Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cult or Not

                    As there are two men known as "Mormons" currently running for the office of President of the United States, their religion has been much in the news.  Most news items are respectful to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but bigotry recently raised its ugly head.

                    Robert Jeffress, the lead pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas and a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry, has been much in the news in recent days.  He told reporters at a Perry event on Friday, October 7, 2011, that Mormonism is a "cult" and that Mitt Romney was not a Christian.  Perry was apparently in Iowa at the time, and he tried to steer clear of this simmering problem by discussing Social Security.  On Saturday, October 8, 2011, Republican presidential hopeful Romney denounced this type of "poisonous language" being used against religious faiths.

                    CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper interviewed Robert Jeffress soon after he made the above referenced statement.  You can watch the interview and read an article about it by Frances Martel here .  In this interview, Cooper asked the anti-Mormon pastor to explain his previous statement.  "Cooper opened up with a broad question asking [Jeffress] to elaborate on what [he] considered a `cult,' and [Jeffress] explained quickly that he considered it a `theological cult as opposed to a sociological cult' because it was founded by a human being - Joseph Smith - and not a divine leader, as well as because they consider the Book of Mormon a new revelation that follows the New Testament.  `They have never been considered a part of historical Christianity,' he concluded, adding that `a lot of people say [they] are Christians, and they are not.'"

                    On Monday, October 10, 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to media calls about the comments of Robert Jeffress.  The official statement of the Church is as follows:  "We really don't want to comment on a statement made at a political event, but those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to"

                    Also on October 10, 2011, John Mark Reynolds posted an article for the Washington Post entitled "Why Evangelicals Must Stand Up to Anti-Mormon Bigotry."   It is a very interesting article about how we should choose our next President of the United States and why we should not choose a President because of his or her religion.  I particularly liked the statement:  "Evangelical Christianity does not place all power in the state and so rejects messianic leaders.  We want a president, not a prophet in office.  A Mormon cannot be my priest, but he can be my political leader."

                    Frances Martel interviewed Mike Huckabee, a prominent evangelical whose "faith made up a significant part of his political identity" in his GOP bid for the White House in 2008.  This interview took place several weeks prior to the current situation but Huckabee's statement is significant.  Huckabee "appreciated Texas Gov. Rick Perry's openness with his faith….  I want to know what a candidate believes … arguing that electing a religious candidate is not the problem but the greater risk is to elect someone who is not honest.'"

                    Huckabee named several prominent members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said "I'd vote for them in a heartbeat."  Since Huckabee is "one of the most prominent voices on the religious right," it was good for him to say that "being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" would not be a "disqualifier."

                    As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am grateful for the integrity shown by Cooper, Reynolds, and Huckabee in rejecting bigotry.  I am grateful for all our friends from other religions and walks of life.

                    Like Huckabee, I believe that it is important for all Americans to "know what a candidate believes."  I believe that we deserve honesty and integrity in our candidates in order that we might make clear choices when we enter the voting booths.  I also agree with Romney that we do not need poisonous comments such as those of Jeffress springing up or playing a role in the GOP race for the White House.  We must be united in seeking to find the right person to replace Barack Obama as President of the United States.

                    I would like to add some enlightenment to this discussion.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often called "Mormons" because we believe in the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  The name "Mormon" was a derogatory name when it was first given to the followers of Joseph Smith.  We do not resent being called Mormons, but we prefer to be called members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or simply Latter-day Saints.

                    I researched the meaning for the word "cult" and found the following definition:  "A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living communally under an authoritarian charismatic leader."  (See The American Heritage College Dictionary, p. 346.)

                    This definition does not describe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its members for several reasons.  To begin with, none of our leaders are authoritarian in any way.  In fact, they would quickly be moved out of their positions if they became authoritarian.  Although many of them are "charismatic" and have pleasing personalities, they lead with love and concern for the members.  In addition, members of our church do not live in communes.  We live in homes and apartments very similar to other people in our neighborhoods and communities.

                    Although many people may consider it to be extreme for anyone to live without coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks, tobacco in any form, or illegal drugs, most intelligent people can quickly understand that all of these substances are bad for our health and lead to other problems as well.  Some people may consider it extreme to dress or behave modestly or to honor the Sabbath.  Although people may consider my lifestyle to be extreme, I could also consider their behaviors to be extreme or unreasonable.

                    This brings us to the "false" part.  I researched the word "Christian" and found this definition:  "Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus" (p 256).  It seems to me that we should be considered as Christians because the name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many people consider members of our church to be "non-Christian" because our beliefs about Jesus Christ may be different from their own.  Other people consider us to be "non-Christian" because we have additional scriptures besides the Bible.  In fact, members of our church study four different books of scripture:  Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.  We believe that God speaks to all of His obedient children no matter where or when they live on earth.  We believe that He wants His children to write the words spoken to them in order to be able to refer back to them or to share them when so impressed.  In fact, having more than one book of scripture is very advantageous as each testifies of the truthfulness of the other books.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe and honor Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and as Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.  We believe that Joseph Smith organized our church under the direction and with the authority of Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus Christ stands at the head of our church and leads it in these last days.  Thus the name:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now I will give some evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot be a cult.  Cults tend to die out or prove to be untrue over a period of time.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began with a very small group of believers in New York in the year 1830.  It is now a worldwide church with over 14 million members, and it continues to grow.  The length of time - nearly 200 years - and the growth of the Church testify that it is not a cult.

  The Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Christ contains a record of Jesus Christ appearing to the inhabitants of the American continents after His resurrection and ascension into heaven.  He was introduced by Heavenly Father: "Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name - hear ye him."  (See 3 Nephi 11:7; italics added.)

  The following scripture found in the Book of Mormon was the answer to my own prayers when I was seeking the truth.  While Jesus Christ was ministering among the Nephites, his disciples on the American continent wanted to know the name by which their church should be known, and Christ answered their question.
"And they said unto him:  Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning this matter. 
"And the Lord said unto them:  Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
"Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name?  For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
"And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.
"Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
"And how be it my church save it be called in my name?  For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
"Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
"And if it so be that church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
"But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
"For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you."  (See 3 Nephi 27:3-12.)

Even though many people claim that the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Christ to be false scripture, no one has been able to prove that it is untrue in nearly 200 years of attempts.  In fact, more and more people read it, ponder its teachings of Christ, ask God if it is true, and testify that God confirmed its truthfulness.

In modern days, the Lord again instructed that His church should bear His name.  When the pioneers were moving to the Great Salt Lake Valley, Jesus Christ instructed, "Let all the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those who journey with them, be organized into companies, with a covenant and promise to keep all the commandments and statutes of the Lord…." 

I have not personally seen God, but I have felt His presence with me many times.  I feel His presence now as I type these words, and I felt His presence confirming to me that the Book of Mormon is true.  Because of the assurances of the Holy Ghost, I testify that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God and that he translated the Book of Mormon through the mercy and power of God.  I also give my testimony that Joseph organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the authority and power of Jesus Christ - who proclaimed this church to be "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually."  (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:30.)    

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