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Navidad

Would Love to Hear . . . err . . . read your thoughts on this article

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I have been doing a literature search to look for articles, books, monographs, etc. on the interfaith dialogue between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Christians who are not. Mouw is a well-known evangelical (in the formal and correct sense) who has met with the Presidency and has preached in the Salt Lake Tabernacle at their request.  You all will know better than me, but I am aware of three certified fundamentalist (in the case of the first) and evangelical (in the case of the second two) Christians who have had that privilege: Dwight L. Moody, Ravi Zacharias, and Richard Mouw. What think ye all of this article? I am not advocating it; just would like to hear your thoughts. 

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/mormons-approaching-orthodoxy#print

Edited by Navidad

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I think the idea that Mormons are moving away from the first half of Eliza Snow's couplet is pretty silly. I see no evidence of that and I think it a misreading of Hinkley (which now was nearly 20 years ago) to see that. Even people who reject the more traditional reading of the King Follet Discourse such as Blake Ostler still accept the idea that God was once like man. Just three years before Mouw's article this quote he sees as falling away was part of the study for all men and women

I do think though, going the other direction from Mouw, that this highlights a tension in traditional orthodox (small o) theology where the two natures of Christ is so problematic. I think that two natures is a constant tension within traditional Christian theology and there's a tendency of many thinkers to prefer to drop the full humanity of Christ. Mormons go the other way and fully embrace it and see the two natures as an essential aspect of divinity. That is the "heresy" of Mormons isn't so much a rejection of trinitarianism properly expressed in the creed as it is expanding Christ as characteristic of the divine including the Father.

However it strikes me as odd to see Mouw say, "God having been like man, is incompatible with what they genuinely want to sing about: spiritual reliance on the all-sufficient Savior." That to me just highlights how difficult the anthropomorphic aspects of God are for so many in traditional theology and philosophy. They'd much rather reject Christ as God and human and move to a more Greek emphasis. Of course you see that with liberal Protestantism with figures like Tillich. But Mouw's whole approach here seems to me assume Mormons are having the same struggle whereas I don't think we are. (Which is not to deny a liberal theological element among Mormons who tend to look askance at miracles, historical scriptures and so forth -- although oddly such liberal Mormons still tend to emphasize Jesus as God) That this same tendency is found not only in liberal Protestants but also those who tend to be placed on the fundamentalist side of Protestantism always is interesting to me.

Edited by clarkgoble
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I am still striving to find some kind of a sweet spot in the inter-faith possibilities for Saints and Sinners (non-LDS Christians) - said in humor. I bought and read the recent Kofford book called "Converting the Saints." That had great promise, but I thought fell short, just as I do all the non-LDS Christian writings on the subject that I have read. I hope to find an online copy of Mouw and Zacharias' tabernacle sermons. I also have been searching for more information about the supposed three times that Moody preached in the tabernacle in the late 19th century, at least one of which times was at the invitation of Brigham Young. Moody was preaching in Young's later years so that is at least potentially correct. He also is said to have preached in the tabernacle in the 1890's. The big biography of Moody by his son apparently mentions none of these three events. Are any of you aware of writings on the history or chronology of interfaith dialogues? This is one attempt that I have found - I attach the link in case you have interest - https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/the-history-of-the-mormon-evangelical-dialogue/

Edited by Navidad

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I enjoy reading Mouw's positions on The Church of Jesus Christ's theology. He comes very close to "getting it" than the vast majority of Protestant and Catholic writers on the topic. Yes, there are shortcomings. For example, he stated, "I would certainly prefer a clear repudiation of the implication that God is on the same ontological level as the human beings he has created." As a member of the Church, my thought process is the exact opposite - God is not on the same ontological level as human beings, but that humans are on the same ontological level as God. It is God that raises us up and takes us from his embryonic children to stand by his side as fully realized as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. 

There has never been a time when I ever conceived that the Godhead would not be our Godhead throughout eternity. The concept of being a god to ourselves is foreign and a gross misstatement of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his prophets and apostles.

What I find to be crystal clear is that even though there are very clear teachings on Theosis within Christian orthodoxy, almost no member of either Protestantism or Catholicism is comfortable talking about becoming like God without almost immediately belittling every statement made in scripture or by Early Church Fathers. It appears that they are afraid of their own doctrine. Conversely, within Mormonism, there is no discomfort. As a result, the Church is attacked for teachings that even orthodoxy teaches. 

Edited by Storm Rider
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22 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

I enjoy reading Mouw's positions on The Church of Jesus Christ's theology. He comes very close to "getting it" than the vast majority of Protestant and Catholic writers on the topic. Yes, there are shortcomings. For example, he stated, "I would certainly prefer a clear repudiation of the implication that God is on the same ontological level as the human beings he has created." As a member of the Church, my thought process is the exact opposite - God is not on the same ontological level as human beings, but that humans are on the same ontological level as Gold. It is God that raises us up and takes us from his embryonic children to stand by his side as fully realized as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. 

There has never been a time when I ever conceived that the Godhead would not be our Godhead throughout eternity. The concept of being a god to ourselves is foreign and a gross misstatement of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his prophets and apostles.

What I find to be crystal clear is that even though there are very clear teachings on Theosis within Christian orthodoxy, almost no member of either Protestantism or catholicism is comfortable talking about becoming like God without almost immediately belittling every statement made in scripture or by Early Church Fathers. It appears that they are afraid of their own doctrine. Conversely, within Moronism, there is no discomfort. As a result, the Church is attacked for teachings that even orthodoxy teaches. 

The best official statement of which I am aware....

Quote

Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/02/the-origin-of-man?lang=eng&_r=1

 

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I have been trying to think of the doctrine of sanctification as the route to perhaps in some way bridge the gap. I personally believe that once a person repents and accepts the atonement the process of sanctification can, should, but not always does begin. I believe this process continues for eternity as we learn to be more Christ-like in this life and the next. I know there is a difference in being as Christ and being like Christ. We are taught we are made in the image of God. I believe that if we desire and yes, work at it, that image becomes clearer as we learn and grow for eternity - as we see through a glass less and less darkly. 

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48 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

What I find to be crystal clear is that even though there are very clear teachings on Theosis within Christian orthodoxy, almost no member of either Protestantism or catholicism is comfortable talking about becoming like God without almost immediately belittling every statement made in scripture or by Early Church Fathers. It appears that they are afraid of their own doctrine. Conversely, within Moronism, there is no discomfort. As a result, the Church is attacked for teachings that even orthodoxy teaches. 

I'm not sure deification is rejected so much as what that means is radically different than in Mormonism due to the rejection of creation ex nihilo. As I've said I think the real break between Mormonism and traditional Christianity is that rejection of creation ex nihilo as well as seeing embodiment as essential to the divine. As I mentioned traditional Christianity technically accepts divine embodiment but there's a certain tension and uncomfortableness with it and see it relative to the Father and Holy Ghost seems a bridge too far.

But even in the Protestant tradition for which deification is a much more minor doctrine than eastern Christianity, you find it. C. S. Lewis for instance preached on it. However it's acceptable in traditional Christianity since there's still a fundamental divide between man and God making God totally Other. Mormons see as the key doctrine of our faith breaking down that divide.

Traditional Christianity accepts deification only to the degree humans capture a kind of image of God without that actually happening. There's again a tension here since it's hard ontologically to say what sanctification and justification mean if God's ethics are Other. I think you see that tension in say Anselm who has to devolve to negative theology where we apply the labels, like "good", to man yet simultaneously say that when man is good it's really not the same things as when God is good. I think some recognize that doesn't fully work, but then there's the problem of what it means to be a sanctified image of God or even to attribute the same properties linguistically of both God and Man. 

I think this always takes us to a discussion of the theology of the two natures in Christ. The problem is that if Christ is fully human, then that opens up a way for man to be perfect and be like Christ. However if that is in tension with Christ's divine nature being completely other and in tension with the human nature that undermines such divides. This is a huge issue in traditional Christianity since every few decades you'd have a movement that would, especially along platonic lines, see man as a kind of emanation from God and efface the distinction with God if only via a mystic union. Typically such figures were excommunication and frequently they were killed for this. It's rather hard to find a common ground when that's the dividing line.

Edited by clarkgoble
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2 hours ago, Navidad said:

I am still striving to find some kind of a sweet spot in the inter-faith possibilities for Saints and Sinners (non-LDS Christians) - said in humor.

I don't know why inter-faith dialogue and possibilities is dependent upon the hope that LDSaints will some day practice "self-correction" in terms of the Snow couplet. 

From the article:

Quote

At stake in this dispute is a choice between two approaches to Mormon teachings and practice. One is skeptical and presumes that Mormonism is a ­deeply heretical form of Christianity, so much so that dialogue is impossible. The other is more trusting and is willing to entertain the possibility that Mormonism has the resources for theological self-criticism and self-correction, and that dialogue might help in this process. Recent Mormon history suggests the ­latter approach is more fitting, and more in keeping with the way Mormons themselves understand their tradition.

Why do we have to agree on everything theologically before we can play nice and dialogue with each other in respect?

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I agree with President Hinckley. We do not know much about it. We also have not repudiated it.

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11 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I'm not sure deification is rejected so much as what that means is radically different than in Mormonism due to the rejection of creation ex nihilo. As I've said I think the real break between Mormonism and traditional Christianity is that rejection of creation ex nihilo as well as seeing embodiment as essential to the divine. As I mentioned traditional Christianity technically accepts divine embodiment but there's a certain tension and uncomfortableness with it and see it relative to the Father and Holy Ghost seems a bridge too far.

But even in the Protestant tradition for which deification is a much more minor doctrine than eastern Christianity, you find it. C. S. Lewis for instance preached on it. However it's acceptable in traditional Christianity since there's still a fundamental divide between man and God making God totally Other. Mormons see as the key doctrine of our faith breaking down that divide.

Traditional Christianity accepts deification only to the degree humans capture a kind of image of God without that actually happening. There's again a tension here since it's hard ontologically to say what sanctification and justification mean if God's ethics are Other. I think you see that tension in say Anselm who has to devolve to negative theology where we apply the labels, like "good", to man yet simultaneously say that when man is good it's really not the same things as when God is good. I think some recognize that doesn't fully work, but then there's the problem of what it means to be a sanctified image of God or even to attribute the same properties linguistically of both God and Man. 

I think this always takes us to a discussion of the theology of the two natures in Christ. The problem is that if Christ is fully human, then that opens up a way for man to be perfect and be like Christ. However if that is in tension with Christ's divine nature being completely other and in tension with the human nature that undermines such divides. This is a huge issue in traditional Christianity since every few decades you'd have a movement that would, especially along platonic lines, see man as a kind of emanation from God and efface the distinction with God if only via a mystic union. Typically such figures were excommunication and frequently they were killed for this. It's rather hard to find a common ground when that's the dividing line.

I think there is a misunderstanding of what I wrote - my objective was to draw attention to the discomfort within orthodoxy to even discuss the doctrine of Theosis or Deification among the members. In the many conversations that I have had with lay members of these churches is their rejective of their own church's teaching on the topic - "...that is heresy", being the most common refrain. 

I don't deny the doctrines are there or that the doctrines of Theosis or Deification are different from what is taught by the Restored Gospel - they just don't like to talk about it. This is juxtaposed against the comfort found among the saints. 

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39 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

I think there is a misunderstanding of what I wrote - my objective was to draw attention to the discomfort within orthodoxy to even discuss the doctrine of Theosis or Deification among the members. In the many conversations that I have had with lay members of these churches is their rejective of their own church's teaching on the topic - "...that is heresy", being the most common refrain. 

I don't deny the doctrines are there or that the doctrines of Theosis or Deification are different from what is taught by the Restored Gospel - they just don't like to talk about it. This is juxtaposed against the comfort found among the saints. 

Yeah, I just disagree they don't like to talk about them. That was the point about C. S. Lewis. I think they are uncomfortable talking about it with us. But that seems a different matter. From what I can see particularly in Eastern Christianity they talk about it all the time.

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4 hours ago, Navidad said:

I have been doing a literature search to look for articles, books, monographs, etc. on the interfaith dialogue between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Christians who are not. Mouw is a well-known evangelical (in the formal and correct sense) who has met with the Presidency and has preached in the Salt Lake Tabernacle at their request.  You all will know better than me, but I am aware of three certified fundamentalist (in the case of the first) and evangelical (in the case of the second two) Christians who have had that privilege: Dwight L. Moody, Ravi Zacharias, and Richard Mouw. What think ye all of this article? I am not advocating it; just would like to hear your thoughts. 

https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/mormons-approaching-orthodoxy#print

I am a big fan of Mouw's and Zacharias' work.  Even though we do things differently, I very much appreciate their honest and Christ-like approach to things.  I actually read this article when it first came out.  It has that same honest and Christ-like approach to things, even if I don't agree with every point.

I have seen every Christian sub-culture evolve over the last 30 years.  Change isn't inherently bad, nor good, it just is.  

As to the first half of the Lorenzo Snow couplet: ironically I think it plays a much larger role in anti-Mormon culture than LDS Christian culture.  From the LDS Christian side-- the quote exists by itself, and we don't know much about it.  It's a speculation, with a lot of big things not known.  Which in a culture that openly acknowledge that God has many great and wonderful things yet to reveal to us, it's totally okay not to know everything right now.     From the anti-Mormon side: oh, the craziness I've heard people say in relation to this...

Anyway, I am happy with Mouw's article acknowledging the fact that this speculation isn't a huge centerpiece of LDS Christian theology.  

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7 hours ago, pogi said:

I don't know why inter-faith dialogue and possibilities is dependent upon the hope that LDSaints will some day practice "self-correction" in terms of the Snow couplet. 

From the article:

Why do we have to agree on everything theologically before we can play nice and dialogue with each other in respect?

As long as either side in an inter-faith dialogue insists that the other "self-correct," the inevitable result will be failure. If the goal is conversion, the inevitable result will be failure. If either side doesn't listen because they are too anxious to move on to their next talking point, the inevitable result will be failure. If indeed, neither side respects the other (and this is the big one), the inevitable result will be failure. I think the key to respect is acknowledging that the other side is already redeemed in God's eyes, just as they are. If that isn't there, the inevitable result will be failure. If both sides don't agree on everything, that is great, it is what makes the discussion interesting. I don't agree with myself on everything! The key challenge, in my mind is that neither side respects each other because neither side believes the other is already redeemed and headed for eternal life with God. Remember, "I'm ok, your ok"? Well the interfaith dialogue among LDS Christians and non-LDS Christians has been "I'm Ok, You're not OK" from both sides. No wonder conflict has and is often the result - from the earliest days of the "relationship" until today. I wish I knew how to hep fix tomorrow. 

I was thinking the other day. . . . (Hah! that surprises you doesn't it?)! For some years I was on the international council of a very large non-denominational mission organization with missionaries from about 16 countries and 21 different denominations. There were many things we didn't agree on; yet every member the council respected every other member as a sincere Christian - OK in God's eyes. We also respected our converts within minutes of their conversion. We celebrated with them when they didn't even have a theology, a Christology, an ecclesiology or an eschatology. They had never heard of the trinity. They converted; we celebrated; all was well. They had our respect. I have seen new converts in our ward. They are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. They don't have a soteriology at that point; neither do they have a pneumatology. Yet the folks rejoice in their entrance into the community of Christ, just as we did in Africa. I remember once we had a rather big disagreement on the council on what to do about baptizing recent converts who were polygamists! This was common in rural Africa. Should we allow them to be baptized, make them divorce all but one wife, refuse them baptism altogether? We debated well into the night. The cultural differences in our countries, heritages, and outlook took over. Eventually we decided to baptize them with no strings attached. We respected their conversion "just as they were." Yet, here we are - non-LDS Christians demanding "correct" Christology, Theology, Hamartiology, and goodness knows what else from the Saints before they are "ok." The LDS Christians, in turn demand "correct" authority, method, and mode of baptism and other ordinances, performed by the correct man in the correct Church before the "the non-LDS Christian is "ok." Of course at that point they have ceased being non-LDS Christians. This is why I fear that there is no respect, so "the inevitable result will be failure." This is why I have come to the conclusion that together we are "making God cry." 

Yesterday was our post-fast testimony Sacrament meeting. I got up and gave a testimony. I testified of many things and then offered that our struggle in the ward is because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no box, no place to check for the "faithful non-member," regardless of their Christian commitment. One is either a member (faithful or not), or an investigator. Not much structure for anyone else. The chapel got very quiet. It ended up being a sweet time where a number of folks, including my wife and I shed tears. Now that was an inter-faith moment! I think it was so powerful because my wife and I love and respect the members of our ward. We believe they have come to love and respect us. We are no longer strangers. They know we aren't pilgrims. How I wish and long for that in our broader communities. 

Edited by Navidad
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1 minute ago, Navidad said:

I think the key to respect is acknowledging that the other side is already ok in God's eyes, just as they are.

I think how one defines "ok in God's eyes, just as they are" needs to be established first.  In one sense, we are all sinners, I don't think we are okay, just as we are.  We all need God's atonement.

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11 minutes ago, Navidad said:

As long as either side in an inter-faith dialogue insists that the other "self-correct," the inevitable result will be failure. If the goal is conversion, the inevitable result will be failure. If either side doesn't listen because they are too anxious to move on to their next talking point, the inevitable result will be failure. If indeed, neither side respects the other (and this is the big one), the inevitable result will be failure. I think the key to respect is acknowledging that the other side is already ok in God's eyes, just as they are. If that isn't there, the inevitable result will be failure.

There were many things we didn't agree on; yet every member the council respected every other member as a sincere Christian - OK in God's eyes.

This point stood out to me.  Are you suggesting that inter-faith dialogue between Christian and non-Christian faiths is a futile exercise?  Are you suggesting that respect is impossible in such a case?  I certainly don't.  I can view them as ok (not perfect) in God's eyes and feel that I have something to offer.  I also expect to find similar offerings that I can learn from them.   I don't need to view someone as "saved" (if that is what you mean by "ok") in order to respect them or their faith.  In fact, we are counseled to not judge as final judgment is in God's hands and not ours.  He is the one who looks on and sees the heart, not us.  We are counseled however to share what we have, but also to seek out the good and truth that other's have to offer. 

If we don't think that we have anything special to offer, or if we don't believe that there is anything special that we can learn from others, then what is the point of interfaith dialogue anyway? 

Edited by pogi

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10 minutes ago, Calm said:

I think how one defines "ok in God's eyes, just as they are" needs to be established first.  In one sense, we are all sinners, I don't think we are okay, just as we are.  We all need God's atonement.

Hi Calm: Of course you are right. My dialogue scenario was between Christians - LDS and Non. Perhaps in that sense it is better thought of as intra-faith dialogue. Both parties in the dialogue have been redeemed; declared righteousness through Christ's blood.

 

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2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Yeah, I just disagree they don't like to talk about them. That was the point about C. S. Lewis. I think they are uncomfortable talking about it with us. But that seems a different matter. From what I can see particularly in Eastern Christianity they talk about it all the time.

Theologians, scholars, etc., don't seem to have any problem discussing the topic, but the common members seem to be different; at least in my experience. 

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4 minutes ago, pogi said:

This point stood out to me.  Are you suggesting that inter-faith dialogue between Christian and non-Christian faiths is a futile exercise?  Are you suggesting that respect is impossible in such a case?  I certainly don't.  I can view them as ok (not perfect) in God's eyes and feel that I have something to offer.  I also expect to find similar offerings that I can learn from them.   I don't need to view someone as "saved" (if that is what you mean by "ok") in order to respect them or their faith.  In fact, we are counseled to not judge as final judgment is in God's hands and not ours.  He is the one who looks on and sees the heart, not us.  We are counseled however to share what we have, but also to seek out the good and truth that other's have to offer. 

If we don't think that we have anything special to offer, or if we don't believe that there is anything special that we can learn from others, then what is the point of interfaith dialogue anyway? 

I have to run - but for now, yes I see dialogue between Christians and non-Christians as valuable but very different from dialogues between branches of Christianity as we did in those mission councils. I see dialogue between  a Mennonite and a Mormon (sorry - have to hurry) in the same way I saw those mission councils. But I don't think you would. Am I wrong? I like being wrong - that is how I learn! I am pretty sure in LDS theology my baptism and all those I performed were "dead works, right? They were not saving ordinances. I am pretty sure in LDS theology that the non-LDS gospel is the works of man or of the devil. Am I wrong? As I said I gotta run. Will be back later. So yes, when I say "OK" not perfect as you said, I am speaking about my beliefs regarding those who have accepted the atonement whether LDS or Methodist, or any one of many other Christian branches on the Christian tree.
 

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 I am pretty sure in LDS theology my baptism and all those I performed were "dead works, right? They were not saving ordinances. I am pretty sure in LDS theology that the non-LDS gospel is the works of man or of the devil. Am I wrong

Yes, they are not saving ordinances.  Baptism by authorized reps (at this point only available in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at least on this earth) will be needed at some point.  There is no sense of condemnation for not having them, but rather incompleteness.  If life (including after death prior to resurrection) were a school, baptism into the Church would be seen as a class one needs to take for graduation and possibly as a prerequisite for upper levels, but not a required freshman course to progress at all.  The vast majority of humans ever existing manage to progress just fine without baptism up to the point of death even.  We don't really know when progression would be actually stagnated if baptism refused.

Imo, the doctrines of nonLDS Christians would be seen as likely partially false, corrupted by the ideas of men, many good intentioned, others not so much...though that last is usually based on scripture rather than being able to judge the intention of actual historical church leaders or theologians.  However, most Saints wouldn't label nonLDS interpretations as completely false and would instead see them as containing much truth.

Edited by Calm

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2 hours ago, Storm Rider said:

Theologians, scholars, etc., don't seem to have any problem discussing the topic, but the common members seem to be different; at least in my experience. 

My sense is the common members would have no idea what you are talking about. 

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As man is God once was. 

Meaning Jehovah came among us and lived like a man. 

As God is, man may become. 

Ie.  man may become a resurrected being. 

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1 hour ago, Calm said:
1 hour ago, Calm said:

Imo, the doctrines of nonLDS Christians would be seen as likely partially false, corrupted by the ideas of men, many good intentioned, others not so much...though that last is usually based on scripture rather than being able to judge the intention of actual historical church leaders or theologians.  However, most Saints wouldn't label nonLDS interpretations as completely false and would instead see them as containing much truth.

I like this. Imo, much the same would be said by many non-LDS Christians of LDS Christian's doctrines. I think it vital that each of us, study to determine within our own faith traditions, those things that are of men, "many good intentioned, others not so much." It is so much easier to see these kinds of things in others, than in our own experience, faith, life, etc. I do think the best dialogue would come if I told you about those things in my faith that I believe to be man-made of partially false and you told me those that exist in your faith. That would lead to less defensiveness, more transparency and probably growth in our understanding of our own faith. That would be awesome dialogue. 
 

 

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1 hour ago, mrmarklin said:

As man is God once was. 

Meaning Jehovah came among us and lived like a man. 

As God is, man may become. 

Ie.  man may become a resurrected being. 

Nothing to disagree with in that interpretation of the couplet; maybe the Jehovah part! 

Edited by Navidad

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3 hours ago, Storm Rider said:

Theologians, scholars, etc., don't seem to have any problem discussing the topic, but the common members seem to be different; at least in my experience. 

I suspect that's because even among Mormons most lay members don't really know their own theology. Even among small e Evangelicals you find a lot of people who believe in modalism thinking it's trinitarianism, think salvation by faith is what cheap grace entails, and are woefully ignorant of basic Biblical facts. Mormons do better than most groups in knowledge, but that's really damning with faint praise. Ironically atheists are most knowledgeable although that's probably an effect of IQ bias. (More high IQ people are atheists than low IQ)

Anyway, I doubt the vast majority of laity even have heard deification is an orthodox doctrine even among Protestantism.

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