William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On The Alleged Lack Of Success Of "Anti-Mormons"

The comment was made:

"While studying for my Sunday School lesson this week, I came across a story in the "Additional teaching ideas". To me this sums up the failure of those who engage in the "politics of destruction" (To use a modern day phrase). I will let the quote and scripture speak for themselves...
From Lesson 31
Have class members read 1 Thessalonians 2:2-3. Point out that Paul said the gospel should be taught with boldness and without deceit or trickery. Elder James E. Talmage added that we should boldly teach the truth without criticizing or attacking other people's beliefs. Share the following story to illustrate this:
When he was a student, Elder Talmage was once approached by a man offering to sell him an excellent oil lamp. Elder Talmage already had a lamp he felt was satisfactory, but he allowed the lamp seller to come up to his room to demonstrate.
"We entered my room, and I put a match to my well-trimmed lamp. My visitor was high in his praise. It was the best lamp of its kind, he said, and he had never seen a lamp in better trim. He turned the wick up and down, and pronounced the judgment perfect.
"Now", he said, "with your permission I'll light my lamp," taking it from his satchel. Its light made bright the remotest corner of my room. Its brilliant blaze made the flame in my lamp weak and pale. Until that moment of convincing demonstration I had never known the dim obscurity in which I had lived and labored, studied and struggled.
Elder Talmage bought the new lamp, and he later suggested what we can learn from the lamp seller as we teach the gospel: The man who would sell a lamp did not disparage mine. He placed his greater light alongside my feebler flame, and I hasted to obtain it.
"The missionary servants of the Church of Jesus Christ today are sent forth, not to assail nor ridicule the beliefs of men, but to set before the world a superior light, by which the smoky dimness of the flickering flames of man-made creeds shall be apparent. The work of the Church is constructive, not destructive" (in Albert L. Zobell Jr., Story Gems [1953], 45-48; see also The Parables of James E. Talmage, comp. Albert L. Zobell Jr. [1973], 1-6).
11th Article of Faith
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
Your comments please..."

To which I responded:

1. Is there in fact agreement on the point that "Anti's are so unsuccessful"? What are you basing this statement on? The low conversion rates from LDS to evangelical Christianity? Those rates are rather low, although I have two siblings who fall into that category. But what about other statistics? What about people who were raised LDS just drifting away from religiosity generally and going inactive? What about extremely low retention rates among converts in many parts of the world such as Europe and South America? I suppose part of the issue depends upon how you define "anti." Do you mean largely uneducated bigotted evangelical fundamentalists who try to pretend in their tracts that current LDS doctrine consists of some now-obscure comments made by dead leaders? Or do you also mean to include the more secular and scholarly skepticism of LDS dogma? It seems to me that at least the latter is quite successful. My impression is that, among the people who make a conscious thought-out decision to leave the LDS faith, the great majority do so for reasons other than fundamentalist evangelical concerns.

2. I agree with much of the sentiment already posted that the inevitable conclusion one must draw from the claim that the LDS faith is the only true church, etc., is that all other churches are false and illegitimate. There is nothing wrong believing in the principle of one true church. But let's not pretend that people won't have a tendancy to be offended by that doctrine. There are ways to go about preaching one's views without being overly offensive. But you can't eliminate all disagreement and possibility of offense.

As to the empirical claim that the LDS church does not "assail nor ridicule the beliefs of men," all one needs to do to disprove that is listen to Hinckley, Packer, Ballard, or Holland give a talk on perceived sexual immorality in the world. You'd think practically the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket.

No comments:

Post a Comment