Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | April 15, 2006

Introduction

Today, I am beginning something new by taking a shot at my own blog.  Due to my busy schedule I do not expect to be able to write a post everyday.  For now my goal will be to write a post at least once a week.

So, why start a blog?  Well, why not.  I have a lot of things to say about a lot of different things.  This blog will give me a forum to record these thoughts on the world wide web.  Most likely nobody will bother to read them, nor even comment on them.  That really doesn't matter at this point.  What does matter is that I remain faithful to my beliefs and express them in the best way I can.

Today is the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter Sunday.  This is a very important time in our lives.  It is when we remember and celebrate the work that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did to secure the salvation of His people.  This is something that has changed my life forever.  In the coming weeks I hope to share more about Christ, His Gospel, His Church and what He has done to change my life.  Stay tuned.

I'd like to begin this week by posting a Chapter from my Senior paper.  It is an important topic about the Church and how some Christians are leaving it to join the Mormon Church.  Here is Chapter One:

CHAPTER ONE

Statement and Description of Problem 

Introduction:     

       In the course of Church History, there have been many heretical movements that gained momentum and drew membership away from the true Church.  For example, Gnosticism plagued the early Church and almost surpassed orthodox belief until defenders of the faith prevailed. The Arian movement gained significant influence in the fourth century even after Nicea, however the biblical doctrine of the Trinity was acknowledged and ultimately prevailed.  The medieval Church constructed a system of salvation that abandoned the biblical view and prevailed for centuries.  However, during the Reformation great defenders of the faith rediscovered the biblical doctrines of salvation and God used this Reform to liberate millions from the inventions of man made doctrines.  Some of these false teachings were completely foreign to Christianity, others were discrete, and others were the accumulation of error over time. Despite these challenges Christ’s Church, which has been entrusted with the Gospel message has endured by God’s grace.  There still remain numerous significant threats to orthodoxy in our own time, few of which are growing as fast as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). 

Statement of Purpose:

During this project the goal is to promote the advancement of orthodox Christian beliefs among the people of God and all those entering into it.  In the short term, the primary purpose will be to prevent any conversion to Mormonism among orthodox believers in the North County.  The term orthodox would include essential doctrines such as those proclaimed in the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, affirming the inerrancy of Scripture, affirming the sufficiency of Scripture, affirming the sole authority of Scripture and affirming that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  These are the core essential beliefs that all true Christians should subscribe to be considered orthodox.  There are other non-essentials that true Christians may differ on such as the mode/age of baptism, eschatology or style of worship and still be orthodox (this is why denominations are actually a gift to God’s people, which minister to different groups).  The goal as stated, in no way is to suggest that we must maintain a perfect understanding of theology in order to be saved.  However, the Christian faith does require certain propositions, such as the essentials stated above, to be believed for membership to be valid.  The problem is when error occurs and accumulates over time the Christian faith is lost and no longer recognizable.  The Mormon movement is an example of an entirely different religion that only contains a faint shadow of the true Christian faith.  Thus, those that place their trust in such a movement will not find true salvation.  The problem we are faced with today is the rapid growth being realized by the Mormon Church.  According to the National Council of Churches 2002 yearbook, which records the membership rates for 2001-2002 in the US and Canada, the Mormon Church is noted as having the largest growth rate among the fifteen largest Churches http://www.electronicchurch.org/02news14.html.  They along with the Glenmary Research Center study of membership rates for 2000 in the US rank the Mormon Church as the 5th largest Christian denomination, if that’s a fair characterization, in the country (See Appendix A) http://www.glenmary.org/grc/RCMS_2000/findings.htm.  The Mormon Church itself records a doubling in their membership in the last 20 years from 4 million to 11 million total members http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,967-1,00.html (See Appendix C).  To make matters worse many of the new converts to the religion are coming from members of orthodox Churches one study by Southern Baptist’s estimates about 282 members per week convert to Mormonism. (www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH04/07b).  Locally, the Mormons are the third largest religious body in San Diego county according to the Glenmary Research Center study of membership rates in 2000 http://ext.nazarene.org/rcms/267.html (See Appendix B).  This is certainly problematic for those who care for Christ’s Kingdom to be advanced and to see salvation come to the souls of men.      Thus, it is a legitimate cause to seek to improve the current situation by promoting the advancement of orthodoxy.  It is the contention of this author that members among orthodox Churches are vulnerable due to a lack of understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture.  An understanding of what the Canon consists of and what constitutes a writing to be considered the Word of God.  This lack of understanding opens the door for the Mormon message to be considered as valid.  Thus, a more conscience effort to educate the lay person about the sufficiency of Scripture would negate the advancement of the Mormon message among orthodox believers.  If local congregations are proactive in educating their members about the importance of this doctrine it should prevent the possibility of conversion to Mormonism to occur.

The Setting:

The San Diego North County includes the cities of Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, Bonsall, Carlsbad and Poway.  This area is located in Southern California in the United States, which is a very populated and fast paced area. There are approximately 630,000 residents in this area, there are approximately 370 Churches in this area, approximately 282 are Churches that would be classified as orthodox and there are 17 Mormon wards or Churches within the area.  In the 1990s an elaborate Mormon Temple was constructed just to the South in La Jolla (approximately a 20 – 30 minute drive) and is an example of the growth of the Mormon religion in the area.  It is quiet common, in this area, to be visited at your home by Mormon missionaries or at least come across their path.  The local missionary efforts by Mormons are certainly more visible than most other orthodox Churches.  To compound this problem many orthodox Churches are not educating their members with sound doctrine from God’s Word.  This is a widespread trend in the United States as Philip Ryken writes:

“Preaching is also falling out of favor among Christians…There is an overall “dumbing down” of doctrine.  Sermons are getting shorter; if they go longer than twenty minutes, people start to get restless. Church-goers demand to be entertained…Where there is a strong commitment to preaching, it often tends to be more experiential than biblical and more humanistic than evangelistic.  One popular trend is for preachers to tell ‘a simple story designed to teach a moral lesson, as opposed to a traditional dissection of a biblical text.  Often it is a very personal tale of the preacher’s trials and triumphs, with lots of emotional content and little thorny theology.’” Philip Graham Ryken and Nancy Gibbs as quoted by Philip Graham Ryken, City on A Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2003), 35-36.   

The consequence of Christians not being equipped with the preaching of sound biblical doctrine is there inability to refute heretical teachings when they’re encountered.  The Mormon missionaries expect this from Christians and easily frustrate or confuse the believer.  The believer presupposes that Mormon teaching is wrong, however is unable to defend his views producing doubt or worse, acceptance.  This problem is acknowledged by a Southern California Pastor:      

“Many Christians are drawn away from orthodox Churches to teachers of spurious doctrines, and one has to wonder how many of them wander off because of a failure on the part of their pastors to labor in the Word to the degree that their people are able to defend themselves against false teachers.” “Given to the Ministry of the Word” by Rev. Ken Jones, Tabletalk from Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul, March 2003  

This lack of teaching and preaching of biblical doctrine within Churches leaves its members without an understanding of the essentials of the faith.  Furthermore, in our modern culture relativism is a popular philosophy that many embrace, even many in the Church.  The Christian faith is beginning to be reduced to subjectivism and becomes primarily experiential for individuals.  The combination of these two trends leaves the believer vulnerable to heretical cults like Mormonism as will be explore in our next section.     

History and Background of the Situation:

The Mormon religion was established in 1830 by Joseph Smith Jr. and since its inception has set itself apart from the Christian Church claiming itself to be the only true Church.  Smith set Mormonism apart from orthodoxy by claiming to have received new special revelation from God that inspired his writing of the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrine and Covenants.  This precedent of new special revelation from God continues to be held in the Mormon religion, which elects Prophets and Apostles to its hierarchy.  For many years the Mormon religion was secluded to the state of Utah, except for a schismatic group that did not relocate from the Mid-West.  At the end of the nineteenth century Utah was finally admitted to the union as a state under the condition that polygamy was not a legal practice.  This practice was originally promoted by the Mormon religion, however coincidentally was divinely revealed to be rescinded at the end of the nineteenth century.  Since this time, however the Mormon Church has made significant efforts in outreach.  This outreach has realized significant growth, especially in the last 20 – 30 years with its aggressive missionary program.  The Mormon Church first entered the North County of San Diego in 1939 (See Appendix D).  Since that time they have planted over 17 wards in the area and constructed a large temple in Central San Diego as noted above.  The success of the Mormon religion can be attributed to its appealing elements, such as its emphasis on family, membership and having a unified message.  Furthermore, the explanation for the large amount of orthodox Christians converting to Mormonism can be attributed to their lack of understanding of sound biblical doctrines.  Rather than having a firm knowledge of the Christian religion it is replaced with a subjective or individualistic/ experiential faith.  Unfortunately, this is a destructive combination that fits very nicely within the Mormon worldview.  One of the main tenants of the Mormon religion is the “testimony”, which is an appeal to test whether Mormonism is true.  In the Book of Moroni 10:4 it states, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  This is a very extravagant claim that the Mormon religion makes here, which is a promise of a personal confirmation or sign that is revealed to the individual.  Although, it is inherent within the religion itself since it appeals to continued special revelation from God.  The Bible never makes this type of promise for Christian believers.  In fact, it’s just the opposite and Christ actually discouraged this type of act (Matt 4:7 & Matt 16:1-4).  There is not time to debate the legitimacy or sincerity of the “burning of the bosom” doctrine in this project.  However, it should be pointed out that after all of the facts suggest that the Mormon religion is false, this subjective experience is what persuades most individual Mormons to remain faithful to it.  In most circumstances, the facts that point to the falsehood of Mormonism are not encountered among its members and converts.  Thus, without any grasp of the truth the subjective experience is reinforcing all the more.  Although as noted above that the Bible actually discourages the act of testing God or asking for signs, there is an entire segment of orthodox Christians that actively pursue private revelation.  This is largely influential in Charismatic circles and advocated by authors such as Henry Blackabee, which encourage hearing the voice of God for special direction.  This practice has become very influential in many segments of the Church in our day, although it is based on following extrabiblical revelation.  It is appropriate here to distinguish between hearing God’s voice in Scripture and hearing God’s voice outside of Scripture.  The former is a perfectly appropriate practice, when interpreted responsibly, which is affirming the sufficiency of Scripture.  Advocates of the practice in question would affirm the former and the latter as valid.  It is beyond the scope of this project to do a full scale biblical analysis of this practice.  However, in the opinion of this author this subjective or individualistic/experiential segment of Christianity is extremely vulnerable when confronted with Mormonism.  Unfortunately, there are many Christians today that subscribe to this practice, which certainly may explain why there is a large amount of Christians converting to the Mormon religion.         

Scope of the Project:

This project will address the reasons why the Mormon religion is experiencing such rapid growth.  It will also seek to employ solutions that would prevent any further conversions of orthodox Christians in the North County of San Diego to the Mormon religion.  It is not the goal of this project to provide a comprehensive refutation of the Mormon religion and argue the veracity of orthodox Christianity.  Although it is important to point out the numerous errors and distortions that Mormons hold too, it is not within the scope of this project to provide a full examination of all of them.

Importance of the Project:

In John 8:24 Jesus states, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  Jesus claimed to be God, the second Person of the Triune God, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit within the womb of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died for our salvation once and for all.  Those who place their trust in a Christ other than the biblical Christ will die in their sins.  There are at least 11 million Mormons that believe in a false Christ and have no basis for trusting that they will be saved from their sins.  Essentially, they are unbelievers since their allegiance is placed in a false Christ.  The purpose of this project is to preserve those within the visible Church from being led astray by a perversion of the truth.  The stakes are high when the souls of men are dying in sin, which only ensures eternal damnation.  Thus, the importance of this project is to prevent many from the eternal consequences of placing trust in a false Christ.  In addition, it will seek to educate the laity about the importance of biblical doctrine and provide a foundation to stand against false teachers.         

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