Friday, August 29, 2008

Born-Again Mormon

When I went to the Missionary Training Center a year after becoming a member of the Church, I earned the nickname "born-again Mormon" because of my evangelical Christian background and my enthusiasm for Christ and his teachings. At the time I saw no conflict between my acceptance of Jesus as my personal Savior and my conversion to Mormonism. And I still become dismayed when I encounter conflict between the two groups. Since my days at the MTC, I haven't heard the term "born-again Mormon" used to describe someone who has experienced a change of heart depending on the Savior to rescue them from sin and yet who embraces the truths of the restored gospel. The term is instead used to signify a Mormon who has left the Church because of their conversion to a brand of evangelical Christianity.

Such is the case with Micah Wilder and his Christian rock group, Adam's Road.

I knew the Wilder family quite well when we lived in Indiana. Micah's mother was the RS President when I was Compassionate Service leader, and we worked closely together. My husband home taught the family, my oldest daughter had a crush on their son, and I babysat the youngest Wilder daughter. We haven't been in touch in quite a while, but Micah and his band have recently been in the news. Apparently he changed his views while on a mission, was sent home two weeks early and influenced several missionaries and a recent convert from the Florida area who have joined together in this band. His brother, a talented pianist, soon followed, along with other members of the Wilder family. His mother, a professor at BYU, resigned her position and left the Church with her husband and the boys.

It is difficult for me to come to terms with my reaction to this news. I feel greatly saddened that these young RM's were unable to find the love of Jesus within the Church. Since I know the family, I've listened to several hours of interviews with these young men and I don't agree with many of the conclusions that they have made. I think that the Mormons DO rely on Christ's atonement to save us. Although we have doctrinal differences, there are also large differences among the Christian sects. I really believe that we are worshipping the same God and the same Jesus.

I don't know if all my Mormon friends would agree that they are "born again," or that the sacrifice of Christ has already saved them. What about you? Can you say, as these young men do: "I am saved--my life is yours alone"?

29 comments:

Jenn said...

I remember being approached by evangelical missionaries several years ago who asked me something to the effect, "Have you declared Christ as your personal Saviour?" I was thrilled by the question and responded easily and earnestly, "Yes!" They were a tiny disturbed by that and tried to tell me it wasn't the right Christ. Your post if nothing else reminded me that my answer today is the same. I love and serve Him and yes, I fall short, but that's the beauty of it all!

SingleSpeed said...

It is valid criticism that Jesus and the New Testament don't get nearly as much attention in the LDS church as Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that people choose to leave the LDS church while searching for Jesus. Let's be honest: if a person wants to hear a New Testament message about the earthly ministry of Jesus, they are far more likely to find that in other churches than in the LDS church on any given sunday.

I think it's simply a reflection of the volume of theology/culture that forms the LDS framework. We don't spend nearly as much time talking about the Bible as other churches because we've got to fit in discussions of the BOM and D&C as well. We can't talk about the original 12 apostles nearly as much as other churches because we've got 15 more modern ones to discuss, too. We can't talk as much about Jesus as other churches do because we've got SO MANY OTHER THINGS to cover that we forget to focus on Christ.

It's not intentional, it's just how it happens, I think. It's our responsibility to make sure sacrament talks are about Jesus. It's our responsibility to make sure that sunday school and Priesthood/RS lessons are about Jesus.

S.Faux said...

BIV:

I don't have a problem with the phrase "born-again" Mormon, and I am NOT bashful about being "saved." However, I don't think of being saved as a singular event but as a daily event. I need all the atonement I can get. ... Oh, yeah, and all the grace I can get too. Do I need God? Absolutely. I cannot do without.

I don't quite agree with singlespeed's comment that Jesus does not get much attention. When I go to the LDS Church I am immersed in Christ. First of all, the sacrament accomplishes that immersion. Also, my Bishop has insisted that the atonement be a continuing theme in ALL meetings. Further, I cannot read scripture without thinking of Christ. Most, if not all, Church meetings I attend are built upon scripture. Last, I cannot imagine being more close to Christ than in the temple. No other setting compares.

Just some thoughts and reactions...

Joe said...

Sometimes I wonder if members of the church really understand what it means to be 'born again' in the context of Mormon scripture. I assume that if I read the following (Mosiah 27:24-25) to an evangelical Christian, they would heartily agree:

"24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;"

Alma experienced the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which is found in the Bible but receives significantly more 'ink' in the Book of Mormon. The baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is the way that we receive a remission of our sins (2 Nephi 31:17-18) and is the GATE to the strait and narrow path to eternal life.

The people of King Benjamin, after receiving this second baptism, proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord had wrought a mighty change in them and that they no longer had any disposition to do evil. (Mosiah 5:2). Following their covenant with God, they were called the children of Christ. That is what the Book of Mormon says regarding the impact of being born again.

Bored in Vernal said...

Faux, some wards are better at this than others. I'm glad to hear of a bishop who emphasizes the atonement.

Joe, thanks for referencing that scripture. This mighty change is EXACTLY what Christians experience when they are born again. And it also brings in the point that Faux made, of conversion being a continuing event (can you feel so now?)

Howard said...

BiV,
Like you, I see no conflict between my acceptance of Jesus as my personal Savior and my conversion to Mormonism, to me Mormonism is Christianity plus!

Actually Mormon’s could benefit from some feel good evangelical celebration of Christ.

D. Rolling Kearney said...

SingleSpeed: RE: Your comment:
"It is valid criticism that Jesus and the New Testament don't get nearly as much attention in the LDS church as Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon."

I have heard this a lot lately, and after much thought I have to disagree with that assumption, and also agree to a point. Let me explain: If you mean that you don't get sermons specifically about Jesus every Sunday at an LDS meetinghouse, you would be correct. If, you mean that we don't emphasize the Savior as much within the Church itself, you couldn't be further from the truth. The reasons for both of these things are, I believe, related: We are expected to study the scriptures on our own daily, and to seek to know the Lord on a personal basis. It's what we are taught, and it is generally assumed that people are doing what they know they should be. Plus, people come to the church with a general knowledge of Christ already, and they need to have emphasized to them those things that make the LDS church unique, because it is precisely for those reasons that the church is true! We have a prophet today! Joseph Smith restored Christ's gospel! The Book of Mormon will bring you closer to Christ!

To put it simply, if you read the Book of Mormon every day as the prophets have directed us, then you are getting your sermons on Jesus every single day!

I'm sorry, but I don't buy into this argument that we don't emphasize Jesus enough. It's kind of like the carbon-based global warming thing: it sounds feasible at first, but then when you think about it, and get some facts, you realize that that's not what's going on at all.

Joe said...

Concerning 'being saved' as a continuing event, I would point to the discussion starting at Mosiah 4:11 where King Benjamin tells the people that they have received a remission of their sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. This is clearly a singular event. He then, beginning in verse 12, tells them what they must do to 'retain' a remission of their sins. I see this as the continuing event.

I have always understood being saved from a Christian as confessing that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Do you equate this to the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost? I have seen some speculation in Christian circles regarding this but I don't see it commonly pronounced. My reading of the Book of Mormon leads me to the linkage between 'born again' and this second baptism. Is there a difference between the confession of a believing Christian and the sanctifying power found the in the cleansing by the Holy Ghost.
In Moroni 6:4, it states that this cleansing is a prerequisite to being numbered with the church. I haven't heard reference to this in Sunday School in a long time.

Clean Cut said...

I completely agree with S. Faux. If this weren't the case, then I would be totally frustrated at church. Ultimately it is our responsibility to know the scriptures talk of Christ, preach of Christ, testify of Christ, and then to do the same in all our church classes and meetings. We we do this, it's awesome. When we don't do it as well, it's frustrating. Fortunately for me, those frustrations have become less frequent. Usually, my cup runs over.

PS: I too like the quote you've put up on the side of your blog from DMI, but I think that it was written by Seth R., not B. Hodges. Either way, it's a good one.

Bored in Vernal said...

Thanks, CleanCut, my apologies to Seth!

Bored in Vernal said...

Joe, interesting questions. Being "born again" myself, and having had this experience before my conversion to Mormonism, I want to equate it with the baptism of fire and the HG. It was a life-changing, sanctifying event. The ordinance, of course, took place later.

But I am still thinking about this.

Joe said...

BIV,
You are in good company if you consider the story of Cornelius in Acts 10-11. He received his baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost before he was baptized by water.

Peter makes the statement, 'God gave them the like gift as he did unto us' referring to the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Anonymous said...

You guys are missing the point! Write down the BOM descriptions of Christ and Salvation and then the Bible descriptions then compare the two. We are not talking about the same person. Even the Prophet G.B. Hinkley stated that they are not the same. It comes down to LDS Christian vs. Biblical Christian. Call it what it is. Biblical Christians should have no quarrel with a proclaimed LDS Christian. It is when the claim is made that they are the same where the conflict comes into play. Why cannot missionaries who go door to door not explain that the Christ the Church believes in is not the same as the traditional Christ of the Bible? What is the problem with honesty?

Bored in Vernal said...

Anonymous (please leave a name or pseudonym),

I am not so naive as to think they will line up perfectly. After all, the Mormons believe that the BoM and D&C help in interpreting the Bible correctly. And there are many ways to slant the things you find in the NT. But I will take your challenge, because I do believe this Christ we are all talking about is the same being. Our human understanding of him is limited, it is true, but he did come to reveal himself and his Father to us, so we should be able to come to at least some rudimentary conclusions. I'll try to post on this subject soon. Check back!

Anonymous said...

I respect you for taking the challenge however, I have to ask... If you come to the conclusion that the LDS and Biblical Christians are the same, then are you not saying that G.B.H was a false Prophet? Understand that the persecution that the LDS Church seems to be facing from the Biblical (Traditional) Christian world is based on the differences being ignored by the LDS. I do look forward to your conclusions. I will be glad to compare notes. I am not trying to be anonymous on this blog, I just am not able to sign up for some reason. It rejects my entry and makes me repeat it over and over. I will get beyond that soon I hope. I am on a mac. That may be the reason.

Bored in Vernal said...

anon, just sign a name, any name, in the text of your post.

I don't understand your question--why would concluding that the NT Christ and the Mormon Christ are the same prove that GBH is not a prophet??

Bookslinger said...

BiV:
I believe that my participation in evangelical/fundamental type Christianity when I was a teenager (freshman/sophomore in high school) prepared me to accept the restored gospel later on.

About a handful of other teens who I associated with in evangelical christianity during that period also ended up joining the LDS church our senior year as they turned 18. It took me about 7 years after high school graduation, but I finally investigated it, and found what they found.

Like you, I see a lot of overlap between evangelical christianity and LDS doctrine. In my view, evangelicals are "half-way to Mormonism." And we should definitely NOT fault them for their belief in Christ and in the Atonement, no matter how they want to word it, "saved", "accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior", "washed in the blood of Jesus" are all valid scriptural expressions, even if they are not ingrained in LDS culture and our daily LDS vocabulary.

Another thing the LDS have in common are the miracles and spiritual gifts. Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals are surprisingly close to the LDS beliefs in those regards; whereas most of "mainstream" Christians say that miracles and gifts were done away with.

If one of your Pentecostal/Fundamentlist friends every challenges you about speaking in tongues, show them 2 Nephi 31:13.

I visited an evangelical church a couple years ago, and sat in their sunday school class, and their pastor taught a lesson that was about 98% LDS. His lesson focused on "walking in/with the Spirit" and personal revelation/guidance via the Holy Ghost.

I chose a nice provocative title, wrote a post, and gave a link to your DH's "apology" wherein he posted Mr. Wilder's message to him. It's drawn a lot of hits from the ldsblogs.org aggregator.

It's sad that Mr. Wilder sees the differences more than the overlap. I resolved the apparent (and so-called) faith-versus-works conflict, and the so-called "biblical Jesus versus Mormon Jesus" conflict long ago.

The LDS church doesn't contradict the Bible, it merely contradicts long-held and popular misinterpretations of the Bible.

Geeze Louise, I don't think any church left on earth today follows the Bible 100%. I mean, what about that part in 1st Corinthians where Paul says it's a shame for a woman to speak in church? Does any church still follow that? Let's all point the finger at any church that allows women to speak in church, and say "AHA! J'accuse!"

And, um, yeah, I'd be proud to wear the "evangelical mormon" label too.

Mose said...

I'm not a Mormon right now, but it's something I've been looking at and researching for awhile. And I am an evangelical Christian, and I think part of being a non-denominational Christian is what has made me much more receptive (might be the word I'm looking for...) to LDS doctrines and beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the name tip. To answer the question about the Prophet:

"In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints 'do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don't.

The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.

For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness [sic] of Times'" (June 20, 1998).

This is pretty honest and pretty clear. We do not speak of the same Christ. Biblical Christians (Traditional) vs. LDS Christians. THe problems that are perpetuated between the "Traditional" Christians and the LDS Christians would be resolved if each would stick to their own proper definition and would be clear about the Doctrines that they are teaching from. Biblical (Traditional) Christians only from the BIble and LDS from many sources most of which conflict with the Bible. I wish that those that say there is no conflict would actually read the bible and study the bible. I can give you hundreds of conflicting scriptures, some of which are opposite of each other in meaning.

David

Bored in Vernal said...

"I can give you hundreds of conflicting scriptures, some of which are opposite of each other in meaning."

Well, David, you can find this within the Bible itself with very little trouble.

Bookslinger, I read your blog and appreciate your thoughts on Dr.B's post. Thank you for telling your story and experiences with conversion, especially your coming to terms with grace/works.

Mose, I also went to your blog and it was interesting to read of your encounters with Mormonism. I will be fascinated to follow your story in the coming days and weeks. Thank you for your prayers.

Bookslinger said...

I see your DH removed the post containing the threatening letter he received from the ex-mo.

Hmmm. Your DH's original post and the threatening letter are still in Google's cache, in case anyone wants to read or save them.

What a small world. I'm in Indianapolis, I've met the Stake President from your Muncie days, (M.E.) He's still in Muncie. I have his email address due to a mutual side interest that's church-related. And a mutual friend of his and mine invited us both to a Thanksgiving dinner several years ago. He seems a very humble man.

It's a small world after all.

I recently emailed him and asked him if he remembered your DH, and he did.

Anonymous said...

Vernal did you write the blog in which you say that you know the family of M. Wilder? Or is this a repost?

David

Bored in Vernal said...

What?

This is not a repost, but in it I did say I knew the Wilders. Also my husband wrote about it in his blog. You can email me at clbruno at hotmail if you want.

Bored in Vernal said...

Indy, our SP in Muncie was awesome. It's hard to believe that he must be an older man by now. He was a very very young Stake President back in the day. I'm sure he remembers DH, he is not easy to forget once you know him!

Bookslinger said...

BiV,

After reading much of Dr. B's blog, I'm of the opinion that you must be a true saint for putting up with him for so long.

Bookslinger said...

And you two give me hope. If your DH found someone who could put up with him, there's hope that I can find someone who can put up with me.

Bored in Vernal said...

And he puts up with me! Truly a miracle.

Big Cat said...

Sad, but the Mormon Jesus and is not the same Jesus of the Bible. In fact, it was only until recently that Mormons have tried to be called Christians--they want to sound mainstream. It used to be saints.

The Jesus of the Bible was God incarnate. The son of an eternal God. Christians who believe in the Bible do not at all believe that God was once a man who worked himself to Godhood like Mormons believe.

Journal of Discourses vol. 1, page 123 by Orson Hyde proclaims that "God was once a child, a mortal..."

This is in clear conflict with the Bible.

Look at Numbers 23:19, Psalm 102:26-27, and many more.

Plus, the Bible, which has proven itself true forever, is also historically sounds and backed by archaeological findings. The Book of Mormon and the false history and claims of Joseph Smith fall far short ot the Biblical test of prophet. The Biblical test of a prophet was that THEY WERE ALWAYS RIGHT. Not 99%, but 100.

Anyhow, I appreciate the sincerity of faith you have, but you are not worshipping the same Jesus, or the same God.

MORONIANGELOFLIGHT said...

I WAS BORN IN SALT LAKE CITY UTAH INTO A 5TH GENERATION LDS FAMILY.
MY FATHER AND HIS SIBLINGS WERE RAISED ON THE JOSEPH SMITH'S FARM IN PALMYRA NEW YORK, WHERE MY GRANDPARENTS SERVED AS MISSIONARIES. AS A YOUNG CHILD
MY FATHER MOVED US AWAY FROM UTAH AND I WAS RAISED OUTSIDE OF THE LDS CHURCH... YET I WAS MORMON IF ANYONE EVER ASKED WHAT MY RELIGION WAS AND I WAS ALSO MORMON IN MY THINKING AND MY THEOLOGY UNTIL...
I GAVE MY LIFE TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AT AGE 38. NOW I AM A BORN AGAIN FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST.
I BELIEVE EVERYONE SHOULD GIVE THEIR LIVES TO JESUS CHRIST AND LET "HIM" SHOW YOU WHAT IS TRUE!