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Open letter to Pastor Robert Jeffress

November 4, 2011 9 comments

This letter made it onto my desk today. I found it very interesting. I hope you will read it, even though it is “long-ish”. It is really quite good.

Some background: Pastor Robert Jeffress is a Dallas (TX) based Baptist Pastor that likes to say the word “cult” over and over, and attribute it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a Mormons.) He seems to be upset about something. Maybe he thinks he needs to attack others by knocking them down to build himself up. I think it might have something to do with the fact that — by Jeffress’ own words — the Southern Baptists have around 15 million members. He might be having a problem with the realization that if current LDS growth rate continues, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will have more members than that by the end of 2012. (Cool video showing growth.)

I think he might be having a hard time with that. But people were warned. (Daniel 2:44-45)

The letter is worth a read. It is written by a regular member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from (you guessed it!) Utah.

Dear Pastor Jeffress,

I’m just one of the millions of people who saw and heard on TV news shows your statements that “Mormonism is a cult” and “not a part of orthodox Christianity”.  As a faithful lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I felt a strong reaction to those statements, as you might imagine.  My remarks here are only my personal thoughts, but I assure you they are heartfelt.

 

My reaction was twofold.   First, I saw your remarks as an unfortunate “below-the-belt” swipe at Mitt Romney in the hopes of advancing your own favorite political candidate.   While you certainly have the right to do that, I think many Americans join me in feeling that such a move was beneath a prominent religious leader such as yourself.

 

Second, as a devoted believer and follower of Jesus Christ I was saddened that you felt the need to speak out against my faith and beliefs.  I’m sure there are those who think it was done with malice, but I’ll try to do the Christ-like thing and give you the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps you’ve just been misinformed about “Mormonism” as many others have been.

 

But it might surprise you to learn that I actually agree with part of what you said, although perhaps for different reasons than you might imagine.

 

You said that Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” (and by association myself and the other fourteen million-plus Americans who are Latter-day Saints).  But I believe you need to be more specific.  There are many different kinds or “flavors” of Christians.  I agree that the LDS people are not Baptist Christians or Evangelical Christians or Catholic Christians, etc.   I will even agree that we’re not part of  “orthodox” or “traditional” flavor of Christianity, if by that you mean the post-Nicene church that became the “universal” or “catholic” version of Christendom.

 

I believe my faith to be the original church of the Corinthians, the Ephesians, and yes, those who were first called Christians in Antioch,  – that same church now restored in these latter days.  So I call myself a “latter-day Christian”, with theological roots that precede the “historical” or “orthodox” version that was the product of the various councils and creeds.  That “orthodoxy” eventually became so corrupt and so apostate that the Reformers broke away from it in protest of its having “fallen away” from Biblical truths (2 Thess. 2) and “changed the ordinances” (Isa. 24:5) so that the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) was no longer recognizable as the church that Jesus organized.

 

There were many enlightened Christian thinkers and theologians in history who, like Joseph Smith, believed that Christianity had become apostate and that a restoration of the New Testament church of Christ was necessary.  John Wesley the founder of Methodism wrote:

   It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian; . . . From this time they almost totally ceased; . . . The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens . . . . This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.

The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, pp.26-27

 

As I’m sure you well know, John Smythe the founder of the Baptists first left his position as a Church of England minister and joined the Separatists, but then dissolved his congregation to re-form it as the first General Baptist church among English expatriates in Amsterdam in 1609.  He felt that the “historic” or “orthodox” Christianity of his time had wandered astray, especially with regard to the apostate doctrine of infant baptism.  Those first Baptists were considered a “cult” by many Protestants in the “traditional” Christian denominations that persecuted them unmercifully.

 

Around 1640, Roger Williams of Providence, Rhode Island, founder of the first Baptist church in America refused to continue as pastor on the grounds that there was:

 

… no regularly‑constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any Church ordinance: nor could there be until new apostles are sent by the great Head of the Church, for whose coming, I am seeking.

 (Picturesque America, or the Land We Live In, ed. William Cullen Bryant, New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1872, vol. 1, p. 502.)

 

If I understand your words correctly your definition of a Christian (and that of most Evangelicals) is a pretty narrow one, far different from the standard meaning found in most dictionaries.  Personally I think anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and as his/her personal Savior who died for our sins and was bodily resurrected on the third day is a Christian.  C.S. Lewis described such people as “mere” Christians.

 

But your narrow definition would exclude anyone who:

1. Does not believe in a closed canon of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.

2. Does not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

3. Believes in living prophets and apostles as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.

4. Believes in continuing revelation from God to man.

 

     I could go on.  I’m very familiar with the standard arguments against “Mormonism”.

 

But the Bible says that believers in Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26).  I would respectfully submit that those Christians:

1. Did not believe in a closed canon of scripture.  (some of the New Testament had not yet been written.)

2. Did not accept the Nicene Creed as an accurate description of the nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  (it would not be written for 300 years)

3. Believed in living apostles and prophets as the “foundation” of Christ’s earthly church.

4. Believed in continuing revelation from God to man.

 

So if you’re going to say that Mitt and I are not Christians based on those reasons, you’ll have to say that the believers in Antioch were not Christians either according to your definition.

 

You said in your Hardball interview that “Mormonism” is a “cult” because:

1. “Mormonism came 1800 years after Jesus Christ”

2. “Mormonism has its own human leader, Joseph Smith”

3. “it has its own set of doctrines”

3. “it has its own religious book, The Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible”

 

Your exact following words were:  “and so by that definition it is a theological cult”.  You made a weak distinction between a theological cult and a sociological one, but most people will not even notice that fine differentiation.  It was obvious to any sophisticated viewer that your main goal was to keep repeating the word “cult”.   It’s such an inflammatory buzz word that I’m sure your goal is to use it as often as you can to scare people away from “Mormonism” without seriously considering our theology and our beliefs.  It’s a word used to end or avoid discussion, not to foster it.  As a Latter-day Saint I welcome the opportunity to “stand ready to give a reason for the faith that is in me”, but those who sling around the word “cult” with respect to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek to cut off debate rather than to encourage dialog.  It’s as though they are afraid of an open and honest discussion.

 

But following your own definition of “cult” for a moment, I’d like to respectfully submit that:

1. Roman Catholicism came 300 years after Jesus Christ.

2. Roman Catholicism has its own human leader, the Pope (or Peter if you accept the Catholic claims that he was the first Pope)

3. Roman Catholicism has its own set of doctrines (Mariology, transubstantiation, priestly celibacy, veneration of  “saints”, indulgences, etc.)

4. Roman Catholicism has its own religious books (9 deuterocanonical more than those found in the Protestant Bible – also used in Eastern Orthodox churches)

 

And even your own Baptist flavor of Christianity in some ways fits your definition of what makes a cult;

1. “Baptistism” came 1609 years after Jesus Christ

2. “Baptistism” had its own human leader John Smythe – a Church of England minister (see footnote below from the website of  the Baptist History and Heritage Society)

3. “Baptistism” had its own unique doctrines, including the “believer’s baptism” of adults.

4. “Baptistism” was considered a cult by the “orthodox” or “traditional” or “historic” Christian denominations of the time.  In fact Baptists suffered severe persecution from other Christians who believed in the “mainline” doctrine of infant baptism prevalent in that era.  Thousands of Baptists were martyred for baptizing adults.

 

One of the dictionary definitions of a cult is that is a small isolated group that is out of the mainstream.  That certainly does not apply to my church.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest religion in America, and the second largest Christian church in Washington, Oregon, and California (after Catholicism).  You mentioned that there are 15 million Southern Baptists.  By 2012 at the present rate of growth there will be more Latter-day Saints than that.

 

Pastor Jeffress, in order to be consistent and truthful you would have to admit that the same definition you’ve used to brand “Mormonism” a cult applies at least in part to  Roman Catholicism and “Baptistism” as well.  Are you willing to say that on national television?  I would hope so.  I would hope that you’d want to be totally consistent and truthful.

 

Thank you for your time.  I’m attaching a summary I wrote of what I believe happened to “the faith once delivered to the saints”.  There was a great apostacy that fundamentally changed the New Testament church of Jesus Christ into something so different that those Christians at Antioch or Peter or Paul would not have recognized it in the Dark Ages that came upon the earth.   (Amos 8:12)  That apostacy required the “restitution of all things” prophesied in Acts 3:21 to occur before Christ’s return.   That restitution or restoration of original Biblical Christianity was what was looked forward to by Roger Williams.

 

I testify to you that that restoration has come, and the original Christianity is back on the earth in its fullness as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  If you would like to investigate these claims I’ll be happy to “bring forth my strong reasons” for “the faith that is in me.”  I would welcome a thoughtful dialog.

 

Cordially yours,

 

Robert Starling

A Latter-day Christian

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My 2012 Presidential Campaign Speech

March 5, 2010 16 comments

Campaign Slogan: Restoring our Country’s Greatness

You know, there was a time, not very long ago, that “Made in America” meant something special.  You would see it on labels of clothing; on the handles of tools; and on spare parts and toys you purchased at many different types of stores. It made us feel proud: proud to be part of this great nation; proud of the work that went into building the greatest nation on earth; proud of our heritage; hopeful for the possibilities of our future. But you don’t see the “Made in America” slogan these days as much….

We’ve shipped many of our jobs beyond our borders. We are increasingly dependent on other nations for our food supply. We have become massively in debt as we have adopted policies that mirror the social democracies of Europe with their massive entitlement payouts. Those countries are nearly bankrupt – is it any wonder that we are too?

And there is a growing feeling of negative anticipation in our nation. I’ve heard people say they are ‘hunkering down’, and ‘waiting for the end to come’. People just seem to sense that we cannot continue in this manner. But when will it change?

The time is Now. It is time for Restoring our Country’s Greatness. America has never shrunk from a challenge, and we will not do so this time. My plan, as outlined in my 6-point Party Platform, will Restore our Country’s Greatness. The first plan of attack is to get our economy turned around, and the American people working again. We must make it easier for small businesses to prosper in America. We also have plans to bring corporate manufacturing jobs back to America, but that will take some time. I strongly believe that our small businesses will lead us out of this economic recession.

The American people are the most ingenious, inventive, and hardworking people on the planet. I believe that federal government bureaucracies have grown to unduly tax and interfere with our economic progress.

For example, in 2010 the Obama administration passed legislation aimed at protecting us from dangerous goods from China. This is a commendable idea. But in the legislation that passed, crippling bureaucratic hurdles have been placed in the way of American businesses. Now, small business that produce and ship goods around our country will need to spend thousands of dollars to get each of their products tested and “certified” to sell by yet another new governmental department. This will harm many small American companies, the Mom & Pop stores barely scraping by. It will cripple their bottom lines, and cause many more to shut their doors completely. And it continues to grow the size of our ever-increasing government, adding more expenditures that we cannot afford.

I will work to help small businesses, not hinder. We will simplify the tax code, and reduce bureaucracy and regulation for the small business owners of America. We will get the government out of their way, and allow them the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We will encourage investment in new technologies, US factories, and minimize government hurdles and costs for businesses of all sizes. We will also do away with farm subsidies to get America’s farmers working their farms again, bringing food production home where it belongs. For large corporations, corporate tax breaks for companies that manufacture in the United States, keeping our economic advantages on our own soil.

…And we need to keep our soil safe. When our country is safe and well protected, the American citizens feel safe and happy about our security. Our military forces have struggles for years to provide an opportunity for Iraq and Afghanistan to make better governments for themselves. After so many years, it is time to allow them to stand on their own. We have shown them the way. At this time of great worldwide economic struggle, the US military personnel need to be home with their families. Our own borders need to be better protected. We will always protect the United States from attacks, both foreign and domestic, but we need to get out of the business of nation building and the idealism of creating our “brand” of government around the world.

As we focus internally, let’s take a look at our country’s education system. The education of our current and rising generations is the key to our future. Therefore, I propose to gradually wean the Federal Government from managing the education process in America. This will be a big change for us, but it is necessary. The American people should be in charge of their own education at the family, community, and State levels. By removing federal monies and requirements, we will clear the path for education to become competitive, and for states to regulate education within their own borders. We will work with party members at the state and local levels to weaken union strangleholds in the education arena that are destroying the education process for millions of young Americans, provide tax credits to leave failing schools, and offer merit pay and other performance-based incentives to ensure our teachers and students are the best they can be.

And let me make this pledge to you this evening: I will work to create real reform and change in America’s government. By spending more money than we have as a country, the current administration has created a debt burden for future generations that will take many years to overcome. This is not fair for our future generations, and it is common sense that it cannot go on forever. Spending more than you have doesn’t work in your homes, and it does not work for our country. We will work for a balanced budget, eliminate deficit spending, and introduce greater oversight and transparency on the workings of the Federal Reserve System and other banking institutions. Clear steps will be taken to “follow the money” and measures will be put in place to put an end to reckless financial practices, like credit default swaps, as well as create a payback schedule for all bailout monies received by our financial institutions. We cannot continue to “print money” at record levels, like our current administration, and not expect to reap the consequences of high inflation and a valueless dollar.

Too much money gets spent and too many laws are created outside of the legislative process. Our government cannot continue to allow the executive branch to wield the power of the Executive Order to create binding laws outside of our checks-and-balances system. If given the chance I promise I will correct these and other corrupt practices currently taking place in Washington. I promise to reduce our spending year upon year until we can see an end to the uncontrollable deficits.
(pause…)

Why are we in this prolonged recession after some of the best growth decades our nation has ever seen? Some of the biggest reasons are right here in Washington: It’s called Politics as Usual. Bloated government. Spend, spend, spend. Miles of bureaucracies thwarting American business. You were promised Hope & Change. But let me ask: Is this the Hope & Change you were looking for? I don’t think so.

THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA has the HIGHEST levels of RESERVE ENERGY RESOURCES of any country in the world.* Yet we struggle with rising energy costs and energy dependence on countries with unstable leadership and that often have anti-American positions. This situation can be rectified by developing environmentally safe methods to extract the natural resources within our own country. We will work to encourage and provide incentives for private companies to help the USA attain energy independence, through the extraction of existing American oil reserves, as well as developing new sources of clean, renewable energy. These resources alone “represent tens of trillions of dollars in wealth and millions of American jobs.”*

If given the chance, my fellow Americans, we can make this dream a reality. If given the chance, you and I together will Restore our Country’s Greatness.

Thank you, and God Bless America.

Eric Merten
President 2012

*Congressional Research Report 2009    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=34233

I’m running for President of the United States of America

March 4, 2010 Leave a comment

OK, play along with me here…

It is April of 2012.  The last four years have been difficult for our country.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued with no end in sight. Worse yet, the Obama administration has run huge budget deficits in the last three years that has increased the U.S. debt by almost 6 trillion dollars. In addition, the economy continues to stagnate, unemployment is still over 10% and many Americans have ceased looking for work.  Obama’s healthcare package was passed in a dramatically scaled back version in 2010.  And, while the Cap and Trade bill was stopped, many of its provisions have been instituted though executive mandates, and departmental directives.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have been on a course of self-destruction.  In 2008, Romney, Giuliani, and McCain each spent record amounts trying to win the Republican nomination. Again in 2011 increased spending has been accompanied by increasingly negative campaigns.  The battles of the different factions of the Republican Party have been so intense that many voters have become apathetic, if not down right hostile to politics in general.  Early polling data in 2012 shows than none of the Republican candidates would beat Obama in the general election. The Republican Party’s “big tent strategy” (seeking for moderate swing voters) appears to be a total failure.  NBC Nightly News may have summed it up best saying, “America has not seen such a lack of political leadership since the 1880s. The candidates are not only bankrupt financially, but are destitute when it comes to ideas.”

I am a delegate to the Republican Party National Convention in 2012.  Last night the president of the RNC delivered a stirring address to all presidential candidates as well as the delegates to the national convention via the Internet. He called for all candidates and delegates to put previous loyalties aside and search for a single candidate that will unify both the party and the nation.  In response, all three top runners (Romney, Giuliani, and Palin) have offered to withdraw their names as candidates if the RNC can find a better candidate in the next 2 weeks. Due to my leadership and support of the RNC President, he has said that if I can get create some of my own ground swell (grass-roots support), he will ensure that I will be part of the select group that gets to address the convention in the coming weeks.

So stay tuned. You just might be witnessing the discovery of the next JFK. Or better. I will be sharing my platform of ideas describing the necessary changes I believe we need in America on Friday, March 5th.

Will I win? Do I stand a chance? Check back and see as I post how the convention unfolds and the voting results over the coming days.

If you have any suggestions for what changes you would like to see, you’d better get them in. Just leave a comment…one of the RNC aides will get to it.