It turns out that the dead little blue jay was killed by pneumonia. But fear not, I myself do not yet feel like keeling over and heaving my last breath - in fact, I think I'm almost better. Maybe it's due to the yogurt. In addition to antibiotics, I now have to consume large quantities of yogurt on a daily basis, or else fear the wrath of a "growth in my gut". At least I've finally learned how to swallow pills.
Anyway, now that you know all about the state of my personal health (didn't you want to know?) I can move on to other topics. Like....
After several weeks of watching TV and generally lying around being a blob, I pulled a bunch of books out of my closet and spent time browsing. One of the books I pulled out happened to be the Book of Mormon, which some missionaries dutifully made sure I had. I didn't actually spend much time reading it, but it got me thinking again about the similarities and differences between what I believe and what those in the LDS church believe.
For the most part, there's a lot of agreement between "standard" Protestants and Mormons. There's a lot of variance in the details, sure, and the Mormons add a lot of extra stuff, but there's a lot of variance in the details between different Protestant denominations, too. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think God really cares if you mess up with the doctrinal details. Does it really matter if you believe that God is literally three-in-one or just one with two good buddies? I used to think it mattered. Maybe I was right then and wrong now, but currently I think that the main thing is how you react to God, not what you know about Him. Yes, it would be very nice to have all the details correct, but I can believe that the Mormons really don't know what they're talking about, and still not be concerned that they're good as doomed for all eternity.
Doctrine will forever be a point of contention, but I don't see that it should be much of an issue unless it affects the way you serve God. And that's where the fundamental difference between Mormonism and other "brands" of Christianity exists. I believe that the main point, the main goal, of following Jesus is love. Yes, we avoid condemnation and we obtain our freedom through grace, but if the basic point of someone's testimony is "I'm a Christian because I don't want to go to hell," well, that concerns me. It's not about doing whatever you have to in order to obtain a get-out-of-hell-free card. We were created to love and worship God, and sin came between us to rupture that relationship. By God's grace, we are restored to a place of communion with God, able to and called to love God and to love others as God loves us. And that's the main point. By God's grace, we can be filled with selfless love. God saves us because He loves us, and we follow Him because we love Him.
So far as I can tell, the main point of Mormonism isn't love, but ambition. Ambition, to me, is an ugly word. It brings to mind arrogant university presidents, psychopathic empire builders, and the traditional story of Satan desiring to be better than God and getting kicked out of heaven for it. Hear me out, I am not implying that Mormons are basically Satan. All I am saying is that I have a healthy distrust of ambition. Now, so far as I understand it, Mormons are completely on board with the idea that their own ambition won't get them very far. It's only through Christ's sacrifice that anyone can receive salvation, and Christ's sacrifice isn't something they earn. They are called to love and serve and probably do love God, but that's not the end goal. The end goal is their own godhood, their own deification. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice, they can maneuver their way into the Celestial Kingdom and eventually be granted planets of their own to be gods over.
In both cases, reaching the end goal requires grace, but it seems to me that the reasons someone would want to accept that grace are really quite different. Grace so that you can become more like God, in that you become more and more filled with love? Or grace so that you can literally become God and be elevated to a place of enormous power? The end goals are basically opposites. Why does someone ultimately want the grace? And won't that affect the way they relate to God? It seems to me this is the most basic, fundamental difference between Mormonism and what I consider to be the truth.
I'm sure this isn't a totally fair assessment. I know that plenty of generic "Christians" don't think of their relationship with God in such a manner as I described. The whole "safe from hell" thing is pretty popular. And I suspect that a lot, if not most, of Mormons focus more on their relationship with God than on becoming gods themselves, but if you look at the theologies and not the followers, the difference is there. Is it important? Honestly, I kinda hope not, but if any difference in theologies and doctrines does matter, I think this would be it.
And back to being sick, which I am sick of being, I found a sick quote that pretty much agrees with me:
"I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better." Samuel Butler