Phil Johnson's posts at Pyromaniac this week were both enjoyable and irritating at the same time. He focused on the uproar and furor surrounding the Robert Millet book, Being close to John MacArthur, Johnson offers some great insights into the odd claims of some that the Latter Day Saints are becoming more like Evangelicals (in spite of heaps of evidence to the contrary). Here's the first and here's the second. These are worth a read, if for no other reason than to see how some will ignore context to make a point. Despite Johnson's best efforts, preconceived notions remain preconceived.
It wasn't that many years ago that I was a lazy Christian with no desire to delve into things like doctrine or theology. I was still a newlywed, building a life together with my bride. My faith wasn't really deep. I was happy with a Savior and Protector, provided He didn't intrude too much into the other areas of my life. My spiritual journey was starting to go deeper, but I still wasn't taking it seriously enough. Then one weekend I was asked to join a friend at his church for Sunday morning. I agreed.
I didn't know much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I knew they did a lot of door-to-door evangelism and that they had some odd beliefs compared to the way I was brought up. But hey, there was "Jesus Christ" right in the name, so how bad could it be? So my wife and I came for the morning service and to get introduced to the Mormons. The church was a couple hours away from where we lived, so it wasn't quite a church shopping visit. Maybe more like a chance to sample a particular ethnic food. It's all food, though... right?
I don't remember everything about the service. In fact, most of it is buried in the back closets of my mind somewhere beneath the answers to my 12th Grade Senior Math final. I remember that the service seemed familiar in format -- hymns, Scripture, offering, speakers. There were three people who stood to give testimonies, no sermon that I remember. What I remember is one speaker who was a girl of high school age who kept repeating something to the effect of, "Why do they think that we aren't Christians? Why do they think we aren't like them?" At the time I wasn't aware that there was any controversy.
I also remember singing from a hymnal filled with songs I'd never heard before. I love to sing and tried to sing along, but the words were somehow wrong. One hymn's lyrics were "Joseph Smith built an altar..." I couldn't even choke the words out. This was just bizarre. Even in my spiritual laziness, God had given me the discernment to understand that this wasn't right. It wasn't glorifying God. It was glorifying Joseph Smith. And who was Joseph Smith, anyway?
After the service we smiled broadly and shook hands with the folks as we departed. They were sure nice people, but I felt a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was like I had eaten too many cookies or had scarfed down a rotten piece of meat. It wasn't right and I knew it. I didn't know how I knew it or how I could ever explain it, but something was wrong. I thank God for the gift of discernment and that I didn't ignore it.
My friend is still a Mormon. From all I've been able to get from him, He doesn't see the difference between Christianity and Mormonism, except for the extra books in the LDS holy writings. The gift of discernment is either lost or being ignored. The thing is, my friend is being lazy in his spirituality also. The differences between Mormonism and Christianity are huge. Even key terms like "grace alone" and "only begotten Son" have been redefined by the LDS leaders to bolster their own peculiar doctrines. Yet he, and most others with lazy spirituality (in either camp), don't take the time to see, to study, to understand, to differentiate. What a waste of the gifts granted by God. I think of the years I wasted in spiritual laziness and where I could be had I taken my faith seriously, and it brings sorrow to my heart and tears to my eyes. But thank God that He can still use me despite the failures of my past -- especially to warn those who will listen to take their faith and calling seriously.