The Long Version

Retired broadcast journalist. Blogging helps scratch the itch. Recovering exRepublican – Sober and still Conservative.

Posts Tagged ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Mormon Moment(s)

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It’s been called the Mormon moment.

Mitt Romney’s run at the Presidency brought renewed attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from around the country and around the globe.  The “moment” brought positive and uplifting dialogue along with negative, demeaning, and stereotypical discussion along all forms of media.

But for Mormons it’s never been about a moment, but a series of moments seen and unseen for 182 years now.   Moments where the desire to follow the example of Jesus Christ are put into motion through action.

The Savior said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  He also taught that the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Latter-Day Saints, Mormons, take those simple instructions to heart and if they are living their faith their actions will show it.

This short film shot in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy exemplifies what Mormons believe.

That faith without works is dead.

A Case for Mormons as Christians

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As the electoral process continues toward March 6th and Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney continues to be a front-runner for the Republican nomination.  Since 2008 when Romney first threw his hat into the presidential ring his faith has been under much scrutiny and in many cases attack.

Most recently Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, where he repeatedly called the Mormon church or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as it is officially known, a cult.  Many in the political arena chastised the Pastor for his comments but he has remained steadfast behind them and unwilling to soften his tone.

I recently received a copy of a letter sent to Pastor Jeffress by a member of the Mormon faith questioning his comments and using historical data to refute the pastor’s premise and make a case that Mormons have as much claim to the term Christian as any other sect.  It’s not known if Pastor Jeffress has read or replied to the letter at this time.  If such information is discovered I’ll make it available in a future post.

Are Mormon’s Christians?  Read Robert Starling’s case, check his historical facts, and decide for yourself.

Dear Staff Members at First Baptist Dallas,

I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find an email address for Dr. Robert Jeffress, so I’m sending this to all of the members on the First Baptist Dallas staff that I found listed on your website. I hope that at least one of you will forward this on to Pastor Jeffress because I feel it’s important that he have the opportunity to read and understand it.

= = =

Dear Pastor Jeffress,

I’m just one of the millions of people who saw and heard on TV news shows your statements that “Mormonism is a cult” and “not a part of orthodox Christianity”. As a faithful lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I felt a strong reaction to those statements, as you might imagine. My remarks here are only my personal thoughts, but I assure you they are heartfelt.

My reaction was twofold. First, I saw your remarks as an unfortunate “below-the-belt” swipe at Mitt Romney in the hopes of advancing your own favorite political candidate. While you certainly have the right to do that, I think many Americans join me in feeling that such a move was beneath a prominent religious leader such as yourself.

Second, as a devoted believer and follower of Jesus Christ I was saddened that you felt the need to speak out against my faith and beliefs. I’m sure there are those who think it was done with malice, but I’ll try to do the Christ-like thing and give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you’ve just been misinformed about “Mormonism” as many others have been.

But it might surprise you to learn that I actually agree with part of what you said, although perhaps for different reasons than you might imagine.

You said that Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” (and by association myself and the other six million-plus Americans who are Latter-day Saints). But I believe you need to be more specific. There are many different kinds or “flavors” of Christians. I agree that the LDS people are not Baptist Christians or Evangelical Christians or Catholic Christians, etc. I will even agree that we’re not part of “orthodox” or “traditional” flavor of Christianity, if by that you mean the post-Nicene church that became the “universal” or “catholic” version of Christendom.

I believe my faith to be the original church of the Corinthians, the Ephesians, and yes, those who were first called Christians in Antioch, – that same church now restored in these latter days. So I call myself a “latter-day Christian”, with theological roots that precede the “historical” or “orthodox” version that was the product of the various councils and creeds. That “orthodoxy” eventually became so corrupt and so apostate that the Reformers broke away from it in protest of its having “fallen away” from Biblical truths (2 Thess. 2) and “changed the ordinances” (Isa. 24:5) so that the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) was no longer recognizable as the church that Jesus organized.

There were many enlightened Christian thinkers and theologians in history who, like Joseph Smith, believed that Christianity had become apostate and that a restoration of the New Testament church of Christ was necessary.

John Wesley the founder of Methodism wrote:

“It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian; . . . From this time they almost totally ceased; . . . The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens . . . This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.” – The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, pp.26-27

As I’m sure you well know, John Smythe the founder of the Baptists first left his position as a Church of England minister and joined the Separatists, but then dissolved his congregation to re-form it as the first General Baptist church among English expatriates in Amsterdam in 1609. He felt that the “historic” or “orthodox” Christianity of his time had wandered astray, especially with regard to the apostate doctrine of infant baptism. Those first Baptists were considered a “cult” by many Protestants in the “traditional” Christian denominations that persecuted them unmercifully.

Around 1640, Roger Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, founder of the first Baptist church in America refused to continue as pastor on the grounds that there was:

“…no regularly-constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any Church ordinance: nor could there be until new apostles are sent by the great Head of the Church, for whose coming, I am seeking.” – (Picturesque America, or the Land We Live In, ed. William Cullen Bryant, New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1872, vol. 1, p. 502.)

If I understand your words correctly your definition of a Christian (and that of most Evangelicals) is a pretty narrow one, far different from the standard meaning found in most dictionaries. Personally I think anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and as his/her personal Savior who died for our sins and was bodily resurrected on the third day is a Christian. C.S. Lewis described such people as “mere” Christians.

But your narrow definition would exclude anyone who:

  • Does not believe in a closed canon of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.
  • Does not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
  • Believes in living prophets and apostles as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.
  • Believes in continuing revelation from God to man.

I could go on. I’m very familiar with the standard arguments against “Mormonism”. But the Bible says that believers in Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). I would respectfully submit that those Christians:

  • Did not believe in a closed canon of scripture. (some of the New Testament had not yet been written.)
  • Did not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. (it would not be written for 300 years)
  • Believed in living apostles and prophets as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.
  • Believed in continuing revelation from God to man.

So if you’re going to say that Mitt and I are not Christians based on those reasons, you’ll have to say that the believers in Antioch were not Christians either according to your definition.

You said in your Hardball interview that “Mormonism” is a “cult” because:

  • “Mormonism came 1800 years after Jesus Christ”
  • “Mormonism has its own human leader, Joseph Smith”
  • “it has its own set of doctrines”
  • “it has its own religious book, The Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible”

Your exact following words were: “and so by that definition it is a theological cult”. You made a weak distinction between a theological cult and a sociological one, but most people will not even notice that fine differentiation. It was obvious to any sophisticated viewer that your main goal was to keep repeating the word “cult”. It’s such an inflammatory buzz word that I’m sure your goal is to use it as often as you can to scare people away from “Mormonism” without seriously considering our theology and our beliefs. It’s a word used to end or avoid discussion, not to foster it. As a Latter-day Saint I welcome the opportunity to “stand ready to give a reason for the faith that is in me”, but those who sling around the word “cult” with respect to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek to cut off debate rather than to encourage dialog. It’s as though they are afraid of an open and honest discussion.

But following your own definition of “cult” for a moment, I’d like to respectfully submit that:

  • Roman Catholicism came 300 years after Jesus Christ.
  • Roman Catholicism has its own human leader, the Pope (or Peter if you accept the Catholic claims that he was the first Pope)
  • Roman Catholicism has its own set of doctrines (Mariology, transubstantiation, priestly celibacy, veneration of “saints”, indulgences, etc.)
  • Roman Catholicism has its own religious books (9 deuterocanonical more than those found in the Protestant Bible – also used in Eastern Orthodox churches)

And even your own Baptist flavor of Christianity in some ways fits your definition of what makes a cult;

  • “Baptistism” came 1609 years after Jesus Christ
  • “Baptistism” had its own human leader John Smythe – a Church of England minister (see footnote below from the website of the Baptist History and Heritage Society)
  • “Baptistism” had its own unique doctrines, including the “believer’s baptism” of adults.
  • “Baptistism” was considered a cult by the “orthodox” or “traditional” or “historic” Christian denominations of the time.

In fact Baptists suffered severe persecution from other Christians who believed in the “mainline” doctrine of infant baptism prevalent in that era. Thousands of Baptists were martyred for baptizing adults.

One of the dictionary definitions of a cult is that is a small isolated group that is out of the mainstream. That certainly does not apply to my church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest religion in America, and the second largest Christian church in Washington, Oregon, and California (after Catholicism). You mentioned that there are 15 million Southern Baptists. By 2012 at the present rate of growth there will be more Latter-day Saints than that.

Pastor Jeffress, in order to be consistent and truthful you would have to admit that the same definition you’ve used to brand “Mormonism” a cult applies at least in part to Roman Catholicism and “Baptistism” as well. Are you willing to say that on national television? I would hope so. I would hope that you’d want to be totally consistent and truthful.

Thank you for your time.

I’m attaching a summary I wrote of what I believe happened to “the faith once delivered to the saints”. There was a great apostacy that fundamentally changed the New Testament church of Jesus Christ into something so different that those Christians at Antioch or Peter or Paul would not have recognized it in the Dark Ages that came upon the earth. (Amos 8:12) That apostacy required the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:21 to occur before Christ’s return. That restitution or restoration of original Biblical Christianity was what was looked forward to by Roger Williams.

I testify to you that that restoration has come, and the original Christianity is back on the earth in its fullness as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to investigate these claims I’ll be happy to “bring forth my strong reasons” for “the faith that is in me.” I would welcome a thoughtful dialog.

Cordially yours,

Robert Starling

A Latter-day Christian

Written by DCL

March 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Keith Olbermann, BYU’s Honor Code, and other Friday Foibles

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I used to like Keith Olberman.  I mean I don’t hate the man or anything, I don’t know him personally, but I don’t care much for him any more.  When he was on ESPN he was enjoyable to watch, quick witted, funny, and knowledgeable.  Now he just seems angry.

Maybe he’s dealing with regrets about leaving ESPN and the sports gig.  Regrets sometimes make us angry.  Maybe he’s still mad at losing his deal with MSNBC .  Although it could be argued his “release” happened partly due to his anger, so maybe that wasn’t the tipping point.  Maybe he’s just frustrated with his growing irrelevance in exile on Current TV, his newest home for political assassination attempts and overall mean spirited dart throwing platform.  I don’t know what caused it, but I don’t care for it and it appears a majority of Americans don’t care for it either regardless of their personal world views or ideologies.

The latest example of the angry man syndrome KO exhibits came in a “read between the lines” tweet about S.E. Cupp, conservative columnist for the New York Daily News and radio commentator on Glenn Beck’s syndicated network Mercury Inc.  Ms. Cupp expressed her opinion about Planned Parenthood on the Joy Behar show recently and apparently Mr. Olbermann didn’t like her opinion and proceeded to make his feelings known through his twitter feed.

That got the attention of a few more tweeps.

Realizing what he just implied (only he knows if it was intentional or not) he starts to back peddle.

I am actually quite impressed with how fast Keith can run backwards!

I couldn’t help myself and jumped into the tweetness of the moment

No reply from Keith.  I guess I just don’t have enough followers…kinda like Keith.

The Brandon Davies saga at BYU may have simmered down a bit now that March Madness is over and Jimmer Fredette is eying the NBA, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hot topic any more.  A sports blog called DeadSpin posted a blog authored by Luke O’Brien and Darron Smith making a case for racism in the BYU Honor Code system and the way its enforced.

The two proceeded to use statistics with little to no citation, quotes from former black athletes (and it should be noted every athlete they interviewed was a disgruntled player who had run into problems with the Honor Code and had an obvious axe to grind), and lots of he said – she said, rumor, and innuendo.  They didn’t have a single quote from a black athlete who enjoyed his/her experience at BYU even though many of them have since come forward to speak out against the article and its implications.   Ronny Brown, Brian Kehl, Brian Logan, Justin Robinson and Brandon Bradley, all tell a very different tale when you ask them about their experience at BYU.

Instead the authors focused on Thomas Stancil, Ray Hudson and Tico Pringle all players who despite their talents could never break into the starting lineup and ultimately got into trouble with the Honor Code resulting in their dismissal from BYU.

The bottom line here is the article was severely one sided, with apparently little or no attempts to bring any balance to the story.  That under any circumstance is at the least poor journalism and at worst a hatchet job.

Some light may be shed on that theory by considering who wrote the article.  I had a hard time finding out who Luke O’Brien is but I found a website that said he was an award winning journalist, but didn’t mention what awards or from what sources.  It said he has had articles published by the Atlantic, Fortune, Details, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Boston Magazine and Slate and that he’s a graduate of Harvard and Columbia.  Seems if all that was true he’d know better than to publish such a one sided story seriously lacking in adequate attribution and citation.

Darron Smith is a former BYU Professor of Sociology who was dismissed from the school after writing a book critical of the LDS faith for its handling of black members and its priesthood throughout its history.  Smith is a Mormon himself, but is very vocal about his belief that the LDS Church should do more to right the wrongs of racism in the early days of the church.  His dismissal from BYU however, could lead one to believe this is a bit of payback.  I’m not saying that is the case because no one knows his motivation but him.

In a recent radio interview, Smith said he held no animosity toward BYU or the church but felt there were inequities and racism being exhibited in the way the BYU Honor Code is enforced particularly when it comes to black athletes, who according to the numbers cited in the article, represent a disproportionate percentage of students dismissed for Honor Code violations.    He also seemed to balk a bit when asked why he didn’t include any positive experiences by athletes like those mentioned here.

I don’t doubt Smith’s sincerity or passion about the subject of race at BYU and if there is racism involved it needs to be exposed and rooted out.  I don’t believe it is institutionalized or widespread, and those coming out in opposition to this article agree.  Deadspin doesn’t have all the details of each case either, just the comments of some former players who got kicked out or left BYU who happen to be black.

There are two sides to every story.  This could have been an informative and thought provoking article had it been balanced, but as written, its nothing more than a fire starter.

This is just too good to pass up.  Conservatives certainly have their flaws and imperfections but when placed side by side with Liberals and Progressives the principles of conservatism shine brightly.

Case in Point: Financial Guru Neil Cavuto goes head to head with Democrat Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.  Its almost mean to let this woman speak on national television with no handlers there to protect her.  Texas must be so proud.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FUN.

Brandon Davies: Is BYU’s Premarital Sex Controversy Good For College Sports?

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Back in March I wrote about Jimmer Fredette and BYU’s run to the NCAA tournament.  In that post I mentioned the situation with Brandon Davies, the 6’9″ power forward/center, suspended for the remainder of the season due to an honor code violation.  We later learned that violation had to do with the provision of the BYU honor code referring to living a “chaste and virtuous life”.   Brandon admitted to having sexual relations with his girlfriend.

What followed is, in my mind, a proud moment for BYU and for Brandon Davies.  I could opine about that for pages but I’d rather share an article in Time magazine published on March 4th by a disinterested 3rd party that closely follows my own thoughts and feelings on the situation.  The author, Sean Gregory, articulates well the magnitude of the decision by BYU and the possible ripples that decision could have in college sports in general in the future.

It’s a great read, so I decided to re-post it here with attribution.

Brandon Davies: Is BYU’s Premarital Sex Controversy Good For College Sports?

These days, bad behavior among college athletes is a fact of campus life. Beat up a freshman in a barroom one night and you can be back on the court three days later. Just this week, a Sports Illustrated and CBS News investigation found that more than 200 players on the rosters of 25 major college football teams have run afoul of the law. Nearly a quarter of scholarship athletes on the University of Pittsburgh squad have criminal records.

College athletics is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and the pressure to win at any cost — including turning a blind eye to player misbehavior — can be overwhelming. That’s why the news this week that Brigham Young University (BYU) would force starting center Brandon Davies to miss the rest of the season for violating the school’s honor code was so surprising.

The team looked like a title contender. BYU is ranked third in the country, and Davies, who averages 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, is a key player; in their first game without him, the Cougars were trounced by the University of New Mexico, 82-64.

But the most surprising fact of the story is that Davies got booted for behavior that wasn’t criminal. What he did takes place, to put it mildly, every day in colleges across the country: Davies had sex with his girlfriend.

BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which frowns on premarital relations. Davis, like 98% of BYU students, is a Mormon. Upon entering the school, students vow to abide by its honor code, which prohibits premarital sex as well as indulging in alcohol or coffee. “The honor code is an essential part of your recruitment to BYU,” says Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young, who played at BYU from 1981 to ’83. “It’s not like you find out later — ‘Oh, you didn’t tell me! I didn’t know that!’ But there’s a spirit on campus that is just, ‘O.K., fine, now let’s now go have a good time.'”

The judgment on Davies doesn’t come without costs to the school. If BYU fails to advance in the upcoming NCAA tournament without its star center, the rest of the team — young men who worked hard, obeyed the rules and did nothing wrong — miss out on a life experience they may never recapture.

But you have to admire an institution that sticks by its principles. “The expression of love between a man and a woman is sacred, valued at the highest level,” says Shawn Bradley, the 7-ft. 6-in. former NBA player who spent a year at BYU and spent two years on a mission in Australia before entering the 1993 draft. Indeed, many BYU alums say they support the school’s decision. “Sorry, I’m choking up a bit here,” says Philadelphia sportscaster Vai Sikahema, a former NFL return specialist who played for BYU in the mid-1980s. “It’s just hard for me to express just how immensely proud I am of my university.”

He should be. When it comes to athletes and sex, the easy call is to let the jocks slip. On any campus, athletes are visible, and popular, especially when a team is winning. And though it’s probably easier for a student to squelch his or her desires at a place where all 30,000 undergrads are also trying to stay chaste, suppression is still a challenge. “It was difficult for me,” says Bradley, a devout Mormon. “We all have those urges. You’re dealing with hormones, which are out in full force. But you have to stay focused, and put yourself in the right places to protect yourself.”

The willingness of BYU to police poor conduct is sharply at odds with other college programs. At Seton Hall University last season, for example, a basketball player who caused an accident while driving under the influence, causing an injury to the other driver, was suspended for only eight games. This year, a top player from Robert Morris University got a four-game penalty after a drunk-driving incident. In February, two players from Marshall University were charged with battery over a bar fight; they played in a game the next evening. Schools often let athletes off easy for on-field transgressions too. Two seasons ago, a University of Florida football player intentionally gouged an opponent’s eyes. He was suspended for a half.

BYU has every incentive to just slap Davies on the wrist for his transgression. A successful run at the Final Four could generate millions of dollars in television revenues and alumni donations for the school, and the added exposure and prestige can increase applications.

BYU boosters, however, believe the Davies incident could be a selling point on its own, by broadcasting the school’s principled stand on honesty and taking responsibility. Davies himself has apologized to his teammates and took his punishment without complaining. And despite the stiff penalty it levied, BYU also teaches forgiveness. “It’s really a pretty compassionate place,” says Young, a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young himself. “I guarantee you there’s a huge outreach to make sure that he’s O.K. If I could talk to him, I’d put my arm around him and say, ‘Hang in there, get back on the court when you can, and make it right.'”

Davies may learn a great deal from this experience. “This could be a seminal moment in this young man’s life,” says Sikahema. “Better that it happens at 20, rather than 50, with four kids. He’ll probably be a better man, and that’s ultimately what BYU is about, building leaders, building men. If that means missing out a chance at the Final Four, well, that’s what happens.”

Would any other school pay that price? More than likely, too few would pass the Brandon Davies test.

Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Keeping Score, his sports column for TIME.com, appears every Friday. Follow him on Twitter at @seanmgregory

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2057184,00.html#ixzz1IaX6AvX9