Are Mormons Christian? Who Gets to Decide?

Chris Henrichsen over at Approaching Justice kicked off a Patheos bloggers roundtable this week on the question: Are Mormons Christian?  Here’s how he introduced the conversation:

For most Mormons, the answer to this question is obvious. Yes, yes they are. They believe in Jesus Christ. This settles it for them.

For people from other religious perspectives, the answer is obvious but in the negative. Mormons are not Christians. The reasons for this response is varied.

For some, few answers are obvious. Instead, this question is more one of inquiry. For me, the question itself, and that it gets asked, is what intrigues me and brings me to this round table. Why do we get caught up in these debates? What do such questions tell us about Mormonism, Christianity, and religion?

I, too, have long been intrigued by the fact that a lot of people seem to care a lot about figuring this out.  A couple of years ago, in the thick of the Republican presidential primary that eventually produced candidate Mitt Romney, I wrote this over at TheReligiousLeft.org:

“So I was trying to remember what we talked about in class last year, is it a cult?”

This was the question that a student popped in my office to ask recently.  She’d overheard some chatter about the Republican presidential primary, and recalled that in my introductory class on Christianity we talked about Mormonism.  I’m not sure exactly what or who she had recently heard, but I am confident that the chatter was because of Pastor Robert Jeffress’ recent comments about Mitt Romney’s religion at the Values Voter Summit in October:  “That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult.”

Following that event, a slew of political and religious commentaries emerged offering their opinions on whether or not Mormons are Christians.  This included Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, definitively proclaiming that Mormonism “is not orthodox Christianity in a new form or another branch of the Christian tradition.”

In that post, I went on to reflect on how the very people who tend to insist loudly that Mormons are not Christians are the same ones who ramp up Islamophobia at any chance:  conservative evangelical Christians.  I wondered there if there’s some kind of fear at the root of both of those things:

 Considering the way that the Mormon faith hits a unique nerve, though, it seems that there is more.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done exactly what early Christianity did in relationship to Judaism:  Claim a fuller revelation of God superseding the one that came before.  Just as Christianity added on to the sacred text of Judaism, calling the Hebrew Bible the “Old Testament,” Mormons see their book as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”  Perhaps their increasing legitimacy makes visible the thing that conservative Christians would prefer to ignore completely:  That a fully realized and complex Jewish tradition existed before and after Christians decided to claim it for their own.  Theologically, Mormonism is perhaps too close to home.

Beyond that speculation, I’m interested in the power dynamics at work in this conversation:  Who gets to decide who’s Christian and who’s not?  Who stands to benefit if Mormons are excluded?  I’m pretty sure that a lot of people who take a definitive stand on this issue aren’t super-well-versed in the intricacies of Trinitarian doctrinal debates or the history of the Nicene Creed so I’m not convinced that that substance is really what matters.

What matters is the power of naming.  We might say that it has mattered since one of the earliest creation stories when the adam named all the other creatures in the Yahwist’s tale collected in Genesis.

Do names matter?  Maybe more importantly, does the power of self-definition matter?  I’m pretty sure that the answer to both of these questions is yes, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation over and over again.  And religion isn’t the only area where self-definition is at stake.  I wrote last week about how the story of Private [Bradley] Manning requesting that her self-understood gender, female, and her chosen name, Chelsea, now be respected by the media and the world, even though she’s sentenced to spend decades in a military prison convicted on multiple counts of espionage.  This case has brought to light a reality that many have ignored or about which too many have been unaware.

When is the last time someone challenged your right to define your gender?  To claim your name?  Your religion?

And so I’m convinced that what this conversation about Mormons being Christian helps us see clearly is that even more important than the question “are Mormons Christian?” is “who gets to decide?”

The picture above is me peering into a replica of the Salt Lake City Temple at the Temple Visitors Center in 2012.

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Sven2547

    My theology may be a bit rusty, but here’s how I understand it:

    In the earliest days of Christianity, there were a very wide variety of “Christian” sects* (with an even greater disparity of beliefs than the many sects of today). In an effort to standardize what it means to be “Christian”, theologians put together the Nicene Creed and its close cousin, the Apostles’ Creed. It’s a list of beliefs that, if held, essentially define you as a Christian.

    So the question I ask is: do Mormons believe in the tenets laid out in the Nicene Creed / Apostles’ Creed?

    * A historical anecdote: some early Christians believed the Holy Trinity were the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary. In his travels, Muhammed encountered some such Christians, and wrote about their beliefs in part of what later became the Koran. To this day, the Koran claims that Christians believe in the trinity of Father/Son/Virgin Mary, which has led to ample confusion.

    • riversidebatman

      I enjoyed your comment but I disagree with your premise. How can one use the creeds as a measure to who is Christian when they came about hundreds of years after Christ and were created after debate and not revelation? Protestants referring to Mormons as not Christian is about as logical as Catholics saying the same thing about Protestants. How about using the words and teachings of Christ Himself and His apostles as a measure?

      • Sven2547

        Very good point, although “revelation” tends to be a fuzzy basis for authority.

      • Collin

        A long period of time does not by necessity diminish their credibility or accuracy in stating the Christian faith, counterintuitive as it may be. Your comparison is also weak; Catholics and Protestants agree perfectly on the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; they disagree on the status of Mary, the place of works vs. faith, the method of worship, the authority of tradition vs. the authority of Scripture, etc. Catholics/Protestants (and Orthodox too) disagree with Mormons over the very nature of God (and whether that term is singular). The comparison falls apart.

  • riversidebatman

    Dr. Riswold, I noticed you’re only about two hours from Nauvoo, IL. You’ve clearly been to SLC but if you haven’t been already I would love to invite you to make a weekend trip to Nauvoo and see the sites. Some sites are run by the LDS Church. Other sites are run by our Restoration cousins, the Community of Christ (formally known as the RLDS). As the summer has now ended you will have dodged the crowds and the whether is fine. Perhaps you can have it be a faculty function and have it subsidized by your college. Either way I know a theologian like yourself will have a blast.

    • carynriswold

      I have been to Nauvoo, several times over the past decade, and at least three times with students on sociology of religion field trips. :-) I have a blast, learn something, and develop new questions every time I go. Both to the LDS sites and the CofC site …

    • carynriswold

      Oh, and Carthage too! We always end the visit at Carthage … :-)

  • justinwhitaker

    Excellent post, Caryn. I believe the ‘mainstream’ in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE saw Christianity as a cult as well. But times changed, and labels do too. I wonder if Mormons would be okay with the label “heterodox Christian” if necessary. But the ‘power dynamics’ angle does seem to be the correct one here.

  • Charles Smith

    The effort to label Mormons as not Christian is so one has
    the excuse of not having to listen to their message. They are dismissed outright and therefore
    whatever they may say needs not to be paid attention too.

    This was one of the approaches used against Joseph
    Smith. If one could label him as either
    crazy or very clever, then his doctrines would not have to be listened too and
    no one would be under the obligation to give any credence to his message.

    The idea of a restoration of the gospel in modern times is treating
    to people who have a creed that feels comfortable to them. If the Mormons are correct and a restoration
    was required because the church as established by Jesus was lost after the
    death of the church leadership, then all the Christians dominations afterwards
    are not recognized by our Heavenly Father as true representatives of the power
    He wishes to give to His children.
    Obviously that threatens the positions of those who are in authority in
    the various Christian denominations today.
    This particularly truth of those various folks, who have a following or wield
    influence in the public eye.

    One would think that God speaking to men today would be a
    welcome thing. I think the problems of
    the world could stand some suggestions by our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus
    Christ.

  • Trijem Lodestone

    Right then… How about using the gospel, You remember, the Holy Bible?

    if you can’t stand by the Niceene Creed or the Apostolic Creed, which is biblical and scriptural…

    Check out these 4 links, vids. Meeting Mormon Missionaries 1, 2, 3, 4.

    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JCMCJNNU

    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JCMCFNNU

    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JCCJCNNU

    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=DZPY7NNX

    Perhaps you’ll see.

    God Loves You and So Do I.

  • Pubilius

    I’m pretty progressive, but no, Mormon’s may follow Jesus, but they fundamentally disagree with 2,000 years of liturgy, doctrine, and the essentials of faith (salvation)… if a billion Christians don’t consider you Christian, you’re not. They follow more gnostic-type practices (you’re a god) and other dismissed heresies. Mormons should embrace their mormonism, and all-powerful God could save them, but that’s up to God.

    • Charles Smith

      Fortunately opinions do not trump facts. I don’t know how many Jews were living in Judea at the time of Jesus, but many of them did not consider Him to be the Messiah.

      Whatever their opinions, that did not dismiss His claim to be the Son of God nor does it today. Thank goodness, Jesus was not swayed by public opinion as He went about carrying out the commands of His Father in Heaven which brought salvation to the world.

      This applies to a billion Christians who may not consider Mormons as Christians. Their opinions do not trump the truth that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are indeed Christians and our works and actions for the benefit of our fellow men certainly show that.

      • Collin

        You are definitely right about opinions versus truth. It doesn’t matter how many people think something, or whether anyone does; truth is what matters.

        After this though, your only defense of the nature of the LDS is that your works prove you’re Christians. What your works prove are that you are amazing people with basically the same values as Christians, although most Mormons are much better at staying true to these values than many Christians, who are often swayed by worldliness.

        But the difference is in beliefs. Christians follow the Nicene Creed, which states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are “of one substance.” LDS believe them to be three separate deities. Christ, in the New Testament, claimed the title “I Am,” which was reserved only for Yahweh. There is no argument about who he thought he was. If Mormons do not believe this, then they must accept that he was either wrong about himself or a liar. So I am not saying that Mormons are wrong, but on this basic yet fundamental question the two religions differ.

        Trust me, I am not making this claim based on any personal feelings–one of my best friends in the whole world is a Mormon. Of course when we first met, she, knowing I was a Christian, made it very obvious that she thought Mormons are Christians. We discussed it, and I made sure to point out these things. While she may still hold the belief that Mormons are Christians, she readily admitted that Christians and Mormons do believe different things about God.

        If I were to answer this question based solely on my feelings and whatnot, I would do anything to include the LDS under the domain of Christ; the thought of my friend being judged is very troubling to me.

        But then again, like you said, opinions have no chance against facts, as much as it may sadden me to admit it in this particular case.

  • Mike Mayer

    This post hit particularly close to home for me. I have had number of “discussions” both with fundamentalist Christians and with atheists about faith. BOTH groups have had the audacity to tell me that I’m not Christian. As much as these two groups differ in their personal beliefs, they are united in how THEY choose to define Christianity.

    I define myself as having a progressive, post-supernatural, Christian theology.

    Anyone who chooses to follow the teachings of Christ should be considered a Christian. We can differ in what it means to “follow the teachings,” but that does not mean we have the right to strip each other of the Christian title so that we can claim it as our own (or, in the case of the atheist, to be able to hold on to their tried/true strongholds against it).

  • Charles Smith

    The Latter-day Saints do not say that Jesus is a “created
    being.” He is an individual who
    progressed to that state by his obedience to our Heavenly Father’s training
    before he was born as a mortal. We also
    went through similar training.

    The main difference between Jesus and us is what we are
    called upon to do while we are mortals.
    Jesus was called to save the world.
    We are called to have families and try to save ourselves along with our
    families taking advantage of the atonement provided by Jesus’ suffering in the
    garden and his death on the cross.

    This concept of man one day becoming a god or deification is
    not new! It was a common precept among
    the early Christian leadership of the first and second centuries AD such as
    Irenaius and Clement of Alexandria.
    Indeed Paul alludes to the concept in some of his writings.

    The world needs to realize who we really are. We are the children of a God! Mortality is a brief period of your eternal existence
    where we are to learn certain lessens that could not be experience anywhere but
    in a mortal state. The same applied to
    Jesus as stated in Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8 “Through he were a Son, yet learned he
    obedience by the things which he suffered.”

    Just as any loving parent wants their children to become
    good and moral people and even be better than they are, so our Heavenly Father
    wants his children to be like him and be able to do all the things he can do.

    The question I wonder is why is this such a contentious
    point? This elevates man to more than
    just puppets who are being manipulated by some unseen power so for some unknown
    purpose. We are future Gods in
    training. Look in the mirror. You are looking at a future deity if you can
    follow the simple training aids set down by our Heavenly Father through his son
    Jesus. We really at the presence don’t
    see just how great we really are in God’s eyes.
    His loved us so much that he sent his only begotten son to save us.

    • Molly Harrison Stewart

      Your response illustrates that you are very familiar with the Mormon gospel…which is not the same as the gospel of the Bible. The Jesus of Mormonism was Lucifer’s brother…Lucifer was clearly a created being…therefore… (insert logical inference here) I again refer you to Galatians 5. Mormons are, by and large, very moral people, kind, family oriented…delightful to be around. They believe in “Jesus” …just not the same one who is in the Bible, and therefore, they are not Christians…by Biblical definition. Have a great day Charles!

      • bytebear

        John 20:17
        Jesus saith unto her [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

        So, if Jesus and Mary are siblings based on their being children of the same God, why not Lucifer or any of the fallen angels?

      • Charles Smith

        The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Bible has been debated for 1600 odd years. The number of Christian denominations is an indication that there is no unity of what the Gospel concepts are in the Bible. And unless you are following your own interpretations of the Bible text, I assume you are following, however closely, one of the creedal positions such as the Nicene Creed or Apostolic Creed.

        As Latter-day Saints we consider the Bible an inspired book for the world. However, what your Catholic friends think the Bible says is certainly going to be different than what your non-Catholic friends say it says and what you might think it says.

        And as a Latter-day Saint, we think our interpretation of
        the Bible is the correct one. In fact, we do not see anything in it that differs from our concept of Gospel. And we could consider that your concept as not Christian as it does not follow the interpretation of the Gospel as we see it in the Bible.

        This problem of what the Bible says certainly lends
        credibility to the need of either modern prophets to help with this or additional scripture. Latter-day Saints have both. The Book of Mormon backs up the Bible and the Bible backs up the Book of Mormon. In fact we call the Book of Mormon “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

        Not sure where you get the idea that Lucifer was created,
        but he has been around as long as Christ has and you as well. Lucifer is a rebellious child of our Father in Heaven. Just as sometimes a sibling goes bad, Lucifer did as well when he could not have his way. Why is this idea so hard to accept?

        Our Heaven Father has a family in which Jesus, Lucifer, and all of us are a part. A plan for our progression was put forth by God. We accepted the plan and were very happy with it. Jesus accepted the assignment to atone for the sins of the world. Lucifer did not and was expelled from Heaven. He is now going about trying to get us to go over the to dark side and become as miserable as he is.

        Our Heavenly Father does not create evil things. Lucifer is a son of our Heavenly Father just as we are who has gone astray. He decided to do that on his own! We are now trying to decide which way we will go.

        • Collin

          Honestly my friend, you seem much more educated in the matter than I am. I don’t think what I’ve typed thus far is sufficient proof against the specific points you’ve made; however, it’s the idea of whether Christ is God or a god that seems most important to me. All else hinges on that, and I still fail to see how Mormons deal with passages that state that.

          • Charles Smith

            I guess the real question is what is a god? Is it a person that cannot be approached and only relationship he wants with us is for us to do as we are told or else. Or is he a person who is wanting us to become like him to enjoy the external happiness he enjoys and is trying to tell us how to accomplish that?

          • Collin

            Excellent question, and one one which I was actually about to pose myself (referring of course to the question “what is a god?”). But the rest of your comment betrays your lack of understanding of how Christians interpret the Bible’s answer to this question, and casts doubt on my assessment of your level of education in the matter.
            Where on earth do you get that view of the Christian God? Well, probably from the countless others, primarily atheists, who have asked the same. Let me try to present the way I and all the Christians I personally know see God.

            On a mostly irrelevant side note, your question is culturally rooted. Ancient pagans wouldn’t have though to ever ask this question; Rahab helped the Iraelite spies because she had heard stories of the Israelite God, Yahweh. Faced with the destruction of their town and the loss of their lives, they chose to aid the Israelites. Kinda sounds like doing what God says “or else.” Not to mention the way the Israelites constantly left God to live prodigal and syncretist lives, and had to be reminded again and again, accepting what God said to do “or else” without decrying His actions as unjust.

            Bu back to the question. God sent Christ to save us from our sins, but one of the most significant results of Christ’s birth, life, death, etc. was that God became personal, tangible. we believe that Christ was 100% God (one and the same as Yahweh, not different or separate) and 100% human. In Genesis, it says that God was present in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Later, he established His presence in the tabernacle, and eventually the temple. And then He becomes Man as Jesus! This is the climax of the Biblical story; God has become one of us, to know our temptations, and yet retained full Godhood, allowing Him to lead a sinless life and to be able to bear the load of all sin (for no one short of God could possibly fulfill such a role). The point of being a Christian is not to avoid hell, as you paint it to seem; the point is to see to be like God so as to perpetuate into eternity in a joyful existence, joyful because we are in fellowship with God, Yahweh, our Creator, who became man to die and descend into hell that we might live; I imagine an Eden-esque setting, in which we live to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

            You know, looking at it, I would say that God wants us to enjoy the eternal happiness He has (see all of the traditional Bible) and I’m pretty sure He told us how (“I am the WAY and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Found in John 14:6 I believe, although I’m sure a quick Google search would confirm it.).

            I guess I just fail to see how anyone who has read the Bible could think that the God presented is as you described.

    • Collin

      I find your use of that passage interesting; the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible points out that Christ was always obedient, and that this verse is only referring to his appointment by God as a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. It doesn’t have anything to do with his path to God hood. Even the use of the phrase “made perfect” in the subsequent verse does not imply imperfection prior; it is intended to be understood in the original Greek. Those within Graeco-Roman culture would have understood it to imply completion; Christ had completed his goals

      You’re right, he wasn’t learning in quite the same sense we might interpret it. In fact, other passages show he was already considered the High Priest, but his suffering and supplication allowed him the title itself.

      Even you points here don’t convince me that Christ is different from, when passages like John 1:! state that he was God and the became flesh. Being God and attaining an equal level of godhood are two very different things. And again, as I believe I have stated once or twice elsewhere in this feed, Christ identified himself as “I Am,” a title reserved exclusively for Yahweh. Not for any god or godlike being, but for God and God alone. How do the LDS address this discrepancy?

      Besides, he clearly states that he is the way to the Father. Not the way to being a Father.

      Also, I’m curious–if you could direct me to the works of Irenaus which state or imply a belief in the deification of man, I would love to read it over. I looked into his beliefs, and while he held that we were placed here to learn moral lessons, he did not state (in the sources I found via the internet) that the end of learning these lessons was godhood.

      • Charles Smith

        Collin, I enjoyed your finding the true meaning of perfection. “Completion” is the correct interpretation as
        far as I am concern as well. Jesus was the God of the Old Testament or Jehovah. But there were a few things he lacked to be complete.

        1 – He did not have a physical body.

        2 – He had not experienced mortality.

        3 – He was not baptized or had received the Holy Ghost
        which he said was a requirement to gain eternal life.

        4 – He had not experienced death.

        True he was a god who could create worlds, but he was
        needing some more experiences to be complete.

        1 – He obviously was born of Mary so now he had a physical body.

        2 – He grew to manhood and experienced what we deal with everyday.

        3 – He was baptized by John the Baptist and received the
        Holy Ghost at that event.

        4 – He died on the cross and passed through the veil as we all will.

        If you will notice the last verse of Matthew 5, Jesus
        commands us to be perfect (or complete), even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (complete). You will notice that he does not say himself.

        However in the Book of Mormon, when the resurrect Jesus visits the Christians in the Americas in which he given the “Sermon on Mount” because they had not heard it themselves, he says this time: “Therefore I would
        that ye should be perfect even as I, (my emphasis) or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

        Here he tells the Nephites that he is now perfect or
        complete, because he has done all that was required of him to perform his mission on our behave. Thank eavenly
        Father for that!

        You say the “Being God and attaining an equal level of
        godhood are two very different things.” Again what is the definition of God? If you say God has been God all along and never has been anything else, I say that is not correct.

        Jesus in John 1:1 as I’ve stated above was God or Jehovah but came down to become a man and therefore become complete or perfect. This shows just how much love he has for us.

        The world over the ages has sacrificed trying to gain the
        God’s or the Gods’ favor, but here we have a God sacrificing to gain our favor. This in my mind makes him even higher in my esteem for him.

        He was the way to the Father because he performed the
        Atonement. Unless we repent of our sins and accept the atonement of Jesus we will not be comfortable in our Heavenly Father’s presence and wish to be elsewhere.

        Hope this helps. This has been good experience for me to explain these things to you. I give you my testimony that Jesus Christ is the Savor of the world and the only way to return to our Father in Heaven who is so anxious to have us back to be with him.

        As far as writing of Irenaus, check out wikepedia. Here you will see other early church leaders who had the same doctrine.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinization_(Christian).

        • Collin

          Charles,

          I am currently short on time, and I do have more to say and ask in response to your two posts which I will try to formulate over the next day or so–the life of a college student is not an easy one, especially when you choose the academically rigorous courses and school which I have!

          But I deeply appreciate your willingness to spend the time expanding my knowledge of the beliefs of the LDS. I have gleaned a little from one of my best friends, who is a Mormon, but not so completely as I have from you. Clearly you “know your stuff,” to borrow the colloquialism.

        • Collin

          Briefly looking over this wikipedia article had proven most intriguing…I have seen language such as this before, in similar writings. I will have to look further into it, but just because the writer uses the term “god” in saying humans will become gods does not NECESSARILY mean he thinks they will be equal to God in status and power. Again, I have to look further into it; the author may mean exactly what you say he means. But they may be switching definitions of god and using the same term merely as linguistic style. I have seen examples of what I have just stated, though most unfortunately I cannot recall any for you.

          Again, I’m not stating that you are wrong, but suggesting that you might be. I will need to first perform a simple word study to determine whether the same word for “God” is used within each statement, and then I will need to look into other works of the authors to see if their other writings might shed light on their intended meaning.

    • Collin

      Hmm these are just question, I honestly want to learn the way the LDS approach these ideas:

      If God wants us to be not just like Him, but at the same level as Him, why command Adam and Eve NOT to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

      This arises from my lack of understanding of just who Jesus is to the LDS–if we are meant to become gods of our own works, what is the need for a savior? The prevailing theme seems to be our ability to deify ourselves, so in that case, Jesus would make of course a good example; but is a savior necessary?

      If there are other gods and worlds/universe out there (I apologize if this is not what you believe; I seem to remember hearing this somewhere. Besides, if WE are to become gods, I’d assume we’d need our own worlds to be god OF.) then are the characteristics of our own god anything important? That is to say, Christians strive to be like God because his attributes are Good. They just ARE (the traditional parent cop-out answer is appropriate in this situation, I believe). God is the one single being not restricted by time and matter, and so we ought to be like Him. He is Good by definition. But if our God just happens to be the god of our world, it almost seems like the only reason to be like him is so we can attain godhood, and not because we simply OUGHT to be like him. Could not the morals we hold to be absolute be far perverted in another world? If God is NOT the one being who is above all else, why should we take upon ourselves his character except for personal progression to power?

      This leads into my next question, one posed by atheists to Christians (and in that case inappropriately so). They ask, “Who created God?” But of course they fail to understand our definition of God as uncreated, atemporal, everlasting, eternal. He does not require creation. However, this is not so for Mormons. I believe I once heard the mantra “As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may become.” But if God was “as man is now,” would not his creation be necessary? This MIGHT allow you to answer my previous question; if God gained his morals character from the God who created him, and that God from the one who created him, then you could argue that these values will be present in every God. But it seems like you’d have to trace it all back to one God somewhere, who would by necessity be first and foremost and, as this God would exist without being created, he would HAVE to be above the others…I don’t know where I’m going with this one. I guess I just don’t see how we can know where our God came from, why we should follow him if not for personal gain, etc.

      And this is what prevents me from understanding how the concept of “I AM WHO I AM” is reconciled with the Mormon faith. Biblical scholars and linguists have pointed out that the word used in the Hebrew is in fact the infinitive verb of being. “I Am who I Am” is perhaps the simplest way to capture the idea, but the infinitive being verb is not restricted to that tense. The implication is that God’s identity is established as unchanging. If he is unchanging, how could he have once been less than he is now? Seems to me like a classic case of mutual exclusion.

      Pretty sure I had another, but it’s escaping me. I’m sure I could find these answers elsewhere, and you may not even see this, but perhaps someone will have some answers or will direct me to a source which could provide them (I have already been referred to Ehrman).

      Thanks for your time.

      • Charles Smith

        Let me see if I can answer your questions. Please note that I do not speak for the
        church. These are only my insights after
        50 or so years studying the Gospel.

        First Point: Heavenly Father is an individual. He has his own personality just as we have
        our own. He is trying to show us how to arrive
        at the state where we can partake of the same external enjoyments he enjoys. It just that simple.

        We do not take over his spot when we obtain godhood. He continues to have more children and is
        helping them as he is trying to help us to become like him.

        Second Point: Now to your question about Adam and Eve. This is a very good question and has been
        debate to the extreme, I believe. It is
        simple. Jehovah told Adam and Eve that
        if they eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they would be subject to
        death. He was just telling them what would
        happen if they did. He sure did not tied
        them up to keep them from doing so.

        What was on their minds was that they knew that partaking
        of the fruit would give them knowledge of good and evil and be like the gods. Eve particularly wanted that knowledge. In addition, they were not able to have
        children in the Garden of Eden because they were innocent and therefore could
        not obey the other commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.

        So they were faced with two conflicting commandments. Not to eat of the tree and to have
        children. They would need to eat of the
        tree to have children.

        The question should be asked why put the tree there in the
        first place? The answer is that Jehovah
        wanted them to make the decision themselves.
        He gave them the choice of remaining in the Garden without children or
        become mortal and be able to have a family.
        Thank goodness that Eve was able to talk Adam into eating of the fruit
        of that tree. I and you are here today
        because of their decision.

        Now why do we need a Savior. Another excellent question, with a simple
        answer. When Adam and Eve did partake of
        the fruit of the tree of good and evil, they became subject to death. To rise from the dead and gain back their
        bodies someone would have to provide that service. Jesus volunteered to be the one.

        Second we are going to comment sins of various kinds. Just as touching a hot stove with a bare hand
        will cause burnt flesh it would be nice to have someone who could be there to
        apply ointments to help heal the wound. No
        one can keep the fleshing from burning if it touches hot things.

        If you commit sin then justice demands that the sinner pay
        a price for the sin. Well Jesus said he
        would pay the price demanded by justice if the person would repent of their
        sins. Therefore justice is satisfied,
        and mercy can be extended to the repent sinner.
        Jesus paid that price in the Garden and on the cross.

        The resurrection is a free gift to all regardless of how
        they lived, sinner or saint. But to
        obtain external life and live with Heavenly Father, his children, who are going
        to mess up from time to time, needed to have someone pay the price for the sins
        if the sinner went through the repenting process. Mercy cannot rob justice.

        Third Point: Jehovah told Moses in one of our scriptures
        that many worlds had been created and that he had done it for the progression
        of his children. We are not alone in the
        universe. (It is interesting that we
        have been preaching this since the 1830’s.
        Astronomers are now just getting around to proving it.)

        We want to become gods so we can do what he does, that is
        have a family and help them progress. If
        one does this just so he can have power, then he will not be achieve godhood
        status. Our Heaven Father will know that
        this in their minds.

        It is our doctrine that is what Lucifer indeed had this
        idea in his mind as the earth was being created was expelled from heaven
        because to this attitude.

        Fourth Point: Was there a first God who started all this
        business. No. There was no “big bang” for the Gods. Here is one of the most enlightening
        scriptures on this subject I know about.
        It is from our latter-day scriptures:

        Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants

        “29. Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth was not
        created or made, neither indeed can be.

        30. All truth is independent in the sphere in which God has
        placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.”

        There is no beginning and no end to the universe. This is one of those concepts that is
        difficult for our mortal minds to rap around: that something has NO beginning
        and NO end. There was no beginning to
        the Gods and obviously no end them either. More are being set apart each day. And someday
        we will have that same privilege if we want it.

        Fifth Point: Being a mortal does not lesson our standing in
        the eternities. Just because I was in
        Kindergarten does not diminish me as an adult man. Just because God once was a mortal does not
        lesson him either. He has progressed to
        where he is now, a God who once was a man just like us. It shows us what we really are and the
        potential we all have in the eternities.
        Personally I am very excited to see more of this unfolding in my life.

        I hope I have answered some of your questions. I will try to answer the next message you
        have put up.

  • Dale

    Who Gets to Decide?

    We humans very commonly, perhaps instinctively, divide ourselves into groups. As part of this, we decide which individuals are in-group and which ones are out-group. Is that person male or female? Are you sure he is American? He claims to be “Catholic” but supports abortion and gay marriage, so he isn’t fooling us! Et cetera.

    Are Mormons actually Christian, as they claim? In some faith traditions there are objective criteria to answer that question. For example, the Catholic Church would answer that question with a “No.” But in what situations are the teachings of the Catholic Church important with regard to this question? No doubt such rules are appropriate for matters relating to the practices of the Church. But what about daily life in the wider world?

    I think it is generally rude to deny the identity which someone claims for themselves. However, there are times when it is necessary. To answer Caryn’s question, I think, requires us to ask at what times is it necessary to make such a judgment?

    • Collin

      I agree; however, if we could demonstrate that allowing Mormons this identity could lead to heretical syncretism (I mean, any such thing would be heretical), would it not necessitate the distinction?

  • Collin

    Who gets to decide? The people who have read or even heard the Nicene Creed. Or read the Bible for that matter. The creed states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God in three Persons. Whether or not it is correct, it is this belief and this faith in this specific God which defines a Christian (and with faith come actions but that’s anther discussion). Honestly, it seems to me that this article is trying to make a deep point about something relatively simplistic.

    As for the comparison between what Mormonism did to Christianity and what Christianity did to Judaism, the author is correct in asserting that the two relationships are similar, but I would say not to the extent that the author can make such a comparison. One can much more easily prove that Christiantiy is a continuation and partial fulfillment of the covenant between God and His People than one could demonstrate that Mormonism continues the New Testament; the latter two are mutually exclusive due to differing claims over the nature of Christ.

    Meh. That’s my response to this article.

  • Collin

    Bam.

  • Collin

    I find the title “non-Trinitarian Christian” ironic, oxymoronic, and just plain silly. Christians don’t believe Jesus was the Savior; Christians believe that God through the Holy Spirit became man and yet retained his Godhood, allowing him to be the Savior. Anything which says otherwise is by definition not Christian. But I don’t see why it’s such a big deal whether you’re considered Christians as long as you think you’re right, but that’s from my limited perspective.

  • Collin

    I keep trying to reply to your comment below, but it won’t let me, so here ’tis:

    You’re right, I do know very little about Mormon belief in God, outside of what I’ve gathered from these conversations and from my best friend, who’s a Mormon. In fact, it’s my lack of knowledge that prompted my involvement in this feed, as I much desire to know more. I am relatively familiar with Christian history for someone my age though, seeing as I was at the top of my class in a classical Christian private school for 12 years. Hardly an expert, but more familiar with it than many or most my age (I’m only 18; I’ve got a while left to keep exploring!).

    I have heard of Ehrman, but I’ve never taken the time to become familiar with his work. I would love to look into this book, as you say it relates to the topic at hand, and so I thank you for the suggestion.


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