The Difference Between Explanation and Debate

I learned some very interesting things as a result of Michael Jackson’s death. I know, most people would look at me and say “David, you seem like the type of person who would not even be paying attention to that kind of news.” They would be right, but one article caught my attention. It really wasn’t about Michael Jackson’s death – it was really about Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) and it was written because Michel Jackson was raised in an JW household so his death brought up the subject of what they believe.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are familiar with being viewed as being outside the mainstream of Christianity – that’s one thing they share with JW’s. For this (and probably many other) LDS the JW’s seemed even more outside the mainstream of Christianity than we are. (They may well view us as being more on the outside than they are.) I’ve had interactions with JW’s at various times in my life and each time they seemed to be arguing their position and trying to put my beliefs down – the result was that I came away feeling that their beliefs were odd and inconsistent or full of logical holes. I was left wondering how anyone could accept such an obviously flawed belief system. Years ago I even took the time to read some of their official church publications. These were better than the debates (sometimes one-sided debates) that I had been subjected to, but their beliefs still seemed partially incoherent.

This article was written by someone who was raised in a JW jousehold, like Michael Jackson, who never did choose to become a JW. He understands their theology from an insider perspective but he is not trying to proselyte or convince, only explain. This time, although I believe differently than the JW’s on many issues their theology finally seemed coherent – I could understand how it would not feel weird to those who believed its teachings.

The result was that my respect for the JW’s has grown and I have a newfound appreciation of the power that accompanies someone telling about and explaining their beliefs from a personal perspective as opposed to official institutional explanations or individual argumentation. This is further proof of why the Savior said that “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention.”

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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4 Responses to The Difference Between Explanation and Debate

  1. Anonymous says:

    As a JW, I’ve long had a soft spot for Mormons. Fundamentally, of course, we’re poles apart, but there are many similarities, and they are good similarities. Mormons are upright and honest. They are the only group besides us in which religious affiliation alone is enough to convey trust. You can find the occasional clunker in both groups, but they are clearly anomalies. And honest people can be found throughout the world’s religions, without question, yet religious affiliation alone does not guarantee it.

    Both groups trace modern day roots to the 19th century United States, Both faiths enjoy unity. Neither faith has paid clergy. Both have highly organized and completely volunteer disaster relief functions.

    Both groups have a public ministry. Both will remove individuals who persistently and unrepentantly violate key tenets of the faith. Both groups courageously present their beliefs as the truth. This, in an era where most faiths have learned to offer beliefs al a carte; take them or spit them out according to your own tastes.

    We both even had a child superstar: Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson. Our guy miight have flown higher than yours, but at huge personal cost.

    • David says:

      Thanks for sharing – that was a good description of how much our two churches have in common. It’s interesting that from poles apart we yet share so much as groups. I think that says a lot about the world of religions – whatever our differences we all share some very fundamental similarities. I think if we could harness the similarities rather than getting too hung up on the differences we could all make the world a very pleasant place to live – an Eden in fact.

  2. Cameron says:

    This is a great example of the worth of sharing as opposed to attacking.

    I was once sitting in a park reading when a man approached me to ask if I would answer a few questions for a survey. I agreed, but after a couple of innocent questions it became apparent he was there not for a survey but to proselyte. Which would have been fine, except that once he found out I was LDS he opened up his folder to what apparently was a list of attack questions designed specifically for Mormons. Needless to say, I was not converted. What was interesting to me though was that after the encounter I reflected on the fact that his attacks almost immediately caused me to raise defenses and become more entrenched in my beliefs. Which isn’t exactly what he was hoping for I’m sure.

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