A Mormon proselyte contacted me via email. The conversation is revealing. I share it here with you. I've deleted the young man's name even though he has been public about his views. If he wishes to identify himself via commenting on this post, that will be up to him.
Dear Mr. Usher,
My name is _____. I'm a second year student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, still trying to decide what I want to major in. Right now, I think it's a toss up between English and Cinematic Arts.
I was raised in the Church of Christ, a very conservative evangelical church. I stopped attending as a young teenager because I didn't feel that the deacons, elders, and minister had any legitimate spiritual authority over me, nor did I feel that I had any good reason to listen to them. Honestly, the Book of Revelation was the only one I ever read in entirety while I was attending, because I thought it was the most interesting and fantastical.
Up until a few months ago, I regarded the notions of Christianity and a conscious being called God as foolish enterprises for the weak minded. One morning, I was walking on campus and an elderly gentleman wearing a cowboy hat, a Gideon, handed me a pocket-sized copy of the New Testament clad in green plastic. The man didn't say a word to me, just smiled. I took it and said, "Thank you" as I continued on to class.
It made an impression on me that this gentleman gave me a free religious book without attempting to manipulate my thinking along certain lines. He wasn't urging me to join any certain congregation, give money to any organization, nor trying to channel my interpretation of the scriptures at all. He just gave me the free book and as far as I could tell, all he wanted me to do was read it to see what I could make of it. So I did. I have recently completed the four gospels.
Since I began reading, I have become increasingly interested in the subject of heresy. To me, it seems apparent that Jesus himself was a heretic to the "spiritual" power structure of his time, the Pharisees and chief priests. I have bought and also begun reading Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You, a Russian book written over a hundred years ago that continues to shock and awe me on every page.
I am an adamant believer that intellectualism and Christianity are compatible. I don't feel there is any legitimate reason to assume the inerrancy of ancient documents such as those found in the Bible. I also feel that Christ rejected Mosaic Law, some fundamental Jewish dogmas (such as strict observation of Sabbatical traditions), absolute Church authority, and the inerrancy of religious scripture. I am beginning to feel that Christ, unfortunately, had to spend too much time trying to convince the people of Judea that his message might benefit them. His apostles, after his death, were charged with spreading his gospel world-wide. Having seen the communication barriers Jesus encountered throughout his ministry, they probably knew they would have to refine their persuasive techniques. In the book of Hebrews, we see that the early disciples customized their message so that it could coexist with mainstream Jewish beliefs in order to maximize conversions. Biblical authors do not describe Jesus' relationship to the Melchizedek priesthood anywhere else in the New Testament because such a relationship would be culturally irrelevant outside of the Jewish community. I'm sure it was also much easier to convert Roman pagans if the story included Christ as a magician and not just a teacher.
I haven't seen the kind of magic described in the Bible. At this point in my life, I can neither confirm nor deny its possibility or impossibility. However, I do see the magic of existence showering all around us and I know that we have been given a multitude of limitless gifts. All we have to do is reach out and grab them to know that they are there.
A few months ago, I started dating a Mormon woman who lived in my apartment complex. I came to love her dearly, and still do. After imagining spending my life with her and raising a happy family together, she told me that there was no longevity in our relationship because of religious differences. She didn't want there to be any "friction" in her family. I now understand why it is important for her to maintain religious cohesion in any family she might have, but at that time, I felt like she might as well have said that we couldn't be together because I'm Scotch-Irish and she's a German Swede. I was devastated. I have come to believe that the biggest concern was her desire for a celestial marriage in the Temple. Obviously I couldn't be in the picture unless I converted. If we couldn't be together forever, we couldn't be together temporarily on Earth either.
It was a two-way street though; I think it always is in this life. Having been brought up in a Church that often espoused anti-Mormonist rhetoric, I have been conditioned to manufacture poorly constructed arguments against their beliefs and, having had a potential spouse at stake, my fervor to defeat the forces keeping us apart was increased tenfold. My strategy, attempting to apostate her so we could be together, was fundamentally and morally flawed. If I had been more tactical, I would've known that the people in my life are more important than their beliefs. I would've happily done whatever necessary to gain the Priesthood and enter the Temple with her. I would've known that the idea of being together forever is a beautiful thing, not a wrong thing. Now she very well may be lost from my life forever because of the offenses I have committed.
This kind of inter-religious contention shouldn't be happening. It is counter-productive to the peaceful harmonization that I know Christ wanted. As long as we love all things, the mechanics of religious doctrines are completely unimportant. This is evident in the early disciples' readiness to conform to certain aspects of a target population's dogmas so that they might be more willing to accept the message of Jesus Christ. It is our duty to Christ to love those who we think are "lost" even more than we love those who are "found." Slanderous conflict is in opposition to His will.
I am writing you because I don't feel that there is a large enough forum for coordinated inter-religious heretical research and ministry. We should be finding the similarities among us necessary to bring the flock together, as the early disciples did, not exemplifying the differences that separate us into strict categories. I would like to know what your thoughts are on the matter, and possibly if you would be interested in combining forces to get something started. I have daydreamed about a group of people who can come together and confirm their love of Christ and all people, help others with any need, and research religious history outside of the influence of dogmatists. I know there are many others like us out there. Original ideas would be strongly encouraged, not disapproved of. Science and research would be embraced as the fundamental works of God. No authoritative, hierarchic power structure would exist in any form. Everyone's spiritual knowledge would be assumed to be equally viable in the eyes of God. Ideas would be created and pondered openly.
I would like to know what your thoughts are. Thank you for any knowledge you can give me.
Your most humble servant,
_____ _____ _____
I have several questions.
1. How old are you?
2. To how many others have you put these questions?
3. How much of the RLCC site have you read?
4. Why have you put these questions to me?
5. Did you receive any help with [writing the email is implied] (coaching), or is it entirely your own work?
I look forward to your reply.
For the REAL LIBERAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Dear Mr. Usher,
I appreciate your response.
I am 20 years old, born and raised in New Mexico.
I have sent the same e-mail to many diverse religious, secular, and activist groups. I have sent the message to churches across America and Europe of many different denominations and religious traditions.
I have looked over very little of your website. I Googled the term "liberal Christian" and was led to your Church.
I sent you the message because I feel that I might get more results from people with less restrictive mind frames, whose believes might be considered by some to be heretical.
The message is entirely of my own composition. I became acquainted with the term Melchezidek Priesthood from two Mormon missionaries with whom I am meeting twice a week.
Thank you for any thoughts or support.
You've read the Gospels. You know that Jesus was opposed to hypocrisy. The Mormons say they are Christians, meaning they believe in Jesus, in his teachings, etc. The Mormons say that their marriages last eternally. However, Jesus is quoted as saying, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
God's angels in Heaven neither marry nor are given in marriage. They aren't married. The resurrected (the just) won't be married.
Let me know what you are going to do now.
Thank you for your thoughts sir. I've started an on-line group on Mustard Seed Associates called disciples. I hope to have much more than an on-line forum for discussion though. I hope it eventually evolves into an interdenominational forum for action coordination.
In regards to Jesus saying that we will neither marry nor are given in marriage, I believe that was in reference to a story about a woman with seven dead husbands, so it's a little more complicated than a traditional marriage. To marry is a verb. So is to be given in marriage. If one is already married before death, Jesus didn't really describe that in too much detail. I also can't recall a place where Jesus actually says Heaven and Hell are only after life.
There is a common theme throughout the new testament about not offending people and loving all no matter what. In I Corinthians, Paul says he acts like a Jew around Jews and someone who doesn't regard the law around those who don't. We might have to refine our strategy beyond attacking peoples' beliefs if we are going to get them to listen to us. Our Mormon brothers have grown up for the most part in environments that teach them that the Church is true from their birth. They cannot be blamed nor scorned for holding fast to their faith.
Let me know what you think. Sincerely,
I'll try this one more time with you.
To be married, one had to get married. The angels aren't married. They never got married. Those in the resurrection aren't married. They may have been married before, but after the resurrection, they aren't married. They are as the angels, per Jesus.
The Mormons directly contradict Jesus. It's plain to see. Are you looking but refusing to see?
Now, if you choose to argue with that rather than saying something akin to "Ah, now I see," then there will be no point in my continuing to dialogue with you.
Heaven and Hell are both now and after life. That's how Jesus speaks of both.
The New Testament has people being offended by Jesus and Jesus not always avoiding that. It isn't his fault that the truth offends people. Christianity is not about people not being offended by Christianity.
The idea isn't about getting people to listen. Jesus spoke and still speaks. The truth sorts the souls into the proverbial sheep and goats. That includes those calling themselves Mormon. They have the Gospel to read directly. If they hold fast to falsehood, they will go the way of all that is false, which is death.
Jesus was not an ecumenist or a syncretist.
As for asking you what you will do now, I was referring to now that I've given you the logic. I was referring to what you would be doing vis-Ã -vis the Mormons with whom you are dialoguing. Will you lead them to the light if they will go into it with you, or will you stay astray with them?
May God bless you with the truth, _____.
Dear Mr. Usher,
Ah, now I see. "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." St. John 9:41
If I recall correctly, the saying about marriage in heaven was Jesus' response to some Pharisees trying to play word games with Him. I'm not entirely convinced He was laying out the stringent rules for Heaven.
In Mormon theory, there was a Great Apostacy from Jesus' real teachings. Some of His original meaning has been wiped clean from the book you hold as true. You follow the fallible and incomplete Word, they follow the apostles of Jesus Christ. This is what a Mormon would tell you, except maybe without being so insulting. They might consider your beliefs as being contradictory to Christ's.
I don't have all the answers, and if I thought I did, I would already be in bondage to Lucifer in Hell on Earth. We musn't be 'puffed up,' as Paul would say. I'm reading I Corinthians now and I think it is directly relevant to the matter at hand.
"...no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." I Cor. 12:3
"And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." I Cor. 12:6
"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." I Cor. 12:18
"And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour..." I Cor. 12:23
"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God..." I Cor. 10:32
"And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." I Cor. 8:2
To me, the Mormons seem a very happy people, for the most part. They don't bear the same offenses toward others that many evangelicals do. They may already be in Heaven with their Father, while we are sitting around with frowns on our faces, seemingly envious toward their contentedness. Their Church exercises the practicality (helping people) of Jesus' gospel much more efficiently than do others. I think we spend too much time trying to prove them wrong, and not enough time proving them right.
Jesus only offended those who knew they were right. To those who knew they were sinners, He showed nothing but grace and love. In regards to ecumenism, we'll never know how Jesus felt (except maybe in regards to the righteousness of mainstream Pharisees, which I'm sure He would rebuke). He didn't write any of the gospels. Paul, who had a vision of Jesus and met a couple of His disciples, on the other hand, did write or dictate some of the epistles. In Romans and I Corinthians (the only epistles I've read as yet), it's quite clear that he was a ecumenist. In fact, he even says he'll act like a Jew or Gentile, depending on who he is around.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge and praise the goodness in other people's faiths, as well as acknowledge the ignorance or stubborness we may be holding fast to in our own minds. We musn't let dogmatic influences determine how we perceive others. Jesus was for freedom.
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Romans 3:28
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men." St. John 5:39-41
I don't wish to argue, but I'm also not going to side with someone who wishes to tell a beautiful people that they are lost. Their ideas are strange, their origins are corrupt, but they themselves are pure and wholly innocent. If it is in Jesus, or in Lucifer, they are my brothers and sisters who work for their gospel and I will praise, honor, and love them even if it be through the fires of Hell.
Peace be with you, sir, and I'd love to hear back from you,
Hello again, _____,
It appears you are reading John 9:41 out of context. John 9:41 is referring to the fact that they saw but didn't repent. The way you opened your reply with John 9:41 says to me that you are saying my sin remains if I say, "I see." However, if I repent in earnest and am diligent in pursuing consistency, then I am not falling prey at least where that verse is concerned.
As for whether or not Jesus "was laying out the stringent rules for Heaven," if you mean concerning that one response (John 9:41), it is understandable that one might look to other times when he employed devices to confound the hypocrites using their own stated beliefs with which Jesus did not necessarily hold. However, if you mean to say that you aren't "convinced He was laying out the stringent rules for Heaven" at all anyplace in scripture, then you are way off course.
Concerning the first possibility (that you are looking "to other times when he employed devices to confound the hypocrites using their own stated beliefs with which Jesus did not necessarily hold"), Jesus referred the hypocrites back to scripture. However, concerning John 9:41 specifically, can you point to something that shows that the hypocrites claimed to believe that the angels never marry? If so, it would support your reservation. Regardless, I take the statement about the angels at face value – as a statement of fact about something Jesus knew about firsthand that I trust is not just a logical device to expose the illogical hypocrites using their own earlier-stated beliefs.
Since you've read John, perhaps you recall when Jesus said, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" (John 10:34.) Now, do you believe that Jesus does or doesn't agree with the assertion, "Ye are gods"? Was it merely to expose their hypocrisy? He was being attacked for being the Son of God. Think about it. He also said we are to be one with him. How can anyone be one with anyone else and not be what they are too? He said God and he are one. He calls us to perfection. He made clear that only God is good and perfect. He said that we are to strive to be perfect as God is perfect. This all means that we are to conflate with God as God. Ye are gods (or God) if you do everything right. This is the logic they hated.
Many still hate it who call themselves Christians. They are wrong. They hate it, because they don't want to live up to it. They hate the implications. They hate the idea of giving up all the evil they are doing: Making war, profiting at the negative expense of their fellow humans, lusting after others sexually, etc. They don't want to give and share all. They don't want to live up to pacifism. They don't want to constrain their sexual lust.
All of that said, it is true that deciphering context is something one must feel one's way through. Improving our reading comprehension is the challenge.
There are many times when Jesus uses devices in his parables that are not to be taken at face value in a narrow, preconceived context. When Jesus talks about money for instance, he is often using it analogously. However, many capitalists falsely claim that his use of money in one or two parables shows his support for capitalism. It does not. To know Jesus's views about money, it is necessary to look at everything he said at once. Only the big picture lets us understand the pieces and vice versa.
Also, Jesus did give the most stringent rules for Heaven. He explained too that there are many places in Heaven designed for all the different people of the varying ranges of spirit. The highest is perfect. The rule there is perfection. That's as stringent as it gets.
I've read the Book of Mormon. I've read a number of things about Mormonism written by Mormons and non-Mormons. I did much of that in my late teens. I'm well acquainted with their version of the Great Apostasy.
Let me say this to you. The Book of Mormon is a fantasy. It is based upon the imaginings of Joseph Smith. The events told in the book didn't happen. Now, it's up to you to consider whether or not and the degree to which the whole truth about Jesus's original meaning would come first to Joseph Smith. I say absolutely not.
I've also studied the issues surrounding MSS. There is a spectrum of belief concerning them running from that they are perfect in the King James to they have been edited so much as to destroy nearly all continuity with Jesus. The truth is that they have been edited but not that much. The oldest text is not very different from some of the current versions. The meaning of Jesus's teaching has not been lost only to be re-revealed by the fake (and he was), Joseph Smith.
As for having all the answers, did Jesus have them? He said not. He had enough though. All the necessary answers are summated in the New Commandment understood in light of the whole message of Jesus. Knowing that does not place one in bondage to the devil or render one puffed up.
As for Paul, take care not to contradict Christ with Paul. Paul was not Christ. Paul was not the savior. Wherever Paul causes contradiction in your mind with the clear and plain teachings and deeds of Jesus, dispense with Paul.
That's considered heretical by most by the way. It's radical, as Jesus was radical and as I am radical (root change).
As for the Mormon people, the question is not how they are relative to others. The question is whether or not their teachings will see you as close to God as possible.
Do the Mormons teach greed, violence, or sexual depravity to any degree? Are they a peace church? Do they hold with the total pacifism of Jesus Christ, who judges and condemns no soul, per his own words if you don't rationalize them away to conveniently allow you to continue down some other less worthy path.
Are the Mormons for the Christian Commons? If you don't know what the Christian Commons is, read the Real Liberal Christian Church website. Are they for giving and sharing all as Jesus did with his original disciples? I am.
Granted, we live in a capitalistic worldly world in the U.S.; however, what are we making? The Mormons are decidedly capitalistic. Jesus cleaned the temple of commerce. The new temple is wherever God and Jesus are in the hearts of believers. How can we have commerce rather than giving and sharing as the treasure in our hearts, as what we seek to bring forth?
As for proving the Mormons right, look around at others who are doing even better before you decide that which you hold up as a shining example to the world. Many of the radical Reformationists are closer to the kingdom. They are even now, many of them, improving that position. They have a way to go to get to where I've described the RLCC, but they are progressing.
The Mormons, however, must drop the fake stories of Joseph Smith. That of course would constitute converting out of Mormonism. It doesn't mean though they must take up smoking, forego fasting, and become drunks.
You wrote, "In regards to ecumenism, we'll never know how Jesus felt (except maybe in regards to the righteousness of mainstream Pharisees, which I'm sure He would rebuke)." This is not true. He stated very clearly that he is the one and only way. Much of the ecumenical movement is accepting of those who completely reject Jesus as the one and only path.
As for Paul acting one way with some and another with others, his motive doesn't appear to have been ecumenical. Paul had a very strict vision of Christianity in his head. He wasn't about accepting other visions into the fold. Jesus ate with the prostitutes and tax collectors not to have them join as-is but rather to repent and convert.
The ecumenical movement as it is being practiced is wrong. Unifying on truth is right. Unifying on the New Commandment as Jesus taught it and lived it is right. It's the only way. The two Great Commandments are right. The Golden Rule is right. Everything against those things is false and dead of the Holy Spirit. Accepting Wiccans as-is into the fold is wrong for instance; however, that's exactly what the ecumenical movement has done. Doing that is a disservice to the souls who fall to Wicca. Wicca won't get one there (highest Heaven; perfection; real life).
You say, "I think it is important for us to acknowledge and praise the goodness in other people's faiths." One of the themes of the RLCC is that different faiths are full of half-truths. I often used the term partial-truths in stead since people become hung up on literalness. The idea is to keep the part that's truth and dispense with the rest. The Mormons will say true things. That's fine. However, when they teach that Joseph Smith found a different gospel on golden plates telling a story of an ancient White civilization in the Americas and angels and so forth, it is necessary to say "false" and to discard it.
You wrote, "I'm also not going to side with someone who wishes to tell a beautiful people that they are lost. Their ideas are strange, their origins are corrupt, but they themselves are pure and wholly innocent. If it is in Jesus, or in Lucifer, they are my brothers and sisters who work for their gospel and I will praise, honor, and love them even if it be through the fires of Hell."
Now that's very dangerous. The fruit is never pure and wholly innocent that comes out of an evil root. That's Jesus's teaching. You are putting yourself in danger. We are called to be reborn of the root that is not corrupted. Only then will the whole tree be good. That's real Christianity.
Right now, I fear for your soul young man. You need to do the deepest soul searching of your life. You need to ask God and Jesus directly.
It's up to you. I can do nothing for you if you persist in your current direction.
Seek the truth _____, not what will get the girl.