According to Gibbon, the spread of Christianity within the Roman Empire was
assisted by the five following causes: I. The inflexible, and, if we may use the expression, the intolerant zeal of the Christians, derived, it is true, from the Jewish religion, but purified from the narrow and unsocial spirit which, instead of inviting, had deterred the Gentiles from embracing the law of Moses. II. The doctrine of a future life, improved by every additional circumstance which could give weight and efficacy to that important truth. III. The miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive church. IV. The pure and austere morals of the Christians. V. The union and discipline of the Christian republic, which gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman empire.
It occurs to me that the division of Christianity that most emulates these qualities today is the LDS Church, which just happens to also be one of the fastest growing churches in the nation.
My thoughts are based on my interactions with members of the LDS church rather than an academic study into the topic. For that reason I hope that members of the church will provide their thoughts in the comment section below. Anonymous posting is fine, as always.
Cause I: Exclusive zeal and abhorrence for idolatry. In my last post, I characterized this as being a spritual separatist, but today I am reading this as strictly adhering to one’s belief in the public sphere. My friends who are Mormon would not, for example, go see rated R movies. They would politely decline an offer of alcohol or cafeinated beverage. It is clear that Mormonism transforms one and causes one to be in the world but not of it.
Casuse II: Certainty of Life After. I was discussing theology with a Mormon friend and explained that my church did not tell people what to believe but suggested that they seek their own truth in Scripture. She said, “That’s because your church doesn’t know for sure, right?” She was right. I think absolute conviction about afterlife, and prelife, is a quality to fairly attribute to LDS members.
Cause III: Miracles. The truth is that my recent interactions with friends in the LDS church have not addressed healing ceremonies. Although, growing up in Indiana I was riding with a father and son who were both active in the local LDS church and they talked about the power of healing ceremonies. I am not sure if physical healing brought on by Mormon Elders goes on today much.
Cause IV: Being Good People. Frankly, this is what I think is the biggest distinction between devout Mormons and devout Christian Fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists are super nice people, obviously, but there are a good number who are vicious in the judgmentalism. The first word that anyone uses to describe Mormons as a group is how friendly and kind they are.
Cause V: United & Disciplined. As a person who thrives on curiousity, I see the uniformity of theology expressed by members of the LDS church to be a drawback. But, that’s for me personally. I don’t think one could deny that the Mormon Church puts forward a united front on matters theological and social.
Is this a fair assessment of the characteristics of the LDS Church? Does it make sense that these same causes were present in the early church movement which spread through the ancient super power that was Rome? Should other movements consider emulating these characteristics?