Sunday, October 07, 2007

conference chat

O.k., what's been your favorite conference talk so far? (This is a semiannual General Conference weekend for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hear 4-5 two hr sessions of speeches given by our church leaders.)

The one I keep thinking about is Jeffrey R. Holland's talk yesterday on our concept of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. And then President Hinckley mentioned it again in his address this morning. I thought it was important, as Elder Holland noted, for people to understand why some Christians say that we are not Christians. Sometimes people take offense at this. When people call us "not Christian," what they mean is that we do not follow the Nicene creed. We do not believe that the trinity constitutes one being and three separate beings simultaneously, but rather that they are three separate "personages." We do agree with the Nicene creed, however, as Elder Holland noted in the best one-liner so far of the conference, that such a concept of God is "incomprehensible." The view of God outlined in the creed is not supported by scripture and was outrageous to many early Christians. Also, we do not believe in a closed cannon. We believe that God continues to reveal His will for His people through a modern prophet.

Speaking of the prophet, he looks pretty hale and hearty for a ninety-seven year old.

[I just edited this post for clarity. There were a lot of typos and confusing sentences. Maybe I was unduly influenced by the Nicene creed. ;-)]


Montserrat said...

Elder Holland always gives excellent talks. I also really enjoyed Elder Hilbig's talk on "Quench not the Spirit." Just hit home for some reason.

ave said...

JW and I loved Elder Holland's talk. We seem to come across many people who do not believe that LDS are Christians. I'll have to read it when it comes out in the Ensign too. I noticed that there seemed to be more people speaking with strong accents. I liked that, it helped me focus more on what was being said.

Calandria said...

I was going to mention that too. Our leadership has really become international. There were speakers from Mexico, Guatemala, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, and Argentina among others. And having to listen carefully through the accent helped me to focus more, too. And you all know how dear to my heart is the northern Utah accent, but it was nice to have some variety. ;-)

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am still making my way through our TiVoed conferences. So far I have listened to Saturday's sessions and half of this morning's session. It is hard with a cranky two year old little man running around and wreaking havoc.

I loved Elder Eyring's suggestion to keep a daily journal about the moments in your life where you see God's hand. I also thoroughly enjoyed Elder Condie's and Elder Hilbig's talks. Excellent advice they gave!

Mama Ava said...

Interesting post, Calandria. Especially the point about Mormons not being Christians. Actually, in truth, though, there’s a lot more than the Nicene Creed that separates the LDS church from Christian churches. I think that it would be a lot more than “some Christians” that do not consider Mormonism to be a Christian practice. Even among Christian denominations (Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, etc.), there are some big differences in the practicing of faith; however, there are some basic tenants that remain constant and to step away from or re-interpret those would, by definition of the Christian faith, make one not Christian.

One of the biggest obstacles is the belief in the Trinity, that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are equal, distinctly unique and yet inseparable. The fact that this is a tremendously difficult concept to grasp does not lesson its importance in the Christian faith. That Jesus Christ is the one true Son of God, fully God and fully Man, whose death freed us from sin and granted us salvation, and that God has always been God are also at the bedrock of the Christian faith. The LDS church holds a number of beliefs about the nature of God (as we are, God once was, as God is, so shall we be), the nature of grace and salvation, and the concept of afterlife that do not coincide with what we believe as Christians. The use of the Book of Mormon as the predominant text, rather than the Bible, also raises issues. Even within denominations that accept the Apostle and Nicene creeds and the Apocrypha (the uncanonized Biblical books that appear in the Catholic tradition), it is the Bible that provides the authoritative word of God.

My sister-in-law is a very committed fundamentalist Christian and I am Lutheran. There is a list a mile long on things our particular denominations don’t see eye-to-eye on. She and I could argue for days on any number of topics. But the most basic beliefs of Christianity are rock solid and the same for both of us.

I am always puzzled when I’ve been approached by Mormon missionaries who spend quite a bit of their time trying to convince me that “we’re pretty much the same as Christians” when they’re not. The LDS church has a faith and belief system that may be similar in some respects, but is different and unique in the areas that matter on both sides. I would be equally puzzled if a Jewish person tried to equate both faiths as different interpretations of Christianity.

I hope I have not stepped into a hornet’s nest or offended anyone. Feel free to delete the post Calandria, if you think best. I grew up in a community with a very large Mormon population and have heard this argument all my life and it’s something that I’ve always found interesting. I’m certainly NOT any kind of expert on the Mormon faith, though, and if I’ve gotten anything wrong, I’d love to learn more!

athena said...

i enjoyed sis becks' talk. it's nice to hear the leaders talk about not over scheduling.

it's interesting how people say they would love to learn more about the church and yet when you give them the BOM to read (where they can learn more) they refuse.

ave said...

Mama Ava, I think that LDS feel that all those who believe and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ are Christians. We believe that in that way, we are Christians.
Athena, I have also been amused (and a little frustrated) with my friends who are also Christians and very interested to talk with me at length about our faith, yet will not read any part of the Book of Mormon.

Calandria said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Carla. Why would I want to delete that? I appreciate very much both what you have written and the fact that you took the time to write it.

I hope you don't mind me responding to a few of your comments as follows:

"One of the biggest obstacles is the belief in the Trinity, that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are equal, distinctly unique and yet inseparable. The fact that this is a tremendously difficult concept to grasp does not lesson its importance in the Christian faith." I agree wholeheartedly. It is tremendously difficult (I would say impossible) to grasp and it is a very important doctrine to those Christians who believe it. I'm interested in knowing how people who have this concept of the Trinity explain who Jesus prayed to when He was on the earth? If He were inseparable from God, why would He need to pray?

"(as we are, God once was, as God is, so shall we be)" Hearing this always makes me cringe. This morning I've been asking myself why. I think because it misrepresents what we believe. It brings to mind "The Godmakers." It must have been taken completely out of context. Mormons do not believe that they will ever be equal to God. God will always be God, always superior, always the One we worship along with His son Jesus Christ. However, you are completely correct that we have a different view of the afterlife from other Christians. I don't feel that I can do it justice in this comment.

"The use of the Book of Mormon as the predominant text, rather than the Bible, also raises issues." Never predominant to the Bible--equal to it, along with modern revelation. But yes, of course this makes us different from people who do not accept the Book of Mormon. If you read the Book of Mormon, however, you will see that it is entirely Christ-centered.

"I am always puzzled when I’ve been approached by Mormon missionaries who spend quite a bit of their time trying to convince me that “we’re pretty much the same as Christians” when they’re not. The LDS church has a faith and belief system that may be similar in some respects, but is different and unique in the areas that matter on both sides." This is an excellent point! Your response to these missionaries could very well be, "If you are not much different from other Christians, than why should I bother to join your Church?" The differences are there and they are BIG.

There was a master's thesis done by a Catholic man a decade or so ago that compared LDS beliefs to the beliefs of the early Christians. If I remember right, his research indicated that Mormon doctrine was closer to those early Christian beliefs than his Catholic faith was. I'd like to find out more about it.

In the early- to mid-1800's, there were many groups of Christians who were dissatisfied with the religions of the time because they saw that those religions differed from the church Christ established when He was on the earth. These groups met together and studied the New Testament and in some cases tried to set up churches based on the ancient church. An ancestor of mine, Roger Williams, stated that he didn't believe that Christ's Church existed at that time on the earth, but he hoped that it would one day be restored. (He was the founder of Rhode Island so of course he lived before the 1800s, but anyway...) Many of these groups and individuals, when they heard the message of the restored gospel, knew they had found what they were looking for and were baptized.

I relate this as an example that yes, our faith IS different and that's the point! :-)

But you must see, Carla, that it can be distressing for someone who wants nothing more in life than to follow the Savior to be told condescendingly that they are nonetheless not "Christian."

Calandria said...

Athena, I also liked Sister Beck's talk. She was direct! And I liked Elder Oaks' comments reiterating the importance of not over-scheduling and picking what is best rather than what is merely "good" or "better." Very wise.

Mama Ava said...

Calandria, at the risk of venturing into something I really don't have the ability to explain, here goes...

The Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all existence. This one God exists as three persons: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not three gods, but one God. Each is a separate person, yet each of them is, in essence, divine in nature.

The doctrine of the incarnation in Christian teaching is that Jesus, who is the second person of the Trinity, added to himself human nature and became a man.

The Bible says that Jesus is God in flesh, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.....and the word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14); and, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Jesus, therefore, has two natures. He is both God and man.

Jesus was completely human, but He also has a divine nature. As a man, Jesus needed to pray. When He was praying he was not praying to Himself, but to God the Father.

The Trinity is a tremendously complex issue so I'm definitely giving a superficial overview.

Ave, I understand that those who follow the teachings of Jesus are Christians. Some of club "rules", if you will, are in fact instituted by people based on Bibilical interpretation (an interpretation that is believed to be divinely inspired and led)after the Bible was written. Whether those things (things that can divide denominations) are truly Biblical can be open to debate. Can a group claim to be a part of something while not subscribing to some of the basic beliefs if they believe that they are on the truer way? I guess that's a question that will continue to be discussed for as long as we will be here on Earth. I think that so much of the squabling that takes place in the name of religion is so disappointing to God and when we finally stand before Him at the end of the day, it won't be the small things,the things that divided so many, that will be at issue at all.

Calandria, I hope you didn't take me as condescending. I would hope I never took that tone, as it certainly wouldn't inspire dialogue and and honest exchange of ideas! I plead guilty to not being very familiar with the BOM, but completely from laziness rather than any sense of opposition.

But enough of hijacking your blog. You had a nice discussion going about Elder Holland's talks and I've butted in enough.

Calandria said...

Yikes! I certainly didn't mean to say that you were condescending, Carla. But of course now that I reread what I wrote I see that it looks that way. I shouldn't write so fast. Anyway, I think the only condescending comments here were my little digs at the Nicene creed. Which were not called for.

What you are saying about the Trinity being one God but three separate people does sound similar to what we believe. (Though we believe that Jesus Christ is a God, the God of this world.) So is this wording of "one God" how the Nicene creed gets around polytheism? Also, do you believe that the Nicene creed was divine revelation?

You can hijack my blog any time!!

Sister C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ML said...

I know I'm coming in on this conversation quite late, and I haven't heard or read the talks referred to, but I would venture that most people who consider themselves Christian know very little about the Nicene Creed or whether or not they subscribe to it in their beliefs. It's a document accepted by Catholics and many Protestant religions, but not necessarily by all Christian religions. Contrary to what many people think, Catholicism does not define all Christianity.

I believe the original use of the term "Christian" was in the New Testament. It was used to identify those who were disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and believed that he was the Christ. That was long before the Nicene Creed arrived on the scene and put other qualifications on the word.

I think that common usage would most quickly agree with the original definition.

athena said...

i so agree with ml's comments.

Calandria said...

yes, ML. I liked your comment, too. well said!