Last week was nuts. When real life intervenes, keeping up with a blog is pretty rough going. I apologize. Rest assured, I have not abandoned this blog, only neglected it. Although if it were a child, that would be enough to sic CPS on me.
The past couple of weeks have been very hectic, indeed, yet they’ve also been remarkably religious. Our church’s General Conference was last Sunday, and I had a chance to go downtown and see the priesthood session live at the Conference Center. For those of you who have never been to the Conference Center, it’s quite the experience – a 22,000 seat indoor hall where every seat has a clear sightline to a single podium. It’s an engineering marvel, even if you’re not excited about the religious aspects thereof.
Speaking of which, no conference would be complete without scary-looking street protesters, who congregate outside the conference center with large signs telling all the Mormons they’re going to hell, or that they’re leading others to hell, or that they’re too pro-abortion. (Those are my favorite. Dude, if you’re protesting that the Mormons are just too pro-choice, you’ve got WAY to much time on your hands.)
The irony about this is that most of these protesters hold up signs announcing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
I don’t think these people realize that there is not a single Mormon who would disagree with that. I posted this picture on Facebook, and a Mormon friend of mine likened this to a guy going to a polling place on Election Day and screaming to everyone in line, “YOU SHOULD VOTE!!!!”
I can remember on my mission coming across many evangelical Christians who condemned me to hell unless I was willing to accept Jesus into my life. Invariably, I would use the opportunity to, then and there, accept Jesus into my life. I would say whatever little prayer they had printed on their cards or flyers and then look them in the eye and say I agreed with every word in it. It still wasn’t enough. I remember talking to one family at their doorstep, who said I needed to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.
“Fair enough,” I said. “I cheerfully accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I recognize that I am helpless without Him, and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I invite him into my life, and I know He is the only way to heaven.”
They stood there, flummoxed.
“Is that it?” I said. “Do I have to do anything else?”
“Yes, you do,” the mother said. “You need to repent of your Mormon faith.”
See, that’s the problem. These guys insist that all you have to do is accept Jesus, and, presto, you’re saved. But if you say you accept Jesus and still want to hang with the Mormons, you didn’t do it right. If you press people hard enough on this, they’ll tell you haven’t really accepted Jesus, you’ve accepted some other Jesus. The movie The God Makers, which was quite a popular Mormon-bashing film back in the ‘80s, constantly refers to Jesus as being separate from the guy the Mormons worship, who is repeatedly identified as the “Mormon Jesus.” The problem is that the Mormon Jesus is pretty much identical to the other Jesus – he was the Son of God, born to a virgin in Bethlehem; he grew up in Nazareth; he called twelve apostles and taught the Gospel, and then was betrayed and crucified on Calvary. Three days later, He rose from the dead, and He commissioned His apostles to teach his Gospel to all the world. Now, unless the Mormon Jesus did all this same stuff down the street or something, it’s pretty hard to distinguish between the two.
The problem is that Mormons believe Jesus did more than this. The Book of Mormon tells of His visit to the Lost Tribes of Israel, and Joseph Smith and other modern prophets talk of seeing Jesus on several occasions. So what these Christians are saying is that Jesus only did what is chronicled in the New Testament, and only the Mormon Jesus did all this extra, weird stuff.
So, when you get right down to it, the way to hell isn’t a lack of belief in Jesus. Apparently, the danger lies in believing too much about Jesus.
I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I can go into almost any Christian church in the country, and they’ll tell me things about Jesus that I will heartily agree with. I believe He did everything the Bible says He did. But I also believe Jesus is more than just words on a page. I don’t worship the Bible; I worship Jesus, who is not bound like the pages of a book.
I can recall quite vividly one of the first experiences I had that built my own personal witness of Jesus Christ. I was in a pageant at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles called III Nephi, which dramatized Christ’s visit to the New World after His resurrection. I was nine or ten years old, I think. I played one of the children who greets the Savior, and we were taught two songs to sing on that occasion – one was “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” and the other was “The Love of God.” I can recall feeling a very powerful witness that Jesus was real; that He loved me, and that He knew me by name. I can remember a testimony meeting right after the dress rehearsal, where one of the men stood up and said “That which you feel right now is the love of God.” He was right. I knew he was telling the truth, just as surely and plainly as I knew I existed.
The song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” was written for that pageant, and it has since become something of a staple among Mormon children. I’ve heard it a billion times. But I hadn’t heard the song “The Love of God” since the day I last sang it on the stage of the Shrine. That is, until yesterday, when a local choir sang it as a counterpoint to “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” And instantly, I felt that same sweet assurance, the power of the Spirit reminding me of the certainty I learned so long ago.
That which I felt was the love of God.
Maybe that means I’m damned for all eternity. Maybe the Mormon Jesus has deceived me. Maybe, maybe, maybe – but I really don’t think so. There are some things that sink too deeply into your soul to deny them. So when people yell at me and tell me that I need to believe less than I do in order to be saved, I’m afraid I can’t accommodate them.
Since when does God damn people for believing too much?