The “Mormon Wager”

pascalHere’s a little anecdote that I suspect is more widespread than my experience. It’s not about Orthodoxy, but rather about Mormon-Protestant relations.

Many Mormons in the United States employ the following “wager” when dealing with the Protestants that very likely surround them (if they’re outside the Jello Belt).  This isn’t intended to be framed as a solid logical proof, just a sort of fluid line of reasoning that typifies one kind of Mormon argument:

  1. On Protestantism, all you have to do is “believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved.”  Anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is damned.
  2. On Mormonism, if you are a Mormon and endure to the end you can eventually be like God and live with your family for eternity.  Anyone who rejects Mormonism and/or doesn’t endure to the end still gets a pretty good existence (Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms).
  3. If Mormonism is true, then Mormons will have a great reward, and Protestants will have a lesser, but still good reward.
  4. If Protestantism is true, then Protestants will have a great reward, and Mormons will, too (because Mormons “believe in Jesus” and therefore they will also be saved).
  5. It is therefore rational to be a Mormon, because you are maximizing your reward either way.

Here’s a table of the possibilities. Continue reading


Mormon Atonement and Violence

atonementI don’t have time to treat this subject with the rigor it really deserves, but the Mormon view of Jesus’ Atonement always puzzled me.

I think it always came down to the fact that, on Mormonism, the universe is inherently violent.  There is this idea that there is some kind of legalistic 1:1 correlation between each sin we commit and some corresponding unit of physical pain that I always found troubling.  It simply never clicked with me to think that justice somehow works like that.  And the idea that Jesus somehow stepped in and took that pain instead of us also seems strange.  God was just so intent on inflicting pain on somebody – anybody – that he was willing to inflict violence on His Son instead of us.

The Orthodox view of the Atonement really attracted me because it sidesteps these issues completely.  First of all, when I was younger I didn’t even know that there were other ways of looking at Jesus’ suffering besides a kind of legalistic penal violence.  Now I know that penal substitution really developed in the western tradition, and the western view was intertwined with the Augustinian roots of Original Sin doctrines.  Mormonism takes this tradition even further – not only did Jesus suffer and die at the hands of Roman soldiers and a violent mob – God himself was bound to inflict an even further, infinite amount of physical and emotional pain on Jesus in Gethsemane, causing Jesus to suffer so badly that blood hemorrhaged from his skin.

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