Simon’s simple Mormon Q&A

11700388As the Divine Ms. M.Z. noted the other day (and Mark did, as well), many mainstream reporters who are covering the controversies about Mormonism seem to accept, as fact, that disagreements between traditional Christians and Mormon Christians are rooted in misunderstandings or bigotry.

Thus, you knew it was only a matter of time before a skilled mainstream reporter attempted to do the impossible, which is to sum up thousands of pages of complex Mormon doctrine in a user-friendly Q&A. Actually, I was afraid that an unskilled reporter would get there first.

However, the editors at the Los Angeles Times assigned this task to Godbeat specialist Stephanie Simon and she took on a few of the obvious questions, in the current climate of GOP tension between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

This leads us, quickly, to the following reality. Here’s the lede:

Since he entered the race, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has faced questions about his Mormon faith. Last week, the former Massachusetts governor said the questions had gone too far.

He accused rival Mike Huckabee — a Southern Baptist minister — of attacking his religion by suggesting that Mormons believed Satan and Jesus were brothers. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, promptly apologized.

The key word, clearly, is “suggesting.”

Which then leads us to this part of the Simon Q&A:

Do Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?

Mormon theology holds that the savior and the devil are both sons of God. Therefore, an official church website explains, “Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother.” But as former Mormon Bishop Scott Gordon points out, the faith also holds that all human beings are sons of God, which would make everyone a sibling of Christ (and of the devil). Mormons believe that Lucifer was not born evil but turned into a power-hungry glory-seeker. He opposed God’s plan for mankind and was cast out of heaven.

That leaves a major doctrinal question hanging. What is the difference between the Mormon understanding of Jesus being a son of God, as well as each and every human being, and the creedal Christian doctrine of Jesus being part of a unique Trinity?

That leads us to the heart of the entire controversy, from the point of view of traditional Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians.

What do Mormons believe about God?

Mormons believe the Heavenly Father is the same species as man; he has a body of flesh and bone — only more perfect than we could imagine. He’s married to a Heavenly Mother. Mormons do not accept the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity; they view God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as three separate beings.

What do Mormons believe about heaven?

Mormons believe that men and women can become like God in the afterlife. This does not mean that they will replace God; he remains more perfect and reigns over all. But men and women can achieve some degree of deification and become “joint heirs with Christ,” said Gordon, president of a Mormon theology group called FAIR.

This brings us right to the edge of the question that I have been asking all along. What is the status of the Mormon doctrine of “exaltation”? Has it been changed, or merely clarified? Is it still part of Mormon theology, but rarely discussed openly?

The bottom line: I am not sure that Simon has it right, when she states that the God of this earth, of this creation, remains the God who “reigns over all.” Does modern Mormonism still teach that dedicated Mormons can become, not “like” God, but, literally, gods or Gods in their own right, with their own creations and worlds?

kimballBack in 1985, I covered the funeral of Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball (left), which included an address by Barbara B. Smith, the 10th general president of the church’s powerful Relief Society. In that sermon, she noted, and I quote from her written text:

“In the Colorado Rockies, I asked President Kimball a searching question. ‘When you create a world of your own, what will you have in it?’ He looked around at those mountains for a few minutes before he answered and then he said, ‘I’ll have everything just like this world because I love this world and everything in it.’ …

“What is our greatest potential? Is it not to achieve godhood ourselves?”

This text was typed in capital letters, which means that I do not know if that is “Godhood” or “godhood.” That may seem like a small matter, but it is not. It’s at the heart of the current conflect — the current doctrinal conflict, as opposed to a political conflict — that continues to muddy the waters in the current race for the White House.

There’s more to the Simon Q&A, and I would be interested in hearing it dissected by Mormon readers and readers who are critics of Mormonism. Clearly, much of her info came from www.lds.org, www.mormon.org and www.fairlds.org. Should she have listed a website for Mormon critics, as well? Take, for example, the North American Mission Board of the powerful Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest non-Catholic flock.

But before you click that “comment” button, please comment only on the contents of the Simon Q&A. Tell us where you think she has done a good job and where you think she has missed the mark, a bit. Let’s try not to get into another round of Mormon-bashing or apologetics.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Paul W.

    Well, I’d like to try to clarify (as a practicing Latter-day Saint) what seem like a couple of questions you pose in your post.

    You ask: “The bottom line: I am not sure that Simon has it right, when she states that the God of this earth, of this creation, remains the God who “reigns over all.” Does modern Mormonism still teach that dedicated Mormons can become, not “like” God, but, literally, gods or Gods in their own right, with their own creations and worlds?”

    I answer: Are the two mutually exclusive? Do not your parents remain your parents when you become a parent? Then why not God? If in his infinite wisdom, he through his Son, exalts us to the type of position he holds, so that we become Heavenly Parents…does this make him any less. I say no!…It gives him an increase…much as my children give my parents an increase…an increase in family and love and the things that matter most.

    In my experience saying that we become “like” God is just a softer way of saying we become gods…we become a being much like God…we live the kind of life he lives…

    Also, when referring to our potential it is always written “gods” with a lower-case “g”…always referring to God our Father as God or GOD.

    Hope all that helps…let me know if I raised any more questions.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    PAUL:

    But when Kimball had created his own world and had his own spiritual children inhabit it, then, in that world, he would be God. Correct?

  • Craig

    I see two of the most common misconceptions concerning LDS doctrine.

    1. The scriptures, lesson manuals, websites and other official sources of LDS doctrine are silent on the concept of a Heavenly Mother. Detractors of the Church often lock in on statements made by various Mormons and Mormon leaders concerning the subject, but these statements seem to be personal assumptions rather than expositions of official doctrine. In the Church, a Mother in Heaven is often mentioned among members, but it isn’t a part of the core doctrine at all.

    2. Official doctrine sources state that individuals have the potential to become “joint-heirs with Christ”, implying some level of deification, but don’t go so far as to place anyone in the same category as the Godhead. Many members also speculate that they will become Gods (capital G) in the hereafter. These same members usually also believe that God the Father was once a mortal man. This also isn’t a core belief.

  • Dale

    What I think is missing from Simon’s Q&A are points that more directly affect the interaction of the Mormon faith and political life, such as:

    1. Do Mormons believe that moral perfection is attainable in this life? If so, do Mormons believe that moral perfection is attainable only if all members of a society attain it together?

    2. What role, if any, does the church organization play in the moral development of others? Does the church exist merely to teach proper morals, or does it use methods of discipline to properly guide its members’ conduct?

    3. Is coercion a permissible method to impose social moral standards? If so, when?

    4. What does LDS doctrine teach about personal property, stewardship and tithing? Is it appropriate for the church organization to engage in profit-making economic activity?

    There may be significant disagreement among Mormon thinkers on these issues, but I think they’re much closer to providing readers with information about Romney’s faith that may impact his politics. Mormon theology of the pre-existence of souls has interesting metaphysical implications, but seems far removed from present-day social concerns.

  • Anna G.

    Did God (the Heavenly Father to whom Mormons pray) himself have a Heavenly Father?

  • Paul W.

    I imagine so…In this like of speculation…he would be the Father of the spirits there.

    Much of what we’re getting into here is speculative. Our scriptures state, referring to the eternal marriage covenant between a couple and God, that their “…glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
    Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue…”

    “Seeds” and “continue” referring to children, I believe. For us, to be a Father or Mother is the greatest and most important of all positions because it means the continuation and perpetuation of loving relationships. For us God’s greatest title is Father.

  • Glenn

    In Mormonism, we are all God’s children in a very literal aspect. We can become like Him. However, this perfection is something that takes an infinite amount of time after we have died. Infinite in this sense means beyond human understanding. Similarly, Mormonism posits that God was like man an infinite amount of time ago. This is more time than the existence of all the worlds of our Universe.
    There is no restriction on becoming perfected, both man and woman can obtain this level.
    In the world we live in now, our lives are considered a speck of time in the universe and in our own existences. But what we do with this speck of time has implications beyond our ability to comprehend.

    It is also important to realize that this theology affects the background but is much less than 1% of all talks, discussions, activities, etc. This basically says that the family is the most important thing that we do in this life bar nothing but being true to God ourselves.

  • deacon jim

    as i have repeatedly said, mormons are not christians, any more than hindus are muslims. mormonism is a discrete religion of its own and should be treated as such, with all the respect due to any religion.

  • S Bauer

    I think much more interesting than all this minutiae would be a media-sponsored look into Harold Bloom’s observation (or contention?), in his book “The American Religion”, that Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Convention and Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share the same core religious idea, in spite of their many outward differences.

  • Cliffy

    I think the article is fairly accurate, with some ‘minor’ problems. I certainly appreciated the overall tone of the article – very nice.

    One error I noted in particular was the view that Mormons believe a person must be married in the temple to attain the top or ‘Celestial’ glory of heaven. We don’t believe that, although we do believe the ‘highest’ Celestial glory does require it. The lower Celestial heaven does not require marriage, its only requirement is baptism.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike

    I do think Ms. Simon should have listed some non-Mormon sources of information. For example, NAMB has a recent series of articles written by its director of apologetics entitled “Is Mormonism Chrisian?”
    http://www.namb.net/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=9qKILUOzEpH&b=227361&ct=4729559

    Perhaps she did not include non-Mormon websites about Mormonism because these sites are generally aimed at converting Mormons or providing anti-Mormon apologetics, and she or her editors did not want to provide “more fuel for the fire” for Christiam-Mormon disputes.

    I think Ms. Simon did a good job overall. The only gap I see regarding major doctines is that she did not discuss the Mormon belief in pre-existence (i.e. that God’s spiritual children have already been “born” and are awaiting bodies through earthly birth).

  • Jerry H

    If Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball was promoted to god of his own world, would he then have to go to the cross and die for the people on this new world?

  • Brian Walden

    “Mormons believe that Lucifer was not born evil but turned into a power-hungry glory-seeker.”

    This line struck me from the article. I’d like to learn more about what it means for Satan to be born. Does Satan have a body? If Jesus is Satan’s older brother, does that mean Satan was born after Jesus’ Incarnation or does being born mean something different for Mormons?

    Do Mormons, instead, use the term “was born” where others might use the term “was created” in reference to spiritual beings? Do Mormons believe in purely spiritual beings? To Mormons, was Jesus created – i.e. was there a time when he didn’t exist?

    I realize that to answer all these probably wouldn’t leave room for the rest of the article, but I felt like the answer was going too fast and not explaining exactly what certain words mean in the context they were used. I would have been happy with an article of the same length that just focused on answering the question concerning the relationship between Jesus and Satan in detail. The things, like temple garments, which many Americans might find the most strange don’t interest me as much as Mormon’s beliefs about God, Jesus, the Universe and their relationship to each other. It seems like Mormonism and creedal Christianity might have very different paradigms despite using similar language.

  • Joe Smith

    From the article:

    Mormons say they are Christians because they accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

    That does support what S Bauer wrote in Comment 9:

    S Bauer says:
    December 17, 2007, at 12:43 pm
    I think much more interesting than all this minutiae would be a media-sponsored look into Harold Bloom’s observation (or contention?), in his book “The American Religion”, that Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Convention and Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share the same core religious idea, in spite of their many outward differences.

    Neither the Southern Baptist Convention nor the Mormon Church accept the Church that Jesus Christ founded as being the church. Rather, the church is constituted of those who “accept Jesus Christ as their savior.” They both reject the Creeds and the Councils as binding or authoritative or defining for Christians.

    Southern Baptists who reject Mormons for not being Trinitarian are on somewhat shaky ground, since they themselves reject much of what those who doctrinalized the Trinity accepted, believed and practiced (e.g., episcopal church government; the sacramental nature of baptism and the Eucharist (i.e., regeneration and the Real Presence); etc.).

    Simon should have gone more into Mormonism’s rejection of all other churches as being apostate, and its rejection of Trinitarianism, with an explanation of how/why Trinitarianism is almost a sine qua non of Christianity, both historically and doctrinally. Until then, Mormonism’s argument with other Christians like Baptists that it’s Christian, too, is just a “he said, she said” kind of argument.

  • JLFuller

    C-SPAN Is In On The Religion Sleaze Act Too.

    This morning a woman called in to C-SPAN to say she heard from her niece’s husband’s mother’s third cousin, or some such, about a rumor she heard concerning a rite performed in the Mormon temple and boy was it awful! Let me see if I got this right. Someone who knew nothing about a subject heard a rumor about something from another person who knew nothing but heard it from a third person who may or may not have gotten it correctly from someone else but the caller thought it was important enough to warn the rest of America about it. Is that what they wanted to us to know?

    The ignorance and obvious bigotry of the caller is only eclipsed by C-SPAN’s willingness to allow it on the air. The point is, discussion of religious belief has sunk so low that even the paragon of American tolerance and political neutrality has abandoned good sense in order to accommodate religious sleaze.

  • Adam F

    The concept of “becoming gods,” also known as “theosis” or “deification,” is not something crazy Mormon’s dreamed up, but rather was a common part of early Christianity before the Nicene Creed – and Orthodox Christianity today:

    http://www.ldsmag.com/gospeldoctrine/nt/071102nt43sf.html

    If the doctrine, which goes to the heart of who we really are in this life and in eternity, had been “lost” from “mainstream” Christianity (as well as other elements of the Gospel and the Church organization), it would make sense the Lord would again call prophets to “restore” the fullness of the Gospel and the organization of the Church before he returns.

    As we know, John the Baptist (prophet), Christ, and the Apostles, had to work to restore true doctrines, ordinances, etc., when Christ came the first time, and they were met with incredible opposition by “expert theologians” (pharisees, et al.), who thought the doctrines were crazy and did not seek to understand them, partially because the doctrines did not fit into their theology that they had been trained in, some of which had come from hundreds of years of “gospel thought” that had not been guided by prophets.

    The Lord works in mysterious ways. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” As strange as “Mormon” theology may seem, one might evaluate it’s merit based on its fruits – happy, loving families with integrity who are focused on loving and serving others. One can say, “their beliefs are crazy, but they sure are sharp people.” Or one might say, “they are sharp people.. I wonder if there really is something of substance to their beliefs, even though their beliefs seem peculiar to me.”

  • JLFuller

    Do Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?

    If God created everything, the logical conclusion is that God created Satan too. Mormon doctrine says Christ was God’s first born spiritual off-spring and Jesus was also God’s only human off spring. Shortcut takers then jump to the Christ and Satan are brothers non-sense. Well, look at like this: God created your aunt Mildred as well as her beagle Barney so are they brother and sister? The may look alike but no one seriously thinks they are genetically alike.

  • kyle

    I think much more interesting than all this minutiae would be a media-sponsored look into Harold Bloom’s observation (or contention?), in his book “The American Religion”, that Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Convention and Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share the same core religious idea, in spite of their many outward differences.

    Well, the statement above is not, in fact, an observation but a contention, so I’m glad you put that parenthetic phrase in there. An observation would be that the Americans most sincerely belonging to the groups mentioned appear to disagree with Bloom’s contention, as recent election news shows, and therefore a journalistic exploration of the issue ought not to begin with the assumption that Bloom is right.

    In point of fact, news pages often include stories based on theses a lot like Bloom’s, although the thesis is often unstated and merely assumed. It is the secularist/rationalist notion that all religious particulars (involving such “trivial” matters as salvation, eternal life and the nature of God) are mythological, symbolic or otherwise unimportant, while what matters is how they play out politically or culturally.

    But it seems to me that story is amply covered in regard to the election. It’s the opposite story — which happens to be the obvious one — which is being buried. Pundits and cultural elite on the Left and Right have explained carefully and repeatedly to Iowan Republicans and like-minded Americans that theology ought to have no bearing whatsoever on the selection of a president, but apparently, many of them persist in thinking otherwise. Have you seen a story that gives some of those voters room to explore their reasoning, without playing to the “hillbilly” stereotype?

  • Eric W

    Adam F:

    Mormonism’s “theification” is not the same thing as Orthodoxy’s theosis or “deification.” Mormonism obliterates the distinction between God’s energies and His essence. Also, the Cappadocian Fathers and St. Maximus the Confessor were Trinitarians to the core, so any concept about human participation in God leading to or as part of theosis cannot be divorced from an Orthodox Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead.

  • Michael

    Have you seen a story that gives some of those voters room to explore their reasoning, without playing to the “hillbilly” stereotype?

    On the same token, I’d like to see some reporting on how Mormons feel about being the object of attention by Evangelical voters. What’s it like to by LDS in Iowa and hear people say they won’t vote for a candidate whom they agree with on every policy issue but reject him because he’s Mormon? What’s it like to hear a seminary graduate say confusing things about Mormonism? Given the history of oppression and violence against Mormons, how does it feel to be the center of a political conversation, especially if you don’t live in Utah.

  • Adam F

    >Well, look at like this: God created your aunt Mildred as well as her beagle Barney so are they brother and sister?

    “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” – Is. 14:12

  • kyle

    On the same token, I’d like to see some reporting on how Mormons feel about being the object of attention by Evangelical voters.

    I could swear I’ve seen several stories exploring that angle, but if it hasn’t been covered, I agree that that is also a valid, obvious and important angle.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    ADAM:

    This topic — the difference between Orthodoxy and Mormonism on this point — has been discussed in dialogues between Mormons and creedal Christians.

    To become one with God or to be like the one God is not the same thing as becoming a god in another, new creation. Mormon leaders know this and, as you would expect, the lines are drawn more clearly in academic talks than in mass media reports.

  • Adam F

    >any concept about human participation in God leading to or as part of theosis cannot be divorced from an Orthodox Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead

    It sure can. The Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead – Orthodox and Catholic – came centuries after the understanding of deification.

  • JLFuller

    Jerry asked, “If Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball was promoted to god of his own world, would he then have to go to the cross and die for the people on this new world?”
    I am not sure if you really want to know or are just being sarcastic but I will tell you what I understand and provide a link if you want to look into it further.

    In our theology, the term eternal life means that a relatively few couples will eventually be given the capacity to join in a common communion with the rest of the Godhead and , as a husband and wife, bring spirit children into existence. They will be reared in a heavenly home until a time when they too are born into their own world and go through mortality. This cycle of life is eternal. Where the couple serves is unknown to me.

    I think the relationship with God is a father and son relationship as the NT says we will be co-inheritors of Christ’s inheritance. Historic Christianity changed the original understanding as evidenced by adopting the creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries. They also dropped many of these and other essential elements of Christ’s original theology. Enough of the original remained so these people can rightly be called Christians too. The essential element in being known as Christians is the belief in and acceptance of Jesus as the Christ and savior of us all, not in conforming to these fourth and fifth century man made creations.

    You can go to http://www.lds.org, http://www.fairlds.com and http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan/ for good sources.

  • clark

    Simon’s Article was informative and fair.

    For Brian Walden:
    Mormon doctrine teaches that every human being was born as spirit children to Heavenly Parents before the world was created.(plenty of mormon documentation for this, hymn book “O My Father”, Elder Ballard’s Book “Our Search for Happiness” and Family Proclamation, not to mention the Hebrew Bible’s refrences to El Shadadi, a femine conotation) Thus when “The sons of God rejoiced” at the creation in Job, it was you and I who was rejoicing. Jesus was the first-born Son of God. He was the leader among God’s children prior to and during the creation. Lucifer was one of these spirit children. He turned from God and was cast out of God’s presence, a fallen angel. He never had a physical body but is real and seeks the misery of the Human race, his spirit ciblings.

    God is litterally the father of our spirits, our Heavenly Father. As such we have the capability to become like him. A very similar doctrine of deification has been taught for 2000 years by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, and is now being picked up by some protostant scholars. It is called Theosis. See the book: Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions by Michael J. Christensen

  • JLFuller

    Friends
    Have you noticed the lack of vitriol in these discussions? This is they way doctrine should be discussed.

  • Brian Walden

    Well, look at like this: God created your aunt Mildred as well as her beagle Barney so are they brother and sister? The may look alike but no one seriously thinks they are genetically alike.

    JLFuller, the idea that Satan and Jesus may or may not have a sibling relationship might get the most play in the media. But to many Christians the idea that Jesus is created just like Satan or Aunt Mildred or Barney, her beagle, is what’s shocking. If Jesus and Satan are brothers (in the loosest sense of the word) that would seem to mean that Jesus is a created being just as Satan is. That’s the part that seems the most foreign to me and probably to many Trinitarian Christians. I think it’s a subtlety that’s not covered in the media.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Thanks for the nice tone.

    But, still, let’s tone back on the doctrinal arguing and get back to the pluses and minuses in the Simon report.

    Thanks!

  • Deseretian

    This comment is in response to the question about whether or not the Devil has a body, the use of “born”, etc.

    At its simplest, Mormon theology views life as a series of easily segmentable periods wherein each of us must make a choice or rise to a challenge. In order for this theology to be properly explained, one must carefully set out each stage of our journey and at the same time keep the final object in sight. So, here goes: (I’ll use numbers to roughly segment these periods of existence)

    (0) Somehow, somewhere, God (our Heavenly Father) chose to
    make us his children. We already existed. The Pearl of Great Price uses the word “intelligences” to describe our state. God, being more magnificent and intelligent than all intelligences, chose to implement a plan whereby we might be exalted.

    [Stage (0) is left out of most Mormon discussions. The next stage, (1), is the usual point of departure. However, I think stage (0) is important because it hints at the possibility that Heavenly Father did not have an antecedent; rather, he, through his pure righteousness, became God, but that's just my opinion.]

    (1) All of us, now spirit children of our Heavenly Father (that is, all possessing anthropomorphic spirit bodies, in the image of our Father) are told that the teachings we have received from our Father have prepared us for the next stage of existence.

    All along, our Heavenly Father has had a glorified, perfected body. He told all of us that He would create a world for us. In this world, we would be born into mortal bodies. We would have no recollection of our previous existence with Him. We must use our time on earth to choose good or evil. Only those who chose the good might return to His presence.

    Heavenly Father knew that no one would be able to always choose the good. So, in His teaching way, He allowed his children to offer a solution. The two greatest (most intelligent and capable) spirit children each offered their plan. Lucifer, the Devil, said that his plan would guarantee the salvation of each person but that he wanted the all the glory to redound to his benefit. Jesus understood that the free agency of man was non-negotiable and offered to come to earth as a perfect man. Jesus would show us a true example and, finally, while still mortal, He would suffer for the sins of each and every man and woman. Finally, he would suffer death and defeat it. Through his resurrection all mankind (every man and woman) would also be someday resurrected. Jesus then told His Father that He would do all of this and let the glory be His Father’s. Our Heavenly Father, of course, acknowledged Jesus’ plan as the one in harmony with His teachings. Satan became angry at his loss of face and chose to rebel. A war of ideas ensued. In this war, Satan drew away a third of the hosts of Heaven.

    At this point, Satan and the rebellious spirits who followed him lost their chance to ever have a physical body. So, no, Satan does not have a body; however, he is the spirit son of Heavenly Father and the spirit sibling of Jesus and us all.
    (2) We are born into a mortal body. There are things we must do while in this mortal body to accept the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. We must choose the right. When we are eight years of age, we must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by someone who has the authority from God to do so. When we are older, if a male, we must receive this authority through ordination to the priesthood. Later, all of us, both male and female, must receive our endowment in the temple. Finally, if possible, we must be married for eternity in the temple.

    Most righteous people will not have the chance to do any of the aforementioned things. As all of them must be done while in our mortal journey, Mormons perform vicarious ordinances for deceased persons in the temple.

    (3) When we die there is, so to speak, an initial judgment. All spirits go to the first stage of the afterlife, the spirit world. This spirit world, however, is divided. We don’t know whether or not it is a physical division or a de facto division of labor, but it is divided.

    One part of the spirit world is called spirit paradise. This is roughly equivalent to the Trinity-Christian concept of Heaven. The spirits here all accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and received the necessary ordinances. Their whole reason for being, at this stage, is to teach the gospel to the spirits of those in the other section of the spirit world.

    The other section is called spirit prison and is roughly analogous to Protestant Hell (without the suffering) or Roman Catholic purgatory (without the intercession of saints). In spirit prison the spirits do not have any greater knowledge than they had on earth. In other words, the veil of forgetfulness which hid their existence before earth is still in place. There will be nothing about their experience in the spirit world which tells them that the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ are the only true ones; rather, everyone will be preaching his own doctrines.

    In this situation, the spirits from spirit paradise will be missionaries. Those spirits who receive and accept the gospel in spirit prison (only if they did not have the chance in their life on earth) can also receive all the promises of the gospel by having their ordinances performed for them, vicariously, in temples on earth.

    (4) All are resurrected and there is a final judgment made. In this final judgment, all of us will be placed within one of three kingdoms of glory.

    The highest, the celestial kingdom, is the place where God dwells. It also has divisions, but all who go there live with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Those married persons who are placed in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom may become as God is. It is important to realize that what God is and who he is are different things. We will not become God (the being) but will be gods in that He will give us His knowledge, glory, and calling to serve other beings for eternity. God does not take vacations. He is patient, just, kind, loving, and holy.

    The other kingdoms of glory, the Terrestrial and Telestial, are also beautiful places. The Terrestrial Kingdom is the place where Jesus visits. Those who are assigned to it will be in a paradise that is holy and peaceful.

    The Telestial is also a paradise, but neither God nor Jesus visit there; however, the Holy Spirit can.

    Finally, a tiny number (some postulate fewer than four) of people will be consigned to outer darkness. In order for this to happen, one must have a pure and perfect knowledge of Jesus’ divinity given by the Holy Spirit and then deny Him. This outer darkness is where Satan and his rebellious followers dwell.

    I hope this helps.

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    The article by Ms. Simon is basically accurate and quite fair. She avoided the temptation to get into speculative theology and to concentrate on the important doctrines that are actually taught in the church rather than focus on what the church’s critics say the church teaches. It is probably the best explanation I’ve seen in the mainstream media.

    I have only a few quibbles, quite minor:

    1. Her statement that those “who have been baptized and married in a Mormon temple and who have done good works on Earth” can enter the highest heaven does not explicitly state that, because of ordinances being performed by proxy, there very likely will be plenty of non-LDS there.

    2. It is not strictly accurate that the church has no paid clergy, although that is true at the local level. There is a “living allowance” paid to some higher authorities who work full-time for the church and cannot provide for themselves. Such church leaders, including the president, generally live modestly by U.S. standards.

    3. The statement that “the Book of Mormon describes dark skin as a divine mark of disfavor” vastly oversimplifies what the book says. In any case, it certainly does not teach that today’s dark-skinned people are disfavored by God.

    The bottom line: I am not sure that Simon has it right, when she states that the God of this earth, of this creation, remains the God who “reigns over all.” Does modern Mormonism still teach that dedicated Mormons can become, not “like” God, but, literally, gods or Gods in their own right, with their own creations and worlds?

    She has it right. The LDS understanding is that of believers becoming Christlike and joint-heirs with Christ. Exactly what that entails is never made explicit, but it can be noted that the first thing the God of the Bible did was to create, and in LDS theology much emphasis is placed on the premortal creative work of Christ. So it is certainly implied that becoming Christlike or gods (or exalted, or whatever term you wish to use) will involve having creative powers, but that interpretation isn’t supported explicitly by LDS scriptures. But whatever exaltation involves, the exalted/deified person is not seen as replacing God and will always be subject to His sovereignty.

    In terms of what is actually taught (as in Sunday school classes), the emphasis on placed on returning to live with Heavenly Father rather than the ontological characteristics of the exalted being.

  • Anna G.

    I was interested to see that the Simon article mentioned a Heavenly Mother, an idea I find attractive and interesting and one I haven’t seen in other recent news articles.

    Where did the idea come from? If it’s not part of the official doctrine, are members free to believe in her or not? How do members talk about her? Do they pray to her? If worthy LDS women can become “like God” does that mean like Heavenly Father or like Heavenly Mother?

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    … the emphasis is placed on returning to live with Heavenly Father …

    Sorry about the typo.

  • Deseretian

    The doctrine of Heavenly Mother, in its most orthodox form, is only expressed in a hymn by Eliza R. Snow.

    Snow was one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Later, after his death, she was one of Brigham Young’s plural wives. She was one of the most educated and talented Mormons of the nineteenth century.

    In addition to writing a number of our best hymns, she headed the Relief Society (the organization for women within the church).

    Heavenly Mother, as a doctrine, really begins and ends with the hymn ‘O My Father’, which as I said, Snow wrote. This is a most beautiful hymn. In fact, my great great grandparents joined the Mormon church in Norway after hearing it sung.

    Mormons do not worship Heavenly Mother. She is not in the scriptures or invoked in services. However, the term ‘Heavenly Parents’ does crop up in talks.

    The hymn that makes mention of Heavenly Mother is still in the official hymnal. This hymnal is sanctioned by the President (Prophet) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, it is not binding doctrine but it is believable doctrine.

  • http://blog.mrm.org/ Sharon

    Just to clarify, though Craig (#3) asserts that there is no mention of a Heavenly Mother in official LDS sources (including lesson manuals), Gospel Principles, a doctrinal book for new LDS members, speaks plainly about “Heavenly Parents” on pages 11 and 13 (1992 ed.). Furthermore, the LDS Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual says Heavenly Father’s “marriage partner is our mother in heaven” and “as we have a Father in heaven, so also we have a Mother there, a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother” (p. 129).

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    And another clarification: There is a quasi-scriptural statement known as the Proclamation on the Family that says this: “All human beings — male and female — are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” That’s the most official reference there is. Everything else Deseretian said is correct.

  • Stephen A.

    If Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball was promoted to god of his own world, would he then have to go to the cross and die for the people on this new world?

    One assumes he’d just send his son. Although I suppose that and many other aspects of the exaltation doctrine are simply speculation.

    I’m glad to here the Mormons here explaining their doctrines for us. That’s really good to read, and it’s educational.

  • Tom Jones

    Mormon exaltation has not changed one iota but is not generally revealed to those outside the LDS Church—so we cannot expect any Mormon to be forthcoming about their actual beliefs.

    The LDS teaching manual, “Gospel Principles,” however, is very clear in quoting Joseph Smith who taught that “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God… he was once a man like us” (Gospel Principles, Chapter 47, p. 305)[Read Gospel Principles online at http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-1,00.html ]. This, of course, contradicts the basic Biblical teaching that “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

    Gospel Principles is also clear about the benefits of becoming a God. Accordingly, although the LDS God will always be God, his children who become Gods will have all the same power and attributes as he does. They will only be a few steps behind in their development as Gods (Gospel Principles, Chapter 47, p.302). For the benefit of those who are not inclined to go find out for themselves, here’s a partial quote:

    “These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:
    [....]
    2. They will become gods.
    3. They will [...] be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father….
    [...]
    5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have–all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge. [...]”

    Note that “These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father.” Do they worship their Heavenly Father as God? Doesn’t that mean that they will be worshipped by their spirit children?

    We should not accuse our Mormon friends of lying to us, however (even though they are, in fact, lying). They are taught that revealing these doctrines too quickly will not lead people to know more about their church (is it any wonder?). So they are lying for you for your own good. It ‘s a “white lie” if you will.

    For more documentation on the differences between Mormonism and Christianity see http://www.WhatMormonsDontTell.com .

  • Deseretian

    I think we should be careful about assuming that Jesus isn’t the only who has/will atone for sins. My understanding is that there are innumerable worlds with inhabitants. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, Heavenly Father has only one son who is also His Only Begotten. I believe that Jesus’ sufferings for us are effectual everywhere.

    This might be extra-doctrinal, so I apologize in advance if this is not the most accepted version.

    At this point I think it’s good to refer folks to ‘If You Could Hie to Kolob’, which is one of my favorite hymns. Its basic purpose is to get across something like:

    “Don’t worry about where the Gods began. There is one God for you, your Heavenly Father, and there is no end to his goodness.”

  • Adam F

    These are the lyrics to “O My Father” that contemplate a Heavenly Mother:

    O my Father, thou that dwellest
    In the high and glorious place,
    When shall I regain thy presence
    And again behold thy face?
    In thy holy habitation,
    Did my spirit once reside?
    In my first primeval childhood
    Was I nurtured near thy side?
    For a wise and glorious purpose
    Thou hast placed me here on earth
    And withheld the recollection
    Of my former friends and birth;
    Yet ofttimes a secret something
    Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
    And I felt that I had wandered
    From a more exalted sphere.
    I had learned to call thee Father,
    Thru thy Spirit from on high,
    But, until the key of knowledge
    Was restored, I knew not why.
    In the heav’ns are parents single?
    No, the thought makes reason stare!
    Truth is reason; truth eternal
    Tells me I’ve a mother there.

    When I leave this frail existence,
    When I lay this mortal by,
    Father, Mother, may I meet you
    In your royal courts on high?
    Then, at length, when I’ve completed
    All you sent me forth to do,
    With your mutual approbation
    Let me come and dwell with you.

    An mp3 version of the hymn (music and lyrics) can be downloaded here:
    http://broadcast.lds.org/churchmusic/MP3/1/1/words/292.mp3

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    Tom Jones said: We should not accuse our Mormon friends of lying to us, however (even though they are, in fact, lying). They are taught that revealing these doctrines too quickly will not lead people to know more about their church (is it any wonder?). So they are lying for you for your own good. It’s a “white lie” if you will.

    I hate to dignify such a statement with a response. But I’ll ask a question anyway: If the LDS church is so intent on hiding its doctrines, why does it publish its scriptures, its Sunday school materials, various instructional manuals, historical documents and all its denominational publications on the Web where everyone can see them? As far as I know, it’s the only major denomination that does so.

    Moderator: Feel free to delete this message. I realize it’s off-topic, but I don’t like to see my friends gratuitously insulted.

  • Derek

    Tom Jones said:

    We should not accuse our Mormon friends of lying to us, however (even though they are, in fact, lying). They are taught that revealing these doctrines too quickly will not lead people to know more about their church (is it any wonder?). So they are lying for you for your own good. It ‘s a “white lie” if you will.

    Funny, Tom. You quote from the most basic book of doctrine in the Church, i.e., Gospel Principles. This book is the equivalent of a first grade primer for those who are interested in learning about the LDS Church. In other words, this book and these principles are presented to people who are in the beginning stages of learning about the LDS Church. It’s no secret–it’s shared openly.

    But, I guess it’s a lot less sensational to present the truth when a twisted version of it is so much more interesting.

  • chris g

    I thought the article was quite nice. It is hard to give the range of beliefs that are possible with an open theology. Nonetheless, respectful tone is the one thing usually missing in mormon articles. I was happy to find it in this one.

    I wonder if there isn’t some confusion between mormons and creedal Christians over the term “created”. Generally mormons fall on the side of the fence that shys away from ex nihilio creation. From my experience, creation tends to be more synonymous with organization. Thus mormons aren’t tied to the idea God created Lucifer, us or anyone else out of nothing. Rather he helped organize and enable our progression. As a mormomn, I am much more comfortable with this sense of eternal progeny rather than out of nothing creation.

    As to the problem of infinite divine regress, rejection of ex nihilio creation gets rid of some problems while introducing others. Mormons still seem to be quite free whether to believe God is tied within our universe, or exists outside of it.

  • JLFuller

    Brian Waldron said: “That’s the part that seems the most foreign to me and probably to many Trinitarian Christians.”.
    I can understand what you are saying. But it appears to me the creeds and not the New Testament drive the Trinitarian belief. I know there are some who disagree and have some extended reasoning for it. But as I read these explanations of why Harper’s Bible Dictionary’s Trinity comment is wrong, it still looks to me like their reasoning is tradition based and not biblical. If I read the Trinitarian view of God’s nature and then read the NT I see huge differences.

  • JLFuller

    There is so much to comment on here. I don’t take offense at some one concluding something that is inaccurate. It just means they still don’t understand. I am sure our LDS doctrine is just as foreign to them as their Trinitarian doctrine is to us old time Mormons unless their question or comment is obviously a slur or an attack.

    1. One comment above deals with Christs (plural) for other worlds. There is only one Christ and his sacrifice covered everything God created where ever it is.

    2. We have been cautioned for as long as I can remember to not get into discussing the dark mysteries of the universe. So I will only proceed if you tell me your testimonies will not be damaged. (My little bit of humor there). To be sure I would not chance it if this was not a fairly sophisticated group regardless of affiliation.) There just isn’t enough authorized information out there to go beyond speculation and it could damage someone’s testimony to do so. We are supposed to observe the milk before meat admonition. That is one reason we do not talk about temple ordinances. Until and unless the person has received the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we claim is true, such things are not appropriate. Another reason not to discuss the temple ordinances is the pearls before swine problem. These things are sacred to us. Profaners abuse these very sacred things. I am sure you have heard and read what they say.

    3. Brian asked “Do Mormons, instead, use the term “was born” where others might use the term “was created” in reference to spiritual beings? Do Mormons believe in purely spiritual beings? To Mormons, was Jesus created – i.e. was there a time when he didn’t exist?”
    I am not sure the distinction about Satan is taught except to say Satan was a fallen angel. Maybe someone has speculated on that. But there appears to be at least five possible states of existence. (Now I am speculating a bit, but it is an educated guess.) To begin with we all are eternal. We have always existed in one form or another. First as some type of eternal intelligence, then in spirit form, third as mortals, and fourth as resurrected beings with a tangible body like Christ arose with. The fifth state may be exceedingly rare. That state was the one Adam and Eve were in before they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. They had physical bodies but could not procreate and that is the basis for the discussion about knowing good from evil and becoming like God. Hence, in order to follow God’s injunction to multiply and replenish the earth they had to do what they did. It is interesting to ponder but it definitely is not taught in Sunday School.

  • JLFuller

    Dale asks:
    1. Do Mormons believe that moral perfection is attainable in this life? If so, do Mormons believe that moral perfection is attainable only if all members of a society attain it together?” We believe perfection means complete and not without error. Although Christ and God the Father are both. People are accountable for their own behavior although living Christian principles is part of it. We can not be accountable for what others do. But we are involved in making the world a better place to live.
    2. What role, if any, does the church organization play in the moral development of others? Does the church exist merely to teach proper morals, or does it use methods of discipline to properly guide its members’ conduct? We are accountable as individuals for what we become in addition to what we do. That means we are to follow Christian principles for living.

    3. Is coercion a permissible method to impose social moral standards? If so, when? No. There is never a reason to take someone’s free agency away from them either by unrighteous dominion or church action. We believe in the patient expression of love unfeigned, prayerful persuasion and long suffering. The civil government handles criminal affairs and we support government. In some countries, free agency is restricted. But in that case, whatever degree a person is allowed to decide for himself becomes the standard. That means the conscripted teenage soldier in some war torn country is only accountable for whatever personal behavior he is allowed to express. We believe the Light of Christ is born in every human being and acts as a guide unless it is put out.

    4. What does LDS doctrine teach about personal property, stewardship and tithing? Is it appropriate for the church organization to engage in profit-making economic activity? Personal property belongs to the individual. Stewardship means an area of responsibility. The Church teaches that members pay ten percent of their increase. The Church has interests in many profit making businesses from which it pays stipends for leaders who are called to full time positions such as Apostles, The Seventy and others in addition to adding to other Church goals and projects. Tithing does not pay for these peoples living while on full time assignment.

    You can go to http://www.lds.org, http://www.fairlds.com and http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan for authentic information about what we believe.

  • Eric W

    # tmatt says:
    December 17, 2007, at 3:06 pm

    ADAM:

    This topic — the difference between Orthodoxy and Mormonism on this point — has been discussed in dialogues between Mormons and creedal Christians.

    To become one with God or to be like the one God is not the same thing as becoming a god in another, new creation. Mormon leaders know this and, as you would expect, the lines are drawn more clearly in academic talks than in mass media reports.

    To underline what tmatt says, Mormonism teaches that we can become exactly like God. That is one thing that distinguishes Mormonism and its version of “deification” from the Orthodox Christian concept of theosis. The are NOT the same teachings, and do not conceive of the same God.

  • JLFuller

    “2. What role, if any, does the church organization play in the moral development of others? Does the church exist merely to teach proper morals, or does it use methods of discipline to properly guide its members’ conduct? We are accountable as individuals for what we become in addition to what we do. That means we are to follow Christian principles for living.”
    I did not respond to everything Dale asked so I will fill in the parts I left out.

    We believe learning moral behavior is critical to becoming a godly person and teach correct Christian principles in addition to respect for law and love of country. We believe in being good citizens and participants in local civic undertakings and making our towns and cities good places to live for ourselves and our neighbors. We beleieve in personal sacrifice for others.

    We believe the Church is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and as such we are accountable to Christ for our stewardship of it. We believe we have a legitimate prophet of God at its helm under the constant direction of Jesus Christ just as in former times. It is our responsibility to comply with God’s injunction in all cases all the time. But we also believe God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. That means we are just as subject to making mistakes as everyone else according to our knowledge and understanding. The key is to learn from them, repent and move on. That makes us accountable to our fellow human beings too.

    There are times when a persons is disfellowshiped for immoral or improper behavior until they make necessary amends and corrects their mistakes. They are then encouraged to come back into fellowship however some do not and are excommunicated. This is done in a church court.

  • JLFuller

    Eric, I am not so sure that we become exactly like God. I don’t think that is entirely accurate. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I think those who achieve the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom will always be something less than Father and Christ.

  • Dick

    The survey focuses solely on “beliefs” in the abstract. I suppose this is understandable because the article was comparing beliefs between Mormons and Christians. However, what about all of those highly civilized cities that were supposedly in existence in North America a thousand years ago as revealed to Joseph Smith? There is no specific mention of the Mormon belief that Christ appeared to Native Americans a thousand or so years ago at the time of this allegedly advanced civilization. This seems like a major point of departure with Christians but no mention is made of it. It might also have been interesting to note whether there has ever been found any archaeological evidence of same. But this would have gone beyond mere “beliefs”.

  • Eric W

    # Dick says:
    December 17, 2007, at 10:40 pm

    The survey focuses solely on “beliefs” in the abstract. I suppose this is understandable because the article was comparing beliefs between Mormons and Christians. However, what about all of those highly civilized cities that were supposedly in existence in North America a thousand years ago as revealed to Joseph Smith? There is no specific mention of the Mormon belief that Christ appeared to Native Americans a thousand or so years ago at the time of this allegedly advanced civilization. This seems like a major point of departure with Christians but no mention is made of it. It might also have been interesting to note whether there has ever been found any archaeological evidence of same. But this would have gone beyond mere “beliefs”.

    I don’t know if it would have gone beyond mere beliefs. Would it be going beyond “mere ‘beliefs’” to raise the “historical validity” issue if the Presidential candidate claimed to follow all the wisdom of Aslan, and believed that Aslan and the White Witch were siblings, and these beliefs were predicated on his belief that there is a real Narnia that one enters via a wardrobe (or by having a special wardrobe ceremony in a Temple)?

    In the same way, Mormonism requires belief in certain things about North America and Indian tribes and “Reformed Egyptian” that are not just unproven, but are in fact contradicted by everything we know about the same.

    (On the other hand, I guess someone could say the same about Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden, and hence about “Christian” candidates who believe in the Bible.)

  • Matt

    To underline what tmatt says, Mormonism teaches that we can become exactly like God. That is one thing that distinguishes Mormonism and its version of “deification” from the Orthodox Christian concept of theosis. The are NOT the same teachings, and do not conceive of the same God.

    Here is how I understand what you said:
    (1) Mormonism teaches that we can become “exactly” like God.
    (2) That teaching differs from Orthodox Christian Theosis.

    Let me provide some light on what Mormons believe and teach.
    As a lifelong Mormon, I say you are incorrect as to (1). However, you would be correct that if (1) were the case, then (2)would be true. That is, if Mormons actually believed and taught what you accuse them of, then you your second claim would hold water. But they do not.

    The LDS Church does not teach and its members should not believe (perhaps there are some who do? perhaps there were early Christian who did also? I cannot speak for everybody–some Mormons/Evangelicals might personally believe in psychics, sorcery or Bigfoot, after all.). But the LDS Church does not teach that we can become GOD or become “exactly” like God in all respects. (If I misunderstand your point, please add color to what you mean by “exactly”–)

    The teaching is that, through the Atonement of Christ we are or may become like God in several respects:
    (1) being his heirs–joint-heirs with Christ
    (2) being created in his image
    (3) overcoming sin, i.e. being “perfected in Christ” or “washed clean” in his blood.
    (4) overcoming physical death, i.e. rising again in the resurrection never to physically die again.
    (5) (tied into the above) obtaining and mastering the use of a body
    (6) obtaining perfect knowledge through Christ after resurrection
    (7) (arguably–for some in the celestial kingdom, a particular part of heaven) participating in the creative process, i.e. just as Christ, being God’s Word, created the earth and all in it–we too at God’s direction may participate in creation in accordance with his plan. But we cannot just go out and defy his Will–in the resurrection we will have learned to obey His will and glory in his law. In that sense, while we may be like God, we are not exactly like God–the sovereign over all creation.

    Nowhere does Mormon theology allow for the children (joint-heirs) of God to rise up on par with God or become as great / greater than he. We came into earth as heirs, forefeited our inheritance through sin, re-gained joint-heirship via Christ (if we accept him), and return as the prodigal son: only if willing to be servants of our Father can we be received as heirs. There is no room for desiring to return as a Master.

    While Heavenly Father, through his merciful plan may exalt his children, perfected in Christ, he has not taught us–and we do not teach–that we can become exactly like Him. We are returning to Father, to be like Him (perfected, godly)–not to be Him (God-ly).

  • Matt

    Dick,

    Not having a belief in Christ’s appearance in the Americas does not seem to be a major departure to me.

    I mean, some Catholics believe in various miracles at Lourdes, including the original miracle there. Evangelicals and some Catholics may be skeptical about some of those alleged miracles or all of them–but it would not be a serious departure of itself.

    Some Christians–and some non-Christians–believe that Jesus was black, that he traveled as far as India prior to his ministry, that he gave specific teachings to Masons or Gypsies, or that he gave sermons which were not recorded in the New Testament. Some even believe that certain parts of the Gospels misattribute teachings or quotations to Jesus.

    But–whether or not an individual believes that Jesus went to India or actually said something to Peter as recorded in the Bible is not a “major point of departure”, right? I mean, whether or not you think Jesus gave a sermon that was not included in the Bible does not change whether or not you have a correct idea of the nature of God or whether you accept Jesus as Lord.

    So, why–of itself (and not as a prop supporting other (to you) objectionable Mormon theology) would the belief that Jesus could have taught Jews somewhere else than the few episodes recorded in the Gospel be a “major point of departure”?

    I mean, if the Book of Mormon taught that Jesus appeared to Jews on Crete after his resurrection, as well as to his disciples on the road to Damascus. . . would there be a problem? So why a problem with America merely because it is farther away?

    (Personally, being a believing Mormon, I do not believe that the Book of Mormon events necessarily took place in the Americas–rather, more likely, in Southeast Asia–although I am of course a distinct, but acceptable minority, in that view)

  • Matt

    (continued). . .

    that is to say, the belief in a discreet manifestation of Divinity is not a major theological hurdle in the same way that contradictory or mutually exclusive claims about the nature of God would be.

    So if Mary appears at Lourdes and allegedly teaches false doctrine–the false doctrine is the problem, not the appearance. If Jesus went to India, the problem is not that it’s not recorded or alluded to (arguably) in the Bible, there would only be a “major point of departure” (i.e. something of theological consequence) if what he allegedly taught there was antithetical/contradictory to your accepted theology.

  • liberty

    There are two questions I wish would have been asked and answered.

    1. What does the LDS church teach about Jesus? Is Jesus God or is he just a man as we all are – child of God like us all but nothing more. The LDS answer usually says that they accept Jesus as their savior in reply to the question but I have never been given a clear answer on the deity of Jesus in LDS beliefs. I guess based on reading this thread that he is likely advanced to be a god of his own world now… but what was he to this world?

    2. What does the LDS church teach about other Christian denominations? As I understand it we are all apostates and non-Christian in their definition because our churches are a part of the ‘great apostasy’. This is why the LDS church does not recognize ANY other churches baptism. I don’t understand why the LDS are so adamant that they be accepted as Christian by people who they don’t even believe are Christian.

    If the LDS church is so intent on hiding its doctrines, why does it publish its scriptures, its Sunday school materials, various instructional manuals, historical documents and all its denominational publications on the Web where everyone can see them? As far as I know, it’s the only major denomination that does so.

    I am sorry, but I think that until the LDS church opens up all of their practices to the public (at least an explanation/pictures if not an open invitation) they will always deal with charges of hiding doctrines and secrecy.

    As to which other denominations post all their information online… you might take a look at The Vatican website for an pretty much every bit of the Catholic Churches beliefs and practices (Catechism, Canon Law, Papal documents etc…). Or you could look at the Catholic encyclopedia

    On the other hand, I can not think of any other major Christian denomination which has the secrecy about the practices of their faith that the LDS has about the ceremonies in the temple. LDS have every right to be secretive… but you then can’t claim to be transparent.

  • Steve Coy

    Overall – pretty fair and balanced. However ‘matter of fact’ descriptions of theology always miss the sacred context. If a Catholic was being quizzed about transubstantiation were asked if they beleive that the wafer “actually turns into the flesh of Jesus.” The Catholic might say they “believe that Christ is really, truly and substantially present under the remaining appearances of bread and wine”. Rather than accuse them of not answering the question or resorting to ‘spin’ we need to accept that sacred beleifs need to be couched in sacred terms. As a Mormon I see many of my sacred beleifs being couched in ‘casual’ terms. Will I be a God is not the question… Do I beleive that my Heavenly Father wants me to be more like him (Matthew 4:48) – the answer is yes.

  • Steve Coy

    Apologies… Matthew 5:48

  • Eric W

    On the other hand, I can not think of any other major Christian denomination which has the secrecy about the practices of their faith that the LDS has about the ceremonies in the temple. LDS have every right to be secretive. . . but you then can’t claim to be transparent.

    I agree about the “secret ceremonies” thing. In the early days of the Christian church, the Eucharist was kept a secret from non-Christians, and even from catechumens, and vestiges (well, more than vestiges, actually) of this remain in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy: “All catechumens depart.” “The doors! The doors!” “I will not speak of thy mystery to thine enemies.” Etc.

    But today, as has been the case for a long, long time, ANYONE can attend and stay/stand/sit through the entire Liturgy and can read the entire text for themselves. They can watch it on video. There are no secret handshakes, nor are the nature and use and wearing of the priests’ and deacons’ vestments a secret like Mormons still try to keep their underwear a secret.

    I have a book by Chuck Sackett called “What’s Going On in There? The Verbatim Text of the Mormon Temple Rituals Annotated and Explained by a Former Temple Worker.” Here are some interesting and revealing passages:

    “I ______, think of the New Name, covenant that I will never reveal the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign and penalty. Rather than do so, I would suffer (patrons all place right thumbs under left ears as described above) my life (patrons all draw thumbs across throats to right ears) to be taken (patrons all drop right hands down to sides)….

    “I ______, think of the first given name, covenant that I will never reveal the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign and penalty. Rather than do so, I would suffer (patrons all place right hand on left breast) my life (patrons all draw right hands quickly across their bodies) to be taken (patrons all drop both hands to their sides)….

    “We will now give you the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal Grip, or Sure Sign of the Nail, with its accompanying sign. This token is given by clasping the right hands, interlocking the little fingers, and placing the tip of the forefinger on the center of the wrist, in this manner (shows the audience the token). We desire all to receive it. Arise….

    PETER: For this purpose I have come to converse with the Lord through the Veil.

    LORD: You shall receive it upon the Five Points of Fellowship through the Veil.

    PETER: The Five Points of Fellowship are: inside of right foot by the side of the right foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear.

    I would love some of Simon’s questions to have been directed to some of the things in this booklet. There is much, much more than the brief excerpts here.

    Apparently some of these rituals and parts of the ceremony disappeared or were changed after they began to be made known.

  • JLFuller

    Eric asks about B of M evidences in ancient America. First let me clear up one two things. I think there has been a disconnect between what the previous Mormon generations believed and what we have been taught in the last few decades. Previously, many believed that all Indians were genetically connected to Lehi and his descendants. But there was nothing in doctrine that said that specifically. It was an assumption made by extension. You would have to ask people of that generation why that was believed. But we have to be cautious about attributing opinions to anything more than just opinions. People are products of their environment then just as today. Our understanding is influenced by what is going on around us. We tend to think our understanding at the time was the end of the discussion. It isn’t. We sometimes forget that God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. God gave us the history of these ancient people in a condensed form. We do not have the whole story. The DNA story is discussed here: http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai195.html

    Now, the evidences. Jeff Lindsey writes about his opinions at http://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml#lemuel. But it is a subject I have spent little time on and the Church has not commented on at all that I know of.

  • JLFuller

    About Temple ordinances-
    These are sacred not secret. Just as a few ex-communicated people have claimed to be telling about these things, if we discussed them openly they would be defamed and held up to ridicule. You see one such attempt above. So we don’t. You can read that stuff and think whatever you want about it. But I can tell you what it is not. What Eric posts above is not accurate. But what I can say is that symbolism is important in teaching and understanding the gospel. You can read more about the LDS view of symbolism at http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan/.

  • JLFuller

    LDS Temple Activities

    Liberty says above: “I am sorry, but I think that until the LDS church opens up all of their practices to the public (at least an explanation/pictures if not an open invitation) they will always deal with charges of hiding doctrines and secrecy.”

    As I said above, there are people who would profane these very sacred things just as you see them do already. Given you are not ready to observe the current law of the gospel as we understand it, you are even less able to abide by the other commitments made in the temple. We also believe that with knowledge comes the responsibility to act on it. So it is not only sacred but in a very real way a curse for those who do not act on it properly. This may be a curiosity for you now, but that is because you do not understand it. These things are not a circus side show set up for entertainment. Just as in the earliest days of Solomon’s Temple, only certain people are allowed inside and we believe for very good reasons.

    Nothing happens in the temple that you find being described on the evening news. There are no animal sacrifices or people getting naked or sex practices or any of that lurid junk you sometimes hear about. In fact, quite a few people who go through the temple for the first time come out disappointed that there wasn’t something more spectacular about the experience. The temple is often called God’s university. People go there to get closer to God than they can outside in the everyday turmoil we experience. Solemn, fervent prayer supplements contemplation and private study which allows closer communion with The Holy Ghost. It can be a great place for receiving individual revelation and enlightenment. If you remember from other posts, we believe Christ built his Church on personal revelation. That means what ever God wants to communicate to you is done through the Holy Ghost and that connection is better in the temple.

    Just remember to believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. That’s my dad’s old axiom about surviving in the temporal world. I find it fits especially well when it comes to rumors about Mormons.

  • Eric W

    And that is why the extent of Romney’s faithfulness to his Mormonism is the extent to which people should really and seriously ask the hard questions about what he/Mormonism believe and what goes on in the Temple and what is being kept “secret” from those of us who in Mormons’ eyes “are not ready to observe the current law of the gospel” yada yada yada. :rolleyes:

    If Romney is a serious Mormon, then Simon and others really do need to hone in on the magic underwear, secret handshakes, Masonic rituals and incantations, voodoo-hoodoo-weirdo religious claptrap, etc., that is considered too sacred and lofty for mere Gentiles (i.e., non-Mormons) to know about.

    The proper piece on Romney’s religion has not yet been done by the press, and the press is failing to do its job. Hopefully the Internet and Mormons who have defected will do their job and keep the public informed and keep the heat on.

  • JLFuller

    Eric
    You are offensive and your remarks uncalled for. Your response is EXACTLY why we don’t talk about these things. You profane what you don’t understand. You have provided an excellent example.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Eric and Fuller:

    And thus, I will leave both comments up.

    Newspaper editors — and GOP candidates — will have to deal with both of you.

  • Adam F

    1. What does the LDS church teach about Jesus?

    There is an excellent article in the LDS Church Newsroom that gives extensive details about what members of the LDS Church believe about Jesus Christ:

  • Adam F
  • joe smith

    From the link that Adam F posted:

    We believe that He was born of a virgin, Mary, in Bethlehem of Judea in what has come to be known as the meridian of time, the central point in salvation history. From His mother, Mary, Jesus inherited mortality, the capacity to feel the frustrations and ills of this world, including the capacity to die. We believe that Jesus was fully human in that He was subject to sickness, to pain and to temptation.

    From the Book of Mormon Alma 7:9-10: “9 But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying–Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord … for behold … the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. 10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers …”

  • JLFuller

    My comments in #61 are not intended to offend anyone. They are what we believe. Many may think we are arrogant or elitists. It is an old complaint. But in a world where accommodation of divergent views are expected to be integrated into doctrine so as not offend, I suppose we stand out. We do not transform the doctrine to fit the people but rather transform the people to fit the doctrine. Some people think their views are just as valid as anyones when it comes to framing church practice and doctrine. Mormons do not. It is also why some leave the church. This Church is not a democracy. It is not for everyone. It can be hard for some people to live if they have been used to putting doctrinal issues up for debate and a vote.

    We believe our doctrine is not for debate. When we vote on something it is a vote to sustain. We are expected to pray about such things and seek our own confirmation from the Holy Ghost on these matters. We have a real living prophet of God just like Moses or Abraham or any of the prophets of old. He and the apostles are called and specifically set aside and charged with managing the affairs of the Church. That includes discussing doctrinal issues. If they receive inspiration about a subject, they tell us, we vote to sustain them in it and later pray to get a confirmation that it is correct. Some take exception and leave the Church. So be it. Some outsiders have strong feelings about our practices and beliefs and think we should do things differently. While changes do occur they are usually based on changing conditions and to clarify something. Major changes such as allowing all worthy males to hold the priesthood are made at the Apostolic level and then members vote to sustain the decision. There are no “sides” of an issue waiting to be heard and discussed followed by a vote of whether to adopt or not. There is no fundamental changing of these practices based on member votes at least as I can recall. I am glad to discuss these things with anyone who treats the subject respectfully.

  • liberty

    We believe that He was born of a virgin, Mary, in Bethlehem of Judea in what has come to be known as the meridian of time, the central point in salvation history. From His mother, Mary, Jesus inherited mortality, the capacity to feel the frustrations and ills of this world, including the capacity to die. We believe that Jesus was fully human in that He was subject to sickness, to pain and to temptation.

    Ok. So Jesus was fully human in LDS theology… but was he also divine? I have asked LDS friends this question and I can never get a clear answer.

    I don’t absolutely know why they won’t answer. I tend to think it is because the answer is no, they don’t think Jesus is divine… and they are worried that belief would be considered ‘non-Christian’. Which is understandable because I will admit – for me denying the divinity of Christ would tend to put the LDS church on the non-Christian end of the spectrum.

    As I said above, there are people who would profane these very sacred things just as you see them do already. Given you are not ready to observe the current law of the gospel as we understand it, you are even less able to abide by the other commitments made in the temple. We also believe that with knowledge comes the responsibility to act on it. So it is not only sacred but in a very real way a curse for those who do not act on it properly. This may be a curiosity for you now, but that is because you do not understand it. These things are not a circus side show set up for entertainment. Just as in the earliest days of Solomon’s Temple, only certain people are allowed inside and we believe for very good reasons.

    Again, I think that the LDS have every right in the world to not allow outsiders into the temple. However, it is disingenuous to refuse outsiders access to the temple (or even an explanation/photos of what occurs there) and then try to simultaneously claim that your church is wide open about doctrine and practices.

    My interest isn’t because I would like LDS practices to be treated as a circus sideshow… I quite honestly want to learn and understand.

  • JLFuller

    Liberty
    If you re-read #61, I tried to go into some detail about why the ordinances are not open to the public. I don’t know what else I or anyone else could say. Regarding Jesus, if I understand your question correctly, Christ was a God while he was in in his human state. Just because his form was now mortal does not mean he no longer the Divine. He had the power to call down angels and all that. Christ is Jehovah of the old Testament. Under the Fathers direction, he created the universe and everything that is in it.

    Regarding access to the temple, this is God’s commandment. It is not some policy that the Brethren one day decided was a good idea. We have told others what the general nature of the ordinances are but the specfics are not open for discussion. These are ancient restrictions set down by God. I understand most people do not believe us, but this really is the original eternal Gospel of God. It is not made up. It has been in existence since the beginning of time. It is the Gospel you and I and all of us knew and lived in our pre-mortal lives. It is the power by which all things were created and ever will be created. It is how God runs the whole shebang. It predates earth and it ain’t up to us to mess with it. If we are put into a position of having to choose between your good will and our commitments to God guess who comes in first. (insert grin here)

  • JLFuller

    One more thing. Maybe the difficulty some have with Jesus being divine and human concurrently is because you are struggling with the Trinitarian concept versus the LDS view. We believe Christ left His active Godhood on hold so he could come here and experience mortal life just like the rest of us. He had to know what it was like and be subject to everything all the rest of us are subject to. That means he had to go through the same birth, childhood and youth as all of us. That didn’t mean that his eternal nature changed. He just took on a mortal form so he could accomplish the mission Father sent Him to to do. He could could revert to his Divine nature if he chose but did not to our great benefit.

  • Stephen A.

    Amazing discussion.

    Everyone has a right to hate. I accept that. But it’s not pretty to see.

    Do people honestly imagine that THEIR faith can’t be picked apart, made fun of, or ruthlessly critiqued?

    As a non-Mormon, I’ve actually been inside a Mormon Temple, and you can, too. Just wait until the LDS Church opens a new one in your area (probably soon, given their growth rate http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/announced) and they will hold an open house in which ANYONE is invited to tour it.

    I toured the Boston temple just before it opened in 2000 and it was quite beautiful. The guide told us pretty much what each areas would be used for, including the area where people are married. The fact that the ceremonies performed there are private and not open to the public now that the temple has been dedicated isn’t offensive to me.

    It’s easy to understand, however, why political operatives would want to spend a lot of time throwing up dust for the media so they will (eagerly) talk about Mormon theology rather than the Mormon candidate. What I don’t understand is why the media are falling for it, other than the obvious explaination, that the secularists are delighted to show how “freakish” this and even the more mainstream Christian faiths are (read: Huckabee.)

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I’m amazed at how fruitful this conversation has been. I have learned a great deal. I think the tone was set by Simon’s fair-minded piece but the commenters here have (for the most part) done a great job keeping the tone.

    A question about the Godhead issue, specifically pertaining to JLFuller’s comments in 71:

    We believe Christ left His active Godhood on hold so he could come here and experience mortal life just like the rest of us. . . . He could could revert to his Divine nature if he chose but did not to our great benefit.

    I am curious if there is a doctrinal statement you could point us to for further information on this “leaving Godhood on hold” issue. Also, how do Mormons believe Jesus was able to perform miracles if He was (temporarily) not Divine?

  • Stephen A.

    update, for context:
    “Do people honestly imagine that THEIR faith can’t be picked apart, made fun of, or ruthlessly critiqued, AS PEOPLE ARE DOING TO MORMONISM?”

  • JLFuller

    Mollie said:“I am curious if there is a doctrinal statement you could point us to for further information on this “leaving Godhood on hold” issue. Also, how do Mormons believe Jesus was able to perform miracles if He was (temporarily) not Divine?”
    Christ held the priesthood and through it performed His miracles just as he did when he created the things in the universe under the Fathers direction. I suppose you could say it is a miracle but I rather think it is best described as the exercise of authority under authorized circumstances. It is based on personal preparation and faith. We see faith at work when Peter walked on water with Christ. Of course Christ turning water in to wine is a much higher level of faith.

    You can go to http://www.lds.org, http://www.fairlds.com and http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan for authentic information about what we believe.

  • JLFuller

    Mollie
    You can go to http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/EoM&CISOPTR=4391&CISOSHOW=3819&REC=10
    to read a bit more about the Father and Son relationship of God the Father and Christ.

  • Eric W

    JLFuller says:
    December 18, 2007, at 8:48 pm

    … It is the Gospel you and I and all of us knew and lived in our pre-mortal lives.

    Origen’s idea of the pre-existence of souls was refuted by St. Maximus the Confessor, one of the foremost proponents of theosis. Some of St. Maximus’s writings on this can be read in the short book (short, but not light reading!) ON THE COSMIC MYSTERY OF JESUS CHRIST, ISBN 0-88141-249-X, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (Number 25 Popular Patristics Series).

  • JLFuller
  • JLFuller

    Eric says: “Origen’s idea of the pre-existence of souls was refuted by St. Maximus the Confessor, one of the foremost proponents of theosis. Some of St. Maximus’s writings on this can be read in the short book (short, but not light reading!) ON THE COSMIC MYSTERY OF JESUS CHRIST, ISBN 0-88141-249-X, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (Number 25 Popular Patristics Series).”

    Aren’t you glad we Mormons cleared that up? We have modern scripture provided by a prophet of God to clarify it all for you.

  • JLFuller

    Eric: I was a bit flippant there. You made a respectful comment and I treated it lightly. Sorry.

    If our souls are immortal then by definition we have no beginning and no end. We can look to Ecclesiastes 12:7 for guidance “The spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Jer. 1:5 says “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

  • Eric W

    The idea that the creation had no beginning and has no end is not Orthodox (or “orthodox”) Christianity. Only the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternal and have no beginning and had no creation. If Mormonism believes otherwise, it is not wrong for Christians to say the Mormonism is not Christian. Also, the excerpts from the link (post #76) that say that Jesus says that He is the Father (though the article attempts to explain why/how this is so and/or why He can be called Father and/or Jehovah) is also contrary to Orthodox/orthodox Christian teaching. Again, if that is what Mormonism teaches and believes, it is not wrong for Christians to say that Mormonism isn’t Christian. And I, too, say this respectfully.

  • JLFuller

    The key here is Orthodox. We do not now nor have we ever claimed to be orthodox. In fact the thrust of our message is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints represents original Christianity and historic Christianity is the remnant of the apostasy. Heterodox fits better. The Trinitarian view of the nature of God is emblematic of the falling away. What makes someone Christian is the belief and acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the redeemer of our souls not adherence to the fourth and fifth century creeds.

  • JLFuller

    Eric
    Regarding the eternal nature of our spirits or souls I refer you back to Ecclesiastes 12:7 for guidance “The spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Jer. 1:5 says “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou came forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” These two passages seem to indicate otherwise.

    You taught me something Eric. I did not know historic Christians didn’t believe in an eternal soul. Another revelation. That is new to me. EGADS!! I hope I don’t end up voting Democrat next year too!!!

  • Eric W

    I know this has gotten off the original purpose of Simon’s Q&A, but at least it’s been made quite clear in the comments here and elsewhere that Mormonism is non-Trinitarian and is anti-Trinitarian-Christianity. If, therefore, Christianity is considered by definition to be Trinitarian, then Mormonism is by definition and default non-Christian, n’est-ce pas?

    Is Mormonism at least Binitarian? I.e., does it hold to the full divinity of Jesus Christ as not only the Son of God, but also as God the Son – i.e., the term “God” cannot mean the Father alone, but must mean the Father and the Son?

    (What I mean by way of example is that for Trinitarian Christians, the term “God” does not mean “The Father”* but means “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” for there is no “God the Father” apart from “God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.” When Christians speak of “God,” if they only think of God the Father, that suggests an undeveloped or underdeveloped understanding of Christian theology. Forgive and/or correct me if I err in saying this.)

    * However, “Scripturally” speaking, I’ll concede that St. Paul is almost always referring to the Father when he uses the term theos/God; he primarily uses kurios/Lord when referring to Jesus Christ.

    Boy, it’s late! Gotta go to sleep. ;^)

  • Matt

    “If, therefore, Christianity is considered by definition to be Trinitarian, then Mormonism is by definition and default non-Christian, n’est-ce pas?”

    This is, after all, what it boils down to. Mormons–other modern believers in Jesus as Lord and some early [Christians], i.e. pre-creedal believers in Jesus as Savior–would say that Christianity is NOT by definition Trinitarian.

    A Mormon would say that Adam, Abraham, Peter, James, John, Moses, Nephi–etc. prophets or apostles of their tradition were Christian, yet had never heard of and did not believe in Trinitarianism (as modern evangelicals believe in it). Yet Mormons would argue that all of those figures believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

    So, if you rig the definition, as above, then you rig the conclusion: Mormons are not Christian. But, this is, in a way circular reasoning.

    If you define Christian differently–e.g. “to be Christian one must believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the prophesied Messiah, the Savior of the World, and Only Begotten of the Father who died on the cross, was resurrected, and paid the price for the sins of all humankind (etc., etc.) and through whom alone God’s children can be reconciled to Him and return to Him forever (etc.)”–then, of course Mormons have to be considered Christian.

    Now, Mormons could rig that definition by inserting “the prophesied Messiah–who God the Father promised he would send, in the pre-mortal existence, in the presence of all of his children to save them.” If you rig the definition that way, then you have to conclude that many modern evangelicals are not Christian since they do not believe in any sort of premortal human existence. Clearly you can see that this is not the best definition–and that using it is a bit disingenuous. Yet this is what Eric W’s assumption does.

    I think that if you went back to Judea at the time of Christ and quizzed the believers in Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount or in the Upper Room–none of them could (or would_ express a belief in the Trinity as it is articulated in the creeds of the fourth and fifth century. Evangelicals might disagree with this. But you cannot assume away the question.

    So, I am happy to believe that, if the followers of Christ in his own time can be considered saints or Christians without the benefit of early Catholic creeds, then other believers in Christ–Mormon or not–can be classified as Christian.

  • harold

    The official website of the LDS Church has recently posted a great article called, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine.” It highlights how Mormonism’s “open canon” differs from other Christian churches’ “closed canon.”

    “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.”

    “Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines. For example, the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important than doctrine about Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center. This is especially common among reporters or researchers who rely on how other Christians interpret Latter-day Saint doctrine.”

    “In addition, the Church does not preclude future additions or changes to its teachings or practices.”

  • harold

    The doctrine of the Trinity is no where to be found in the Bible. It is a product of the Nicean creed which came about a few hundred years after Christ when Constantine was trying to unite the Christain factions in order to unite and strengthen his empire. The Nicean creed is a political comprise. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence throughout the Bible that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are two separate beings. For example, when Christ was baptized, He and others heard a voice from heaven saying “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Was that Christ’s own voice? I think not. As Stephen was being martyred, he saw two beings in his vision. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” When Christ prays to God in his great intercessory prayer (John chapter 17), is he praying to himself? That would seem a bit absurd, don’t you think? I can cite at least 10 more examples that suggest that the Father and the Son are two separate beings.

    The word, “Christian” can be defined any way one wants to define it. After all words are ultimately just symbols that we create to express ideas. If accepting the Nicean creed is the main criterion of one’s definition of a Christian, then Mormon’s would not be Christains according to that definition.

    In the English language, we use the word Christian both as a noun and as an adjective. Mormon’s tend to use the word as an adjective, desribing behavior and personal attributes. Non-Mormons, on the other hand, tend to use the word Christian as a noun or a label.

  • Jan D.

    In response to liberty’s question in #69 above: it depends what you mean by His divinity. But He was divine in at least two ways: His pre-mortal divinity (which was described by someone above as having been “put on hold”) and the divinity He inherited from His Father (just as He inherited mortality from His mother). It’s my opinion (but I’m not sure it’s doctrinal) that this inherited divinity was what allowed Him to conquer death. Actually, I’ve just checked the link posted above from the Church’s website and it says:

    We believe Jesus is the Son of God the Father and as such inherited powers of godhood and divinity from His Father, including immortality, the capacity to live forever.

    So that confirms it.

    I have to agree with a previous poster that the tone on this thread has been remarkably refreshing, and free from the vitriol which normally characterises these discussions. Long may it continue.

  • http://jettboy.blogspot.com Jettboy

    Although I agree with many things that JLFuller said, I think that his explanation of Mormons believing that Jesus divinity was “put on hold” is pure personal speculation. It isn’t backed up by any prophet or scripture that I know of. I think the bemused answer to the question of if Mormons believe Jesus is divine is two fold. The first is that the question just has never come up. For most the answer is obvious – of course Jesus is divine. Secondly, like JLFuller said, I think those you ask just don’t know what you are asking without a little more specifics.

    As to if Jesus was divine while on Earth? The closest answer is that he had divinity within him. I believe he was as much as he ever had been before his birth. Then again, you have to define what you mean by divine; holy, godlike, worthy of divotion, a member of the godhead, glorified, etc. Depending on what you mean, the answer could be a yes or no, or maybe. Because nothing has been said on the subject other than the quote above, most answers (even mine) are pure speculation on the subject. That is because Mormons take a more general view of Christ’s mission of atonement than descriptive of how he performed that mission.

    You know what I would like to see? An article that actually talks to Mormons about what they believe. My guess is that it would go something like what has happened here. “some Mormons believe that . . . while others beleive that . . . Meanwhile, current LDS Church leaders have said (fill in the blank) about the topic.”

  • JLFuller

    Some may still have difficulty in understanding our nature versus Christs and that of God the Father. According to our understanding everyone, The Father, Christ and we, share common spiritual dna just as humans share common dna. In the most real sense that humans understand, God the Father, Christ and us are literal family members. We had a close pre-mortal relationship. He knew us intimately as we did Him. I don’t know if we played baseball and went on picnics together but it was very much that kind of relationship.

    Christ, being the first born and our oldest brother, took the lead. Under Father’s direction and authority, he created the universe and everything that is in it. He did this by virtue of the priesthood, which is the authority to act in The Fathers name. It is the very priesthood that exists in the Church today and is available to every worthy male and which is held in common with his spouse by extension. The exercise of it however is limited to only authorized uses. That means a father, for example, is entitled to provide a blessing to his family members in times of need as directed by the Holy Ghost. In it, the earthly father acts as mouth for the Holy Ghosts promptings. If I am living worthily, the words of the blessing are implanted in my mind and I speak them. It is a direct communication from God the Father through the Holy Ghost and me to the suffering family member.

    It is upon this process, we call it personal revelation, that Christ said he would build His Church. The process is the same for every person who receives revelation whether it be a Sunday school teacher, bishop or apostle. One having authority and acting in accordance with the authorized use receives inspiration for those under his or her stewardship according to their worthiness to receive it. Worthiness is described as a persons adherence to the principles of the Gospel and the Lords commandments.

    Christ’s worthiness is above us all. He had such authority as we will never see on this earth but while still in a spiritual or pre-mortal state. But he still had to come to earth not only to save us wretches, but also to get his physical body and learn to overcome temptation ending in His sacrifice. But when he arose, he took with him his renewed physical body one which he then had in common with God the Father. All of us will like wise be resurrected with a perfected physical form which we will take into the eternities.

    Some may say that we have reduced Christ in someway by making Him human like. We suggest that is not the case. We have elevated humans to their rightful place along side our Father or at least we have the potential to be there. The message is we are of Divine origins and may attain Christ like standing with our Father under certain conditions. God has said it is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is His instrument in doing this.

  • Eric W

    85. Matt says:
    December 19, 2007, at 3:00 am

    A Mormon would say that Adam, Abraham, Peter, James, John, Moses, Nephi—etc. prophets or apostles of their tradition were Christian, yet had never heard of and did not believe in Trinitarianism (as modern evangelicals believe in it). Yet Mormons would argue that all of those figures believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

    FWIW, I am not (any more) a “modern evangelical.” As an Evangelical/Charismatic/Non-denominational Christian, Trinitarianism was pretty much a non-factor. It’s not that we weren’t Trinitarian, it’s just that God being a Trinity had little relevance or practical application or meaning for our day-to-day faith and practice.

    Now, however, like tmatt, I am an Orthodox Christian, and the Trinity, instead of being a vague or nice theological term, is the Beginning and End and Everything-In-Between of all that God is.

    87. harold says:
    December 19, 2007, at 9:01 am

    The doctrine of the Trinity is no where to be found in the Bible. It is a product of the Nicean creed which came about a few hundred years after Christ when Constantine was trying to unite the Christain factions in order to unite and strengthen his empire….

    If one reads, e.g., Larry Hurtado’s (an Evangelical Biblical scholar – University of Edinburgh, Scotland) works on early Christian worship of Jesus (e.g., LORD JESUS CHRIST: Devotion to Jesus in Early Christianity), it’s obvious that devotion to Jesus as God did not originate with Nicea, but began occurring in the very early stages of the Church.

    This popular myth that Constantine or Nicea invented or created Christ’s divinity and/or equality with the Father as God is just that – a falsehood.

  • JLFuller

    Jettboy said “Although I agree with many things that JLFuller said, I think that his explanation of Mormons believing that Jesus divinity was “put on hold” is speculation. Putting his divinity on hold was a poor way of saying He was no longer acting in his pre-mortal role as Jehovah. Sorry if it was confusing.

  • Brian Walden

    I’ve really enjoyed being able to read and learn from this thread and I thank everyone who’s contributed. It seems like my Catholic faith and the Mormon faith have very different conceptions about the nature of God.

    As a Catholic, I believe in a God who created the universe from nothing. He’s a personal God just as the Mormon God is, yet there’s a distinct separation between God and his creation. While we believe that God created us in his image, we’re made of a totally different substance than God and can become like him in nature but never in substance.

    If I can try to summarize what I’ve learned here (please correct me where I’m mistaken), Mormons believe that God is definitely the God of this world and maybe the entire universe but prefer not to make concrete statements going outside the realm of our world because it hasn’t been explicitly revealed. But it seems Mormons believe God is much more a part of the universe rather than being entirely separate from it. I get the idea that, while no one can ever be as great as God, Mormons believe that we’re in some way the same species of being as God.

    If I’m close to being correct in my summaries, I can see how these starting premises affect many other beliefs. While Mormon beliefs such as the pre-existence of souls and Jesus being being a separate being from God still seem foreign to me, I think they flow fairly logically from basic Mormon beliefs about God and the universe. I get the feeling that a Mormon and I might use the same narrative to describe our beliefs, but even though our words sound similar we’re describing two very different world views.

  • JLFuller

    Eric
    I don’t think we said or implied that Christs divinity was started with creedalism. I take it for granted that all Christians worshiped Christ and accepted his divinity right from the beginning. The creeds changed the common understanding of Christ’s nature from resurrected being to the Trinitarian view of the Godhead being one personage not three separate ones, if I correctly understand what you said.

  • JLFuller

    I sometimes bristle a bit when someone says we have a different God. We don’t. There is only one. Where we differ is in our understanding of His nature.

  • Eric W

    JFuller: Okay, I think I understand the distinction you are making. It seems that while you accept the full divinity of Jesus (i.e., Jesus is God), you object to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan and Chalcedon statements/definitions about the relationship of the Father to the Son (and/or to the Holy Spirit), and vice-versa. It thus seems that Mormonism does not believe in One God the way Trinitarianism describes the One God as being Three Persons. Mormonism seems to separate and distinguish the members of the Godhead more than classical/orthodox Trinitarianism allows. Right?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Excuse me for mentioning the purpose of this post and this weblog, but one of the key elements of this discussion — which I made the decision to allow, even though it is WAY out into doctrineland — is that it has pointed out that — damn the Newsweek article chart and full speed ahead — the debates are not between Mormons and “evangelicals.” Honest participants in these dialogues know that the debates are between Mormon Christians and all of mainstream Christianity, because the debates go into the very nature of the Godhead.

    You may now return to discussing issues other than the media coverage of these matters.
    ;-)

  • Eric W

    Fox News jumps on the bandwagon today with 21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith. This list can supplement Simon’s questions.

  • JLFuller

    tmatt – mea maxima culpa-

    Eric – Yup.

  • Stephen A.

    Mollie, et al, I don’t find the phrase “voodoo-hoodoo-weirdo religious claptrap, etc” as either “fruitful” or in any way enlightening. I simply find it vulgar. But the overall theological depth of the discussion is great.

    Terry is right about this going far afield of media coverage.

    The one point of similiarity is that, like some folks here apparently, the media seem to have virtually no idea what Mormons believe, and are using some rather sketchy comments by non-Mormons to generate controversy.

    And as I noted before, aside form covering the REAL concerns some fundamentalists/evangelicals seem to have with Mormonism, the entire “gotcha” game being played by reporters, when using religion as the “gotcha,” is rather repulsive and is not something the media should be stoking.

  • Eric W

    The Mormon responders here – or some of them – take mainstream Christianity to task for holding to something like the Nicene Creed whose doctrines and teachings about the Godhead “are not found in the Bible.”

    My question is: Why do Mormons hold the Protestant Bible as being authoritative? If one reads Newman’s ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE or works on church history, the Biblical canon did not come to us on golden plates, but was a centuries-long process of acceptance by churches and Christians and theologians and councils. The persons who validated and confirmed and supported the canonization of the New Testament were bishops who were Trinitarian and sacramental and believed that the bread and wine really become the real Body and Blood of Jesus. Why do Mormons accept their decisions on which books are Scripture, yet reject their foundational beliefs about the nature of the Church and the nature of the Godhead? The Nicene Creed wasn’t cut out of whole cloth; it reflected what its composers were taught and believed about God and Jesus Christ as handed down to them faithfully from the Lord’s Apostles and their successors, and some of their decisions about the canon were related to how the book(s) conformed to the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

    (And … my apologies for my “voodoo claptrap” characterization, which probably added more heat than light to this conversation, which has been very fruitful, and for which we have tmatt and his tolerance to thank very much!)

  • JLFuller

    Eric – Apology accepted.
    “Why do Mormons hold the Protestant Bible as being authoritative?” Eric, the Book of Mormon tells us so, as do our leadership from Joseph Smith Jr. to Gordon B. Hinckley. Go to http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0%2C5232%2C23-1-520-27%2C00.html
    for the text of a speech by President Hinckley which talks to this point. Do a search for bible and start reading from there.

  • Eric W

    JLFuller: I read that statement in the link, but I don’t think it addresses my question(s). It, however, is one of the questions I would like Simon or others to ask Mormons/Mormonism: I.e., if the whole church had become corrupt and apostate, and was already so by the time the Nicene Creed was written (since the Creed declares as doctrine things that Mormons say “are not in the Bible”), why does the Mormon Church accept the books the Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox accept as being the Scriptures? How would they respond to Martin Luther when he wanted to excise James and Revelation? How do they explain why they agree with the rest of Christendom that the Epistle of Barnabus should not be in the canon, even though it is found in some of the early codices of the Bible?

    So, I would add canonization questions – not just which books, but the WHY for these books – to my list of what journalists or theologians should ask Mormons.

  • JLFuller

    Eric
    First of all, the historical Christian Church is not totally corrupt. I would like to disabuse you of that notion immediately. Error has crept into it but that is not evidence of total corruption. Some things were left out of the canon. But that is not total corrupt. Apostasy is not an event, it is a process. If corruption is the end state of continuing decay then it does not fit historic Christianity. It is not about what we do it is about what we become. Parts of the message is in error as evidenced by some of the things we have discussed. But good, Godly work is being done there. People are being brought to Christ and have been over the centuries. It was only through the historic Church that Christ’s name was kept alive in a world full of paganism. What we bring to the discussion is the rest of the story. What corrupted the message is the thinking evidenced in the creeds and taking many things out. Corruption is changing the Gospel to include pagan, heretical and worldly accommodations.

  • Brian Walden

    Wow, that Fox News article was bad. Fox asked all the “sideshow” type questions like they were just looking for answers that would shock people. They didn’t seem like they wanted to learn anything substantial about Mormonism. Stephanie Simon’s article was much better.

    But at the same time, I was unimpressed at the LDS Church’s response to the first question about why some people (I assume this is referring mostly to Evangelicals) call Mormonism a cult:

    For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion or other organization that is not well-known with an inflammatory term like ‘cult.’ Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said a cult means a church you don’t personally happen to like. We don’t believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.

    The word cult has different meanings to different people, but it’s my understanding that for many Evangelicals cult has a precise definition referring to Christian groups who fall outside a certain doctrinal standard. The people who assume that everyone who creates a distinction between Mormonism and more Nicean-based Christianity is ignorant and purposely inflammatory exhibit a lack of understanding of their own. The same type of situation seems to happen in reverse when Mormons use the term apostasy. I would think Mormons would want others to be charitable and try learn what the term’s theological meaning is for Mormons rather than accuse them of hurling insults. The courtesy should go both ways.

  • JLFuller

    Eric
    Joseph Smith is reported to have inquired of God about the apocryphal books and was told that there is much that is correct but here is too much error to be included in the canon. We can read them and prayerfully ask for guidance as we should do in all things we study. But they are not accepted as authoritative enough.

    The value of having a prophet is that he can judge what is correct and what is not by virtue of personal revelation related to his stewardship. In our theology this is then put to a hearing in front of the apostles and decided upon, again by personal revelation which is related to their stewardship. It can then go to the general membership for a sustaining vote and confirmation by personal revelation for their person and stewardship. The assumption here is that the prophet is really a prophet and the apostles are actually apostles and the Holy Ghost does provide an affirmation of these things. If you don’t believe in the prophet and personal revelation then you are in Luther’s situation.

  • JLFuller

    As long as we are in the general area of the subject, the loss of the priesthood in ancient times meant that there were no more apostles from which to draw a new prophet. After the death of the last one, it was gone. It was to be restored in the last days however. See Eph 1:10 -“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” . Our message is that this work is what was spoken of in Ephesians. It is through the power of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that all these things will set right. It is the priesthood that all worthy LDS males have access to that accomplishes that mission. In fact priesthood holders took this obligation on themselves before they left the pre-mortal life to come into this life. My sense is that many if not all of you readers were in that same group. That is why religion is so important to you. It was important to you once before.

  • Matt

    Eric W:

    it’s obvious that devotion to Jesus as God did not originate with Nicea, but began occurring in the very early stages of the Church.

    You won’t find Mormon disagreement with this statement.

    Thus,
    Jfuller:

    I take it for granted that all Christians worshiped Christ and accepted his divinity right from the beginning.

    EricW:

    JFuller: Okay, I think I understand the distinction you are making. It seems that while you accept the full divinity of Jesus (i.e., Jesus is God), you object to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan and Chalcedon statements/definitions about the relationship of the Father to the Son (and/or to the Holy Spirit), and vice-versa. It thus seems that Mormonism does not believe in One God the way Trinitarianism describes the One God as being Three Persons. Mormonism seems to separate and distinguish the members of the Godhead more than classical/orthodox Trinitarianism allows. Right?

    (emphasis added)

    I think you are right on here. Although, with my training in analytical philosophy–and to an extent ancient philosophy, but certainly not theology–I think that rather than one separating “more” than the other–it is largely mere usage of different vocabulary.

    Some Mormons (and Orthodox Christians, view the difference as larger and more intentional than I do). Thus,

    JFuller:

    The creeds changed the common understanding of Christ’s nature from resurrected being to the Trinitarian view of the Godhead being one personage not three separate ones, if I correctly understand what you said.

    The questions we can ask are what constitutes person(s), spirit(s), essence(s), substance(s), etc. Mormons tend not to use the creedal vocabulary (arguably as an extension of early American, particularly Burned Over District–hence Mormon–rejection of creedalism generally. Americans in that place were against test oaths in public life and spiritual life, as well.) You might say that Mormons are reactionary against creedal language, some to the point of distancing themselves from the underlying concepts, others merely to the point of rejecting creedalism itself.

    Material, efficient, formal and final causation are one way to describe a phenomenon–a very catchy way, in fact, particularly for early Christians. It is not the only way, of course.

    Talks my Mormon leaders are rife with references to God and Jesus as being united in purpose as well as essence and mind (=spirit), while hammering home the distinction that God the Father and God the Son are distinct personages.

    So we have two ways of describing the Godhead. God the Father and God the Son as:
    LDS: Unified in purpose, essence and mind (which, in classical philosophy = spirit) BUT distinct personages, the Son having the nature of the Father
    vs.
    Orthodox: (from one translation of the Nicene Creed) Unified in essence (“of the same essence”) and nature (“of the very same nature”) and (from the Athanasian creed) “For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. . . And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal”

    I DO not see the two ways of speaking as identical–but I do see all of the hard feelings as rooted in subtly different vocabulary approaching, but not perfectly communicating (on either hand) the nature of God (who is unknowable, in some sense, right?).

    Certainly Mormons and Nicene/Athanasian Christians believe that God the Son and God the Father are different persons. And both will assent that neither is a being that exists independent of the other. Thus, I can say–depending on your vocabulary, even if you think Father = being and Son = separate being, Mormons still think that Father + Son = Being–a Being without which you cannot have one individual “being” and not the other.

    That’s a bit confusing–and hard to talk about, but I’m not convinced that the two root appreciations of the nature of God is as different as the shell games with the vocabulary make them out to be.

    I mean, put another way, to an Orthodox Christian, God is perfectly capable of “Revealing” himself as God the Father and God the Son AT THE SAME TIME, as with St. Stephen and others–but Son and Father are in a sese the same. So, too with the Mormon belief. Only Mormons believe you could actually feel the prints in Son’s hand, which were nailed to the cross then resurrected, and then feel Father’s hand, which were not nailed to a cross.

    The physical nature of God IS a big difference. For Mormons, God is a physical + spiritual perfect being. For some Orthodox Christians, for God to be physical implies taking on a vulgar form of fallen terrestrial life and thus, God is more like a Platonic Form, more perfect than any physical thing could be. Of course, other non-Mormon, Orthodox Christians still believe in a physical God who has a physical body.

    (this is shooting from the hip, and not attempting to speak for either camp. now, back to work.)

  • JLFuller

    Matt said “Although, with my training in analytical philosophy

    My training and experience is as a knuckledragger speaking clearly to knot heads as I toss em the jug although I did take one philosophy course just before I was asked to sit the next semester out an re-think my commitment to a university education. (Insert grin here) But I am a good speller.

    Matt, I have take some time here to ponder what you said.

  • JLFuller

    Matt
    The point is sometimes I think we make things harder than they really are. We over analyze things to the point that we get confused. Mormon theology is designed to be simple and relatively easy to understand.

    The Godhead is a simple concept. Two beings with glorified physical bodies plus one being with a spiritual body. They are united in purpose and so forth in a relationship that is so tight that each knows what the others think and experience. It is so tight that the Father gave the son the absolute authority to act in His name. Not only to act, but speak as if he was the Father. But the Son’s power to act comes from his father. And when he acts he gives all glory to his Father. It is total unselfishness and total commitment to others. Others may want to put a finer point on that but I am comfortable that I hit the high spots accurately.

    One typo in my post at #109. “knot heads as I toss em the jug” is supposed to be toss em IN the jug.

  • Matt

    Well said, JFuller.

    At least you didn’t make a spelling mistake. (I know I made a few, as well as some grammatical mistakes.)

  • JLFuller

    Matt
    There is an analog to managing a caseload of adult offenders in trouble and religion. That is, create a crisis if you want someone to re-think their situation and make changes. God does that to us. In my role as a PO, it was up to me to know what and where the appropriate resources were and to provide guidance and motivation to the offender on using them. Sometimes I needed to create a bigger crisis to motivate them. I think that is what the Gospel does. We come here away from what we have always known to experience a crisis. The pain of the logical consequence of our actions provides motivation to look for a way to stop the pain. Religion is one of those pain relievers. Sometimes the person finds religion and sometimes religion finds the person. But the finality and assuredness of pain never changes. Some just get used to it. After a while it becomes normal. But it can be frightening when it goes away.

  • str1977

    At first look the unaggravated tone of this thread (I have thus far read only the first 50 postings) seems positive.

    And in principle, it is not bad that Mormons explain Mormon theology to others.

    But if one looks closely one sees the same old song about “misunderstandings” and sees the few contrary voices getting brushed aside by accusations of bigotry, false claims about Mormon beliefs supposedly being identical to orthodox ones (exhaltation vs. theosis) and predating the Trinity (which is mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel), the supposed wrongness of the Nicene creed, false dichotomy between biblical and traditional foundations (and that by a group which de facto relies very little on the bible but more so on other supposed revelations).

  • str1977

    Just as an example, some one compared “Christ’s appearance in the Americas” to the miracles of Lourdes.

    The difference is of course that no Catholic is bound to believe in any miracles in Lourdes and that these play no fundamental role in the Catholic Church, whereas the contents of the Book of Mormon is revealed Scripture to Mormons and stands at the the very founding of their group (even though it is later doctrines that constitute the really fundamental divergences between Mormonism and Christianity).

    To compare the two is dishonest.

  • JLFuller

    str1977
    My purpose here is to explain to interested others what our theology actually is according to my understanding and religious training. Outsiders have historically tried to define us in their terms. We strongly object. The other responders here have their own ideas and I respect them. They have been presented as intellectual ideas and not attacks. One pleasant side affect is the almost total lack of cynicism. In the end, I hope everyone learns something. I have.

    You mention that you are Catholic. Mormons and Catholics have had good relationships over the years and that continue. If we were so irretrievably different, Catholics would not make up the majority of converts to the LDS Church today. Evangelicals are the second largest and within Evangelicals, Southern Baptists are the largest – This according to the SBC. While this proves nothing it does indicate Mormon theology, once explained, does not present huge hurdles for some.

  • tparker

    Well, I suppose if reading 115 posts is a bit taxing on your brain, you could watch this short video on the origins of Mormonism.

  • Matt

    str1977,

    your first post reveals a set of assumptions and presuppositions that certainly make clear where you stand. they do not contribute meaningfully to this discussion. in effect you say “i believe mormons are mistaken” and little more. your brush strokes are too broad to say much else. Where, for example, does Matthew’s Gospel foreclose the Mormon conception of the nature of God? Moreover, your snarky sideswipes harm the discussions, e.g. “and that from a group that. . .”–a petty comment to say the least.

    But, since you singled out the example of Lourdes, I will point out that you clearly missed the point of that example. Perhaps you should re-read the comment, reflect on it, and after a good deal of thought point out to yourself why that comment, particulaly this bit, is off-base:

    To compare the two is dishonest

    If you cannot identify your logical misstep after that reflection, please post again asking for help and I will gladly oblige. However, I suspect your motives are not information-gathering, but rather, bickering and snarkiness. Prove me wrong, if you wish.

  • Matt

    Let me shed some light for the sake of str1977 (whether or not he sincerely requests help in understanding my above reference to Lourdes):

    A friend’s father, a charismatic, firy born-again preacher, believes that he has seen and spoken with Jesus. He told me this the first time I met him. He’s very open about it, and preaches about the encounter from the pulpit to his congregation.

    Now supposed that [X] = [He saw Jesus]

    I could believe [X], or not believe [X] (or come to no conclusion at all about [X]).

    Does the fact that he believes [X] determine whether he is a Christian? (Is the belief that he saw and spoke with Jesus enough to PROVE he is a Christian?)

    Now, what about me. If I believe [X] is it enough to prove I am Christian? (I doubt it, but I would at least believe that someone named Jesus exists.) If I do not believe [X] does it prove I am not a Christian?

    Now substitute [A][Miracles occurred at Lourdes] or [B][Jesus appeared on the Road to Damascus] or [C][Jesus appeared in Central America].

    A person’s belief or disbelief, of itself, in any of those is not sufficient to determine whether that person is a Christian. Thus, such belief (or disbelief) cannot be a major departure from Christianity.

    However, a belief in the divinity of Mary, might be such a departure–depending on your definition of Christianity. Similarly for the other examples–but notice that a belief in Mary’s divinity is not presupposed by [A].

    Notice also, using [X], [A], [B] and [C] above is not a comparison of the events. They are each used as examples. Can you see the between an “example” and a “comparison”?

    I could just as easily have used [D] [Luke Skywalker was a real person]. But responding that “to compare [a belief in Luke] and [a belief in Lourdes] is dishonest” entirely misses the boat. The point is, it’s possible to believe in or doubt the existence of Luke Skywalker without “departing” from Christianity, just as it’s possible to believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic or not believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic.

  • JLFuller

    str1977
    I have commented occasionally that we don’t mind being held accountable for our beliefs. We just don’t want to be accountable for things we do not believe. To me, this forum provides an opportunity to advance that idea.

  • Palladio

    “This according to the SBC.”

    Why, JLF, on earth would you take the word of the SBC as to the number of Catholic converts to LDS?

    How could they know?

    Are you aware of the lies told and re-told by Protestants against Catholics? Since the sixteenth century?

    Surely you are speaking with no real evidence to adduce at all.

  • JLFuller

    Padillo: The numbers were for Baptists not Catholics as you rightly point out. Thanks for the catch. But Catholics make up the lion’s share of all recent converts to our Church – mostly in Latin and South America but Africa is strong too although I don’t know of any number stats to point you to other than total membership in each country over time. If you are interested go to http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/statistical-information

  • JLFuller

    Matt
    You make my head hurt. Now you know why I sat out that semester way back 19??.

  • Julia

    Re: Healings at Lourdes v Jesus appearing in Central America, having a second coming in Missouri, and appearing on the road to Damascus

    Miracles at Lourdes are not in Scripture, have never been mentioned in councils or encyclicals and play no part whatsoever in core Catholic/Christian belief. Lots and lots of Catholics give Mary’s appearance and the miracles no credence at all (sorry about that John Paul). Mary’s alleged appearances in modern times are not theologically relevant.

    On the other hand, whether Jesus Christ appeared in Central America and where Jesus will appear again are a big deal, especially since these things are in Mormon scripture. These alleged events and predictions involve the central person in the Christian belief system.

    Additionally, whether Jesus appeared on the road to Damascus is also a big deal – it is recorded in Christian scripture and evidence of his resurrection as a glorified physical being.

    I think Matt needs to find some different examples that are not apples and oranges.

    This is a great thread and well worth reading all 100+ comments.

  • Brian Walden

    You mention that you are Catholic. Mormons and Catholics have had good relationships over the years and that continue. If we were so irretrievably different, Catholics would not make up the majority of converts to the LDS Church today.

    JLFuller, I think you’re wrong here. The Catholic Church does not consider Mormons to be Christian because they do not have a valid baptism (it’s invalid because Mormons do not recognize the Holy Trinity in the way that Catholics do). So in that sense, things are irretrievably different. On the other hand a good Mormon, can often be more “Christian” than a bad Catholic.

  • JLFuller

    Brian
    You are corret in the doctrine department. My point was in the social side of things. There has been considerable mutual help in trying times, including humor. OK. One story if you insist.

    A brand new priest was assigned to Salt Lake in Brigham Young’s time. Being the Catholic membership was a bit sparse and no facilities existed to hold Mass the priest went to Brother Brigham and asked for help. Brigham said OK and allowed the use of a church hall for services. The priest later went back to Brigham and said he didn’t have a choir so Brigham lent some singers. The priest was very grateful, but later went back told Brigham he didn’t have a congregation so Brigham loaned him one of those too.

    So as you can see we Mormons have been very accommodating to you Catholics. You believe this story don’t you?

  • str1977

    JFFuller,

    You are correct that the purpose here should be “to explain to interested others what [Mormon] theology actually is”. However, you cannot claim consistency when you object to outsiders defining you in their terms (there is actually no other way towards understanding) and then turn around and speak about Christianity the way some Mormons here (I don’t know whether you personally) did. These utterances were not driven by respect.

    “Mormons and Catholics have had good relationships over the years and that continue.”

    Good relations are distinct from fundamental theological differences. Catholics have good relations with Muslims and Protestants too.

    “If we were so irretrievably different, Catholics would not make up the majority of converts to the LDS Church today.”

    That’s non sequitur nonsense (and later one you yourself contradict yourself by saying that it proves nothing) – any adherent from one religion can convert to any other religion. That says nothing about a similarity or congruity of religions or theologies.

    Matt,

    you say my posting contributes nothing to this discussion. Well, I only replied to the various jibes against historic Christianity by some Mormons here. My point was not that Mormons are mistaken in their religion but some here apparently felt the need to misrepresent past events to alleviate themselves. Indeed, my strokes were broad because I was making a general point and would tire readers by one hundred postings of corrections of supposed misconceptions. I was of course expecting that my comments would be portrayed by you as snarky, bigotted etc. – but why are those Mormon comments that go beyond explaining their beliefs without putting down Christianity not considered snarky, bigotted etc.?

    My Lourdes comment was completely valid as you compared an optional side issue of Catholic theology, history and piety with the core of Mormonism. If the BoM is all fiction composed by Joseph Smith, that would make Mr Smith a false prophet and either deluded or a liar. If Lourdes is a sham, it would make Saint Bernadette deluded or a liar. If that were the case (which I don’t believe) the Church could go on without Bernadette? Could the LDS continue without their prophet, Mr Smith? Hence, the comparison was dishonest.

    To compare the two is dishonest

    If you cannot identify your logical misstep after that reflection, please post again asking for help and I will gladly oblige. However, I suspect your motives are not information-gathering, but rather, bickering and snarkiness. Prove me wrong, if you wish.

  • Brian Walden

    Matt, while I wouldn’t go as far as str1977 in saying your analogy was dishonest, I do agree with him that you compared two different things. It was probably built on a misunderstanding of the difference between public and private revelation (it’s ok, most Catholics probably don’t know the difference).

    The belief that Jesus appeared in the Americas is an official Mormon belief as far as I know (if I’m wrong please correct me). The belief that Mary appeared at Lourdes is not required of any Catholic. In essence you were comparing the statement, “Mormons are required to believe that Jesus appeared in the Americas,” with the statement “Catholics are free to believe that Mary appeared at Lourdes.” These are two very different things. One belief says that people who disagree agree with it are wrong, the other does not.

  • str1977

    Matt,

    in reply to your claim to shed light:

    “Now supposed that [X] = [He saw Jesus]
    I could believe [X], or not believe [X] (or come to no conclusion at all about [X]).

    Does the fact that he believes [X] determine whether he is a Christian? (Is the belief that he saw and spoke with Jesus enough to PROVE he is a Christian?)”

    The claim that X conversed with Jesus does neither prove nor disprove X’s being a Christian. If believed it would be private revelation (which goes on and on) and private revelation has to be tested against general revelation (which closed with Jesus and the Apostles) If that Jesus preached things different from what the actual Jesus preached, this should give you a hunch that it was not actually Jesus. There is nothing to be said against Jesus appearing to X, Y and Z all over the world, all through time. He did appear (or was reported to have appeared) to many people throughout history. But the Jesus in American claim is different in as much as Jesus here appeared to a people that, in their reality, would have no clue what he was about as they were not familiar with Jesus or with the foundations on which he built.

    Now, you are correct that the merely a person’s belief or disbelief in one appearance is not sufficent cause for counting that person in or out of Christianity. But that’s not what I said. I merely said that the comparison of apples and oranges was dishonest.

    “However, a belief in the divinity of Mary”

    Who in God’s wide world does belief in the divinity of Mary? Strawman? And sure, someone believing that would not be a Christian by violation of the First Commandment. Luke Skywalker, an admittedly fictious character, has no bearing on this whatsoever. Are you comparing Jesus to Luke? Or are you comparing Moroni to Luke? The difference is that no one (yet) has seriously attempted to build a religion on revelations transmitted by Luke Skywalker.

    “just as it’s possible to believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic or not believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic.” But is it possible to disbelieve in the Book of Mormon and be a Mormon?

  • Brian Walden

    You are correct in the doctrine department. My point was in the social side of things.

    JLFuller, I didn’t realize you switched to the social side. All of Str1977′s comments were about doctrine and the first half of your reply to him was also about doctrine. I’ve got nothing against Mormons personally, socially, or politically. If the debate going on in the media right now is merely about whether Mormons are generally Christian-like in their dealings with their neighbors, we can end it because I’m sure that Mormons who follow their church’s teachings are. But so are Jews and Buddhists and Secular Humanists who follow their religions’ teachings.

  • Matt

    str1977,

    good. I’m glad you were able to understand one flaw in your earlier statement. Jesus appearing in Central America (whether or not in the Book of Mormon) would not of itself (by virtue of appearing) be inconsistent with Orthodox Christianity. As you say, He could appear at X, Y or Z. It is only to the extent that a Jesus allegedly appearing in America (“that Jesus” as you say) teaches or says things inconsistent with the “actual Jesus” (as you say), that there is a departure from Christianity. (I.e. if my friend’s father “saw Jesus” who then taught him Islam, there would be a problem.)

    So you got that.

    I’ll have to ignore this:
    Now, you are correct that the merely a person’s belief or disbelief in one appearance is not sufficent cause for counting that person in or out of Christianity. But that’s not what I said. I merely said that the comparison of apples and oranges was dishonest.

    Because you blatantly accused ME of being dishonest. Yet I did not compare apples to oranges. I juxtaposed A to B, as both examples of “a person’s belief or disbelief in one appearance is not sufficient. . . ” (in your words.

    my original statement that you said was dishonest:

    “some Catholics believe in various miracles at Lourdes, including the original miracle there. Evangelicals and some Catholics may be skeptical about some of those alleged miracles or all of them—but it would not be a serious departure of itself”

    So, please retract your accusation that I was being dishonest. And if you must, reread the context and content to realize your mistake.

    From the tail-end of your last post, I see that you still are having trouble in comprehending the Luke/Lourdes/BookOfMormon/Catholic matter: i.e. the difference (i had a typo above, sorry) between and example and a comparison.

    Who in God’s wide world does belief in the divinity of Mary? Strawman? And sure, someone believing that would not be a Christian by violation of the First Commandment. Luke Skywalker, an admittedly fictious character, has no bearing on this whatsoever. Are you comparing Jesus to Luke? Or are you comparing Moroni to Luke? The difference is that no one (yet) has seriously attempted to build a religion on revelations transmitted by Luke Skywalker.

    “just as it’s possible to believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic or not believe in Lourdes and be a Catholic.” But is it possible to disbelieve in the Book of Mormon and be a Mormon?

    Some Protestants argue that Catholics aren’t true Christian. (According to my own definition of Christian, I believe they are Christian). Such people usually point to (1) the Assumption of Mary (2) Catholic prayer to Mary and (3) Use of Mary effigies / “idols” to argue that Catholics are polytheist, worshiping Mary in addition to God (and in their view, other saints.) Surely you’ve heard these arguments?

    Who is comparing Jesus to Luke? NOT ME. Are you?

    I merely said that whether or not someone believes [A] [B] [C] or [D], as I defined them, does not have a bearing no the question of his or her status as a Christian.

    So, as another example, suppose I ask whether you believe that Luke Skywalker actual existed. Your answer to that questi–yes or no–is no basis to conclude whether or not you are a Christian. Do you follow? Similarly, if I ask whether you believe in the miracles at Lourdes = no basis to conclude whether your Catholic. Do you follow that?

    SO, to repeat, NOWHERE DID I COMPARE LUKE TO JESUS OR TO MORONI OR DO ANY OF THE OTHER NONSENSE YOU ACCUSE ME OF INCLUDING THE RIDICULOUS APPLES TO ORANGES COMMENT. I think that should be sufficiently clear to you.

    If not, there’s no sense beating the logic drum louder when the problem is with the ears.

    [As to your last question--depends on what you mean by "disbelieve" and "Mormon"--but let's not get too far afield.]

  • JLFuller

    str1977
    Maybe there is something here you missed. If so, I think it might be that all of us in this conversation assumes his or her own view point is correct. That goes unsaid but I think all accept that. The value of this conversation is that it has allowed us to clear up misunderstandings. I, for one, learned that some historic Christians do not believe the soul is eternal and has always existed. I can’t speak for others but I believe they learned something too. I also learned that I can explain my beliefs to others who will not immediately defame them. That allows me to see beyond my preconceptions about them. This has been a respectful conversation devoid of rancor.

    Something else I learned is how to better engage another person by posing a question rather than jumping into the gutter with an accusation or making some inflammatory comment like we see too many times.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Yes folks, it is time to shut this down and take the theological debates elsewhere.

    Good night.


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