A Fairy Tale for Unwitting Adults, Part 1

It appears that there are people who think I am going to hell for believing in Christ, only because my way of doing so differs from their way. Conversely, experiencing this feeling has opened my eyes to the fact that I may be thinking the same thing about others because they do things differently than I do them. My wife likes to tease me when I'm upset at someone and ready to tell them "where to go" - she reminds me that whatever judgment I pass on someone else will be the judgment passed on me (see Matt 7:2). She is probably not too far off.

For the two weeks of Early Voting that I spent racing around the county with VVPATS, 2nd VBM Declarations and SOS-mandated security seals (no wonder I went a little crazy!), I rediscovered a radio station that I hadn't listened to in years. It's a Christian radio talk show that jumps between recorded sermons, books on tape, Christian politics and a lot of fundraising. I really enjoy the program between 6-9pm, which consists of mostly archived sermons from pastors with heavy southern accents. "Ya got ta git intersted... intersted in Jesis..." A lot of the teachings I heard while driving from polling site to polling site made me reflect on my beliefs and how I fit into the broader spectrum of Christianity.

One day I was listening to this station and the host was doing a question and answer show. I tuned in late so I didn't hear the prompt, but I did catch the tail end of one of the questions. I heard the questioner mentioning Moses and other ancient prophets and then he referred to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie, saying something about Mormons always excusing their leaders by saying "they're only human." I gleened from context that he found it ridiculous that people who call themselves Christian would align themselves with such sinful men, whereas as those aligning themselves with the Ancients were ok because of the obvious purity and perfection of the prophets of the Bible. The radio host agreed and quickly summed up the Joseph Smith story (emphasizing the lack of evidence for Smith's claim), ending by calling the whole story of Mormonism a "fairy tale for unwitting adults." I'm not a fightin' man, but I'm just glad I hadn't been told that to my face.

That phrase - a fairy tale for unwitting adults - stayed with me for many days. Not long after, I was working with a large group of temporary staff at the office and one of them noticed that I was LDS, just like her. She talked to me about her experience in south county, where the missionaries are sometimes heckled by "born again Christians" and she finished by expressing her dismay that one of "their" main churches was just up the street. "Now we have the Christian Right. They hate us!" Despite my common affiliation with this woman, I was just as taken aback as when I heard the radio host denounce my faith. What's with these people! Or "we people" I guess, since I'm in there, too.

The delineation between born again non-denominational Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing to do with doctrine or beliefs or anything of substance - it's pure perception. I'm not a doctrinal scholar on either side of the "line" but it seems to me that born-agains and Mormons have a lot more in common than many would like to believe. We both believe in Jesus as the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. We both believe in the power of the Atonement and that through Christ, we can find joy in this life and in the life to come. We both look forward with an eye of faith to the Second Coming and see the signs of the times all around us in the world. We both believe that God reveals his truth to His prophets, and that those truths are recorded in recorded in scripture to teach us and give us an example of how we should live. This list could continue but for brevity I'll just say this: for two theologies that are so closely related, there sure is a lot of hard feelings between the two.

I had a friend who welcomed two Christian men into his home to witness. They shared their message and stood up to leave, but before stepping out the door left one last thought: "By the way, make sure you find a church where you can worship Jesus, but don't join with the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses." I once spoke with an LDS colleague about his experience with a non-denominational Christian church. He said that they breed their children to hate us and have classes for Sunday School just to teach bashing the Mormons. As I look back and begin to catalog all of the perceptions I've heard from both sides of the spectrum, I feel like I'm in the middle of a high-school love triangle. To make an analogy, I guess the person that both sides are fighting over would be Jesus (I hope that's not irreverent). Both sides want so badly to be looked upon by Jesus as the best and most faithful but, as high school students often do, each side feels insecure in their diligence and position and therefore belittle the other to attempt to compensate. Inaccurate as it may be, that analogy seems to reiterate itself every time I hear the born again vs LDS debate. But that's just my perception.

So who wins? In the end, it's got to be both sides who decide to put doctrinal differences aside to seek for a higher level of understanding. We live in a world full of mislead perceptions blown out of proportion that result in hate and crime and war and death. Values and morals are shifting as religious institutions - Christian or otherwise - lose their foothold in society. The last thing we need is bickering and stubbornness between the individuals who call themselves Christian and who should be uniting to do good for Jesus' sake.

I may need to split this post into two (or more). I'll end part one with this:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:12-22


Amanda said...

I have the opportunity to live here in the "Bible Belt"! I love it here and have met some really great people here. I have also decided that people basically find what they're looking for whether it be in or out of the church. The good and the hostle :).

Sharona said...

Thank you, Ben. Thank you for relating your thoughts and experiences to us. It has given me a lot to think about, too. I anxiously await part two.

The high school analogy made me laugh, but also rang true to me. I have felt that way MANY times. It does seem like those that claim to live their lives in Christ's name should be willing to unite with all those that want to do the same.

Wasn't it President Hinckley himself that said in response to Larry King's question of his views on other faiths: "We say to people: you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it."

Triet said...

Having spent basically my whole life in the "Bible Belt," I must echo your friend who told you about the Mormon-bashing Sunday school classes.

The importance of setting an example was constantly reiterated to me in high school. One time, a close friend of mine pulled me aside in class, and told me about a sermon he had heard his Baptist minister give a day or two before.

Some of the things he relayed to me made my stomach turn by their caustic nature and falsehoods. However, due to the long friendship we had, and my previous example of how Mormon's live and act, he ended his story by asking me this, "[Triet], what he said seems so different than my experience with you. What do you think?"

I was able to show him what things the preacher said that were dead wrong, and what were true. In the end he said, "I knew it. What he said just didn't add up with the Mormons I know. I believe you."

Unfortunately, not all non-denominational Christians are so humble as he (or you). For every time I was able to clear up misconceptions, I can think of 5 others where people ridiculed me for my faith.

...I started writing too much, so I'm gonna post the response on my blog. I'll be back with a link.

Triet said...

The rest of my thoughts:


Sara said...

Hi I'm one of Triet's friends, saw his post, and came to read yours.

Having lived/grown up in the same city as Triet and having gone to the same high school, our exposure has been pretty much the same. I also grew up Methodist, went to Texas A&M for 2 years, and became LDS in college.

I really resonated with some things you said, while I didn't with other points you made. At the risk of this comment being too long, I'll just say that it's not easy or fair to categorize people of different faiths into an Us vs Them, but it's not right to put everyone into an All group.

Also, there are many types of Born-Again Christians, some more in-your-face than others :) I've met all kinds, and some of my closest friends are born-again, and I CAN actually talk peaceably about religion with them.

Some people might not observe the rules of etiquette anymore, but I still believe that if you give respect, you'll get it back. :)

Thanks for your post!

Triet said...

I agree with Sara, and my previous comment should not be extrapolated to include ALL christians (we all know people and the MSM do that way too much these days).

Most of my friends and acquaintances growing up were some denomination of tin lành, and they often stood up for my beliefs when others questioned them.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)