Ethics: Army Chaplain Preaches for Memorial Day

What would you do Wednesday!

It is the Sunday before Memorial Day. It has been a weekend full of Military appreciation. Television stations have run specials with great reminders of the sacrifices of the many men and women who have served and are serving in America’s Armed Forces. The gratefulness of living in such a free country warms the heart. And the thankfulness for those who have sacrificed for such freedoms makes this upcoming holiday all the more endearing.

You wake up wondering what the message will be in worship service this morning. There is a guest preacher, but no one knows who it is.

The time comes for the guest preacher to be revealed just before he steps into the pulpit. He is introduced as an Army Chaplain who recently came back from serving overseas.

The Chaplain immediately opens with the following story.

French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831, said, “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests–and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning–and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution–and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!” (source)

The Chaplain then begins to talk about how great it is to serve America as an Army Chaplain. He further explains that it is an honor to preach on this Memorial Day weekend. And he is, “thankful that as a long time member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I can preach this morning in united celebration of Memorial Day with my Baptist brothers and sisters.”

What would you do?

You have just found out that a Mormon Army Chaplain is preaching the Sunday morning Memorial Day sermon in your Baptist church.

Now what? How do you react?

Let's connect!

tagged as , , in morality,theology

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Blackmon May 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I would walk out. I would then find out why the pastor would permit something like that. I mean, I know that kind of thing goes over really well in places like Enid, OK but a Christian pastor is supposed to protect his flock from false teachers, no invite them into the pulpit to speak.

2 Josh Collins May 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I wouldn’t walk out. A) I want to know what is being said to my friends and family so I could provide any biblical correction. B) Most people would just assume one was leaving early for some sports event, so that wouldn’t make much of a statment.

However, I would be on the phone with my pastor immediately after to question his knowledge of this speaker, his rationale for opening the church to such a man, and what he plans on doing to rectify the situation. (Such as if he had no knowledge of this man’s LDS status beforehand- maybe a pastor friend or deacon had recommended him, issuing apologies and clarification of our church’s relationship with the LDS organization and its doctrines while promising to better guard the flock by screening speakers beforehand. If he had knowledge and felt it was justified because it wasn’t a sermon or something, that would be a long conversation to have.)

If after all that, the pastor insisted on the appropriateness of inviting LDS speakers into the pulpit, I would be faced with a tough choice to either look for a new church or to bring the discussion before the church body to bring the pastor to his senses (or to remove him). But such a motion would follow a Matthew 18 pattern of first discussing with him, taking other leaders in the church to discuss with him, and bringing it before the Body as a last result.

I know many kind and generous people in the LDS and various offshoots (I grew up in Independence, MO where we have a spiral to heaven awaiting Jesus’ return to the Garden of Eden downtown), but leading my church’s worship service is not an appropriate place for them (nor would they welcome me into their church as a leader either).

3 Joe Blackmon May 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Well, I chose walk out because if I didn’t I’m afraid I might do a flying tackle off the piano a la Wrestlemania afterwhich I’d “snap into a Slim Jim”. LOL

4 Dr. James Galyon May 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

If I were a member of the church, then I would:
A) walk out, taking my family with me
B) call the pastor that afternoon and ask what the Sheol he was thinking
C) look for a new church home

If I were not a member, then I would:
A) walk out, taking my family with me
B) call the pastor on Monday morning and ask what the Sheol he was thinking

5 Jared Moore May 25, 2011 at 11:27 pm

If I was on staff, or had any influence whatsoever in the church, I would pull a Martin Luther. That man would not preach to my local brothers and sisters in Christ that I had covenanted with before God. I would lovingly encourage him to stop preaching until he left the pulpit; escalating in righteous public anger until he stopped. He would not preach, plain and simple, even if I had to “make a fool” out of myself in the eyes of many in the congregation.

6 Barry Adams May 26, 2011 at 1:25 am

1.) Don’t be Baptist!
2.) You’re not going to that church anymore.
3.) Why were you in a church that wimpy to begin with?

If you’re actually facing church negligence that grave, you’ve made some bad ecclesiastical choices.

7 Dan Smith May 26, 2011 at 7:15 am

I have to admit that I’d walk out too, and call the pastor. But the fact is, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a baptist church that would have allowed something like this, and I’ve been a part of many as a career military man. By the way, there are plenty of baptist chaplains to share the same story with a faith element that has the blood of Christ in it. Find one.

8 Brent Hobbs May 26, 2011 at 9:06 am

How I would react would be determined by how involved I was in the church and in what leadership roles, if any, I was in.

I think Josh’s comment is the most reasonable on here. I understand everyone wants to speak out strongly against allowing a LDS speaker in our churches, as do I. But I think it’s good to start off asking if that was also a surprise to the pastor and church leadership when he was invited.

I’m kind of surprised to see that “walking out” is seen as such a strong act of protest. To me, it’s a pretty meaningless way to make any kind of statement. Do you take it as a strong statement when people walk out of your sermons? I usually just figure they have to go to the bathroom.

9 Mark May 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

Josh makes a good point about staying to be able to correct any false teaching, but I think I would also walk out. I would definitely contact the pastor(s), staff, etc.

It really seems that something like this could never happen, but I would not be very surprised if it did actually happen. Some how in today’s ecumenism I think this could happen though I’m not sure it could happen without someone knowing the guy was a Mormon.

10 John Johnson May 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Man, you got skills!!

11 C. M. May 28, 2011 at 9:21 am

What if you confronted the pastor and he said something like this? “Hey, the man says that he is saved by grace and has put his faith in Jesus. Who are we to question his testimony.”

And, what if you answered, “He’s a member of a cult. Unless he repudiates his affiliation with that cult, we must assume he’s talking about another jesus, right?

Then, what if the pastor said something like: “You can’t give me a scriptural precedent for that requirement. The Bible says everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. This man says he’s done that— same as YOU!”

12 Mike May 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

I’m very surprised that so many people would just walk out; and I’m blown away that some would even automatically leave their church. If God has graciously illuminated your mind so that you can discern false teaching and know when something crosses the line, then your church needs you to stay and show them the way. If the church refuses to hear you over time, THEN you leave.

And I’m brokenhearted that so many folks base their church membership on the pastor. I get frustrated that folks in cities drive past small church after small church to go to the hip, large church with the book-writing pastor on the other side of the metro. This situation is at least related to that one. If you just up and leave b/c the pastor made a mistake, well, why were you part of that church in the 1st place? Because of him? In the long run, if the pastor feels okay with having LDS folks in the pulpit and the church decides to back him on it, then yes, you have to leave. But in the immediate future, aren’t you obligated to at least raise the issue at the church and try to educate the sheep on this matter?

13 Mark May 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm


You make some great points. I don’t disagree with you and would probably even go in the direction you propose. American Christians are probably too “leave happy” when it comes to being part of local congregations. Thanks for adding some important considerations to the discussion.

14 Mark May 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm


Does a name define the person or does the person define who he or she behind the name?

If I said that I read a comment on another blog by C.M. who was arguing that Mormons’ and Christians’ worship different Jesus’s, that would seem to put us in a dilemma using your reasoning. Of course, if we further investigated and found out that it was a different person who also uses the moniker C.M. then our dilemma would be solved.

Even LDS leaders admit that Mormonism does not hold to the same Jesus as Christianity does.

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak'” (LDS Church News, week ending June 20, 1998, p.7).

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS Seventy Bernard P. Brockbank, Ensign, May 1977, p.26 ).


15 Dr. James Galyon June 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Just for the record – I wouldn’t walk out with my family as a sign of protest, I’d walk out for the sake of my family. I would not want them to sit under a preacher of another gospel, which the Apostle Paul makes plain is anathema.

16 G August 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

One thing you all fail to notice is the topic of the service is “Memorial Day”.

“Memorial Day”. Are you all just a bunch of babies or just so brainwashed into thinking Mormons are so evil that they can’t possibly serve their country with honor, loyalty, integrity, selfless service, respect, etc…because they’re Mormon?

The United States Military force is full of patriots and defenders of this country from all walks of life many religions and you all are saying that the fact that the speaker is a Mormon you would choose just to throw a fit, or walk out before listening to what the guy has to say about his experience serving in the United States military defending this country. Really?

Pretty lame, not to mention disrespectful. Don’t ever say that you support the troops if you don’t support them all.

17 Mark August 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm

G, I certainly did not fail to notice Memorial Day since I made-up the scenario. You’ve actually put up a straw man claiming the commenters here don’t think Mormons can serve the country well. I believe Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists, agnostics, Roman Catholics, etc. can serve this country well.

This issue is not about patriotism, but about having a Mormon preach in one of Christ’s churches since the two gospels are different.

18 G August 5, 2011 at 12:59 am

Straw man? Not about Patriotism? I’m confused.

According to your scenario the Mormon Chaplain is there to “(preach)ing the Sunday morning Memorial Day sermon”…”in united celebration of Memorial Day”, and you state that the he feels “honor(ed) to preach on (a) Memorial Day weekend”…you mentioned not twice but thrice that the Mormon is there for the specific purpose to discuss Memorial Day. No where in your scenario is anything concerning the Mormon Chaplain having the intention to preach any gospel, his yours, or otherwise.

So again, if your scenario is about Memorial Day why throw a fit and walk out or be disrespectful to the guy just because he’s a Mormon. If your scenario is not about Memorial Day and patriotism but about a Mormon preaching another gospel in your church then you certainly failed to clarify.

19 Mark August 5, 2011 at 1:24 am


It is the venue i.e. the church gathered for the sake of the gospel, that is in question. Regardless of how many times patriotism is referenced that is still no excuse to compromise the gospel nor the worship of God. The scenario is laid out that way on purpose to give the readers a more difficult time thinking through their potential actions. It is an exercise in applied ethics and the “answer” and “issue” isn’t always readily apparent to the reader.

20 G August 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm

So what you are saying is, the scenario is going to be tough to answer (because the “‘answer” and “issue” is not readily apparent to the reader”), however, as long as everyone’s response includes a “no Mormons allowed in here” then it’s all good?

If it’s the venue and the messenger, but not the message, and you “believe Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists, agnostics, Roman Catholics, etc. can serve this country well” then can I assume that you wouldn’t have any issue with any member of the aforementioned religions giving a similar speech at a school, a park, a city council meeting, etc… or running for public office to represent you, teach your kids, etc…?

21 G August 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Dilemmas indeed. What if we investigated further and found out that Jesus Christ has been called to serve on jury duty in Alabama, or that there are a lot of people in the states named Jesus Christ, and probably many more in other countries?

22 Mark August 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

G, I don’t think the scenario is tough to answer at all for the Christian.

Are you a Christian?

23 G August 6, 2011 at 1:54 am

Which scenario, yours or the one I posed to you?

Yes sir. Are you?

24 Mark August 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

G, I am a Christian.

I am having trouble understanding why you seem to not accept my answer (and others here too). While I did say that the issue from my perspective is about the venue, I never said the message did not matter. In a Christian worship service I would not separate the venue from the message. I would oppose any non-Christian (in this case a Mormon) from delivering a sermon during corporate worship.

As to your questions about people with various beliefs in other settings like a school, park, etc. I would not oppose them.

25 G August 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

I think I’ve reached sufficient clarity to the fact that you are against allowing any “non-Christian(in this case a Mormon)”… in a Baptist(“one of Christ’s churches”) church, for any reason. While I don’t agree with your answer I can accept it.

I feel that Memorial day is an especially great opportunity for every people professing belief in Christ to show themselves an others that they can be united, which is ironic and sad.

You said that you “would not oppose” “any non-Christian” taking a Memorial Day service to a in a public venue. But you didn’t answer if you would you have an issue voting for a “non-Christian” running for public office to represent you in public office at the local, state, or national level? Would you have an issue if you knew a “non-Christian” was teaching your kids at school?

26 Mark August 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm


I want you to know that I am not avoiding your question. I thought you might infer I would not have a problem voting for non-Christians or having them teach my kid. I’m sure I live under non-Christian elected officials and I’m sure my daughter was taught in school by non-Christians. I don’t know what this has to do with the situation in the post. Instead of asking me leading questions why not just get to your point of comparison? I obviously don’t see a parallel and may see an equivocation coming, but I’ll have to read your answer.

I don’t get your comment here:

I feel that Memorial day is an especially great opportunity for every people professing belief in Christ to show themselves an others that they can be united, which is ironic and sad.

A worship service has to do with uniting around the gospel which has nothing to do with uniting around whatever American holiday time it may be. Will Mormons and Christians can be united at Memorial Day, for example, in support of their country; they cannot unite around two different gospels. The stronger point is being united around the gospel with its eternal focus is a much greater testimony than being united around Memorial Day which is temporal, IMO.

27 G August 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm

You know what Mark I’m just going to apologize right now for wasting your time, I really do see where you are coming from. Peace out. Best of luck to you and yours.

28 playgood September 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

it is really sad reading some of these posts. wow i thought we were christian. some of us really need to listen to ourselves. what would the Master do? If this happened to me, I would listen to what the man had to say. If it brought me close to the spirit of Christ, I would approve, if it did not, I would disapprove. I don’t even necessarily think that everything that comes out of my own pastors sermons are 100% following the spirit of Christ. No one is perfect. Obviously, I would question those in authority but I think we judge the mormons too much and do not know enough about them. some of these posts were disheartening.


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