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What can one say? When I was a child, my family and I spent nearly two years living in the western United States. Anyone who knows his geography and religious history will know that a sizeable number of Mormons — members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) — live in that part of the world. We lived near the State of Utah.

The Mormons are terribly nice people, but one would be well advised to leave faith-based discussions out of the frame.

During our time out West, an LDS colleague of my father’s gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. After my father’s death, my mother and I agreed to throw it out. He had politely accepted it (in order to be agreeable at the time), put it on our bookshelf as if to say to other proselytes, ‘Thanks, we already have one’, then promptly forgot about it.

One thing that did catch my eye was the angel named, of all things, Moroni, who delivered the revelations to Joseph Smith. Was this a joke?

Unbelievable as it might seem, I have had close friends whose relatives converted to Mormonism. My friends and I could never quite figure this out. Still, such as it is, the Church of Latter Day Saints continues to expand in number. Perhaps this is a reaction to today’s relaxed social attitudes. Or maybe it is because converts see a bit of a meal ticket in the local charity through which Mormons provide for their own.

Today, if you visit Free Republic, you’ll see lively, if not hostile, weekly discussions of the LDS. LDS members defend their corner fiercely as Christians try to enlighten them.

So, it is with some reluctance that I promote Mitt Romney for President. I certainly hope for all his business acumen that he also has a streak of libertarianism. Nonetheless, what he offers has to be a degree or two better than the Marxism that Americans have experienced over the past four years.

Believe me, if Americans don’t vote the incumbent out on November 6, they will find that the noose will tighten to the point of no return.

However, back to the Mormon phenomenon.

Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California and Heidelblog discussed the American fascination with this aberration of Christianity in ‘Good Mormon Families?’

He says (emphases mine):

When discussing the success of Mormons, who prefer to be known as Latter Day Saints, in spreading their religion,  people point to four points of persuasion:

    • They have good families
    • They are nice people
    • They’ve had an intense religious experience
    • They’re right on the social-family issues

I sometimes worry that the same ethos that makes Mormonism attractive to middle-class, suburban American families has a greater influence in evangelical and Reformed churches and families than we might realize. To be sure, it is a great blessing to have a peaceful, well-ordered family. Being appropriately pleasant is a good thing. A Biblically-informed, confessional piety of Word and sacrament may be quite intense at times. Most confessional Reformed folk probably reach similar conclusions regarding the necessity of stable, nuclear and extended families for the well-being of society. These things are all to be desired.

The interesting thing about this list, however, from a Christian perspective, is that there isn’t anything distinctively Christian about it. Virtually every world religion has produced followers that meet these criteria. Lots of non-Christian religions have adherents who have good families, are “nice” people, have had intense religious experiences, and place a high value on sound families and societies.

The use of such criteria is symptomatic of the temptation to set up standards of measurement in the church that may be good, true, and useful but that are not well grounded in Scripture.  Such criteria may be useful when thinking about standards for what makes a good civil community but is this how the Scriptures think about the people and social units that make up the visible church?

Take the Mormon doctrine of the “burning in the bosom.” The confirmation that the Mormon claims are true lies in a subjective religious experience. The truth is, however, that the NT says remarkably little about our feelings. There are passages in the ESV translation of the NT that use the word “feeling” that have some reference to subjective religious experience and in each case the translation is questionable. There are other passages that imply religious feeling or experience but where does the NT use such as the basis for doctrine or as the basis for conviction? The basis for our conviction that the tomb is empty is the eye witness testimony of witnesses recorded in Scripture. That testimony is reliable. The Spirit gives us new life, gives us faith, and through faith justifies and unites us to Christ. The Spirit witnesses to us that the Scriptures are true but the illumination of Scripture and witness of the Spirit is not a “burning in the bosom.” It is not the intensity of one’s personal experience that makes us certain. Experience waxes and wanes. It is the unchangeable promise of God that we rely.

In the comments, Clark also wonders about the angel Moroni:

What word would you have us use, to describe religions that were originated by a huckster who interpreted plates delivered by an angel named Moroni (surely a giant practical joke) via a hat and magic glasses?

Indeed. I fully agree.

With regard to the American election, however, this is a prime example of where the doctrine of Two Kingdoms (2K) — divine and secular — comes into play. Lutherans and Calvinists are taught not to merge the two into one, because the Holy Spirit works His wisdom through us all via what is called common grace. (Catholics and Anglicans also adhere to this teaching but don’t use such terminology or formal theology.)

Examples of 2K and common grace include Jesus’s healing and feeding of Gentiles and the first American Thanksgiving in New England.

I would never go on record as saying that life under Mitt Romney’s administration will be a treat, but it has to be far more Constitutional and responsible than the Democrats’ alternative.

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