priesthood of God on the Earth.

    We also need to stay committed to Christ through regular church attendance – as that is the place where we can renew the covenants we made at baptism. Additionally, if we want to receive exaltation, we will go to the temple and make additional covenants with Him. This requires true commitment to Christ, and to the tenants of the modern Mormon Church (Which, it should be remembered – Is Christ’s Church).

    I think that we only need to go to the Book of Mormon for the answer to the question – 2 Nephi 31. This is the very doctrine of Christ.

    If we are converted to Christ, then we will
    1. Be baptized (which not only puts us on the path to the Father, but it is THE ONLY WAY we can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost – which gift cannot be offered through any other church as they lack the necessary authority.): “…follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repening of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism–yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 31:13).

    2. Stay committed – to Christ and His Gospel. “And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the ned, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:19-20).

    Finally, Nephi reminds us, “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21).

    In regards to people who are investigating our Church, then I think that we should be both loving and unequivocal about the truthfullness of the statement that there IS only one way, and that way IS only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith pondered this very sentiment years ago, and when He went to the Lord, the answer was direct. Sure this may steer some people away from the church, and I don’t mean it to be a “mean” or “judgemental” statement. Many churches have many wonderful things to offer, but none of them can offer true Salvation.

  39. Natalie, the non-allegiance you have observed is part of the bedrock of the protestant reformation, straight from Martin Luther. In his rebellion from the Catholic church Luther proposed that authority derives not from an authorized priest in an authorized parish but from the community of believers in Christ. Thus any organized group of protestant believers may be sufficient for their needs but is not necessary since it is the greater community that matters, not the particular congregation. The attacks on Mormons as non-Christian derive directly from that same foundational principle. I think LDS members would understand more about their protestant friends and how they see us if they understood more about Luther.

    But I’m troubled by the false dichotomy spoken of by others here, that somehow that foundational principle is more pure than our foundational principle that Christ has restored his presence and authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. As has been said, under that principle we come unto Christ by coming unto his Church, they are one and the same. And that is why I chafe at the eloquent but I think misapplied sentiments of comments like Antonio Parr’s regarding the paucity of Christ in LDS practice. If this is the church that Christ himself established and authorized then everything we do can be endowed with his presence and done in his name. Like the Shakers who believed that their whole lives, including song, architecture and invention, were a manifestation of their faith, I believe that in the LDS model even a discussion of food storage is a discussion of Christ because there is nothing temporal in his restored kingdom, it is all part of one great whole. I think that message is evident in much of what Joeseph thought and wrote.

    To decry our commitment to the church instead of our commitment to Christ is misunderstanding the restoration. It is saying, “Mormons should be more like the protestants because that is the better way”. Mormons aren’t Protestants, we can never be and remain Mormons.

  40. It’s not just about “accepting” some Diving Being or being converted to Him. It’s about making contact, establishing meaningful relations with, learning to touch and be touched by Him. His body is a source of power, accessible through ordinances (“this [the shared eucharistic meal] is my body” — a source of real power to shape and bless people and communities), and through participation in a community. The Church, ideally, furnishes real access to both. It provides the means through which we access contact with and the power of Christ’s body.

  41. Yea, moral and spiritual relativism!!!!

    Truth is not relative. Read some philosophy.

  42. Peter LLC says:

    it’s understood by now that you won’t agree with anything I write, ever.

    Like James Bond, I never say never. 8)

  43. I’m a lifelong Mormon, but I’ve gone to about a decade of Protestant services with my husband. I’ve noticed that there are many things that factor into a Protestant’s choice of church, but the “trueness” of the church itself is rarely if ever one of them. Without a claim to exclusivity, there’s no final word on things the way that Mormons get that from prophets and Catholics get it from the Pope. And that has its costs.

    It means finding truth is up to the individual, which is appealing if you’re frustrated with the Church, but can also be frustrating if you’re not sure how to find truth. The senior minister at the Church where my husband works just went through a major crisis involving an affair and leaving the ministry. This could happen to anyone, of course, but I think it’s revealing that his comment to my husband the day before he skipped town was, “I’d take your faith over anyone’s here.” (We haven’t heard from him since, but I very much doubt he’s sought out the LDS missionaries).

    In Mormonism, the trueness of the Church is inextricably connected with the authority of its leadership, as #39 said so well.

  44. Natalie B. says:

    I just want to make one thing clear about some of the neighbors I discussed in this post. Some people seem to be suggesting that these people switch churches because they don’t want to fully live up to what God demands. That might be true for some, but for many others their commitment to following the commandments is absolute and their commitments to Christian service I think often surpass what I see in our church. Even though they have switched churches, it is not because they somehow think they’d be asked to do less or to keep fewer of the commandments in other churches. They simply don’t have a theological perspective in which the truth of a church matters, so they seek out the congregations that push them. We can disagree with their perspective, but we should refrain from making uninformed judgments about their reasons for switching churches.

  45. Natalie, most of the people I know who have switched churches have done so because they come to yearn for something that they don’t find or feel in their current church. If that yearning weren’t there (and strong), we would have no converts to our own church. Belittling those who search and move from one church to another simply strikes me as ironic from a Mormon perspective.

    I have hashed out the “Christ can’t be found in the LDS Church” argument with Antonio previously, so I won’t reignite it again. I will reiterate only that what he describes is the POLAR OPPOSITE of what I have experienced in the Church.

  46. As the ward organist, I have to point out that, even in sacrament meetings like so many of us attend where the speakers only mention Christ as they close their talks (“in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”), it may be that the hymns are the only place where His life and mission are the focus of the entire congregation. Even if it is only during the Sacrament hymn, for about three minutes we are all joining together in worshipping Christ. That is part of why I take seriously what could otherwise seem like a mindless calling.

  47. Natalie – For the first 42 years of my life I was converted to the church. My testimony slowly increased based on the words of others and on the traditions of my family and my community. I followed the steps that I was told were necessary for my salvation, but without really undertsanding why.

    Then, after some traumatic life experience and an acceptance of my dependence on the Lord’s love, I became converted to Christ. The difference in my life is like night and day.

  48. CS Eric – I’m so glad you take it seriously! I passionately believe the role of the organist is to LEAD congregational singing (the chorister is absolutely pointless). Hymns played well make an incalculable impact on the spirituality of a Sacrament meeting. I can’t number the Sacrament meetings I’ve sat through when the only time I felt the Spirit was during the hymns.

  49. Alma 13:16

    Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

    (Seems to support the idea that coming to Christ and coming to His Church are intimately related)

  50. Adam Greenwood says:

    #3, #9,
    A-frickin-men.

    Can’t believe in the groom and the marriage if you deny the bride.

  51. Madera Verde says:

    Another way of stating the question: Is salvation wholly individual or does it have community elements in it too. In mormon theology, that community element is considered essential. ‘If ye are not one, ye are not mine’
    From that need to have a functioning united community comes the need for leaders and hierarchy, programs, meeting together oft etc.
    To boil it down to a phrase — My salvation: It takes a village centered on Christ. : )

  52. Antonio Parr says:

    If Christ is our Examplar, then what is wrong with making a communal goal to talk about His life as least as much as we talk about the life of Joseph Smith or the life of modern prophets?

    My comment no. 26 cites testimonies by Elder Oaks and Elder Hunter about the need to talk of Christ more. In spite of this citation of authority, my lament about the absence of Christ-centeredness was labeled as “misapplied”. (Actually, it was all but ignored, but such things happen in the world of blogging . . . )

    I stand by my observation of the need to make the Savior our primary example, and have yet to see a cogent argument why this should not be the case.

  53. Antonio, the reason why you’re not seeing cogent opposing arguments is that by and large people are agreeing with you. The entire debate is about where on the spectrum people fall between approaching Christ via scriptures/personal experience and approaching him via the institutional Church.

  54. We talk about yearning for more than they get at church and then reject those in our own church that have the same feelings. I do feel that I get most of what I need spiritually but my did not and she essentially left the church.

    I also think a big question to address is would Christ be welcome in our meetings? If he walked in the way he walked into the synagogs he would be dressed in a golf shirt and casual slacks or shorts and would have wine with meals and at special occasions and have a goatee. This describes the average working man today. Could we accept his appearance? Teachings woul be less of a problem.

  55. Antonio Parr says:

    Steve:

    I understand the nuances of the eloquent post that generated the discussion, and recognize that my comments address the periphery and not the center of Natalie B’s comments. That being said, I believe that any chasm between approaching Christ via scriptures/personal experience and approaching him via the institutional church narrows considerably when the institutional church experience is one that is profoundly Christ centered. The remarkable LDS ordinance of the Sacrament goes a long way towards accomplishing this. We seal the deal when we remember to remember Jesus Christ.

    Regards.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    Antonio, again not much argument here. I agree with the approach, and would imagine that most do.

  57. When I taught the Gospel Essentials class, I was asked by a new convert if we would be Mormons in Heaven. My reply was no, just followers of Jesus Christ.

    The Church for me is the earthly institution that has the most correct and the most complete teachings of Christ our Savior. Culturally I don’t fit very well into the Mormon mold but the Priesthood and the fullness of the Gospel keep me engaged.

  58. #44 and #45 – I have no intention to judge or belittle anyone’s decision to change churches. I don’t know your neighbors and even if I did I cannot know their hearts. I’m sure that they and many others change churches (even regularly) for the most noble reasons and no doubt are impressed by God to do so. But the original post highlighted the advantages of a culture in which switching churches was the norm. I was merely trying to point out that while there may be advantages (eg. a new spiritual challenge; additional truth) there are also surely downsides (eg. finding God on our terms rather than His).

    BTW, I wouldn’t judge or belittle the hypothetical man in #27 either. If I hadn’t grown up in a church where loyalty to church was so strongly instilled in me, the hypothetical story would likely be my own.

  59. I have often categorized the Church into three categories in order of importance: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the commandments and the culture of the Church. Too many Latter-Day Saints are converted to the culture of the Church and fail to understand that the foundation of the Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I sense that the Brethren do and the fact that many of us don’t is a frustration to them.

  60. Rameumptom says:

    I think it is apples and oranges. Christian churches will generally all lead you to the terrestrial kingdom and to Christ.
    LDS Church will lead a person not just to a terrestrial realm, but potentially to the Celestial. We become not just children of Christ, but heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

  61. Carlos U. says:

    #32 b,
    Thank you for your post. You were able to express clearly a thought I’ve been strugling to put in words for years.

    Hi, Catania. Fancy to see you here. Any baby news?

  62. Carlos – Yes – a baby girl born 21 Mar. Perhaps in a few weeks you and Mary can come over for some dinner and to meet the new one.

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