"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
June 8, 2012
Cramming for the Great Theology Quiz on the Day of Judgment: Got a Perfect Score?
by Jeff Lindsay

Mormons are often condemned for the goal of being "perfect" someday - a goal only possible through the grace of Jesus Christ and long after this imperfect mortal sojourn. Ironically, those who condemn us for seeking perfection also insist that we will be damned for not having attained to their perfect theological knowledge.

It's as if the key to salvation is being able to pass a demanding theology quiz for which they have the answer key. Now they say that all one needs to be saved is to believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Savior. But when Mormons proclaim that we have done exactly that, our belief and our faith in Christ has now power to save, in their view, because we have "a different Jesus."

When pressed to explain what they mean, it boils down to this: because we have different views on the metaphysics of God's nature, on what happens after we go to heaven (eternal families? horrific!), the role and significance of baptism, or on how important it is or is not to strive to keep the commandments that Jesus gave us, these doctrinal mean that our Jesus is a different Jesus than theirs, and if different, then unable to save.

Mormons are damned for thinking that works of any kind are needed to be saved. All that is needed is faith in Christ, plus successful mastery of the following 315 doctrinal points…..

In 2010, I had a memorable experience with a popular born-again minister who had a large congregation in Appleton, Wisconsin. One of his adherents had Mormon parents, and she and her husband were worried about her parents' souls.

The couple had been studying literature the good pastor had given them, including the irresponsible and outrageous work, The Godmakers. It is a book designed to stir up fear and loathing, and it, with the minister's friendly assistance, had done the trick. They were horrified about the religion their parents had fallen into. A meeting was arranged in which the parents, the couple, and the minister would talk, and the LDS parents asked me to come along.

Here is my post of Dec. 9, 2010 on Mormanity:

My head is still spinning (or rather, my heart aching) after a painful encounter with a local minister who tried to explain to me and a couple of the members of his flock (two sweet and devout Christians) that I am not Christian because I believe in a different Jesus.

Didn't matter that I claim to believe in the New Testament and the Jesus that was born in Bethlehem, the Son of God, the one who died on the cross for all of our sins. My Jesus is a different Jesus because my theology isn't up to snuff.

I believe in false doctrines like baptism for the dead, modern revelation, and The Book of Mormon. I also wrongly think it's necessary to be baptized, important to try to keep the commandments (works!), and so forth, plus my understanding of what happens after resurrection (eternal families? gag!) is non-biblical.

All of this means that I am not even close to being a Christian because the Jesus I believe in is a different Jesus - not the Jesus of the Bible, but maybe (I'm guessing) Jesus Rodriguez, a shoe repairman in Veracruz, Mexico who smokes cigars when he's got them and yells at his kids. Or some other Mormon Jesus, not the one that saves.

That eventually led me to an interesting question, which I wasn't shy about asking.

"Exactly when do saved Christians lose their souls?"


"Well, consider one of your followers who has accepted Christ, turned his heart to Jesus, and has been saved. What might he do to lose his soul?"

Nothing, really. God is powerful to save, and once God saves someone, he's going to heaven.

"But tell me when he loses his soul in this scenario. Imagine that he decides to walk into a Mormon church service one day. Has he lost his soul? Not yet? Suppose he enjoys the service and wants to come back? Soul lost?

Suppose he starts to think that maybe he should keep the commandments to really follow Jesus. Then he starts to believe that maybe God does want him and his wife to be together even after death. He starts to believe eternal family life might be possible. Is that doctrine so abominable that his soul will be lost?

Then he starts to read The Book of Mormon, and he feels that it is also a witness of Christ. Is his soul lost then?

Still believing in Jesus and in the Bible, he also begins to believe in baptism, even baptism by immersion Mormon style, and then baptism for the dead, and a dozen other incorrect Mormon doctrines - all while sincerely feeling that he still loves the same Jesus he once accepted. He eventually becomes a Latter-day Saint. At which point does God say that his theological understanding has become so flawed that the once-saved Christian must be kicked out of heaven and cast into hell? So when did he lost his soul?"

The minister, who couldn't quit talking before, seemed surprisingly quiet. Then he came back and challenged the scenario by saying he'd never known of a born again Christian who had become Mormon.

But there have been people like that, I insisted. It's not merely theoretical. If a saved Christian can become Mormon, and many have, at what point do they lose their souls - especially when they still believe, in their hearts, in the same God and Jesus that they turned to for salvation in the first place?

Likewise, the path that I and others have been through, even while LDS, of turning to Jesus and seeking salvation from Him as the only source of redemption ought to fulfill every requirement of salvation from his perspective. If I am wrong about The Book of Mormon, if I've got my info on baptism and various other doctrines all wrong, then I'm truly sorry, but after all it is Jesus I believe in, the Jesus of the Bible, and it is through His Atonement that I have peace and hope.

So in spite of all the flaws I may have in my knowledge of theology, does not my sincere acceptance of Christ, the Jesus of the Bible, and my sense that I have been born again through His grace not count for something? I may have all sorts of errors in my understanding, perhaps I have been deceived on many points of doctrine, but is it not possible to recognize that in spite of such flaws, I too may be Christian?

No, absolutely not, he explained. Because of The Book of Mormon and all our many mistakes, I believe in a different Jesus. End of story.

If a drug dealer who knew almost nothing of theology and the Bible walked into that church and told the pastor that he now accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, I think the pastor would rejoice and tell the man he was on the path to heaven. If a Mormon says the same thing, as I did in that church that night, the response is "Sorry, you're damned - different Jesus."

Why is the Jesus of a drug dealer so much better than my Jesus? Because I've got imperfect theology. Better to know nothing than to have a little LDS doctrine added to your faith in Christ. Better to leave theological questions unanswered than to get any wrong on the Great Theology Quiz, because if you've got one wrong answer, you're doomed.

Ironically, some of the people who condemn Mormons for allegedly seeking perfection appear to demand perfection after all when it comes to their theology quiz.

The reality is we all have imperfect theology, even true prophets of God. Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, John, Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson: all were majestic prophets of God who had not yet received all that God has to reveal. Each lived as mortals with limited knowledge and the need to use blurry human lenses in surveying the cosmos.

Perfect theology is something we can't expect of any mortal, even those who are rooted firmly in the revealed truth of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Harshly judging others for their apparent errors in understanding is a dangerous game, given the pain that might follow when we ourselves are judged the way we judge others.

May that harsh minister find the mercy he claims to have in such abundance. And may we all be patient with others for their theological shortcomings. We have a lot of truth we want to share, but we don't have a monopoly on truth, and it's a safe bet that we each have some seriously imperfect views. Let's keep learning with faith, patience, and tolerance.

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.

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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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