The Idiot Mormon’s Guide to Orthodox Christianity, Part 2

The responses to part 1 were great. Here are some additional things I’ve observed that are noteworthy. Again, for brevity’s sake, I may have referred to non-Mormons as “Christians,” so I expect everybody to be on the same page with that. As with part one, sometimes these are terms we use that will sound strange to Christians, and sometimes these are terms they use that will sound strange to us. Enjoy.

1. Gethsemane. To Christians, it appears as though we attribute virtually all of Christ’s suffering to the episode in the Garden, and this can be very offensive for Christians. We do dwell on this event much more than the climax of the atonement – the crucifixion. I have found in my life that avoiding our particular view of what happened in the Garden (up front) is best. True, there is a passage in Luke which indicates that Jesus sweated great drops of blood in the Garden, but this passage largely eludes commentators; and rightly so. They don’t use the D&C to help them understand it (logically). Moreover, the cross is central to the message of the Synoptics (and John), as well as for Paul (I’m thinking Phil. 2) and it is there that the Gospel authors indicate the climax and fulfillment of Jesus’ sufferings. It’s all about the Cross until one comes under the influence of the D&C material. One may wonder – how did the Garden so seamlessly replace the Cross in our history?

2. Jew. Adam wasn’t Jewish. Neither was Moses, really. The tribal distinctions came much later, even after Jacob’s blessings (Gen. 49). These distinctions, so far as the Bible reveals, occurred during and following the conquest of Canaan. Judah’s prominence can’t be easily located (again, there are hints of it in the Joseph story and again during Jacob’s blessing of his children – this may be an indicator of a late date for the composition of the Pentateuch, but that’s for another day), but to say the very least, “Jewish” probably didn’t occur until the time of the schism between the Northern and Southern kingdoms (8th century BC). Our Christian friends might think it strange that we seem to suppose (unknowingly yet innocently) that Judaism goes back much, much farther than most.

3. Prophet. Mormons, for the most part, tend to think that anybody who is important or holds some form of leadership role in a given time period is automatically a prophet. It feels almost like a substitute title for just about anyone who leads. Our Christians friends may not agree with some people that Mormons think were prophets, especially Adam (who caused this mess), Enoch (only 2 or 3 verses on this guy in the Bible), etc. This one is just a mere observation, as I’m willing to bet some of you can think of people who actually joined the church because we throw the title around a lot. I can think of two from my own mission (12 years ago). But we do put a lot of (well-placed) emphasis on prophets and prophecy, which may sound cultish to our Christian friends. But hey, we can create some mutual understanding here.

4. “Knowing God.” For the Christian, this is very, very liberal and open. They even say “God told me that…” and then usually continue with what we would call “testimony.” But for a Mormon, I think “knowing God” is something a bit more serious (TPJS p. 149-150?).

5. Testimony. For the mainstream Christian, this term indicates the sharing of one’s conversion to God, or a story which heavily involves God’s workings and presence in their lives. It usually mentions God a lot, and illustrates how he has changed their lives for good. It has nothing to do with how well our kids are doing at school, how much we love our roommates, where we traveled for summer vacation, and is usually devoid of lame allegories.

6. Ward. Most Protestants would agree that the equivalent of a ward is a parish.

7. Stake. As a unit of wards/branches, Catholics might refer to this as a diocese. Some Protestants use state boundaries, and refer to their state area as “The [insert name of state] Annual Conference.”

8. Ordinances. From part one, I indicated this is somewhat of a misnomer on our part. It doesn’t have to mean “ceremony” or “ritual” like we think it means. In fact, the fourth AofF, in its original, used to read “We believe the first ordinances of the gospel are…” The words “principles and” were added later for clarification. I don’t know the history behind the usage of the word “ordinance” in place of “ceremony” or “ritual,” but we’re alone in that usage. Our Christian friends simply don’t use it that way. For them, it is more like a “statute” or “commandment” (Heb. chuqqah). Sometimes it might be best to qualify what we mean by “baptism ordinance” and the like.

9. Original Sin. This one will really upset some of you people, but what I’ve observed withstood the test of fire. When I started my M.A., again, at a Protestant school, I heard this used a lot, and I mentally scoffed it. The more I heard them use it, the more I realized they were simply describing the effects of Adam’s sin, but not necessarily the sin itself. I asked peers and professors repeatedly to clarify this, and became very frustrated because I couldn’t disagree with their definition. Maybe it’s just the Methodists, I don’t know. But when they say “the original sin,” they’re basically just saying “the effects of the Fall.” So you and I live under the curse of the original sin, according to them, and I’m fine with that because I understand what they’re saying. They also think that Adam’s sin could have been forgiven of him, but that if it was, it happened upon the Cross. I tacitly agree, as there may be an indication of this in 1 Corinthians 15 (cf. N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God for more). That should make most Mormons madder than a scalded dog, but from the Protestants I know, it doesn’t have the loaded definition that we attribute to it. Maybe there are other faith traditions that use the term in a more non-Mormon way.

10. Orthodoxy. The feeling I get from most Mormons is that this term only refers to the Greek Church. A Protestant would be deeply and fervently offended by this. True, the Greek Church goes by the name “Orthodox Church,” but context is what gives away that usage (other names are Eastern Church, Eastern Tradition, Greek Church, etc.). Orthodoxy, to a Protestant, is anyone who believes in accordance with the Creeds. I think some blogger-ninjas were calling it “Creedal Christian,” but I have yet to encounter this term among non-Mormons. Protestants feel that they are starkly orthodox (despite what Catholics might think). So when Christians discuss Mormonism, which I’ve heard more times than I can number, we’re referred to as “unorthodox,” which they feel doesn’t apply to Protestants even though they’re not active members of the Greek Church. Protestants feel that they are orthodox (miniscule “o”) Christians.

11. Bishop. Bishops are one of the highest offices in some denominations like the UMC, for example. Our equivalent would be one of the Brethren. And there are lots of bishops for them. The local, congregational leader equivalent would be a “pastor.”

12. Sermon. This is a sacrament meeting talk, only the pastor gives it every week unless he asks someone else to preach, which is rare, but not non-existent.

21 Replies to “The Idiot Mormon’s Guide to Orthodox Christianity, Part 2”

  1. I got attacked recently on #1, on the Logos Software list. The guy claimed that Mormons rejected the Savior on the cross and found the cross offensive.

    I pointed out several talks by President Hinckley and public documents such as the Ensign and the new Missionary discussions in which it is flatly stated that the Atonement was accomplished in the Garden AND on the cross.

  2. Good read! I’ll be back later with something more serious on the Cross / Gethsemane thing, b/c that one really chaps me.

    In the meantime, may I suggest that this site become the official center for tracking lame allegories delivered from the pulpit as part of a testimony?

    I wonder if there’s some kind of a regional pattern to them, or if there are some churchwide favorites out there. Fits right in under the “marginalia” category if you ask moi!

  3. Very good post. I think I knew all of that, and wasn’t aware of the orignal sin comment. As a matter of fact, I am on a discussion board right now and two or three people trying to prove (through scripture) that children are born in sin.

    I guess that, according to your post, this is not the case for all who use the term original sin. I guess one should be aware of that.

  4. Re: Orthodox (#10)

    I think you might have been missing the point of the objections on this one. Of course “orthodox” can be used as a descriptive term within religions. We talk about orthodox Mormon views vs. unorthodox Mormon views for example (see my post on that). The problem was that you were using the *title* “Orthodox” when you called your post “The Idiot Mormon’s Guide to Orthodox Christianity”. Orthodox Christianity as a title means something different than mainstream Protestantism or evangelicism.

    And of course you have never heard non-Mormons use the term “Creedal Christians”. That is the Mormon flip side to them implications other Christians sometimes make that Mormons aren’t Christians at all. It is all a marketing game — they call their club the “Christians” and then often make sure people know Mormons aren’t in the club. The strong implication (or sometimes outright accusation) is therefore that Mormons are not even Christian at all (even though we worship Jesus Christ). The Mormon response is to occasionally refer to other Christian churches as “Creedal Christians” (or sometimes another qualifier in place of creedal like “mainstream”, etc.) — thus implying that they are tied down by creeds that were not inspired by God (whereas Mormons are not so tied down by the traditions of men). Both approaches are about Spin.

    As a side note, this approach of hijacking the term “Christian” as an exclusionary term is bad for Mormons and that is why I don’t like to perpetuate it. Using the same logic, mainstream Christian denominations could theoretically hijack a term like “humans” and apply it to themselves but exclude Mormons. They could make the distinction between “humans” and “Mormons”. After a while there could be a lot of confusion about whether Mormons are even human after all. That has already happened with this exclusionary hijacking of “Christian”. A LOT of other Christians honestly and naively believe that The Church of Jesus Christ is not a Christian church thanks to this misleading (and in my opinion dirty) practice.

  5. Geoff, it may seem like I was missing the point, but that’s how the Protestants use the term; I’m not sure I like it either. They consider themselves orthodox (miniscule “o”). I’m just an informant who happens to attend one of their religious universities. Thanks for your good input.

    If they don’t want us in their club, fine. Any honest investigator can tell that we worship Jesus. Or do we??? 😉

    Ben — that’s why I go with Bibleworks, not Logos! Ha! Alas, I do have ABD on CD-ROM, which is Libronix or whatever. But I’m surprised that even came up. I usually just go to those sites to download extra databases and just slip in and out. Being a Mormon on one of those sites is a sticky thing. Out here in the bloggernacle, the tables would be turned.

    Mogget — it chaps me too, my friend. Hence why I noticed it.

    Ian — I think Paul may have thought that all were born into sin, but I think what he’s getting at is that we all eventually commit sin, and that it’s unavoidable–hence “born into” it. Using this polemic, Paul could then move the reader to see the necessity of atonement/resurrection. It’s not a straw-man fallacy either (again, N.T. Wright did the grunt-work on this).

    Ronan, the fact that you raise the question alarms me. I thought you was bona-fide, man. You know the answer to that one… 🙂

  6. For them, it is more like a “statute” or “commandment”

    We have a bit that has perservered despite correlation. E.g., D&C 49:

    18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

    19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.

  7. This is what chaps me about the Gethsemane / cross thing: It’s part of a larger pathology, a smug, self-righteous, superiority achieved by Mormons when it comes to biblical scripture, and very offensive to the sort of folks who are actually literate in the Bible.

    Here’s two points, from the passion narrative in Luke, which I am sure everyone knows, but I’m adding them to the conversation anyway:

    1) Lk 22:43-44 (the angel and the blood) has very poor textual support. It is MISSING in P75, the second hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Washingtonius, the f13 family, the Sahidic, Bohairic, Marcion, Clement, and Origen, and a raft of other important witnesses. There’s even a few witnesses (marginalia in Ephraeme and a few mss in f13) that insert these verses in Mt. 26:39-40.

    This sort of thing suggests the possibility that these verses are very old, but never part of the earliest collections that became the Gospels. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a passage with less external support which has actually been included in the body of the text of NA27!

    2) V. 44 contains the phrase “being in agony (AV),” (GENOMENOS EN AGONIA), which is where folks usually find the idea that Christ suffered for sin in Gethsemane. On top of the fact that it is so poorly attested, it is also poorly translated / understood.

    It usually indicates some mental distress or anxiety caused by anticipation of a FUTURE event — that is, Jesus is not looking forward to the events of the upcoming hours. Philo, however, used it in his work on the Rational Man to imply a victorious struggle. Jerome Neyrey wrote about this in 1981, in support of the idea that Luke portrayed Jesus as Philo’s Rational Man, overcoming himself at that moment.

    In any case, even if we did understand EN AGONIA as a struggle, Luke never tells us what, or who, Jesus might be struggling against. Sin, Satan, nada. In order to think that the NT portrays Jesus as suffering for our sins with these verses, you must:

    1) Get past the fact that these verses are so poorly attested;

    2) Decide that these poorly attested verses are somehow the most plausible account of the events in that locale that night;

    3) Get past a more normal translation / understanding of “anxiety” rather than “agony” for EN AGONIA;

    4) And then, in the absence of any information from Luke, insert your own ideas about what / why Jesus was struggling.

    So, you see, Mogget’s position is that there is no unambiguous evidence in the NT that Jesus suffered for sin in Gethsemane. If you want that, you want the D&C!

    And under these circumstances, which are for the most part common knowledge among the biblically literate, it is very bizarre to suggest that the most correct understanding of the Passion is that Jesus’ suffering for our sins was mostly accomplished in Gethesmane.

    David J. — if you have on your well-stocked shelves a copy of Metzger’s textual commentary, do come up and tell me what he says about Lk 22:43-44. I’m betting it’s included because of characteristic vocabulary. We’re having an ice storm here and I don’t have a copy at home.

  8. Mogget, very insightful! Thanks for that.

    Given the relative difference in emphasis between two of our canonical works, as well as the apparent shift in the hierarchy toward talking about the atonement as having happened in Gethsemane and on the cross, I wonder if we’ll eventually move in the direction of allowing converts to keep the crosses in their homes…

  9. Metzger-
    “The absence of these verses in such ancient and widely diversified witnesses as î(69vid), 75 aa A B T W syrs copsa, bo armmss geo Marcion Clement Origen al, as well as their being marked with asterisks or obeli (signifying spuriousness) in other witnesses (Dc Pc 892c mg 1079 1195 1216 copbomss) and their transferral to Matthew’s Gospel (after 26.39) by family 13 and several lectionaries (the latter also transfer ver. 45a), strongly suggests that they are no part of the original text of Luke. Their presence in many manuscripts, some ancient, as well as their citation by Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and many other Fathers, is proof of the antiquity of the account. On grounds of transcriptional probability it is less likely that the verses were deleted in several different areas of the church by those who felt that the account of Jesus being overwhelmed with human weakness was incompatible with his sharing the divine omnipotence of the Father, than that they were added from an early source, oral or written, of extra-canonical traditions concerning the life and passion of Jesus. Nevertheless, while acknowledging that the passage is a later addition to the text, in view of its evident antiquity and its importance in the textual tradition, a majority of the Committee decided to retain the words in the text but to enclose them within double square brackets.

    22.62 include verse {A}”

  10. Thanks, Ben.

    I was expecting an argument from characteristic vocabulary, but I guess not. That’s very interesting — a pretty clear statement that although the vv. weren’t original, the committee doesn’t want ’em to disappear, either.

    Pretty amazing that they’re cited by Justin, as well.

  11. A Mormon Guide to Christian Orthodoxy

    Dave, indeed that is a good title, but in my twisted humor way, I wanted to play off the “Idiot’s Guide to…” line of books. Plus, you gotta admit, Mormonism attracts a lot of idiots. I, for one, could be classified as such.

    Ben, did you get that from Metzger’s Text of the NT? If so, what edition? I’ll be darned if I only have the second edition, and found out at SBL that there’s a FOURTH edition out.

    NT text criticism is a labyrinth to me — so many manuscripts to compare one could easily get lost in the trees. But it does leave more room for people to explore it. Mogget, are you using Tischendorf (spelling?)?

  12. Ben can tell us for sure, but I expect it’s Metzger’s _Textual Commentary on the NT_. 2nd edition, arranged against the UBS 4th edition, which is identical to NA27 WRT to the text, but not the apparatus.

    It goes through many of the more controversial variants, explaining the reasoning of the committee with regard to inclusion, strength of witnesses, etc. The call number is BS2325 .M59 T5 1994. You should find it in the NT reference section of any decent library. Very handy little item.

    I should own a copy, too, I guess…

    I have Count T’s OCTAVIO on Bibleworks, as do you, but I’m just using the appartus of NA 27. You only need the Big Guys for historical context when you have to get really serious with Very Ugly Passages.

    I think the best commentary set to start with for textual work in the NT is the New International Greek Testament Commentary series (NIGTC), out of Eerdmans / Paternoster.

    I, on the other hand, find OT textual criticism to be something of a mystery. So many languages, so little time to learn them all…

    Maybe we can do a little exploratory work in this topic…perhaps Ben will participate, as well. If he recognized Metzger, he’s gotta know something about it!

  13. Maybe. It actually says

    “Second Edition
    A Companion Volume to the
    (Fourth Revised Edition)

    So perhaps its the 4th revised edition of the 2nd?

  14. Yes, it’s the 2nd edition of Metzger’s _Textual Commentary_.

    This 2nd edition of Metzger examines variant readings from the UBS’s 4th edition (revised) of the Greek NT. The 4th edition of the UBS has the same text of the NT body as Nestle-Aland’s 27th edition, but the critical apparatus is different.

    NA27 cites more variants, using fewer witnesses for each. UBS4 cites fewer variants, but gives more information about each one.

    There’s also a book called _The Text of the NT: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration_ by Metzger. I have the 3rd edition of that particular work…dunno how many others there are.

    I didn’t know there was an electronic version of _Textual Commentary_, either.

  15. Text of the NT: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration

    That’s the one I meant. I have the 2nd edition (ugly brown cover, badly shelf-worn). There are actually, to me, some very humorous moments in this one. Like when one scribe only knew how to copy Greek and not read it, when he was copying the Luke 3 geneaology he just copied straight across in rows, not columns, so that it reads: “…who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God, who was the son of Amos…”. Funny.

  16. By the way, David, with respect to your comments about the fit between the concept of “original sin” and the Mormon idea of “the effects of the fall,” I wonder how you would respond to the article by Janice Allred, “Toward a Mormon Concept of Original Sin” in Sunstone 8 (May/June 1983)? If you’ve had a chance to look at that article at some point, I wonder whether you would agree or disagree with Allred’s argument.

  17. Almost the entire “Guide to Orthodoxy” does not correspond with the reality of the Orthodox position. The total ignorance and confusion on the part of those who claim that “Orthodox Church” = “Greek Church” is sufficient to make the point clear.

    A clear exposition on Orthodox Christianity can be found in sites such as the following:

    and of course any official website of an Orthodox jurisdiction (they are all one and the same church). Further reading, highly recommended for all, is through the Faith Series books of Clark Carlton (Regina Orthodox Press).

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