In August of 2018, the president of the Mormon church, Russell M. Nelson, claimed that God personally revealed to him that names such as “LDS” and “Mormon” were offensive to Him. The Mormon president disavows the Mormon name because he says that these nicknames are offensive to God and are a “major victory for Satan.”
One of the problems with human-made churches is that they have a hard time naming themselves. Martin Luther did not want those who followed his teachings to call themselves “Lutherans” but his followers did not heed his plea. Many denominational names of religious groups identify their belief system such as “Methodist” or “Pentecostal.”
The name “Mormon” comes from a fictional character in the Book of “Mormon.” Many of us have heard of the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and programs like the “I am a Mormon” campaign. The “Meet the Mormons” movie began playing in Temple Square in 2014. The website for the denomination has been “Mormon.org.” That title has not been questioned until now. We have to wonder about why now and what the collateral consequences will be.
As the Mormon president disavows the Mormon name, he says the correct name for the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” However, he says that “The Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” or “The Restored Church of Jesus Christ” are acceptable to God.
Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to the early Christians to call themselves by any title. Acts 11:26 tells us that the disciples were called “Christians” first at Antioch and that title is referenced only three times in the New Testament. Its use may have been a derogatory reference by the enemies of the early church. (See Acts 26:28.) It was a name given to them, not something they selected although Peter used it in 1 Peter 4:16.
It is almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or news magazine these days without seeing an article about religious freedom. That raises questions of how to define religious freedom.
Atheists maintain that religions are vehicles of discrimination, and in some cases that charge is valid. We previously reviewed the history of the Mormon Church which excluded blacks in its early days. There have been cults that have excluded people based on their sex or their occupation. Should the government allow a religious group to advocate the violation of the laws of the land? What about a religion that advocates violence or suicide as was the case in the Jim Jones tragedy in Guyana? We have a case in the Midwest where a nun is suing the Roman Catholic Church because they won’t allow her to become a priest. Recently a local Church of Christ was threatened with a lawsuit because they wouldn’t interview a woman for the advertised position of pulpit minister. The list of grievances is virtually endless and raises questions of how to define religious freedom.
Many people in America limit the definition of religious freedom to the right to meet in a single facility and worship God as you choose, but your religion must not move outside of that building. In this view, you may not share your faith with anyone outside of the building or make it part of what you do at work, in school, or in the presence of the general public. This has been evident in cases where a person is asked to make something or do something that violates their religious convictions. Asking Christians to act against their faith has led to legal cases involving people like Jack Phillips and his wedding cakes or Barronelle Stutzman and her flower displays or Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski and their custom art. Pro-life pregnancy care centers have been told they must promote abortion options in spite of their religious convictions.
As the government tries to decide how to define religious freedom, we must remember that Christianity does not need religious freedom to survive. God cannot be defeated by the ACLU, no matter how much money they have. It may be that the right to worship outside of a government-registered building is going to be destroyed by activists and government officials who are determined to drive historical Christian beliefs from the public square. Remember that the early church did not have religious freedom, but the teaching of Jesus Christ on love and service still survived.
When I was a young man, some 70 years ago, I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. My parents, who were atheists, were not enthusiastic about the idea because the Boy Scouts met in the facilities of churches. Also, there was an emphasis, in my parents’ minds at least, on religion. To them, that was the Boy Scout dilemma.
The truth is that many of the merit badges were on morality, faith, worship, and leadership in spiritual matters. I avoided those so not to irritate my parents. In retreats and camping, there were talks and classes on issues of concern to a young teenage boy. Those included sexual matters and the concept of keeping “purity” as a virtue. Our leaders were men who demonstrated how to live as good citizens, fathers, and husbands.
In the past five years, the Boy Scouts have eroded most of that. Openly gay and transgender boys can become Boy Scouts. The ban on openly gay adult leaders has been thrown out. Now the word “Boy” is being dropped, and the organization will admit girls.
Recently, one out of every five Boy Scouts was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The Mormon Church has announced they are ending their partnership with the Boy Scouts and they are forming their own youth program. I have friends who are active in the Boy Scouts who say they are refusing to continue camping trips or summer camps because they cannot control the dynamics of a sexually mixed group in a wilderness setting. The Boy Scout dilemma today is much different from what it was in the past.
In October of 2017 the Latter-Day Saints Church, better known as Mormons, celebrated its 187th Semiannual conference. The head of the Mormon Church leadership is its president Thomas S. Monson. He was appointed to the council of the twelve apostles in 1963 and became the president in 2008. He was not present at the conference because of health issues due to his age of 90 years. When Monson passes away, the office of prophet/president will go to Russell M. Nelson, the senior apostle who is 93.
Mormonism began in 1823 with a 24-year-old Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel and given golden plates which enabled him to establish the Church of Christ in 1830. Several years later the church was renamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Joseph Smith was appointed “a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, and elder of the church.”
The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry deals with evidence. Is there any evidence from science to support the claims of the Mormon church? The answer to that question is “No.” The claimed tablets that were supposedly translated by Smith were never seen. The claimed location of the angelic appearance and burial of the tablets was near Palmyra, New York, but no archaeological support has been found.
The claims of Mormonism also lack biblical support and many of the teachings conflict with the Bible. Most of us are familiar with “Mormon Elders” who are young unmarried men who are sent into mission service and called elders. When we read the biblical description of elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we see qualifications that these young men don’t have. The biblical concept of the congregation and how it functions and how it is governed has nothing in common with conferences or presidents. Whole books have been written on the lack of biblical support for the Mormon claims.