Monday, July 27, 2009

When Will Evangelicals No Longer Recognize the Differences Between Christians and Mormons?

I thought I had found an interesting movie on Netflix... "The Other Side of Heaven." The description said it was about a missionary in Tonga writing letters to his girlfriend in the USA. I didn't notice that the main character was "Elder" John Groberg.

The movie opened with a scene from Brigham Young University in the 1950s. My suspicions were immediately aroused. Soon I realized this was the perfect motivational movie for all Mormon missionaries. A dedicated young man devotes his life to 2+ years of missionary service. He overcomes one obstacle after another and remains faithful to his girlfriend and to his church superiors. I thought about sending it back, but then I realized it might give me some good insights into the Mormon faith.

Wow, was I right! It's one thing to learn about Mormonism from ex-Mormons and from those who study their official teachings. It's another thing to learn about it through a film that truly presents what they think is the heart of their religion. It reminded me of Paul's words "whose glory is in their shame" (Philippians 3.19)

What was so shocking about this movie? It certainly wasn't the moral character of the Mormons. Christians could take some notes on this. It wasn't their tenacity and perseverance either. The shocking thing about this movie is the Mormon definition of "Gospel." The "preaching of the Gospel" is the main focus of this movie. But what is that definition according to Mormonism? Not once in that movie (to the best of my remembrance) is Christ the crucified for the forgiveness of sins mentioned! At the beginning, the boy's father quotes John 3.16 with a classic Mormon interpretation: I'm giving up my son just like God gave up His Son." He turns the Gospel into a Law. God sent Jesus to be an example for us to follow. That's what saves us... following His example.

John's first sermon was hilarious and sad at the same time. He taught them that God was giving them all the opportunity to be God's servants. However, he had trouble with the language and actually said that they all had the opportunity to be God's "outhouses." What's sad about this is that John presented a Gospel that says, "I (God) love you enough to tell you who I am and let you have the opportunity to try to become like Me. Follow My rules, and you can do it."

Here's another new twist that Mormons are into... The island that John goes to already has a "minister." You can't tell what denomination he represents, but he is definitely opposed to Mormonism. However throughout the movie John is kind to him and eventually wins him over so that you get the idea there really is no difference between Mormonism and Christianity. I don't think that would have ever happened in the 1950s, but that is definitely the new marketing approach that they are using to sell people on their version of the Gospel.

Here's the really sad thing as I think about it: How many Christians today would really see any difference between what they hear on Sunday mornings and what Mormons hear? I don't hear Christ the crucified for the forgiveness of sins being preached very much today even in so-called Christian churches... even in some Lutheran churches! This is exactly what Paul was warning about when he said, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" (Galatians 3.1).

Christians need to get back to God's word in Christ before they slip all the way down the slippery slope of the Mormon Gospel... "It's all about me doing what I'm supposed to do to be good and get rewarded." Or, at the end of that slope they will find themselves on the other side of hell.

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