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Friday, March 10, 2006

Searching for Salvation: The Bible or TV Guide?

There's an LDS film out called New York Doll. By all accounts the movie is a moving portrayal of the story of Arthur "Killer" Kane, the bass guitarist for the '80s glam band, New York Dolls.

Mr. Kane led the stereotypical self-destructive life of a rock star. When he finally hit rock-bottom, he turned to religion and found deliverance through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He thereafter lived a quiet life as a Church employee, but always longed to be on stage again. His dream was realized when he was asked to do a reunion concert with the surviving members of the New York Dolls in 2004.

Reviewer Steve Kline described viewer's emotions during the film:
Quietly resigned, even as one sits thinking, "Wow, [Kane] can do it. He can achieve stardom; he's on his way. Wow, what a great come back. What a story!" And then [Kane] dutifully returns to Los Angeles, and within days he dies of leukemia--just two hours after his diagnosis! Sad? Yes. Fulfilling? Yes. His dream has come true. His life has been fulfilled. Up from the depths of hell on earth to paradise, his change from booze and nihilism to Mormonism is well, a great story. "It's like LSD--a trip without drugs." That's how "Killer" described being LDS. Unfortunately, "Killer" never further questioned if LDS is similar to LSD--a trip that doesn't fit with reality. (Review of New York Doll by Steve Klein)

Last week, while chasing down news stories connected to Mormonism, I came across another review of New York Doll on Willamette Week Online. I've read several reviews of this film, but something in the Willamette Week review caught my attention. As the reviewer describes the lowest point in the rock star's life, she says that following a fight with his wife, Mr. Kane
"…leaps out the kitchen window and lands on his head. It takes him a year to walk again. One day, while convalescing, he finds himself with a Bible in one hand and a TV Guide in the other. In the TV Guide is an ad for a free copy of the Book of Mormon. He calls the number. So long, rock star. Hello, Latter Day Saint."

The mental picture of Mr. Kane weighing the Bible against TV Guide was just too much for me. I had to leave a comment. I quoted a portion of the excerpt above and wrote:
"I find this to be a sad illustration of human nature. Given a choice between God's Word and Hollywood, we go for the glitz. "Killer" Kane made yet another bad choice when he decided to jettison the Bible in favor of the Book of Mormon, for it is in the Bible that God offers sinful people the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Unlike the Bible, The Book of Mormon--"Killer's" choice--promises salvation only "after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). Seems that we humans are prone to dismiss or ignore what God has told us in His Word in favor of having our senses stimulated by something different, something new. Like "Killer" Kane, we prefer the glitz--and thereby reject our only hope."

I admit that my observation was a bit provocative, but I was still surprised by some of the comments that followed -- pretty much all directed at my post rather than at the story of Killer Kane or the review of New York Doll. One of them is so illustrative of a certain mindset that I want to share it with you here. This is what "Trevor" wrote:
"I was surprised to see his [Kane's] journey of faith being attacked by a latter-day pharisee. Rather than rejoice over the return of a lost sheep Sharon belittles his sincere attempt to grow closer to God by stooping to sectarian point scoring. In doing so she repeats deliberate distortions about what Mormons believe.

"Quite apart from not checking facts, Sharon has no right to speak on Kane's behalf or on behalf of the Mormon church.
"To confirm for yourself what Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus you can simply visit here: http://www.mormon.org/question. To see that the quoted verses are in harmony visit here to read them in context: http://scriptures.lds.org/2_ne/25 and here: http://scriptures.lds.org/eph/2

"To get an idea of the depths of Sharon's delusion and personal problems, I dare you to start reading the Book of Mormon and come to a Mormon service and then ask yourself how much 'glitz' and 'stimulation of the senses' is on offer.

"The truly sad illustration of human nature is the fact that after reading this inspirational story Sharon cannot feel happy for Kane - just because he found Jesus in a different church to hers. If bitterness toward others and an ability to spout proof texts for Calvinist dogma is all she gets from the Bible then it is clear that she understands very little about Jesus and his message. Maybe it's time for Sharon and her fellow Bible-worshippers to set aside their prejudices and have a look at something new."

I am baffled by Trevor's comments. I don't know what he's talking about. I have several questions:

  • What is a "latter-day pharisee" and what did I say to be labeled as one?
  • What is the "sectarian point scoring" to which I stooped?
  • How did I deliberately distort what Mormons believe?
  • What facts did I get wrong because I didn't check them?
  • In what way did I speak on behalf of Mr. Kane and the Mormon Church?
  • What did I say regarding "what Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus"?
  • What delusions and personal problems do I have, about which Trevor wants people enlightened?
  • Where did I indicate that I did not, on any level, "feel happy" for Mr. Kane?
  • How did I demonstrate "bitterness toward others"?
  • Where did I "spout proof texts for Calvinist dogma"?
  • What is the basis for the accusation that I am a "Bible-worshipper"?

Trevor seems to have drawn quite a few conclusions about me from a mere 130 word post.

So what made Trevor lash out at me, hurling accusations and shame about like he was searching for deals at a bargain basement sale? The comment I posted at Willamette Week included one Bible verse, one Book of Mormon verse, and a personal observation about human nature. But Trevor saw it as an attack; he said I attacked Mr. Kane's faith journey, but I wonder if Trevor thought I had also attacked him.

The way I see it--or the way I meant it--my post was a type of Gospel message: human beings, left to their own devices, don't want God. We want what we want and we're perfectly happy not knowing what God says about it. In fact, we prefer it that way. Though we may couch our rebellion in religious terms, it is, nevertheless, rebellion to accept as truth that which is not truth, that which is opposed to God's revealed Word. Yet God still "offers sinful people the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10)."

The Bible says that the message of salvation is perceived by the world as foolishness and as a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). The apostle Peter wrote:
"Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'" (1 Peter 1:7-8).

Was Trevor offended by the message of the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ? I don't know. Maybe. Or maybe his sharp response just came at the end of a very bad day. But isn't it interesting that when all is said and done, Trevor's solution to my "problem" is a validation of my post?

Trevor suggested I should "set aside [my] prejudices" (which in context I believe means my understanding of the Bible) and "have a look at something new" (i.e., the Book of Mormon). This, of course, is exactly what Mr. Kane did, and precisely what my post described as our sad but natural human proclivity. Trevor wants me to dismiss what God has said in the Bible and go for the "glitz" of something new and different.

There's another aspect to Trevor's post that I would like to discuss, and that is his accusation regarding my alleged distortion of "what Mormons believe." Next week on Mormon Coffee I'll look at 2 Nephi 25:23 to see how LDS leaders understand the Book of Mormon teaching that we are saved by grace "after all we can do."

3 Comments:

  • At March 13, 2006 11:11 AM, Blogger rick b said…

    I have read the BoM and all the standerd works for that matter. I would like to pose this question on the BoM.

    If you compare the Bible to the BoM, and you find they agree on certain topics, such as Hell, Heaven, Baptism, Etc. Then say ok, Lets only look at things taught in the BoM not taught in the Bible, Then we can remove the subjects I mentioned.

    Now please point out for me, what does the BoM tell me or offer me, that will help me attain a fuller salvation or bring me closer to Jesus, that the Bible does not offer?

    I would simply state, NOTHING. Joseph Smith said in History of the church vol 4, page 461:

    "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

    Please Show me these (precepts) That will get me nearer to God. As to the BoM being the Most correct of any book, Why is their about 4,000 Changes, Some of major doctrial topics?

    If anyone would like to talk to me more on mormonism, please find me at www.mormonismreviewed.blogspot.com
    Rick Beaudin

     
  • At March 13, 2006 2:30 PM, Anonymous Renee said…

    Trevor says, "To confirm for yourself what Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus you can simply visit here: http://www.mormon.org/question."

    Well, Trevor, I did visit that site. I have to admit that everything looked like basic Christianity except for the section that said we had all been spirits living with God before we got human bodies. Since I've been studying LDS doctrine for quite a while I realized that this web site leaves anyone investigating the LDS Church without the information they need to make an informed decision.

    I spent quite a while looking for the doctrine that says God was once a man like us who progressed his way to godhood, and we can do the same thing (I did see the words "eternal progression", but I couldn't find a definition for them). You would think this would be under the FAQ headline "Who is God", but it's not.

    An investigator can ask to be visited by the missionaries. But, unless he asks the right questions these young men do not tell him that God was once a man, or that they are working their way to godhood.

    Also, though the LDS Church uses historical Christian terms they've changed the meanings. Such as: GODHEAD:
    LDS--The unified "committee" of a Father god, his Son Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Father god is a resurrected man with a physical body. Christ is a separate resurrected god with a physical body. The Holy Ghost is a separate god with only a spiritual body. These are three totally separate and distinct Gods.

    BIBLE--A reference to the Trinity: One God eternally existent in three Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In addition, the Bible teaches God is not a man (Numbers 23:19); There is only one God (Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:21-22); The Father is Spirit and invisible (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 1:17).

    JESUS CHRIST:
    LDS--A created being, the first spirit child of Elohim and one of his wives, the spirit brother of Lucifer the devil.

    BIBLE--The eternal God manifested in the flesh; the One that created all things (John 1:1-3, 14).

    HOLY GHOST:
    LDS--A separate God from the Father and the Son; different from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is a person whereas the Holy Spirit is an influence from Father, not personal.

    BIBLE--The same Greek word is used for Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). He is the third Person of the one triune God.

    ATONEMENT--SALVATION BY GRACE:
    LDS--Universal resurrection, also known as salvation by grace, brought about by Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and death on the Cross. Beyond resurrection, man must earn his own place in heaven.

    BIBLE--Refers to God's act of dealing with the primary human problem of sin, which has broken the relationship between God and humankind. God accomplished the way of restoration through Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross. Salvation is not universal, but based on each individual's relationship with Jesus, being given as a free gift of grace to those who trust in Christ alone (Romans 1:16: Hebrews 9:28: Ephesians 2:8-9). And

    ETERNAL LIFE:
    LDS--Exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom with the ability to eternally bear children in heaven. Requires an LDS temple marriage.

    BIBLE--Dwelling forever in the presence of God, a free gift given to all who believe. No mention of parenthood or marriage (John 14:2; Matthew 22:30).

    So, Trevor, where can an investigator go when he wants to get the whole truth before making a decision? He can contact people like Sharon, who have been studying LDS doctrine for many years; he can get a book like "Mormonism 101" by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson; or he can visit web sites like www.answeringlds.org.

    Until the LDS Church begins telling the truth to people before they join the church, investigators need to use other sources in order to make an informed decision.

     
  • At March 17, 2006 12:50 PM, Blogger jer1414 said…

    Excellent comment Renee! You hit the nail on the head - Mormons mask their true beliefs under the guise of Christianity by using the same words, and non-Mormons have no idea that those words have been redefined to the point where the Mormon belief system is completely different *and contrary* to Christianity!

    Thank you for clarifying those several important definitions as well, I hope anyone investigating Mormonism will learn from them.

    Wouldn't it be so much simpler if Mormons were just *open* and honest about what they believe? It would save many of us so much time and energy.

     

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