What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Archive for June 19th, 2008

Pre-conceived Notions

Posted by JLFuller on June 19, 2008

“We used to have on the front of the Old Testament syllabus at Duke* a cartoon and it showed a young man lying on the floor thumbing through his scriptures and his wife was standing over him and he’s saying to her ‘Go away, leave me alone. I’m looking for a biblical text to support my pre-conceived notion!’ Roger R. Keller, Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding at BYU  www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2003_Grace_of_Apologetics.html


In his piece, Dr. Keller takes from the Book of Mormon: He quotes 3 Nephi 11: 29-30: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the Spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine that such things should be done away.”


I think refusing to consider the other side of the story is not a doctrinal thing – it is a form of non-verbal violence. Non-verbal violence is similar to passive-aggressive behavior or more accurately sabotage. The perpetrator’s behavior in effect is communicating a willingness to breach the minimum decorum we expect from each other. That is, I will trust and honor you and be trustworthy in return. In our discussions here, refusing to accommodate another persons most sacred beliefs and in fact denigrating them publicly, is defacto aggression. It is an anger response. That is not to say we all have to agree with everyone else, we just have to accommodate the legitimacy of their closely held beliefs. The real world effect of such destructive behavior is the diminution of the bond that makes communities work. Notice again I am not talking about doctrine. The focus is behavioral. We may all have differences of opinion and consider one element of fact as more persuasive than another and come to entirely different positions. That is to be expected. But what we cannot do, and must not do, is reject the other persons right to have his position respected and given due consideration.  


If I use the term pro-social, most people understand what that means. If I use the term anti-social, they understand that too. Overt hostile words are anti-social. Most people understand that to be a bad thing and they understand why. But there are some who insist that because they have a right to make such comments that it is a good thing too. To those people I ask “good for whom?” Good for the recipient of your brutish behavior? Is it good for you to just get it off your chest? I don’t see any benefit in alienating people you disagree with. What is it you hope to accomplish? Do you think the other guy is listening? Do you think other readers/listeners are impressed? No my friends, there is a better way. It is more challenging but it works where other methods fail. The other way is Christ’s way. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith..”


I came across a fellow writing on his blog recently, lamenting that only 2500 or so of his denomination at any one time ever took a week off to go to another city and witness. Mormons, on the other hand, had 50,000 to 60,000 people serving two year missions and they paid their own way. The difference I suggest is adherents to his denomination and others who follow that example are quite willing and anxious to openly attack other denominations with whom they disagree. I suggest that by their behavior they repel the Holy Spirit when they do so. Notice I said nothing about doctrine – only behavior.


Many years ago, four California Highway Patrol Officer were gunned down by two killers. Asked why they killed the officers, one commented “Because they got stupid. They deserved it”. The killers based their behavior on weaknesses they perceived in others. The officers did not intend to use deadly force against the killers unless there was no other way and their thinking dictated how they responded. I have often heard “killer” type comments made by others when they are talking about Mormons and others they disagree with. In essence, “We talk about them this way because…”  You can fill in the rest.


* Duke University, Durham North Carolina

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