Atheological tendency

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Many have argued that the primary "glue" of Mormonism is the heritage, culture, and family ties, not the theology.
"Mormonism is essentially a sacramental religion, defined by ordinance and ritual more than doctrine or belief." - Chris Kimball[1]
"And the bridge from theology to this practical life is doxology, because Christian morality is not willpower religion. Christianity and its morality is not, well, “God has the authority to tell us what to do, I’d better grit my teeth and do what he says so that I can go to heaven.” That’s not Christianity, or Christian living. Christian living is the spillover of worship. It’s the practical outworking of a heart stunned by a glorious, sovereign, saving God. Or it’s nothing, worse than nothing." - John Piper

An atheological tendency refers to a lack of concern for truth and theology.

If a person does not care about their theology, they miss the importance of rooting their entire life in the true knowledge of God and a true, coherent, rational, theological worldview. A person's relationship with God is built on the foundation of what one believes about God and what it means to be right with God, and this is the most important determining factor in shaping the way a person lives. An atheological person does not seriously reflect on their own foundational worldview assumptions (e.g., what is truth, who is God, does this matter?), nor do they see how doing so would be relevant to everyday life. [2]

Many Mormons, when asked what others should do if Mormonism is deeply dishonoring God, is false, and is sending people to everlasting conscious torment, answer that they should just leave Mormons alone.




[edit] Indifference to important things about God

Mormons are taught to only have regard for what God does for them, their relationship, their salvation, and their sphere of reality. For Mormons, who God intrinsically, eternally was and is is of little relevance or importance, and how God might or does relate to the rest of reality is of little, if any, concern. God the Father may have sinned horrificly in his past, may worship another God, and may now have 10,000 wives, but neither is of any concern or negative effect on their view of or relationship with God, and certainly has no relevance to living a moral life. It is not uncommon for a Mormon to say, "I don't know, and I don't care, because it doesn't concern my salvation."

[edit] Indifference to coherent or rational theology

Speaking of the disinclination Mormons have for coherent, systematic theology, James Faulconer (professor at BYU) writes:

"It is a matter of curiosity to many and an annoyance to some that it is sometime difficult to get definitive answers from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to what seem like straightforward questions, questions of the form 'Why do you believe or do x?' Apart from, on the one hand, basic doctrines—most of which Latter-day Saints share with other Christians, such as that Jesus is divine, and some of which differentiate us, such as the teaching that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God—and, on the other, moral teachings, seldom can one say without preface or explanation what Latter-day Saints believe... Latter-day Saints remain atheological, in other words, ... they remain without an official or even semi-official philosophy that explains and gives rational support to their beliefs and teachings. As I use the word theology here, it begins with belief and uses the methods of rational philosophy to give support to that belief: systematic or rational theology... [S]ome Latter-day Saint leaders and thinkers have devoted considerable energy to formulating theologies of various kinds. Nevertheless, none of those efforts have come to fruition as an official or even semi-official theology and I think none will." -James E. Faulconer, "Why a Mormon Won’t Drink Coffee but Might Have a Coke: The Atheological Character of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" [3]

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[edit] Moralism in modern teaching

Most Mormons insist that they need a living prophet but can't think of significant revelations their current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, has given. General Conference has become increasingly moralistic, minimizing doctrines, especially those that are controversial.

See more at: Worthiness

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[edit] The glue of Mormonism

Mormons focus on accessible, social aspects of their religion. Although the Mormon system of doctrine is genuinely attractive to many of its members, many have argued that the primary "glue" of Mormonism is the heritage, culture, and family ties, not the doctrine and theology. In other words, the typical allegiance to the Mormon organization primarily stems from something other than doctrinal concerns.

" 'The average Mormon in the pew, he doesn’t care,’ Russell said. ‘It doesn’t make any difference to him. To them it works. They have friends. They’re big on family. And not only that, they can spend eternity with their family. They don’t stop to think about how it works. So they’re happy with it.' " -Roger Russell, pastor of Holladay Baptist Church in Salt Lake City[4]
"Many Mormon intellectuals seem unconcerned with the question of whether Joseph Smith was a genuine prophet or a confidence man. “The starting point is that I am a committed Mormon,” Ken Driggs, a Mormon historian and a lawyer in Atlanta, told me. 'I can't imagine anything else. Once you make that decision, nothing knocks you awry. I am aware of the conflicts; I know the Book of Mormon doesn’t stand up to historical examination. But for me to decide that the problems are insurmountable would mean walking away from five generations of people before me. What really clicks, what really keeps us there, is the culture.' "[5]
"A common element often overlooked when Christians share their faith with Latter-day Saints is that many Mormons are not Mormon merely for doctrinal reasons."[6]

[edit] "Even if it’s not true, it still may be worth believing in"

"If it's not true, it still may be worth believing in."

LDS blogger Steve Evans comments:

"[E]ven if it’s not true, it still may be worth believing in."[7]

Grey Echols, a Mormon, writes the following in a review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus:

"This is a well written book which manages to not push an 'anti-Mormon' agenda. However as an LDS I do not think others should read it. Why? Because it could destroy your faith in the Church. I am not trying to be clever. If you enjoy all of the good things the Church has brought into your life, do you care where it came from? No other Church has so short a history that it can be examined so closely by science. Otherwise we would find that they are all created on the backs of con-artist. I am willing to bet every religion was founded by a fraud. So who cares. Does religion bring us together? Does it bond a nation, a town, a family? If so then let it be. The truth is fleeting, and life is short. If believing in Santa makes children smile then believing in God makes adults smile. When children find out Santa isn't real, you kill a certain spark you can never get back. When you expose a Church as a fraud, you kill a little spark in all of us."[8]

[edit] "New Order Mormons"

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[edit] Even if it's not true, it's not worth opposing

Kevin Barney, who is on the board of FAIR, writes:

"I like to think that were I ever to leave, I would simply walk away. This has been the case with those of my family who are no longer involved in the Church, and I hope that I would be able to follow their example should it ever come to that.
"But I may be deluding myself. I have a huge intellectual investment in Mormonism (much, much more than any of my family members who have disengaged), and I can see how it would be hard not to remain engaged in thinking and writing and talking about Mormonism, albeit from a different perspective. Still, I like to think that I would indeed just walk away, take up wine drinking and focus my scholarly sensibilities on something else. Even if I came no longer to believe, I think I would still see the value in the Church for others and would not want to interfere with anyone else’s beliefs."[9]

[edit] Difficulty in understanding massive doctrinal differences

Mormons have difficulty perceiving the magnitude and significance of the doctrinal differences, especially regarding the nature of God, between Mormonism and historic Christianity.

"Granted, the Mormon understanding of the Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Spirit differs somewhat from what other Christian churches preach, but not more so than they differ from one another." -Lester Dickey, Mormon (Letter to Kennebec Journal, 9-23-05)[10]
"Everything Latter-day Saints teach about God is in agreement with the rest of the Christian world, with the exception of His nature." -Mormon apologist Michael W. Fordham[11]

[edit] Difficulty in understanding doctrinal reasons for leaving Mormonism

It is very difficult for Mormons to understand that a person would oppose Mormonism for ethical reasons grounded in a concern for truthful exposure of its history and false doctrine. Many Mormons simply do not want to make room in their minds for a category of religious criticism that is chiefly centered on the promotion of truth and the opposition of falsehood. Mormons usually mentally cope with religious criticism by lumping the criticizer into at least one of three categories of disdain:

Getting past this wall is hard. For a Mormon, things aren't chiefly about objective truth or God or ultimate reality, and this affects the types of categories they mentally have available for critics of Mormonism.[12]

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[edit] Inadequate view of idolatry

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[edit] Inadequate view of the high stakes involved

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[edit] Christian response

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Mormons are not alone in their athoelogical tendencies. It is a human problem, not a Mormon problem.

"If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." -1 Corinthians 15:19
"If there were things hidden would you want to know? Would you want to know if you are being lied to?"[13]
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." -Luke 14:26-27
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. d a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." -Matthew 10:24-29

To help a Mormon start self-reflecting over these issues, it is helpful to ask the following questions:

[edit] Christian faith is theological by nature

"When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased." - C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (8 November, 1952)

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[edit] More quotes

[edit] Notes

  2. A common misunderstanding is that "atheological" simply means not knowing much about the doctrines of one's religion. This is not always the case. While a continued ignorance of basic doctrines about God and salvation certainly show that one is atheological, one can be well acquainted with the doctrines of one's religion and still be atheological. The difference is that what makes one atheological is that the "why" questions are not answered by a theology-driven worldview. Many of the Pharisees, for example, were atheological. They knew the scriptures, they knew their doctrine, but they rejected Jesus in order to preserve their status quo and culture (which ultimately resulted in wrong doctrine).
  3. Available here.
  4. "Fuller Seminary president stirs Mormon controversy", Florida Baptist Witness. Accessed 7/18/2006. URL:
  5. Ken Driggs was quoted here by Lawrence Wright in "Lives of the Saints", an article in the New Yorker. Accessed 7/18/2006. URL:
  6. Bill McKeever, "Doctrine and Heritage". Accessed 7/18/2006. URL:
  7. Steve Evans, "South Park Mormonism". Accessed 7/18/2006. URL: Steve was responding to part of a South Park episode, a fictional, satirical cartoon, which depicted a Mormon named "Gary": Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense. And maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up. Because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it." -"All About Mormons"
  8. Grey Echols (Mormon). Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus on Available here.
  9. Blog comment on the article, "Leaving the Church, but not Leaving it Alone". URL:
  10. Lester Dickey. " Mormons' beliefs conform to Christian tenets", Kennebec Journal Online. Accessed 7/18/2006. URL:
  11. Michael W. Fordham, "Does Gordon B. Hinckley Understand Mormon Doctrine?". Accessed 7/18/2006. URL:
  12. This seems to be a big reason why Mormons categorize those who oppose Mormonism as irrationally "hateful", and "anti", "bashing", and "bigoted". A popular supercilious saying within Mormonism used to speak of ex-Mormons who speak critically of Mormonism is, "They can leave the Church, but they can't leave the Church alone." See the Postmodernism and Cult articles for other contributing factors to this behavior.
  16. [1]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

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