An Open Letter to Anonymous

Dear Anonymous–

Judging from your recent comments, I sense you hold very little esteem for Mormons. I also perceive, in fact you have stated explicitly, you are a believing Christian. In a sense, your feelings about my Church reflect a general divide between those who consider themselves mainstream Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I find this divide both ironic and unfortunate because I do not believe we stand that far apart on many important theological issues–indeed, I consider myself both an Orthodox Mormon and a born-again Christian. I hope I can persuade you, even if only for a moment, that I can be both of these things and that this does not create an issoluble paradox.


Mormonism, it seems to me, is thoroughly Christian. I could attempt to prove this through many methods, but I will choose to focus on three here: 1) the Book of Mormon brings me to Christ, 2) Joseph Smith was a witness of Christ, and 3) the Temple focuses my life on Christ. These three, each an important pillar of Mormon belief, demonstrate together that Mormonism functions to bring souls to Christ.

My parents raised me on the Book of Mormon. Growing up, I often listened to a Mormon Prophet (Ezra Taft Benson) talk of flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon; President Benson spoke with a distinctive, high-pitched, rural-accented, staccato voice and I can still hear him pronouncing the name of the book. President Benson’s words inspired me to study the BoM, searchingly, from a very young age. Through the years, I have read the book many times and I have learned two overriding truths: the BoM teaches me about Christ and the BoM makes me more Christlike.

My knowledge and testimony of the Savior come, in large part, from reading the Book of Mormon. Many of my thoughts on this subject can be found in my “Jennifer 3” post. For space’s sake, however, I will quote just one BoM verse here:

“and he will take upon him their infirmities , that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

This verse teaches me that Christ willingly suffered each pain and sorrow I suffer so as to understand, intimately and individually, the secret sadness of my heart. This verse teaches me of the mercy, charity, knowledge, and care of the Savior. The BoM contains hundreds more scriptures like this one.

Beyond this, however, the BoM makes me more Christlike. I do not mean that I read the book, learn of Christ, and commit to become more like Him, though that is also true. Like those of the Bible, the words contained in the BoM transform those who read them–the words themselves are powerful, they change my heart. When I read, I have greater desires to treat others as the Savior would.

Joseph Smith testified of Christ. Some seem threatened by the idea of a modern Prophet, as if the existence of such a man would somehow diminish the importance of Jesus Christ as the Savior. This line of reasoning seems strange since the Bible is the record of Prophets. Some also point out that Joseph Smith acted, at times, in ways not consonant with currently accepted religious practices. On the one hand, of course, Joseph had flaws–as do all men and all prophets. On the other hand, many Biblical prophets engaged in activities that, by today’s standards, seem utterly foreign. All of which leads me to conclude that these things, in and of themselves, avoid the more important question: did Joseph, by his words and life, brings people to Christ. My answer is that, though Joseph was not perfect, he founded a people and a culture filled with imperfect individuals who strive to bring themselves and others to Christ. It was, after all, Joseph who proclaimed: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” The very ire “traditional Christians” rouse when they accuse Mormons of not being Christian demonstrates something about the Mormon commitment to Christ. Joseph’s claims, though bold, were nevertheless focused on Christ–as is the Temple.

As you doubtless know, anonymous, there are many parts of the Temple ceremony about which we do not speak outside the Temple. While this seems to be of great concern to you, there are various points in the Bible where the Savior instructs people not to speak of the things they have seen or heard–not all truth is meant for all people immediately. What strikes me about the Temple, however, is that Christ plays a central role in all that happens there. Everything done in the Temple is done in the Lord’s name and the things that occur everyday in the Temple occur both in concert with ancient ritual and ancient Biblical prophecy. Indeed, I echo Elder Marion G. Romney, who wrote: “My testimony [is] that…everything in the temple points ultimately to Christ and to our Father. The efficacy of the ordinances and covenants is in his atoning love and delegated authority.” I was struck, as I attended the Temple twice this last week, that the Terrestrial room is dominated by an enormous picture of Christ descending in glory and light at the second coming—in a sense, everything in the Temple is a reminder that, one day, we will all kneel to acknowledge there is no other name nor way whereby salvation may come except through Christ Jesus.

It occurs to me, as I mentioned with regards to Joseph Smith, that some outside of Mormondom feel threatened by Mormonism’s acceptance of so many people, principles, books, and practices as holy. It is as if some feel that our acceptance of Temples, prophets, the Book of Mormon and the like somehow lessens our reliance on, trust in, or faith in Jesus Christ. Quite the opposite, however, is true. Instead of these leading me away from Christ, they lead me to the Savior. There are some Mormons, to be sure, who set their sights beyond the mark of Christ. Some of these saints have gone astray because they fail to center their faith on the Savior. The central principles of Mormonism, however, anchor me, and many others, in Christ. These principles are like planets orbiting the sun—their existence does not detract from the sun’s brilliance, it merely reflects the Son’s light and helps us to focus our gaze, ultimately, on the Son’s central role in our Salvation.

Hoping for reconciliation,

Tyler

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Published in: on August 1, 2006 at 5:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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