*Yes, the post title has changed. See comments if you wish to know why.
Historically speaking, there have been numerous churches and faiths which claim to be the one and only truth, and their claims are hardly baseless. All claim authorities believed exclusive to them. All of it is supported by scripture. EVERYONE thinks they're right and everyone else is wrong (and when I say this, I place Evangelicals and Protestants/Catholics/Mormons/Jehovah's Witnesses in their own categories). Of course they do. Even those who permit others to believe as they like believe they're more right than everyone else.
As I can see it, too many LDS complain about misconceptions but fail to truly try to understand each other. Mormons rely on half-truths just as much as non-members rely on half-truths in their understanding of us. It's easier to believe inaccurate things about each other because "they don't have the truth."
But LDS are just as guilty of such hypocrisies and believing whatever they hear. So let's unpuff our chests. Nobody is really all that excited and impressed, only those who are unfamiliar or disaffected with another religion might be. It's more about pride than we want to think. We have to be better. We have to be more right or else why bother, right?
As one who has attended other churches, I want to help dispel a few things. Keep in mind I have many, many issues with the Protestant faith. Many. But all this bullshit about us having the only living true church is just our opinion. Everyone else thinks they have it, too. The only difference is who believes what for what reason.
Protestants do believe they have been given authority - from Christ. To His followers. As found in the Scriptures. This is one of the major misconceptions in the LDS church.
We are called by our leaders to positions and believe these callings to be inspired of God. Most of them, at least. But Brother and Sister holy-roller feel an inner calling. They feel a drive to do things. They feel inspired.
Shall we deny them this? No. Not if we want others to believe that we can receive personal revelation. By their fruits...
As to prophets. They believe in prophecy just not in a specific prophet. Much like we believe in personal revelation. Much like we believe God speaks to us through prayer (yes, contrary to yet another popular belief, other faiths do believe God still speaks). Problems? of course. But still.
And truly, the fact is Christ isn't here at the moment. The fact is that any man is sub par. President Monson may be a great and spiritually attuned man, but he is still a man. Like prophets before him, his prior prejudices and ideas can and will (if they haven't already) get in the way of doctrine.
Regarding Priesthood authority. Protestants/Evangelicals believe they have that authority by virtue of being a follower of Christ and have scriptures to back it up. With faith unfettered, they too can lay their hands upon another's head (many don't see this as necessary but ritualistic) and ask God to heal another. By invoking the name of Christ they, too, can rebuke evil spirits. With prayer and scripture study they, too, can discern.
Really, it's a matter of formality and what one believes is necessary.
Grace vs. Works
Protestants famously believe all one has to do is profess belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they will go to heaven. Works won't do this, but will automatically manifest because the profession of Christ changes hearts enough that works will mirror His.
There is always someone quipping that Protestants believe a saved person can do anything they want and still be saved. A faithful Protestant will tell respond by saying they are human, screw up, and that is why they have the grace of God. They don't kill themselves striving for perfection, but they do try to rise above "the natural man." They will also say those who have been "saved" but who haven't changed may not have professed Christ with, as we say, a sincere heart and real intent (Moroni 10:4).
Protestants take issue with the LDS fixation on works. We insist our works don't get us into heaven. It's by the Grace of God. Duh.
But consider this (and again, I am hardly saying anyone is right): Ordinances are considered works. We teach without these ordinances one cannot attain certain kingdoms of heaven. Baptism being one of them.
That is where this comes from.
The Question of a Paid Clergy
I loved this when investigating the Church. I'd been turned off by the church I grew up in. The idea that a man would be paid to serve God seemed antithetical. It seemed too businesslike, that he wouldn't care so much about his parishioners as much as he cared about having enough to keep his job.
But consider this: Bishops and Stake Presidents (indeed YW/YM/EQ/RS leaders) generally have full-time jobs. School. Pile on a full time calling and you've a person who cannot see their family. Sunday is out. Too many meetings. Monday evening, perhaps. That's it. Yay.
These leaders are very tired. The burden is immense as they bow under the pressure of ward family secrets, indiscretions, spiritual and temporal struggles. They cannot devote nearly enough time to the ward members as would be ideal, not without sacrificing their own family (and what is most important, again?). I'm sure some men deal with this balance easily, but I wonder of their families. A good friend of ours was very close to his father until his father was called to be Stake President. Though still an active member, he has sworn off ever accepting such a call. It massacred his relationship with his dad.
Is that worth it? Didn't the pioneers sacrifice family time for the Church? Could even a paid pastor lose himself in his work to the detriment of his family? Yes. But the chances are a hundredfold when you've a person who has enough to deal with on top of that. And there's always room for volunteer work in and for the church without having to be bishop.
They also have the advantage of having a pastor who knows our individual families and can counsel them, rather than refer us to another counselor. There've been numerous times I wished I could've had this option. But again, the bishop has enough to do.
Protestants can choose their pastor. While the reasons we are assigned wards is reasonable enough, far too many feel they cannot or will not approach or trust their Bishopric or Stake Presidency because of totally viable differences. But there's nothing they can do about it. While I understand the value of humbling oneself and trusting in God's calling one to an office, there are times when one should be able to avoid certain leaders. Enough with the faith and humility answers - there are real people with real reasons that nobody should ever dismiss.
And this is why some stop attending church at all.
Understanding and learning of other faiths and even the history of our own can be scary, but we do ourselves no favors by believing whatever we're told. And many of us do, myself included, without even knowing it. I think that ought to change.
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