His thesis appears to be concern about the legitimacy of doctrines taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - and perhaps any religion - based on his perceptions of religious doctrines. In particular, he does not believe Mormons have truth capable of producing salvation, and infers our doctrines don't cross the boundary from "an existential... to an epistemological truth."
Firmage is very civil in his post and even appears to go out of his way to properly identify Mormons as Christians. His tone is very much appreciated and stands in contrast to a recent article in the Huffington Post.
Letter to the EditorI would like to take the opportunity to briefly respond to only a few of Firmage's points. I have submitted a short 200-word Letter to the Editor that may or may not be accepted for publication in the Salt Lake Tribune. The focus of the letter is to emphasize that I believe the doctrines of my faith are meant to be acted upon and used to better ourselves and serve others. I hope to dissuade those who may have come away from Firmage's article with an incorrect understanding about the purposes of truths revealed by God.
I include this scripture from the New Testament (James 1:27) to illustrate how a belief in scripture leads directly to actions intended to emulate God and ease the burdens of others:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
"That is my religion... It is to save the people."I also took the opportunity to share some similar thoughts in the comment section of the article and felt it would be prudent to post a copy here. As Firmage is participating in the discussion associated with his article, I addressed my comments to him:
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints myself, I have always approached our doctrine with the understanding that it is designed to impact our behavior, to call us to action - as manifest not only through our overt physical actions, but also our thoughts and words.
I seek to use the doctrines of my faith to become a better man and to increase my ability to serve others. Still, I often fall short in both of those efforts. However, that reality to me is inspiration to try harder.
My beliefs directly impact even those efforts. For example, my belief in the enabling atonement of the Savior gives me added strength and capacity to better serve others today than yesterday, and tomorrow than today. Morality and service are among the many important bricks in my house of faith.
Your Op-Ed and this comment make me think of a talk shared in General Conference several years ago by President Gordon B. Hinckley as he taught of the importance of using our doctrines to provide to others salvation, both temporal and spiritual.
He shared the example of Brigham Young responding to news that two handcart companies were stranded and in dire circumstances. Many had died, and all would die if help wouldn't soon be at hand.
The text of his remarks to a session of General Conference in 1856 has stayed with me from the day I first heard it.
In the tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young arose and powerfully taught the saving doctrines of the Mormon faith. He said,
"I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak.... It is this.... Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with the handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be, to get them here...."
He continued, "That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess. It is to save the people."
I thank you for the civil tone in your original Op-Ed. I share your concern for those who suffer. We differ, however, I think in the role of religion. To me, there is objective truth found in the doctrines of the gospel that hold the power of salvation, both temporal and spiritual. That we profess knowledge of truth in its ultimate sense doesn't mean that our fragile attempts to respond to various truths will be perfect. Naturally, that means there are those within our individual spheres of influence who may suffer unnecessarily because we lack the capacity, skill, or willingness to help. However, the sad state of society inspires me to try even harder to apply the truths revealed through my religion to my life.
I regret that your perception appears to be a belief that Mormon doctrines don't extend beyond epistemology. But I thank you again for the civil tone of your original post.