I could never imagine a time where I found a need to write a column in the Daily Sun News defending my personal faith. Frankly, it's a matter for personal conversation, but considering the fact that multiple articles have been published recently, which have effectively served as a pamphlet against my faith, a response is necessary if only for the sake of journalistic ethics.
A point-by-point response isn't needed, but be aware of what you are getting when a reporter writes a single source article about how one pastor evaluates a congregation that neither belongs to. I know this recent seminar was neither the first nor final time that such an event will be held, but with each one I hope some people would evaluate the source. Would you go to a Chevy dealer to learn about Fords?
I take issue with some of the claims as a simple matter of doctrinal differences; there is always a place for an open and honest discussion of genuinely held beliefs. With that in mind, certain claims were so frivolous that they do not dignify a response. They are either purposeful misrepresentations or ignorant misunderstandings. Regardless of which they were, I'm reminded of the words of former Baptist Minister and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: "A half truth presented as the whole truth make a no truth."
Still, I want to make a few things clear.
The central tenet of my faith is this: Jesus Christ is the Son of God and, through His atonement, the Savior of Mankind. It was through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I gained this fervent belief. It amazes me that people endeavor to strip me of the right to claim the title of a Christian and worship my Redeemer. I believe many of these people are well-intentioned but that does not make them an authority on the issue.
Many of the arguments that positioned LDS doctrine against the Holy Bible were inherently flawed in that those doctrines are Bible-based. Although my interpretation of the Bible may be different than Pastor Lems', that in no way empowers me to tell him that he cannot take upon himself the name of Christ, and vice versa.
Some things in another faith will seem peculiar to those outside of it without proper context or explanation. We don't need to ignore or deny differences among congregations (there's a reason we have so many), but with all the problems facing our community and nation, it's disheartening to see some decide that this is how their time will be best spent.
Still, I fully understand why it is done. Many find this to be their way to "win" in a "competition for souls." Taking your time to argue against another church may make a temporary dent in their missionary work, but it doesn't say much for your yourself. There are several reasons that I choose to attend the church that I do, and they aren't dependent upon constant criticisms of other congregations.
Probably my proudest accomplishment during my time at Sunnyside High School was the role I played in forming a club called SEED (a weekly New Testament study led by Mr. Nick Paulakis). I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowshipping that occurred; building bridges instead of walls among believers is far more beneficial to those seeking Christ.
A final argument was made at the recent seminars about competing "world views." From a religious perspective, my world view is shaped by the higher law given to us during Jesus' earthly ministry and my personal experiences. Among other things, the hungry, physically and spiritually, need to be fed. The God-given rights of all mankind should be protected. And those who have been as greatly blessed as I have should seek to serve others and share those blessings. Putting differences aside, I know my friends at Bible study share those views. They are the purpose behind interfaith community groups.
With all this in mind, I am vividly aware that many misconceptions exist about my faith. There isn't time or reason to address them all in an editorial. I simply invite all to join me on Sunday and apply the message in James 1:5-6 (KJV): "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."
Jonas Linde is a 2008 graduate of Sunnyside High School.