Personal Online Journal

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home

I already got a response to my last posting. She said she had been thinking of sharing the (LDS) gospel to some relatives. I then thought of this from Elder Ballard's Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home talk, "Our love for the Lord and appreciation for the Restoration of the gospel are all the motivation we need to share what gives us much joy and happiness" mp3

The best thing I can do the share the gospel is share the joy it brings my life. I do not have to hold back a spiritual experience just because the person I am talking to is not a Latter-Day Christian. Certainly, I will not cast pearls before those who will mock me. There are many good people in my life that are not Mormon.

I can enrich my own life and relationships by being willing to be more vulnerable to my kind neighbors. It is best if I truly abandon a salesman like motive when I share. Share for sharing sake. More importantly, listen with the idea to understand. Trust salvation to God.

Today I invite you to relax and set aside your concerns and focus instead on your love for the Lord, your testimony of His eternal reality, and your gratitude for all He has done for you. If you are truly motivated by love and testimony and gratitude, you will quite naturally do all that you can to assist the Lord in “[bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of our Father’s children. In fact, it would be impossible to keep you from doing it.

Convicted and Civil

Last night I attended "A Conversation Between a Mormon & an Evangelical" a public lecture with Dr. Robert L. Millet and Rev. Gregory C. V. Johnson at the Tempe Institute of Religion at ASU.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed it. They spoke of "convicted civility" a phrase they got from Richard J. Mouw. It means that I can retain the convictions of my beliefs and allow a close friend of mine to keep his and yet we can have a rich and rewarding relationship. Where the goal is not conversion but understanding. Not score keeping but increased curiosity. It reminds me of a phrase from Jeffrey R. Holland's recent talk “My Words . . . Never Cease” where he stated the LDS claim that we are Christians "respectfully but resolutely". I would have no problem with an evangelical sharing his beliefs with me. Done respectfully yet passionately.

How is this possible? I saw in this 2 hour presentation good-natured joking and teasing between the two of them. They said that their relationship was based on many lunches. Bro Millet said you can say that our relationship is founded on a lot of salad. Rev Johnson then said "and a little bit of pasta in the case of Bob".

By their own description, this was not a Rodney King "Can't we just all get along" kind of relationship. They asked each other hard questions. Bro Millet related a story of another time they shared this presentation. A person asked Bro Millet, "Don't Mormons believe in a different Jesus than we do?" Bro Millet had just finished writing a book on this theme. He was so full of ideas yet his tongue didn't move. In the pause his friend Rev. Johnson said, "Can I take this?" Bro Millet happily conceded. "I wonder if you might change how you ask that question. What if you asked instead 'What do you believe about Jesus?'" He went on to say how the first question is a conversation stopper. Then second a conversation starter.

When they passed out 4x5 cards I was so excited. I thought, "what can I ask these guys?" I wrote. "Rev. Johnson, would you introduce me to someone (an evangelical) in the northwest Phoenix Valley who would like to have lunch with me?" I grew up in the Phoenix area. In high school I had some very good evangelical friends. I was very saddened when I felt my relationship with them had to stop because we could not bridge the gap in our theology. They were very good people. I would expect they still are.

Bro Millet shared a story at the end where he read Just As I Am, Billy Graham's autobiography. At the end he was emotionally moved. He expressed to his wife his conviction that God had used Rev Graham to move His work forward on earth. He quoted Elder Orson F. Whitney of the quorum of the twelve apostles who spoke in the April 1928 General Conference, "God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … They are our partners in a certain sense."

This reminded me of my good evangelical friends in high school. There is no doubt for me that God moved in their lives. They were completely committed to moral chastity among many in the school who would have persuaded them otherwise. They were kind. They looked for ways to uplift others. Their works are the fruit. They demonstrated to me the Grace of God they had received.

Here is a YouTube video, "Standing Together: Is Anybody Listening?" with both Reverend Johnson and Brother Millet. I recommend it. Here is a summary about what is different about the "Faith Dialogue" Greg Johnson wants to foster. Here is an article written by Robert L. Millet. He tells a story that I think is helpful.
On this particular night, the first question asked by someone in the audience was on DNA and the Book of Mormon. I made a brief comment and indicated that a more detailed (and informed) response would be forthcoming in a journal article from a BYU biologist. There were many hands in the air at this point. I called on a woman close to the front of the church. Her question was, "How do you deal with the Adam-God doctrine?"

I responded, "Thank you for that question. It gives me an opportunity to explain a principle early in our exchange that will lay the foundation for other things to be said." I took a few moments to address the questions, "What is our doctrine? What do we teach today?" I indicated that if some teaching or idea was not in the standard works, not among official declarations or proclamations, was not taught currently by living apostles or prophets in general conference or other official gatherings, or was not in the general handbooks or official curriculum of the Church, it is probably not a part of the doctrine or teachings of the Church.

I was surprised when my pastor friend then said to the group: "Are you listening to Bob? Do you hear what he is saying? This is important! It's time for us to stop criticizing Latter-day Saints on matters they don't even teach today." At this point in the meeting, two things happened: first, the number of hands went down, and second, the tone of the meeting changed quite dramatically. The questions were not baiting or challenging ones but rather were efforts to clarify. For example, the last question asked was by a middle-aged man: "I for one would like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for what you have done here tonight. This thrills my soul. I think this is what Jesus would do. I have lived in Utah for many years, and I have many LDS friends. We get along okay; we don't fight and quarrel over religious matters. But we really don't talk with one another about the things that matter most to us—that is, our faith. I don't plan to become a Latter-day Saint, and I'm certain my Mormon friends don't plan to become Evangelical, but I would like to find more effective ways to talk heart to heart. Could you two make a few suggestions on how we can deepen and sweeten our relationships with our LDS neighbors?"

At that point, I sensed that we had somehow gotten through to some of the audience. Richard Mouw, one of my Evangelical friends,has suggested the need for "convicted civility," the challenge to be true to our own faith and not compromise one whit of our doctrine and way of life, and at the same time strive to better understand and respect our neighbors who are of another religious persuasion.
I remember a neighbor of mine. One who just a few weeks ago politely said they are not interested in learning more about the LDS church. I think I will print out a copy of this and give it to him. What a radical idea! Friends who only try to understand, to be neighborly. Who leave the converting to God.

Now a final note to the friend of Greg Johnson. The one who he said he would introduce me to. I am looking forward to lunch :)

Update Sep 2014

Here is an example of one of their conversations from June 13th, 2012. "Talking Past Each Other"

Friday, April 25, 2008

What happens to people who have never heard of Jesus Christ?

I just found this clip of Oprah Winfrey asking essentially this question.
Do you think if you are somewhere on the planet and you never hear the name of Jesus but yet you live with a loving heart. You lived as Jesus would have had you to live. You lived for the same purpose that Jesus came to the planet, to teach us all. But you are in some remote part of the earth and you never heard the name of Jesus. You cannot get to heaven you think? ... Does God care about your heart or does God care that you called His Son Jesus?
There is an answer. From here is an explanation.
Heavenly Father knew that many of His children would never have an opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ during their lives and that others would choose not to follow Him. Because He loves His children and is just, God provided a way for those in the spirit world to learn about His plan, have faith in Jesus Christ, and repent. Those who choose to accept and follow Jesus Christ will have peace and rest.
There is also a video from a member from London.