Friday, November 26, 2010

Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Dr. Bobby W. Leggett Publishes His Impressions Of Mormonism; Not Bad, But Clarification Needed

The Reverend Dr. Bobby W. Leggett, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Blanco, Texas, published a column summarizing his impressions of Mormonism in the Blanco County News on November 24th, 2010. Rev. Leggett is neither anti-Mormon nor looking to pick a "fight" with Mormons; his objective is to promote better mutual understanding. He maintains that understanding what our religious neighbors believe is enlightening and helps us to be better neighbors to them. Trinity appears to be affiliated with the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ), the fourth largest Lutheran group in the United States after ELCA, LCMS, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

Rev. Leggett has obviously taken time to research the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to some degree. He does not label Mormonism as a "cult" or claim it is not Christian, but he does assert that it is not considered part of Orthodox Christianity. The latter comment attracted some attention in the comments section to the story; a visit to Trinity's website provides some insight as to what they consider to be "Orthodox".

But while Rev. Leggett strives for reasonable accuracy, some clarifications to his statements are necessary. Let's take them one at a time:

Some of the apparent differences in what Orthodox Christianity and LDS believe have to do with God, Jesus, and our scriptures. The only authority for Orthodox Christians is the Bible, Old and New Testaments. The LDS church beliefs are found in the “Book of Mormon,” “The Pearl of Great Price,” and “Doctrine and Covenants.”

The latter statement needs clarification because it could lead people to believe we Mormons don't use the Bible. The fact is that we use the Bible, and consider it co-equal in value to the other cited books, which we refer to as the Standard Works. Perhaps Rev. Leggett would like to re-word the last sentence by stating, "In contrast, LDS Church beliefs aren't just found in the Bible, but also the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price".

LDS church believes that gods, angels and humans are all different forms of the same beings. These beings began their journey as spirit children created through celestial procreation. Not only do they teach about a heavenly father, but also a heavenly mother. The spirit children produced by the union of the heavenly father and mother are said to be angels...

Reasonably accurate, but not sufficiently precise. There are actually five forms of sentient beings in the universe; pre-mortal spirits, mortal beings, translated beings (a more advanced version of mortality in which disease and death are neutralized), resurrected beings, and gods (who are resurrected beings ordained unto godhood). Translated beings are sometimes also described as "the spirits of just men made perfect". The term "angel" generally describes a messenger who is usually either be a translated being or a resurrected being. We're also informed that the only angels who are sent to minister unto this earth are those who actually lived on this earth as mortals. The spirit children produced by our heavenly parents are simply pre-mortal spirits. There is no way Rev. Leggett could have been expected to understand these finer distinctions in advance unless he studied Mormonism in depth, so I won't fault him for his lack of precision here.

In a subsequent paragraph, Rev. Leggett notes that we Mormons believe in plurality of gods, but fails to note that we worship only our Heavenly Father, as prescribed in Matthew 6:9. His failure to include that information makes it look like we practice polytheism.

And finally, here comes the "Jesus is the brother of Satan" canard once again:

Who is Jesus the Christ? Christians believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God taking on flesh and bone to become a Savior to those who believe and live in Him. LDS teaches in their “Gospel Principles” that Jesus is merely the first of billions of created spirit children and is literally our “elder brother.” In the LDS “Doctrine and Covenants” every person who was ever born on earth was our spirit brother or sister in heaven. They also teach Jesus is the brother of Satan.

We also believe that Jesus is one of a kind, the only one to become a Savior. But yes, we believe that Jesus initially received the same spirit tabernacle like those all the rest of us received. So did Lucifer, before he fell and became Satan. So yes, technically, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers -- at one time. But to say that "Jesus is the brother of Satan" makes it appear we consider them equal. Not so; while one is a Savior, the other is a Deceiver and a Destroyer.

Nevertheless, Rev. Leggett did a reasonably good job of capsulizing Mormonism notwithstanding the limitations of his knowledge and background. Certainly there appears to be no desire to misrepresent the LDS Church. So some of the comments posted to the story by Mormons seem overly defensive. Rev. Leggett has actually rendered us a useful service; we now have a better idea about what aspects of Mormonism we need to communicate more clearly. Eternal progression and plurality of Gods need to be explained better.

We also owe one other debt of gratitude to the Lutherans. Their founder, Martin Luther, launched the Reformation, which was a necessary precursor to the Restoration launched by Joseph Smith.

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