October 12, 2010

FAIR Podcast, Episode 3: Richard L. Bushman (p.1)

Richard Lyman Bushman is an award-winning American historian, currently serving as the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University and Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University. He is also a general editor of the ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project. Bushman sat down with host Blair Hodges for an extended two-part interview.

Part one discusses Bushman's biography of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. We discuss polygamy, seer stones, gold plates, and other Joseph Smith-related questions.


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Questions about this episode and ideas for future episodes can be added to the comments section here, or emailed to "podcast@fairlds.org."

October 11, 2010

"All Find What They Truly Seek" (p.3): Conversion as a Process

Part three of “'All Find What They Truly Seek': C.S. Lewis, Latter-day Saints, and the Virtuous Unbeliever” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43, no. 3 [Fall 2010]: 21–62). This one discusses the idea of conversion being a process as opposed to a single moment, comparing Lewis's to LDS thought. See also parts one and two.

Shortly after his conversion, Lewis remained reluctant to lay out any one specific path for discovering God given his own roundabout way. He believed God was very involved in the process, though He would not compel one to believe in Him through proof.33 When author Sheldon Vanauken wrote Lewis about his own feeling of reluctant attraction to religion, Lewis teased: “I think you are already in the meshes of the net! The Holy Spirit is after you. I doubt if you’ll get away!” (3:75–76)34 Lewis was “chary” of defining the steps of religious conversion too narrowly because the individual is not the only one involved in the process; God plays a fundamental role in drawing people to Him without coercion. Thus, mapping out an “indispensable norm (or syllabus!) for all Christians” would be a mistake. “I think the ways in which God saves us are probably infinitely various,” he wrote. “Anything which sets [the patient] saying ‘Now . . . Stage II ought to be coming along . . . is this it?’ I think bad and likely to lead some to presumption and others to despair. We must leave God to dress the wound and not keep on taking peeps under the bandage for ourselves” (2:914).

Was one saved by God’s grace alone without any personal effort? Understanding that some Christians believe Paul made that argument, Lewis warned one questioner against “us[ing] an Apostle’s teaching to contradict that of Our Lord’s,” which urged believers to do good works. Nevertheless, any Christian, Lewis said, “looking back on his own conversion must feel—and I am sure the feeling is in some sense true—‘It is not I who have done this. I did not choose Christ: He chose me. It is all free grace, wh. I have done nothing to earn.’” Lewis’s conversion was not a progressive struggle of his own efforts to achieve certainty about Christianity, but the grace of God filling his heart with surprising joy. It might feel natural to understand that feeling as a universal rule that all people should expect such an experience, but that is “exactly what wemust not do,” Lewis continued. He could not find a completely convincing formula regarding “the inter-relation between God’s omnipotence and Man’s freedom,” believing such a formula is beyond human reason. But Lewis added that we can be “quite sure that every kind act . . . will be accepted by Christ. Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace. We have to leave it at that” (3:354–55).35

Reflecting on his own conversion, Lewis concluded that any number of beliefs could be a door in, or a door out—a path toward, or away from the truth. In 1934 Paul Elmer More published The Sceptical Approach to Religion36 as an effort to reconcile faith and reason. Lewis was impressed by the book and wrote to congratulate More but also to raise a question countering More’s disapproval of Idealism.37 More would understand Lewis’s lenience for idealism, Lewis insisted, had More traveled the same route as Lewis “from materialism to idealism . . . to pantheism . . . to theism to Christianity.” It was natural they should see things differently:

A field which seems a high place to one ascending the mountain, seems almost part of the valley to one descending.38 Idealism is suspect to you as a door out of Christianity: for me it was the door in. Clearly a door, ex vi termini [by the force of the term] has this double aspect. I do not think I should be disrespectful in urging to you remember the “door in” aspect—to remember that in shutting the door to keep the faithful in, as you do so very firmly, you are inevitably, by the same act, shutting out those who might return. (2:145)39
Lewis said such tolerance resulted from “mere experience.” The door into Christianity would “always be dear” to him, though he thanked More for reminding him of the “door out” aspect which he had been overlooking (2:145–46).40 Lewis uses similar metaphors to make the same point. For example, while critiquing Sartre, Buber, and Tillich, Lewis noted that “the road into the city [of God] and the road out of it are usually the same road: it all depends which direction one travels in!” (3:1,238) Why disparage the path when there were valuable lessons to be learned by the way? Lewis expressed this point to his friend Dom Bede Griffiths, who had experienced a similar journey from doubt to faith, although Griffiths wound up as a Catholic priest. He had corresponded with Lewis throughout their respective journeys.41 “And the result of the arrival is certainly not any ingratitude or contempt to the various signposts or hostelries that helped on the journey” (2:133). Lewis, like More and Griffiths, had found truth in surprising places and retained gratitude for their guiding signposts long after his conversion to Christianity.

Looking for truth wherever it can be found has been emphasized as a religious duty for Latter-day Saints who view themselves as taking part in a “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). However, Joseph Smith’s 1820 visitation from God and Christ included the troubling declaration that Christ told him to join none of the existing churches because their creeds were “an abomination” and their professors “corrupt” (JS—History 1:19).42 Condemnation of an apostate Christendom is found in each of Joseph’s eight accounts of his vision. In the 1832 (earliest) version, the Lord tells Joseph that “the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not /my/ commandments[.]”43 This declaration, however, was preceded by a personal moment described in only two of Joseph’s known accounts. The first words Joseph said he heard from the Lord were “Joseph /my son/ thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy /way/ walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.”44 This detail from the earliest account of the First Vision tempers descriptions of apostasy in the later accounts.45 Joseph’s words about “abominable creeds” and “corrupt professors” should be considered in the light of these and other moderating statements. Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s invitation for all non-Mormons to “bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it” was not a recent development.46 It was Joseph Smith who said, “We don’t ask people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and getmore.”47 “Truth” and “goodness” appear in relation, and there are truths to be found in many traditions.48

LDS philosopher David Paulsen argues that, while God directs the ongoing restoration, He expects “concurrent human initiative—not only in seeking and receiving direct revelation from God, but also in seeking, recognizing, and appropriating ‘truths’ from others, wherever found.”49 Joseph’s First Vision helps demarcate the acceptable boundaries for Latter-day Saints with its emphasis on Christ’s mission to save the entire world rather than a few elect, the significance of authority, and the importance of sincerity in Christian behavior. A sincere and good person can be acceptable to God—even without authority or “orthodox” understanding—Joseph Smith and his First Vision serving as a case in point for Latter-day Saints. The vision came before the reception of priesthood authority and without a “true and living Church” yet on the earth (D&C 1:30).

Many of the same soteriological puzzles arose for the newly converted Lewis as did for Joseph Smith. Consider Lewis’s answer to the question, “What happens to Jews who are still waiting for the Messiah?” (3:245 note 241). He responded, “I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god . . . is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know Him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow” (3:245; emphasis his).50 For such statements, Lewis has been labeled a “dangerous false teacher” by some Christians who believe that Lewis is much too ecumenical.51 But compare his words to Brigham Young’s statement:

I do not believe for one moment that there has been a man or woman upon the face of the earth . . . who has not been enlightened, instructed, and taught by the revelations of Jesus Christ.

What! the ignorant heathen?

Yes, every human being who has possessed a sane mind. . . . No matter what the traditions of their fathers were, those who were honest before the Lord, and acted uprightly, according to the best knowledge they had, will have an opportunity to go into the kingdom of God.52
This is not to say that Lewis or Latter-day Saints preach an “anything goes” religion; there are certain boundaries. Nevertheless, it is difficult to negotiate between being “true to the faith” and the possibility of refusing new truths because they run counter to tradition.53 Moreover, accepting truth from any source any time might create believers who never make a solid commitment. This was the difficulty Lewis saw with attempts to proselyte for Christianity in the East: “Your Hindus certainly sound delightful,” he wrote to a friend who was writing a book on Christian-Hindu dialogue: “But what do they deny? That’s always been my trouble with Indians—to find any proposition they wd. pronounce false. But truth must surely involve exclusions?” (3:704).54 Both Lewis and Latter-day Saints have ultimate courts of appeal to help adjudicate what “truths” can be gathered in and what “exclusions” such truths involve. Lewis often fell back upon scripture, Christian tradition, the Early Church Fathers (see, e.g., 2:451), and the common ground between Christian denominations. “We are free to take out of Anthroposophy anything that suits us, provided it does not contradict the Nicene Creed,” he advised one questioner (3:199).55 Joseph Smith would have rejected that stopping point: “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes [limits], and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’; which I cannot subscribe to.”56 Joseph Smith lamented the rigidity of belief that Christian creeds posed: “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but we frequently see some of them after suffering all they have for the work of God will fly to peaces like glass as soon as anything Comes that is Contrary to their traditions, they Cannot stand the fire at all.”57

Lewis understood this precarious position in his adroit description of the “double task of reconciling and converting”: “The activities are almost opposites, yet must go hand in hand. We have to hurl down false gods and also elicit the peculiar truth preserved in the worship of each” (3:1,300).

Despite Joseph’s dislike of the creeds, he too had limits. He declared that he had received authority directly from God: “No one [else] shall be appointed to receive revelations and commandments” for the Church until God “appoint[s] another in his stead” (D&C 28:2, 7). Lewis would likely have seen such revelations as unnecessary additions to biblical and Christian traditions. Joseph also taught that the path to exaltation required ordinances such as baptism by proper authority (D&C 20:73). Lewis declared such specific requirements superfluous if not too exclusionary. In one letter he advised: “As far as I know any baptism given in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, whoever gives it, is valid. But any instructed parson will tell you for sure” (3:490). His equivocation on authority is interesting in indicating Lewis’s deference to some ordained ministers. Smith revealed new commandments adapted to contemporary circumstances, including the “Word of Wisdom,” which forbade coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcoholic drinks (D&C 89). Lewis, who enjoyed his pint of ale, “strongly object[ed] to the tyrannic [sic] and unscriptural insolence of anything that calls itself a Church and makes tee-totalism a condition of membership” (3:580).58

As these examples demonstrate, by appealing to different authorities, Latter-day Saints and Lewis have charted boundaries to prevent borderless relativism. While Latter-day Saints turn to priesthood, prophets, the scriptural canon, and personal revelation, Lewis turned to scripture, tradition, and Christian common ground.59 Aside from these differences, Lewis and Latter-day Saints advocate reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Ghost (3:1,540). Despite believing that God wants all people to receive the ultimate truths (for Lewis, “mere Christianity,” for Latter-day Saints, “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” each with different requirements), both leave open the possibility that spiritual experiences and guidance from God occur within different faith traditions. The personal religious experiences of others do not necessarily invalidate one’s own.60 A correspondent named William P. Wylie wrote Lewis in 1958 with questions on how to reconcile his personal spiritual experiences with those of non-Christians. Lewis admitted that God could influence many outside of Christianity; such experiences are not always “mere fictions or delusions of individual charlatans or lunatics.” We are not under obligation, Lewis argued, to cast such things aside. They may represent: “(a.) Truths about the spiritual world omitted by Revelation because they are irrelevant to our redemption. (b.) Truths omitted because they are positively dangerous and noxious to us in our present condition. (c.) Real psychic facts of no particular importance (d.) Semi-rationalised—or philosophized—mythology (e.) Diabolical delusions. (f.) Straight quackery for catching flats” (3:928–29).

Footnote parade:

[33] Lewis quoted Alexander Pope: “His praise is lost who stays till all commend” (3:75).

[34] Sheldon Vanauken (1914–96) was an American author whose autobiography discusses love, conversion, and tragedy. See Vanaukin, A Severe Mercy: C. S. Lewis and a Pagan Love Invaded by Christ, Told by One of the Lovers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977).

[35] Seeming discrepancies between Paul’s writings and the Gospels are being studied in light of the “new perspective on Paul.” See, e.g., N. T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 10th Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference: August 25–28, 2003, (accessed April 29, 2009). For a diverging interpretation of how Lewis understood the interplay of grace, faith, and works, see Will Vaus, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004), chaps. 4, 10.

[36] According to Paul Kuntz, More was interested largely in dualism and concluded that “Spirit depends on matter and needs corporeal instruments, while matter adapts itself to spiritual purposes,” Paul Grimley Kuntz, “The Dualism of Paul Elmer More,” Religious Studies 16, no. 4 (December 1980): 400. More’s thought has interesting similarities to Lewis’s. For example, he believed that all humans will feel a “ubiquitous sense that somehow something is wrong with existence and that somehow the wrong can be, and ought to be, escaped.” More, The Catholic Faith (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1931), 8. Like Lewis he believed that truth and goodness could be found in many faith traditions; and although he believed Christianity was the “Truth,” he borrowed thought from the East in Buddhism, Hinduism, and also from Western thought in Plato. The Dharma, as well as the Dialogues, was a “preface to the gospel,” and Gautama Buddha and Plato “would have accepted Christ.” “Kuntz, The Dualism of Paul Elmer More,” 400. See the full article, ibid., 389–411. Similarly, Lewis’s Christianity could easily pick up where the Tao leaves off: “Have you read the Analects of Confucius? He ends up by saying ‘This is the Tao. I do not know if any one has ever kept it.’ That’s significant: one can really go direct from there to the Epistle to the Romans” (3:72; 2:561).

[37] For Lewis’s understanding of Idealism, see Surprised by Joy, chap.13.

[38] Lewis’s affinity with MacDonald can be seen in his use of metaphors like this one. MacDonald repeatedly used imagery of a mountain and valley to represent higher states of spiritual knowledge. For example, to explain why Christ didn’t answer the young rich man more directly in Matthew 19, MacDonald reasoned: “To begin with [the ultimate answer] would be as sensible as to say to one asking how to reach the top of some mountain, ‘Just set your foot on that shining snow-clad peak, high there in the blue, and you will at once be where you wish to go.’” MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, 71. Whether Lewis was derivative here or whether the men simply reasoned alike deserves further exploration; when one quotes Lewis, who is Lewis quoting? Not likely many of his contemporaries. He often admitted his neglect of any “modern” theologians, poets, and writers. In 1955 he wrote: “I am v. ill acquainted with modern theological literature having seldom found it helpful. One book did a great deal for me: G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. But I can’t give you such a list as you want” (3:652).

[39] More traveled his own interesting path from Manichaeism into a dualism that attempted to reconcile spirit and matter in the paradox of Christ’s incarnation. This path led through Hindu views to Platonic dualism to Christianity, among other places. Kuntz, “The Dualism of Paul Elmer More,” 394.

[40] Lewis, “Christianity and Culture,” Theology 40 (March 1940):177, commented: “Culture is not everyone’s road into Jerusalem, and for some it is a road out” (2:332–33). Although the quotation is from Lewis, it is from an article, added as a transition between two letters.

[41] Griffiths was one of the three theologians Lewis asked to critique his radio broadcasts before delivering them (2:496, 498, 502–3).

[42] David Paulsen, “What Does It Mean to Be Christian? The Views of Joseph Smith and Søren Kierkegaard,” BYU Studies 47, no. 4 (2008):55–91, compares and contrasts Søren Kierkegaard and Joseph Smith’s radical critiques of nineteenth-century Christian culture.

[43] Quoted in Dean C. Jessee, “The Earliest Documented Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, edited by John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson (Provo, Utah: BYU Press/Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 1–33. In this blog version I changed the carots to slashes "//" to note above-the-line insertions because html does not play nice with carots.

[44] Ibid.; emphasis mine. See also John 3:17, which receives less attention than the preceding verse: “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The references to apostasy in Joseph’s First Vision accounts should be tempered by this information even as the First Vision story is understood in different contexts for different purposes. See James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1, no. 3 (Fall 1966): 29–45. Incidentally, the same contextual issues can be raised regarding Lewis, whose book (as noted above) could be called “suppressed by Jack” according to some friends. Lewis emphasizes different aspects of his conversion for different audiences and to different ends. But would this attention to his correspondent call into question the overall veracity of his experience?

[45] James B. Allen discusses the various accounts considering different contexts and differing purposes in “Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Mormon Religious Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 43.

[46] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The BYU Experience,” BYU Speeches, November 4, 1997, (accessed April 2, 2010).

[47] Joseph Smith, discourse, January 22, 1843, reported by Wilford Woodruff, in History of the Church, 5:259.

[48] Rhetoric regarding the apostasy of Christendom was frequent in LDS missionary efforts. LDS views of the apostasy were more formally presented in works like Apostle James E. Talmage’s The Great Apostasy (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1909) which closely followed Protestant narratives of Christian history. LDS scholarship on the apostasy has become more sophisticated and nuanced over time. A good example is Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005). In another effort to foster ecumenical outreach, a Mormon chapter of the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy was recently formed. “Mormon Diplomacy Chapter Created,” Deseret News, April 23, 2009, (accessed April 24, 2009. This development is interesting, especially in light of past statements like that of Royden G. Derrick of the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy: “We cannot join any ecumenical movement, for if we do so, we will be required to compromise principles. We cannot do that, for the Lord has established the principles upon which his church is built, and we have no right to change them.” Derrick, “Valiance in the Drama of Life,” Ensign, May 1983, 23. The Church has not officially sanctioned the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy. Several BYU professors belong to the founding board. The Church has joined in various causes with other religions since 1983, most recently urging members to support and help finance California’s Proposition 8 (2008). “Protect-Marriage” was not an ecumenical movement but consisted of various faith traditions working toward a common goal. See newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/same-sex-marriage-and-proposition-8 (accessed April 1, 2010).

[49] David L. Paulsen, “The Search for Cultural Origins of Mormon Doctrines,” in Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Lavina Fielding Anderson (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2004), 50. Many Mormons have found such “truths” in Lewis’s works.

[50] Lewis says he “jolly well hope[s]” God sends “uncovenanted mercies. . . . After all[,] non-existent Gods, if appealed to with good heart, probably have done quite a lot: the real God, of His infinite courtesy, re-addresses the letters to Himself and they are dealt with like the rest of the mail” (3:478).

[51] See, e.g., David Cloud, “Beware of C. S. Lewis,” Fundamental Baptist Information Service, March 1, 2002; David J. Stewart, “C. S. Lewis: Exposed!”, both (accessed April 1, 2009). I suppose Lewis’s declarations about “false gods” are not enough for some, though these comments would likely sound offensive to those worshipping those “gods.” Lewis typically reserved harsher phraseology for personal correspondence. See note 55.

[52] Brigham Young, December 3, 1854, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool and London: LDS Booksellers Depot, 1855–86), 2:139. Accepting truth wherever found was a recurring theme in Young’s sermons: “It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church . . . to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, to mechanism of every kind, to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and bring it to Zion. The people upon this earth have a great many errors, and they have also a great many truths. This statement is not only true of the nations termed civilized—those who profess to worship the true God, but is equally applicable to pagans of all countries, for in their religious rights [sic] and ceremonies may be found a great many truths which we will also gather home to Zion. All truth is for the salvation of the children of men—for their benefit and learning—for their furtherance in the principles of divine knowledge; and divine knowledge is any matter of fact truth; and all truth pertains to divinity.” Young, October 9, 1859, ibid., 7:283–84. Future Church president John Taylor, June 12, 1853, 1:155, similarly stated: “I was going to say I am not a Universalist, but I am, and I am also a Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic, and a Methodist, in short, I believe in every true principle that is imbibed by any person or sect, and reject the false. If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it, I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it, whether it is popular or unpopular. Truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy.” LDS emphasis on ecumenism has ebbed and f lowed over time.

[53] For thoughts on religious flexibility versus rigidity, see Richard D. Poll, “What the Church Means to People Like Me,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 2 (Winter 1967); 107–17, and his “Liahona and Iron Rod Revisited,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Summer 1983): 69–78.

[54] Lewis often wondered how the Christian gospel could ever take hold in the East given the cultural disconnect (3:408).

[55] When discussing whether it was “lawful for a Christian to bear arms,” Lewis appealed to the New Testament, St. Augustine, and the “general agreement of all Christian communities except a few odd sects—who generally combine pacifism with other odd opinions” (2:233–34). Lewis, like some Latter-day Saints, was not always cordial in his comments about other faiths. Anthroposophy was mostly “nonsense” (3:199), Hindus undoubtedly worshipped “false gods” (3:1300), and he was not particularly welcoming to Catholic “papalism,” theology of cremation, the “B.V.M.” (Blessed Virgin Mary), and transubstantiation (2:358, 646–47).

[56] History of the Church, 6:57, punctuation modernized, discourse by Joseph Smith, October 15, 1843. Joseph asserted that “the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some particular creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” History of the Church, 5:215; the sentence appears in this form in “History of the Church“ Manuscript Book D–1, p. 1433, LDS Church History Library. Joseph also stated: “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.” Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2002), 458.

[57] Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 319. Coincidentally, Terryl L. Givens quotes C. S. Lewis soon after this same Joseph Smith quotation in his “Joseph Smith: Prophecy, Process, and Plentitude,” in Joseph Smith: Reappraisals after Two Centuries, edited by Reid L. Neilson and Terryl L. Givens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 110, 112.

[58] On this question, Lewis usually cited the fact that the Lord Himself drank wine (e.g., 3:608) and that “abstinence from liquor” was “unscriptural and erroneous doctrine” (3:1,126). The Word of Wisdom is
predicated on the existence of new revelation through living prophets, an objectionable premise for those who grant final authority to the Bible, creeds, or Early Church Fathers.

[59] Such an appeal to “common ground” is problematic, as there are still some significant differences between mainstream denominations who adhere to the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. Lewis was aware of such divisions, telling one priest that “the schism in the Body of Christ is both a source of grief and a matter of prayers, being a most serious stumbling block to those coming in and one which makes even the faithful even weaker in repelling the common foe” (2:801). For this reason he often refused to engage in minor doctrinal squabbles: “When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.” He characterized his refusal to debate this particular point as “abstaining from one tree in the whole garden” (2:136).

[60] Roger R. Keller, former minister and current professor of Church history at Brigham Young University, recounted his family’s spiritual experiences predating Mormonism in “Do I Know My Neighbor?,” Ensign, March 1991, 25–28: “We had been clearly shown a continuity between the Holy Ghost we knew as Presbyterians and the Holy Ghost we experienced as Latter-day Saints. Thus, we have never questioned whether we walked with God in our previous vocation of ministry or whether the Lord had led us to that ministry on our path to the fulness of the gospel. We had been shown clearly that there was definitely more to the Christian faith than we had previously known. It was, and still is, offensive to us that these sacred post-baptism experiences are construed by some as proving our superiority over family and friends who did not wish to join us in our decision. In order to avoid this doctrinally unfounded approach and better understand our relationship as Latter-day Saints to our other-denominational friends and neighbors, we need to be aware of their role in the Restoration. Above all, we need to acknowledge the invaluable contributions our Christian neighbors have made, and continue to make, in furthering the Lord’s work on the earth.”