Monday, 21 September 2009

Part III: CHURCH

PART III
CHURCH

THE APOSTASY AND RESTORATION:

MORMONS believe that the fullness of the Gospel was lost with the ascension of Jesus and the death of His apostles. Although some basic tenets of Christianity survived through the ages and the Bible stayed mostly intact, the Church of Jesus Christ was lost until it was restored in 1830 through Joseph Smith the prophet. At the time, it was called the Church of Christ, but later the name was changed, due to revelation, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (“Mormon” was a derogatory name used for them that they have since adopted as a shorthand reference to the church and its adherents.)

EVANGELICALS believe that the truth of the Gospel was twisted and abused as, over time, it became a political tool. The Protestant Reformation helped turn it back in the right direction, but the fullness of the Gospel is only found in an individual, personal relationship with God, and not in a regulated religion. Although there is a large push to "Restore the Church", the main theme is not to correct doctrine, but to re-establish the Church as a dynamic body of active believers within society.

ORDINANCES:

MORMONS believe that the principles and ordinances necessary to save a human soul are first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, repentance, third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and fourth, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands of those who hold Priesthood authority.

EVANGELICALS believe that a man need only accept Christ's forgiveness to be saved. Good works do not cause salvation, because only Jesus has power to save, but Christ orders that His followers do good works. People debate what faith without works will accomplish, and whether a “Christian” who does not obey Christ's orders is really a Christian. Some people hold to eternal security, which is the idea that once a person is saved, he or she remains saved forever, but there are many people who believe it is possible to lose one's salvation.

AUTHORITY:

MORMONS believe that a man must hold Priesthood authority to administer any of the formerly mentioned ordinances, or to perform a number of other ordinances, such as administering the Sacrament or blessing the sick. Priesthood holders are always male. They generally receive the Aaronic Priesthood (which allows them to perform some ordinances) at age 12 and the Melchizedek Priesthood (which allows them to perform all ordinances) around age 18. Of primary importance is the fact that Mormons believe the Church of Christ cannot be conducted without Priesthood Authority, and that this authority is received by the laying on of hands from one who already holds it. The Mormon Church keeps a record of every Priesthood holder and how a person can trace his Priesthood back to Joseph Smith, who received it from Peter, James and John, who came to Smith as angels, and who in turn received their Priesthood authority from Jesus Christ.

EVANGELICALS believe that the Bible is God's word and provides all the the truths necessary for the conducting of the church. The vast majority, if not all, of Evangelical leaders would not claim authority over anything spiritual, but only over practical matters of how the church is run. Some denominations believe that pastors shouldn't even have that amount of authority, but that the church should be run entirely by lay people. No special authority is needed to perform miracles. It is only the authority of Christ that is actually at work, and so anyone who has received Christ can act in His name.

Christ is the High-Priest for all people, and the only mediator between God and man. Anyone can approach the throne of God through Christ, so in a way, every person who has accepted salvation holds the priesthood. Typically, though, Evangelicals state that no one holds the priesthood, since functionally, everyone is on equal ground.

ORGANIZATION:

MORMONS believe that the church is to be fashioned after the design of old. Specifically, they have a Prophet who stands in as the mouthpiece of God (modeled after Peter), apostles, seventies, bishops, etc.

EVANGELICALS believe all sorts of different things. God is to be at the head of the Church, but pretty much everything else is up for grabs. It's typically considered an issue of personal preference or practicality.

SCRIPTURE:

MORMONS believe in the Bible. They believe that while some minor translation problems, both deliberate and accidental, have slightly corrupted the information therein, the Bible has remained miraculously intact and true. Joseph Smith started a retranslation of the Bible which was almost complete before his death, and his translation altered less than 2% of the King James Version, and the majority of the changes were clarification issues. Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, translated from its original Egyptian by divine guidance.

In their current standard works, Mormons also have the Doctrine and Covenants, a series of revelations mostly given to Joseph Smith, primarily concerning the administration of the church, although some new doctrines are introduced. There is also the Pearl of Great Price, which contains some of Joseph Smith's retranslation of the Bible in addition to a book giving an expanded account of Abraham from the Old Testament.

EVANGELICALS vary on this issue. Many believe the Bible is inerrant, while others reject all the writings of Paul. It's interpreted in many different ways, ranging from a completely literal interpretation, to grammatical historical, functional/midrash, and allegorical interpretations. There are many different translations floating around with varying degrees of accuracy, but which Bible one uses is generally considered just a personal preference.

There is no officially correct version of the Bible, just versions that are preferred for different things. In English, the NIV was the most accurate and easy to understand for a while, which made it the most popular, but the King James and New King James are preferred by many fundamental Christians. The NASB is currently considered, by academic standards, to be the most accurate translation of the ancient texts that are still around, while the Message is considered the most readable, but least accurate.

There is also disagreement over whether the Bible is truly complete - for example, some people accept certain apocryphal books, while others would immediately claim that any scripture apart from the Bible is heretical.

CONFESSION:

MORMONS believe, for the most part, that repentance is a private matter between the individual and the Lord. When they teach their children or people new to the ideas of the church about repentance, they say that the process includes recognition (of the sin), confession, restitution (of damage caused, where possible) and forsaking the sin. Usually confession is done by prayer to one's Heavenly Father, but in the case of serious sins (such as sins of a sexual nature, and probably ones that would get someone in trouble with law enforcement - the guidelines given the church on this are actually somewhat loose) one must go to the bishop of the ward and confess this sin in a private meeting with him. The bishop does not forgive sins. Rather, he determines whether the sinner's position in the church needs to be altered by probation or disfellowship (removal of one's Priesthood office) and possibly excommunication. In most cases, the bishop will advise the confessor as to whether he or she should continue taking the Sacrament and help talk the person through ways to overcome this sin and obtain the desired forgiveness from God. In general, confession should be a positive experience in which the confessor receives additional support while trying to work through a difficult time of life.

EVANGELICALS believe that confession of sins is exclusively between the sinner and God, though people are strongly encouraged to confess sins to one another, generally within a mentoring relationship, to a friend that has agreed to hold one accountable, an elder, a small study group, etc. The pastor is happy to help a person find ways to overcome the sin, but sin is not "officially" confessed - at least among the lay people.

BAPTISM:

MORMONS believe that baptism is a covenant with the Lord that they will always remember Him and keep the commandments which He has given them. A baptism is only valid if it's performed by someone holding the Priesthood, if the subject is entirely immersed in water and is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. There also have to be two witnesses present who also hold the Priesthood. Furthermore, the baptism must be followed by a confirmation, which is when two or more Priesthood holders lay their hands on the head of the recipient and command him or her to “receive the Holy Ghost,” at which point the Gift of the Holy Ghost is given. Mormons endlessly debate the details of what the Gift of the Holy Ghost is, but essentially it's entitlement to the constant companionship of God's Spirit as a guide and comforter, so long as one lives up to the covenants made at baptism.

EVANGELICALS have differing beliefs about water baptism, usually dependent on denomination. Most, if not all, believe that baptism is a symbolic act signifying the death of the self and resurrection with Christ. Many denominations perform baptism by immersion, but some by sprinkling. Some denominations believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, but many do not. Baptism is usually performed by a pastor in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but can be performed by pretty much anyone. Baptism is considered a public declaration that a person has chosen to give his or her life over to Christ, and so there must be witnesses, though there are no hard rules about how many.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is considered an entirely different thing. Many denominations believe that every Christian automatically receives the Holy Spirit upon first accepting Christ, while other denominations believe that a person will not receive the Holy Spirit until they have received the laying on of hands and been prayed for by believers who are already filled with the Holy Spirit. Still others believe that a person can ask by themselves to receive the Holy Spirit. What the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means is also debated. Some say that unless someone can perform miracles - in particular, speak in tongues, he or she has not received Him, while others place no such emphasis on miracles. There is also disagreement on whether the Holy Spirit can leave a person or not.

MIRACLES:

MORMONS believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. Notably, by "revelation", Mormons believe that the canon is not closed, and that God still reveals Scripture to His children that have equal bearing to, and may possibly be more contemporary than, the Bible.

EVANGELICALS believe different things on this topic. Some believe that if you can't perform the above-mentioned miracles, you aren't saved, while others believe that if you do perform them, it's satanic. Many Evangelicals believe that there are still prophecies and revelations from God today, but it remains only that they “may” be the word of God, and so they are not included with the Scriptures as canon.


WORK FOR THE DEAD:

MORMONS believe that those who did not accept the Gospel in this life must still receive the saving ordinances of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and the Endowment. All of these ordinances require a body to receive, so the spirits of the dead are unable to perform these ordinances themselves. For that reason, Mormons frequently do proxy work, or work for the dead, in which someone is (for example) baptized “for and in behalf of” a deceased person. The spirits in the Spirit World then have the choice to either accept or reject these ordinances.

EVANGELICALS have no equivalent to work for the dead.

TEMPLES:

MORMONS build structures called temples which are distinct from their regular meeting houses in both design and purpose. In temples Mormons will perform proxy work. Also, Mormon weddings take place in temples, and every Mormon receives the Endowment ordinance. The Endowment is one of the most controversial aspects of Mormonism because there are parts of the ceremony which Mormons are explicitly commanded not to talk about. The Endowment is not nearly so sensational as people like to think. Essentially, in the endowment, they tell the story of Adam and Eve using a great deal of symbolism. During the Endowment, Mormons are asked to make three promises, which are essentially to remain chaste, obey God, and devote themselves entirely to the building of the Kingdom of God.

EVANGELICALS don't build temples in this sense.

GENDER ROLES WITHIN THE CHURCH:

MORMONS claim that men and women have very specific, complementary, and equal roles in the family of God and in their own mortal families. The Priesthood is largely an expression of the man's role. The Priesthood is the power of God granted to man to accomplish His purposes. To attempt to use it for personal gain, maintenance of power or control, or in any way as an accessory to sin is a severe crime against God. It is the power and responsibility to serve others. Nonetheless, the church is by and large a patriarchal society, a fact for which it receives no end of flak from critics.

EVANGELICALS have varying views on this. Some church denominations and individual churches are more patriarchal than others. There are women pastors in some cases, but they're largely outnumbered by men. It's more usual to find women in elder and administrative positions than to find women pastors.

Cavan will post Part IV: CULTURE at 12:01 AM

1 comment:

Acius said...

Cool, part 2.

Um, I take issue with the Book of Mormon being translated from "Egyptian." My understanding is that the Book of Mormon is claiming to have been written using modified Egyptian *characters*, but using such characters as a compact way to write Hebrew (which is a poor fit, hence Moroni's complaints of difficulty in writing).

We've seen this with other languages -- both Korean and Japanese were written with Chinese characters, even though their grammars fit poorly, and the characters mutated heavily over time to fit the new language.

In any case, I believe the paragraph can non-controversially be changed to read "from its original language."

Also, I love these posts :).