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I Love A Good Christ-Like Argument

Rusty - November 15, 2007

Let’s not pretend, we all know the difference between an “argument” and a “discussion” of the gospel. Only one of them involves listening.

But that’s not to say that a gospel argument is completely void of virtue…unless of course if you don’t consider entertainment a virtue. When I was in high school I would constantly argue with my siblings and parents, usually for the normal teenage reasons but often solely just to see if I could make an argument work. I distinctly remember an occasion on which I took the side of an issue that I didn’t even agree with and argued it with my middle sister (she didn’t know I actually agreed with her) and when the debate was over (I can only assume I won) I told her that I didn’t even agree with that position but in fact agreed with her. She was livid. Knowing that made it even more fun.

My senior year I joined the debate team and wasn’t too shabby, though I had no interest in doing it professionally (like an attorney or something). Argument was a hobby, not an occupation. I know that many of you are lawyers so I’m sure you took debate and you get at least a small thrill in taking a side and arguing that perspective.

Interestingly I never really had much occasion to debate the gospel. I shared my testimony a few times and remember having a very good discussion with a Christian friend (who happened to be number one on the debate team), but we never argued, I actually learned from him and he from me. And on my mission in Guatemala I rarely took the occasion to argue with my Evangelical brothers and sisters. At the beginning of my mission I tried hard to convert them (along with the drunks and Catholics) but quickly realized it was of little use. In fact I came up with a few questions that, depending on their answers, indicated how open they would be to listening. There were too many people waiting to hear the gospel to waste my time on these folks. (I ended up baptizing one active Catholic, zero active Evangelicals, zero active drunks and many inactive Christians and agnostics.)

So here we are today with the internets full of Evangelicals telling me what I believe and my spirit of contention has been re-awakened. Discussing Christianity/Mormonism with Mormons is usually a discussion. Discussing Christianity/Mormonism with Evangelicals is almost exclusively an argument. But usually a fun argument.

I’m sure Christ would prefer we discuss the gospel with our brothers and sisters rather than argue. But I’m also pretty sure Christ would rather I read the scriptures at night than play Halo. But hey, I’m a Mormon so apparently I’m confused about who Christ is so I guess I’ll just keep playing.

P.S. Brad, we try to discuss the gospel here, not argue it, so consider yourself banned the moment you say anything that has the tone of those other threads.


  1. Rusty – I attended college near your home town of Spokane at the University of Idaho in Moscow Idaho. I’m not sure what your experience was in that part of the country but in the mid 70′s Northern Idaho citizens either hated Mormons or they really liked them. I worked with a born again Christian one summer and while I normally wouldn’t provoke a discussion (argument) about religion it seemed that my evangelical workmate and I would ultimately end up having some disagreements that, to my recollection, were brought about by his indirect negative references to elements of my religion. I can tell that I have NEVER studied the scriptures so hard as I did during those summer nights when I was preparing for the next days discussion (argument). So I guess you could say that the arguments resulted in my gaining more knowledge about the scriptures and I’m sure that my trstimony grew during that time in my life b ut my friendship with this fellow never did blossom..

    Comment by Lamonte — November 15, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

  2. Lamonte, I am smiling

    I can tell that I have NEVER studied the scriptures so hard as I did during those summer nights when I was preparing for the next days discussion (argument).

    That was me in the younger days in Idaho Falls when my LDS buddies would team up on me.

    I found out I was lousy in debate.

    Comment by Todd Wood — November 15, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  3. Todd Wood, the bloggernacle’s consummate gentleman Evangelical. We’re glad you hang around here, man.

    Comment by Rusty — November 15, 2007 @ 3:08 pm

  4. I went to the UofI also!

    I remember a list I made up at the beginning of my mission to Georgia that contained a lot of Biblical scriptures to argu against a fullness of salvation by grace alone.

    I never used the list. Not even once. After I got the hang of being a missionary it was pretty easy to tell who the sincere truth seekers were and who were not.

    I think I have perhaps lost some of that ability.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 15, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  5. My experience has been just that with Evangelicals. Though I suppose Mormons are the same. They either passionately study the gospel to argue that they are right, or to become more like Christ and are the most wonderful people.

    I find the whole Evangelical movement to be the same way. Many of them in many ways are hurting Christianity in many ways, while many others in many ways have brought many good things to the nation’s (and world’s) attention. It’s the Third Great Awakening!:)

    Comment by Bret — November 15, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

  6. I grew up in Seattle when my siblings and about two other families were the only Mormons in a High School of 1700. It felt like I was defending myself (Mormonism) almost constantly. I too studied the scriptures like crazy to try and keep ahead…it was good for me.

    On my mission when we would hold street meetings in Nottingham square there was always a heckler that would be there, named John. I soon learned that rather than arguing with him I’d let him rant, calmly respond – usually with the scriptures – and go on. Those gathered around were more willing to listen to us when we didn’t provide and argument.

    It is fun sometimes – especially when we know we’re right!

    Comment by Don — November 15, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  7. I was horrified at the end of this post, but hopefully you meant the Brad in the comments at that other blog.

    Also I’m pretty sure the Wii is the Only True and Living Console.

    Comment by Brad Haas — November 15, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

  8. Brad, I am entirely sure that Rusty was referring to the Brad who was harassing at Mormons Rock.

    Comment by john f. — November 16, 2007 @ 3:01 am

  9. #2 Todd – Isn’t it interesting how similar experiences have led us to different perspectives. I checked out your blog and left a comment on your most recent post. I hope to enjoy more of your thoughts in the future.

    #4 Eric – I see from your blog that you must be about 12 years younger than me (you were 10 when the Teton Flood occurred, I was 22.) What did you study there? What waws your experience there regarding the subject this post?

    Comment by Lamonte — November 16, 2007 @ 6:42 am

  10. I once taught a lesson in elders quorum in which I made a single (somewhat bold, outlandish) statement at the beginning of the lesson. I didn’t necessarily agree with the statement but wanted to spark a more vigurous discussion than the usual drone-fest. To my delight, different members of the quorum were taking opposite sides and disussing them in a very respectful, non-contentious way. The problem is this is a rarity in my church experience. I think we often take offense too easily and are afraid of having our “beliefs” challenged.

    Comment by cj douglass — November 16, 2007 @ 7:52 am

  11. I sure love a good argument. Don’t you know that the only time I ever experienced the gift of tongues in my life was during the second month of my mission in an argument with some Evangelical Christians. They lured us into their home with the promise of listening to our message, and suddenly we were confronted with their entire scripture study group of about 15 people. I really got into the “discussion,” converting no one, of course. But when we left the home several hours later, I realized to my shock that I had been conversing entirely in French! No thinking, translating in my head, groping for words, or anything. I spoke and understood as if it was my mother tongue, and didn’t realize it was happening until later. It was AWESOME.

    Comment by BiV — November 16, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  12. I think this is a guilty pleasure most bloggers have.

    Comment by Seth R. — November 16, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  13. in discovering how many bloggers are lawyers, I think there’s something to what Seth says in #12.

    I actually think most Evangelicals are not even that interested in arguing with Mormons. Most no very little about Mormonism. The ones you’ve more likely encountered aren’t interested in arguing as much as they are in telling Mormons that they have been “served notice” that they’re going to hell.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  14. I’d also have to say that my own blog posts that seem to get the most attention from LDS seem to be those which are arguments rather than discussion.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  15. #13 Tim -”Most (k)no(w) very little about Mormonism.” I don’t disagree with this statement but my experience is that many or most Evangelicals I’ve encountered THINK they know a lot about Mormons and Mormonism. They seem to love to tell me why I believe – which is almost always NOT what I believe.

    Comment by Lamonte — November 16, 2007 @ 10:47 am

  16. lamonte-
    That is what bothers me the most! How do they know what I personally believe? I would never claim such arrogance and conceit and claim to know what they believe.
    Elder Holland’s talk was awesome at Conference. I’ve decided it’s best to leave the arguing to the professionals. I’m not that good at it anyway.

    Guys like you in high school drove me CRAZY! Your poor sister…

    Comment by Cheryl — November 16, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  17. Don’t worry Cheryl, our family can’t WAIT till Rusty has his own oldest son teenager>:)

    Comment by Bret — November 16, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  18. That is what bothers me the most!

    It bothers me when we do that you too.

    Comment by Tim — November 16, 2007 @ 9:21 pm

  19. Tim-
    Huh? Did you mean “when we do that, too” (just leave out the “you”)?

    Ultimate revenge of a parent: watching your children be parents. I get it now, why my mother has a slight cackle to her laugh whenever I talk about “how am I going to survive this?!” :)

    Comment by Cheryl — November 17, 2007 @ 8:15 am

  20. Hum, ramble alert.

    I do enjoy a good discussion (argument), but having been a socially awkward teenager, I had (maybe have) a hard time figuring out the correct time and place and person and even emotional approach to having these discussions (arguments).

    I don’t know what I mean exactly, like there are some people with whom you can have a rousing discussion and it’s all in good fun, and others where messy feelings get involved and there’s all this emotional fall out. And I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, and been trying to get myself some social skills, I’ve sometimes avoided the first kind of discussion because I want to avoid the latter at all cost.

    Obviously the internet makes low-cost arguing easier, because you can pick fights er I mean engage in discussions with people and not worry about potential emotional fall out. Unless you go and build a community and start having complex cyber relationships. Not that we would do that or anything.

    I think that idea is where the Christ-like argument problem comes into play for me. I can throughly enjoy an argument if I feel like all participants are somewhat detached, sincere perhaps, but not taking things personally. But when I worry that the other person is hurting, or if I start to hurt, then while the argument is still often compelling (because one does like to be right) it’s no longer harmless. Or something.

    I don’t know, since I’ve never been very good at keeping my own emotions out the “discussion” it’s probably better for me to just avoid them all together, but then where’s the fun in that?

    Comment by fMhLisa — November 19, 2007 @ 11:40 am

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