Are Mormons Christian? We’ll see.

This post is a part of the interfaith blog roundtable on at Patheos, hosted by Chris Henrichsen, on the question, “Are Mormons Christian?”

I am not so sure that, if what we mean by ‘Christian’ is the dual belief in Christological and Trinitarian mysteries, that it is meaningful for a Mormon to call herself a Christian.

I am not a Muslim, if what we mean by ‘Muslim’ is the belief that Muhammad is the prophet of God — Allah, in arabic. I do belief in Allah, however, as do Mormons and Jews, but the details beyond the generic, Abrahamic genre, reveal significant differences in what has become the ordinary language of those traditions.

Perhaps a better question is this: Why would a Mormon want to be a Christian? 

Those answers are not mine to give, since I am not a Mormon. To many Christians, mind you, I am not a Christian either. However, there is a significant genealogy that makes that claim historically absurd.

*

One aspect Catholics and Mormons share is a belief in the open canon of tradition. Mormons are more Catholic than Protestant in this regard. The Mormon tradition has acquired many significant texts since its genesis in the early 19th century, and it has changed many of its formerly held doctrines. This is an important feature of Mormonism because it opens the possibility for the opening doubt to be addressed rather straightforwardly.

Mormonism could simply change or clarify. There is a deep sense of pragmatism in the Mormon tradition. Or maybe it’s just youth. Maybe both. Who knows?

Given the amount of back and forth in the first few centuries of the Early Church (that, on a Mormon account, separated the Church from Christ’s original teachings in the Great Apostasy), it would be perfectly reasonable to foresee significant theological change to Mormon beliefs, as we have seen over the past 200 years.

*

Another issue that does arise from this question is that, on the reading of the Mormon church I acquired whilst being courted by very nice and kind LDS missionaries, Catholics are not Christians. Not exactly. It is precisely the Catholic tradition that corrupted original Christianity and required the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to save what the papists screwed up.

So I am not sure why, exactly, there is any need to not entertain the possibility that Mormons may not be Christian. It is only as impolite or impolitic as their own account of the post-apostolic Church.

It may even be the case that they are right, and the truth is far more radical: Only Mormons are Christian.

Unfortunately, the terms of Christianity have been cast in very old theological molds of Christianity that is presently not the exact version that Mormons claim as their own.

*

There is the possible objection that theology does not define what the true Christian is — “They’ll know we are Christian by our love.”

Fair enough. I am very happy to live with a sense of solidarity with my Mormon brothers and sisters, and our traditions are not wholly distinct in every regard. But I am still not entirely sure that that solidarity has to be called Christian solidarity, in the ordinary (and theological) sense the term has been built to convey.

Perhaps they are “Christian,” in a different sense of the term. But at that point we’re just playing language games.

*

The evangelical traditions of Mormonism and Catholicism are well known, for better and for worse. Evangelism without (at least an implicit, but very real) theology is like recruiting people to work in a pyramid system or a ponzi scheme. There is nothing to justify the recruitment except the recruitment itself and its most superficial, but concrete rewards. All questions must either be admitted to openly (which is rarely the case because it threatens the system) or siphoned through a maze of niceties and denials and circular repetitions.

And super-nice, unobjectionable people.

If Mormonism practices global evangelical efforts, as it does, then it cannot, I think, dismiss theology as a route to avoid the question of what the exact nature of solidarity is between Catholics and Mormons. Especially when, on a Mormon reading of history, Catholics are themselves not Christian.

I am not personally offended by this view, I am simply compelled by the enormous evidence to the contrary and the complete refusal of LDS apologists to offer counter evidence freely.

*

It would seem that, in this case, Mormons who desire to be Christians can be, if they want to — if they want to bad enough to ammend their tradition, again, as most traditions do in their infancy. (And, no, it is not infantilizing to call an infant an infant; it is merely a historical fact, measured in time.)

Mormons will simply have to shift some teachings around, to accommodate the ordinary language, as is well within their privilege, and develop a thicker and more thought-out theological tradition, which should come in time. Since many Mormons seem rather dismissive about theology, it should be little discomfort to make such changes to fit into the ordinary language of Christianity.

*

I am empathetic to the Mormon church. Impressed even. It has been very successful in its first two centuries. Far most successful, I would argue, than the Early Church was in its time. And I am not so sure that the Early Church had a strong sense of itself at the same age either. But, eventually, saying “I believe in in Jesus Christ, therefore I am a Christian too” will need to be strengthened by a theology that supports it in detail and doctrine.

Maybe the best and most reasonable answer to the question, then, is “we’ll see.”

It may simply be too early to tell.

  • Jimbo

    “Especially when, on a Mormon reading of history, Catholics are themselves not Christian.”

    Huh?

    • SamRocha

      Can the inheritors and followers of the Great Apostocy be rightly considered Christian?

      • Jimbo

        Of course, for the precise reason that Catholics generally have no problem recognizing Protestants–from whom early Mormons borrowed the concept of “the great apostasy”–as Christians. One could maintain, for example, that the Roman Catholic Church as an institution lacks the divine authority to administer the ordinances of God in His name (i.e. the traditional Mormon understanding of “the great apostasy” when boiled down to its essentials) while simultaneously maintaining that its members/followers/practitioners are sincere followers of Christ as revealed in the Holy Bible (i.e. the traditional Mormon view of the world’s 1 billion+ Catholics and hundreds of millions of Protestants).

        • SamRocha

          There seems to be something soteriologically amiss there.

          • Nayajja

            From your article: “But, eventually, saying ‘I believe in in Jesus Christ, therefore I am a Christian too’ will need to be strengthened by a theology that supports it in detail and doctrine.”

            May I respectfully suggest that you have no idea of our theology, nor the beautiful detail and doctrine that it encompasses. I encourage you to find out just how deep and and satisfying our theology and doctrine is–and how thoroughly rooted it is in Jesus Christ’s Biblical teachings and in the Biblical teachings of his apostles.

            And from your last comment: “There seems to be something soteriologically amiss there.”

            I get the sense that you think theology involves writing like college professors write, with big words made up of Greek roots that really are not able to carry much logical weight. Big words that support fuzzy concepts do not a theology make. You don’t find many big words in the Bible.

          • SamRocha

            Sorry for being a college professor. All I meant is that there seems something amiss at the level of questions about salvation. I would encourage Mormon evangelists to be much more forthright with this theology. I asked for it over several months of meeting with Mormon missionaries and they never gave it to me.

          • Nayajja

            It’s OK. Some of my best friends are college professors–and they somehow put up with me being an attorney!

            I am willing to talk a bit more with you to try to identify what you see as amiss “at the level of questions about salvation.” That is so broad that, no matter at what level I might begin, someone might say, “No, that is not what I mean.”

            The Mormon missionaries teach the simple basics of the gospel–the good news that Christ is our Savior, and a basic understanding that we can partake of his atoning grace through faith, repentence, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our lives as we learn to be more like Him.

            I do believe that God is much more interested in how we deal with these basic concepts than he is in our philosophical noodlings.

            As a place to start with “questions about salvation,” maybe I can refer you to a talk by our Apostle Dallin Oaks, given in April of 1998: http://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/05/have-you-been-saved?lang=eng

            What is your reaction to the ideas in this talk?

        • Dandini

          Actually, Martin Luther was not seeking to “apostasize” but rather to reform the Catholic church back to what he felt was the “original” faith, he did not choose to leave the Catholic church, but rather they ostracized and rejected him. . .

          • SamRocha

            Quite right. And different.

        • SamRocha

          There is a relevant analogy, I think, between this issue and Islam. In Islam all are, technically, Muslim. But those unfaithful to Islam are, in different terms, apostates. There is a sense in which the apostate is still a Muslim, but this is not the sense I am referring to with regard to the Mormon notion of apostasy.

          • bytebear

            The Great Apostasy was less about lack of belief or faith, but a lack of proper authoritative keys, and tangentially a loss of some theological truths. You can believe theologically identically as Mormons (or Catholics) but without authority, you are still apostate. And Mormonism has very specific doctrines about authority and who has the Keys to administer the functions of Christ’s church. As such, one can be a Christian but still not be part of Christ’s authoritative organization on Earth. Faith comes before baptism. Being a Christian comes before becoming a (Latter-day) Saint.

      • bytebear

        Yes, if the definition is a belief in Jesus Christ. Mormons do not define Christianity as a Church, but as a belief. And many people of various faiths have that belief.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Let’s see: Martin Luther and Calvin took the position that the Catholic Church of the 16th Century had departed from some of the teachings of Jesus, his apostles, and the early bishops and therefore needed to be “Reformed”. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church still considers the Protestant churches to be Christian. Yet if a Mormon agrees with Luther and
    Calvin in their critique of the Catholic Church, the Mormon is declared to be outside the realm of Christianity.

    If you have to agree with all Catholic teachings in order to be classified a Christian, how did Lutherans and Presbyterians get in the club?

    • SamRocha

      “how did Lutherans and Presbyterians get in the club?”

      Easy. They do not disagree with the basic theological principles of Christianity.

      • wildcat

        i.e. they agreed with Constantine’s version of the divinity of God from the Nicean Creed… that God exists as three in one without “body, parts or passions.” A version that contradicts early Christian writings and the bible’s witness of a resurrected being (why would that be a big deal if Christ didn’t keep that body as the creed would suggest?)

      • bytebear

        I think the “they do not disagree” comes from an ironing out of theological differences. Certainly when they first split, they did disagree. The nature of baptism comes to mind, the doctrines of transubstantiation. The Immaculate Conception. All of these were and are basic theological principles that have divergence, but over time, they have become secondary, not because they are less important, but because they allow for the Christian umbrella to expand to be more inclusive. I suspect these “basic theological principles” you are thinking of become less basic and more secondary, just as the issues that divide Catholic and Protestant have done in centuries past.

      • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

        That’s patently ridiculous.

      • MachoCamachoNacho

        And who gets to define what the theological principles of Christianity are? Or which of those principles are basic? On a most basic sense, Mormons believe that Christ is the Son of God and that salvation comes through him alone. That seems pretty basic to me.

    • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

      One needs to believe that Jesus was God. Fully man…and yet fully God.

      One ought trust His Word of forgiveness and the completed work on the Cross for those who could never measure up.

      The Mormons are merely protestantized Jews. Overly religious and pious, but not trusting in the work on the cross to give them everything that is needed. They are in the self-justification game.

      And then there is all the weird and unChristian stuff like secret ceremonies and becoming gods and having your own planet..just goofy man-made stuff that in no way is Christian.

      • RaymondSwenson

        The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that “Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself to all nations.” In the Book of Mormon, Jesus declares that he is Jehovah who gave the law to Moses.

        Yes, Mormons believe the teaching of James that faith without works is dead, that we show our faith–our trust in God–by living God’s commandments to love God and our neighbor. Just like Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians, and Protestant Christians who reject what Boenhoffer called “cheap grace”. In other words, we obey the commandments of Jesus, our Lord, in his sermon on the mount and in Matthew 25, knowing we will be judged by Him according to whether we treat other humans, His brethren, as if they were Him. We know that it is by Christ’s grace that we are saved, but we also need to live in recognition that we now belong to Him and are His children. To reject the life He calls us to live is to reject Him and his grace.

        • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

          You guys don’t even put the Cross on top of your buildings.

          You believe that it all wasn’t accomplished there.

          You still think you can justify yourselves by what you do or do not do. You might as well be Jews.

  • RaymondSwenson

    In Matthew Chapter 25, Christ teaches his apostles that the Second Coming of Christ and the judgment he pronounces will be based upon how well we have treated “even the least of these, my brethren”. The Latter-day Saints seek to aid and support both members and non-Mormons and follow the teachings of Christ. They assert that makes them disciples of Christ, the Son of God.

    • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

      The judgement will be on motives. Do we do it expecting some reward. or fear of punishment? Or out of a religiosity?

      Or do we do it out of faith and trust in Christ?

      We all fail to live up to the perfect standard Jesus lays down in Matthew. And He knows that we are unable, unwilling, because we put ourselves first.

      But He loves and forgives us, anyway. He died for the ungodly, after all.

      • RaymondSwenson

        So it is important to be honest with ourselves. Are we living as children of God who are motivated by gratitude for all His gifts, including life and freedom and eventual resurrection, or are we hypocrites who want Him to save us even though we don’t want to live a holy life? Peter makes it clear that people can reject the gospel once receiving it. There is no guaranteed ticket to heaven when you throw it away.

  • Baltzer

    Devout Mormons see themselves first and foremost as disciples of Jesus Christ. Therefore, those who try to “decertify” their Christianity generally seem to them to be ignorant, narrow minded, or mean spirited. Mormons don’t discuss theology much, and usually cannot understand how the “trinitarian and christological mysteries” can supercede the Lord’s own words that “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” Neither can they understand why some would abandon common usage (Christian = believer in teachings of Christ) except in an effort to deceive others, and poison them against Mormon “poachers.” Those wishing to accurately label, or theologically catagorize Mormon belief could much more easily call them “unorthodox Christians,” or “non-traditional Christians,” or even “heretical Christians.” These labels accurately reference Mormon heterodoxy, without denying their core faith and tenants.

    Would it not be more kind and Christian to acknowledge the Mormon’s faith in Jesus than to pretend, or imply that it doesn’t exist? Can we be truly honest without acknowledging our common faith as much as our irreconcilable differences?

    • SamRocha

      Actually that is not the common usage. Sure, it is a deeply pastoral view, but it implies the notion that Christ is the culmination of all Christology and a key part of Trinitarian theology. Otherwise Jesus is just a venerable rabbi, not God/Man and the second person of the Holy Trinity.

      • JT

        I don’t think Baltzer went far enough. Mormons also believe:

        - Jesus was the promised Messiah (Christ)
        - Jesus is the Son of God
        - Jesus is divine (identified with YHWH of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament)
        - Through Jesus’ atonement, mankind may be saved, including a literal resurrection and forgiveness of sins
        - The New Testament is the word of God – not just as proper guidance, but as holy scripture

        I think the above would fall under how the term “Christian” is commonly used (i.e., outside of theological/ivory tower circles).

        As you mentioned, of course, Mormons do not believe in a closed canon. As such, Mormons believe that God has revealed additional light on some things, including the nature of the Trinity (Godhead). Some will say that this additional light shows that Mormons believe in a different Jesus. More accurately, Mormons believe in the same Jesus – the Jesus of the New Testament, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. Mormons simply believe that they know more about him.

      • Baltzer

        My Webster’s Unabridged Encyclopedic Dictionary includes eleven definitions of “Christian.” None of them reference the trinity. None of them are theological. I think if you look at any general usage dictionary, you will discover the same thing. By common usage Mormons are clearly Christian.

        Even so, I hasten to add that Mormons accept the Lord’s teaching that he is the Son of God, and the only means by which we can be saved in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven. We accept his Virgin Birth, his many miracles, his supernal atonement, his resurrection, his divinity, and his constant watchful care over all God’s children. I suspect there are many certifiably orthodox Christians who do not believe in these biblical teachings despite their sophisticated Christology.

  • jsmithcsa

    Perhaps if you got the name of our church right you might understand it better — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is devoted to the worship of — who? See the name of the church again for the answer.

    • SamRocha

      Sorry about that typo. However, your reference to this is a very representative example of the aversion to serious theology I am referring to.

      • bytebear

        It’s a very common occurrence for critics of Mormonism (anti-Mormons) to refuse to acknowledge the true and correct name of the church. Mormons have learned that if someone insists on calling the church “The Church of the Latter-day Saints” they are antagonistic, and themselves have an aversion to a serious discussion. In other words, it’s a two way street, and Mormons are quite gun shy when it comes to discussing theological differences with those who cannot even acknowledge the simplest of facts..

        • dhrogers

          Agreed! The fact that we “Mormons” worship Jesus Christ is central to our theology, not “an aversion to serious theology” as suggested by Sam.

  • Janice P

    I think God is big enough for all of us. Maybe to simplistic for all you intellectuals though. My apologies in advance. :)

    • SamRocha

      It just takes time. Theology and an intellectual tradition do not develop overnight. I am sure that, with time, this will be played out in fuller detail.

      • Janice P

        I agree. But we just have to remember that Jesus did everything out of Love. I hope theology and intellectual tradition do not overlook that. Our own beautiful Roman Catholic Church needs to remember this also.

  • davedutah

    If you believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible are you Christian? The answer is simple. And Mormons do.

    It almost seems insincere for you to ask if Mormons are Christian and then eliminate the most important term from the name of our church–”Jesus Christ”.

    I know of no Mormons who don’t consider Catholics to be Christians. You seem to have a strange notion of the term.

    • SamRocha

      As noted below, their is an odd sense of being Christian when you also assert a history wherein the Church is the source of the Great Apostasy. But please forgive the typo — it has been duly noted and corrected.

    • Duwayne_Anderson

      What does it mean to believe in Jesus?

      Does it mean simply believing that a man named Jesus lived?

      Does it mean believing that the mother of Jesus conceived naturally by having sex with god?

      Does it mean believing that Jesus is not a manifestation of the father god, but a separate and distinct god in his own right?

      Does it mean believing that Jesus was a polygamist?

      Does it mean believing there are some sins that Jesus’ atonement cannot cleanse — that can only be cleansed by offering one’s own life in repentance?

      Does it mean believing that Jesus’ atonement only brings salvation if it is accompanied by “good works?”

      Does it mean believing that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers who fought a war in the pre-existence?

      Does it mean simply putting the name “Jesus Christ” in the name of the church?

      Suppose someone said they are a good person. Would they be “good” simply because they declared themselves to be good?

      What does it mean to *be* something? Does substance matter, or is it all just semantics?

      • SamRocha

        Uh oh…

        • Thomas Johnson

          And here we have the famous ex-Mormon and atheist DuWayne Anderson slandering the beliefs of the Mormons again. Not only did he not want to be a Mormon himself, but he doesn’t want anybody to be a Mormon. And he doesn’t want anybody to be Catholic or Protestant, either. Why should any of us who believe in God and our dear Savior Jesus Christ listen to the opinions of this man whose sole effort is to destroy faith in God and Jesus Christ.

  • arty

    What was the justification for hosting this particular roundtable question? A few years ago, FT hosted a symposium on the same question, and I remember asking myself then, what the purpose was. Even if the answer is “yes,” that doesn’t mean you’ve got to accept every theological point Mormons make, so you haven’t really solved much. If you answer “no,” then you just find ways to live together practically, and make the best argument you can, for why Mormon theology is mistaken on this or that point–which is what many people do currently.

    My point: Given the inherent dangers of asking this sort of question (trying to evaluate what’s in people’s souls, for example), I don’t see that the prospective benefits are worth it. I can’t see the nature of my interactions with Mormon missionaries changing much, either way I answer it.

    Overall, I like your idea about “not yet.” Maybe Mormon’s are akin to Christians pre-Nicaea and Chalcedon.

    • Petro

      The point of the debate is whether or not the White Christian tribe should let these people in or not. There was once a similar debate as to whether Catholics should be let into the WASP tribe, and we made it in. As Sam notes, some people still think that that was a mistake. Nevertheless, we made it.

      Is this a good goal? No. It’s a terrible one. Nevertheless, underneath everything, that’s really what we are talking about with a question like this.

      • arty

        I’d have bought that argument 50 years ago, but now? I agree that everyone’s core assumptions about who gets to be “us” matter in practice (as I take your comment to suggest). Contemporary American Christianity is too wildly varied to argue that the issue is who gets to be in the “tribe.” In fact, I’d contend that if there’s any tribalism involved here at all, its on the Mormon side-plenty of historical/theological reasons why there aren’t too many black Mormons, for example. I do share your sense, though, that the question actually being asked here, isn’t the one that really matters to people.

        • Thomas Johnson

          Arty, the Church has over 350,000 black members of
          the Church in Africa and many others in Europe, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Asia. It also has over 5.5 million Hispanics and 1.2 million Asians.

          • arty

            The darn computer ate my witty rejoinder, so I’ll leave a shortened version: I also also observe any number of major social problems/headaches where I live, when Mormons get married to non-mormons, and these result from what I’d regard as an excessive tribalism on the part of Mormons. Thus, the connection with my original comment to Petro. I do know that I’ll advise my children not to date or get married to Mormons, in spite of the fact that we have many important things in common, but because this tribalism is too socially problematic. Ecumenism cuts both ways.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Oh, yes, I understand what you are saying now. In general, I believe that there are always problems when a person marries a person of another faith, at least if one or both of them want to practice their faith and want their children to be raised in that faith. That is why, when our missionaries go out, they are instructed, if at all possible to teach the missionary lessons to the entire family. Our religion is about trying to create strong families, not family dissension.

          • arty

            Yes, and my reply is that if there are problems in trying to merge mormons and non-mormons within a family, then we probably haven’t got as much creedally in common as some folks apparently think we do. (The family being the little church, that is). At that point, I think it best to focus on what we do agree on, and let the final judgment sort out anything else that needs sorting out. Put another way, if there’s no intellectually plausible way we can even be “mere” Christian together, then lets fight the culture wars together and get along as neighbors.

          • Thomas Johnson

            I don’t know if you are Catholic, arty, but I find that I have a lot in common with Catholics, especially, as you say, on the culture wars. Besides, you know, the Catholic church doesn’t accept Mormon baptisms, and Mormons don’t accept Catholic baptisms, either. If I can’t convince you that “Mormonism” is “truer” than Catholicism (and I will respect your wishes, if you say you don’t want to even discuss it), I will do my best to treat you as I would like to be treated with respect and courtesy.

          • arty

            No, I’m an old Indiana Quaker. What you and I do have in common is having a lot in common with orthodox Catholics, I’m married to one, myself. So, my comments on tribalism come from a position of personal experience: Quaker circles are small enough (and subdivided enough, sigh), that it is pretty easy, both by dint of historical memory and the inner logic of a such a small group, to fall into a tribal mentality, What you find, though, is that one group of Quakers (call them the “mainline” in the sense Webb means it in his article posted here) retains its tribal mentality and now bears little if any recognizable differences from Unitarianism. The other group, (call them “orthodox,” if you want), is increasingly less concerned about the label “Quaker” and more concerned about small “o” orthodox Christianity, leading them to more fruitful interactions with other Christian denominations.
            My point? I’m willing to shelve serious doctrinal/theological disagreements with Mormons (and other too, of course), if it will assist the “united front” on any number of righteous efforts. Few people make a serious attempt to live as though there were such a thing as sacred order (yeah Sam, here I go on Philip Rieff again), and Mormons do that, for which I applaud them. Theologically, though, I think Sam is right. (And I can think of no wishy-washy nice way of putting this), you guys have a long ways to go, if my discussions with Mormon missionaries are any indication, not to mentions Bruce Porters missive in an issue of FT a while back.

      • bytebear

        There seems to be some underlying belief that if Mormons are called Christians that Jesus will suddenly like them a little more. How odd is it that you want to exclude Jesus’ love.

        • Petro

          Who said I wanted to? I’m discussing the point behind the question. Note that I said that it’s a terrible goal for a discussion, but that’s the basis of it.

          I don’t care whether Mormons are Christians or not. Calling yourself a Christian really isn’t even that important to me. It’s mostly tribalism in this context.

          • bytebear

            I think tribalism is a very strong motivator for the need to exclude Mormonism from Jesus, and to misrepresent Mormonism in context of their beliefs about the Savior.

  • E David Ferriman

    Are we Protestants? No. Are we Catholics? No. Are we Christians? Yes. When you try to state that only one or two of these types of Christians are in fact Christian the door is opened to the idea that maybe the reverse is true, that maybe only the Protestants and Mormon that reject unBiblical ideas, like the trinity, are truly Christians. By closing the door on us, you are, in fact, closing the yourselves. Thankfully the Lord has left the door open for us all. God bless.

  • Thomas Johnson

    Thank you, Sam Rocha, for giving me the opportunity to inform your readers why “Mormons” are Christian: (1) “Mormon” is a nick-name. The correct name of our church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (2) The first Article of Faith of our church is, “We believe in God the Eternal Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.” (3) Mormons believe in the Bible as scripture, which testifies of Christ (4) The full name of the Book of Mormon is “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” (5) The Book of Mormon mentions Jesus Christ 3,925 times, an average of once every 1.7 verses. (6) Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (7) When Joseph Smith prayed to God to determine what Church he should join, God the Father appeared unto him and introduced him to Jesus Christ by saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” (Joseph Smith History, Pearl of Great Price 1:17) (8) Jesus Christ subsequently appeared to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (Doctrine & Covenants Section 76); and to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (Doctrine & Covenants Section 110). (9) Mormons believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and the Son of God, not just a great teacher.(9) Mormons pray to God the Father “in the name of Jesus Christ. (10) Mormons are baptized in the name of the
    “Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

    • SamRocha

      I am afraid that all these details, that are surely true, fail to address the post’s own contentions. But thanks for sharing anyhow.

      • Thomas Johnson

        Oh, Sam, don’t be so dismissive. Anyone who would look at the list of things that demonstrate that “Mormons” are Christians and then say, but I don’t think they are really Christians, is willfully ignoring the facts and showing his own prejudice. Why are you trying to get your readers to question whether Mormons are Christians except to try to prejudice your readers against Mormons? You know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church have cooperated on many things, including joint humanitarian projects, defense of marriage between a man and a woman, defense of the Catholic Church’s efforts to prevent the government from dictating the requirement of paying for contraception for Catholic hospital employees, and many other things. I am certainly glad that the people our church has interacted with on all these projects and issues don’t have the attitude about Mormons that you have.

  • RaymondSwenson

    In case no one ese has mentioned it, Catholic theologian Stephen Webb has just published his new book Mormon Christianity, in which he is emphatic that “Mormonism is obsessed with Christ” and is rooted in the tree of Christianity.

    • SamRocha

      Steve is a very dear friend of mine, and will hopefully be posting a guest blog here, as a part of the series.

  • Guy Briggs

    “… ordinary (and theological) sense the term has been built to convey …”

    The clear implication of Acts 11:26 is that “Christian” means the same thing as “disciple.” In other words, someone who believes in Christ and follows His teachings. To Mormons, that includes Catholics and Protestants. To believe otherwise is a bit like saying that if you play in the Minors, or college, or Pony League, or even T-ball – that it’s not really baseball.

    I seems incongruous, to us, to exclude believers from the “Christian” fold based on subscription to a certain set of beliefs, especially when adherence to that same set of beliefs among those who are considered “in the fold” does not seem that important.

    As an example, I have found, in discussing “Trinity” amongst mainstream Christians, that they make mistake after mistake, commit heresy after heresy. A common example is using the analogy of vapor, liquid and ice – if not done very carefully, it falls into Sabellianism (sometimes known as Modalism).

    If it’s not important enough to teach properly within mainstream Christianity – why is it suddenly freighted with importance, and used to exclude a hated group outside of the tradition?

    • SamRocha

      Let me be clear: I do not hate Mormons or the LDS Church. That much ought to be very clear and should not be read into what I wrote. The rest is up for (a very good) debate.

      • Guy Briggs

        Point taken, and I should have been clearer in what I wrote. It’s is clear to me that you do not hate Mormons.

        That said, however, there is a certain amount of doctrinal twisting that is quite common on anti-Mormon websites that I can only ascribe to malice.

        The same kind of malice that shows up in other places: One of our scholars, for example, wrote about a time he was attending Graduate School in Boston, and attended a community meeting about the number of adult bookstores in the community – a meeting at which several leaders of mainstream Christian churches were also present. They threatened to walk out if Mormons were included. “The point was not lost on us,” he writes, “that they hated Mormons worse than they hated pornography.”

        It would be a good debate, indeed, if we could contrast what Mormons actually believe with what mainstream Christians actually believe.

      • harrystamper727

        Use the proper name of the Church would help. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons was originally derogatory, not really today but slang. LDS Church is an abbreviation that intentionally eliminates the name of Jesus Christ. At least from a debate (or logical point of view) the proper name of the Church implies Christianity. Joseph Smith did not call the church by his own name.

  • phillipcsmith

    I believe that we can move this whole discussion in a better direction by defining a Christian as one who strives, and is generally successful, to live a Christlike life. If I love my neighbor as myself, for example, then I am Christian. Given this definition then some Mormons are Christians and some are not, and this situation probably exists in other religions as well.

    To make the debate over the use of the term Christian the result of fighting over doctrinal or historical matters is counter-productive.

    • Thomas Johnson

      Let’s not forget loving God as well as loving our neighbor.

  • mad_organist

    What an odd little article. Summary: I define Christians in a particular, idiosyncratic way. It would exclude most believers in Christ. Then, using my own quirky definition, I exclude you. Maybe someday , if you bring your beliefs in line with my definition, I might declare you a Christian. Why on earth would I care how someone else defines my religion? I know myself to be a follower of Christ – albeit an imperfect one, ever dependent on His tender mercies. If anyone wants to understand Mormons better, I’d be happy to talk with them. If someone else wants to contort themselves in knots to declare me not a Christian, it is of no concern to me. Nor can I imagine how it is of value to them.

  • phillipcsmith

    True Christians are anyone who loves God with all their heart, might, mind and strength and love his or her neighbor as oneself. This is, in my view, the best definition of a Christian

    • Xanag

      But who is God?

      • bytebear

        Are you referring to God the Father or God the Son or God the Holy Ghost? Because then you get mired in the mysteries of the Trinity. The more important question is who is Christ. And Mormons are quite clear on that answer.

        • trueinar .

          Yes, they teach that he is Jehovah the Son of Elohim and his wife, who (along with Adam back when he was called Michael in the pre-existence) helped make the Earth and then volunteered to come down so that mankind could have free will rather than follow the plan of his brother Lucifer who wanted to save everyone by removing free will. He then said the glory would go to his father and then was promptly given all the glory. That isn’t vastly different from every single other form of Christianity… Wait, it actually is. This made me think that the other churches might have a point in saying that the LDS church doesn’t fit in the same classification as them.

          • bytebear

            Again, pulling out lies. Boy, you really do know all the tricks.

          • dhrogers

            Those things are quite different from what current mainstream Christianity teaches. Some other things that Mormons teach could added to your list of things that are different from current Christianity. But, many of those very things are found in the teachings of early Christianity and in the Bible. So, when there are differences between Early Christian theology and practice, and current Christian theology and practice, which one is more correct?

            I view lists like yours – things that are supposed to make Mormons look bad and less Christian-like – to be the very things that confirm that Mormonism is a restoration of correct original Christianity.

  • Thad Gillespie

    There are basically two ways of defining “Christianity:” 1) in terms of taxonomy and 2) in terms of salvation. Sam conflates them in the article.

    Mormons claim to be Christians based on taxonomy: this is the religious family to which they most reasonably belong. Centrally, they believe what Jesus of Nazareth taught, they believe he rose from the dead, they believe in the Bible, etc. If you were to categorize them as anything, you would not stick them in with Islam or Shinto. You would include them under the huge and diverse “Christian” umbrella. And Mormons do not object to Catholics and Protestants, Copts and Jehovah’s Witnesses, being included.

    Mormons are typically categorized as non-Christian by other Christians based primarily in terms of salvation. The basic argument is that certain religions are not heaven-bound, so those religions should be swept off the table. But this definition requires a priori knowledge of what Christianity is, or the ability to read God’s mind to predict which religions are acceptable to Him. The result of this kind of categorization is myriad islands of religious groups who consider themselves saved and all others not. It may be an appropriate worldview for a particular religion, but I don’t see it as a helpful form of categorization.

  • bytebear

    This is an odd piece. Mormons don’t differentiate “true Christians” from “false Christians” Anyone who follows Christ, believes Him to be the Savior, is a Christian, regardless of denomination. But, denominationally, Mormons believe the keys to God’s kingdom are only held with them. And those keys allow one to covenant with God, gaining blessings beyond those who chose not to covenant.

    The essay really goes haywire near the end when the author believes Mormon theology is not deep or complete. Or that it perhaps isn’t Christ centered enough. I can’t really tell. I suspect it is more of an issue where the author takes umbrage that Mormons do not shift toward his brand of Christianity, forgoing their own. The statement “[b]ut, eventually, saying ‘I believe in in Jesus Christ, therefore I am a Christian too’ will need to be strengthened by a theology that supports it in detail and doctrine” is very telling., Clearly the author has a superficial understanding of Mormonism, but does not understand the doctrines very well. The details are very well defined.

    • trueinar .

      ” Mormons don’t differentiate ‘true Christians’ from ‘false Christians’”

      As someone who was raised LDS and went on a mission I am going to have to call B.S. very loudly here. In the currently accepted account of the first vision Elohim called all existing forms of Christianity abominations and in the Book of Mormon it says there are only two churches: God’s church and The Great and abominable Church, yea, even the whore of the Earth/the church of the Devil. I think that pretty much says that they believe they are the only true church and all others are deceptions from the workings of Satan. All the pretty words to the contrary are lies to get along with others until they can convert them. If you say otherwise you question the first vision and the Book of Mormon which are the foundations of the LDS church.

      • Guy Briggs

        “… called all existing forms of Christianity abominations …”

        Erm, no. He did not. He specifically referred to the creeds as such.

        • trueinar .

          Oh, he just called the cores of their teachings and beliefs abominations. Churches (Christian especially) are made of their beliefs so your point is not only incorrect but an example of the pretty little lies I mentioned.

          • Guy Briggs

            The most obvious logical problem with that response is that the first creed was written about 325 AD. If you can’t be a Christian without believing a creed, then there were no Christians in the New Testament.

            More importantly, when you have to redefine a word to make your argument work (in the present case Creed=Christian) You are committing the Logical Fallacy of Equivocation.

          • trueinar .

            Do you know what a creed is? It is a formal statement of beliefs or doctrines as accepted by a denomination and is a summery of its core beliefs. The Nicene Creed isn’t the only creed. I didn’t redefine it to fit my argument, you did. Also, at no point did I equate accepting any creed as being necessary for being Christian. I merely stated that calling a church’s creed an abomination is calling that church an abomination. Did you even read what I said? Also, why is it that every time someone brings up the name of a logical fallacy in a debate with me they don’t seem to understand the clear English I have written? Do I just end up debating first year philosophy students excited to use their new terms? Straw man, ad hominem and special pleading.

          • Guy Briggs

            “… at no point did I equate … I merely stated …”

            A distinction without a difference.

            “… Did you even read what I said?”

            Technically, I read what you wrote. To make the claim stick that God “called all existing forms of Christianity abominations” you have to accept “creed” as synonymous with “Christian.” I’ve merely demonstrated that there were Christians long before there were creeds.

            “… they don’t seem to understand the clear English …”

            I think you just answered your own question.

          • trueinar .

            “A distinction without a difference.”

            Wow, you are really pretentious. Stating things equals equating them now? Really?

            “Technically, I read what you wrote. To make the claim stick that God
            “called all existing forms of Christianity abominations” you have to
            accept “creed” as synonymous with “Christian.” I’ve merely demonstrated
            that there were Christians long before there were creeds.”

            You read without understanding. If you take what I said to mean that creed was synonymous with Christian I don’t think I can help you. I will try but I don’t have much hope for you comprehending this. A denomination or form of Christianity has beliefs. With Christianity usually being about orthodoxy (correct belief) more than anything it isn’t hard to equate a denomination or form of Christianity with its creed. That is to say that a church is its beliefs at its core as the people come and go. Creeds are the beliefs of their denominations. In the first vision Joseph Smith said that god said of all other churches (or denominations or forms or Christianity) that their creeds were abominations thus their core beliefs which basically make up what they are could be considered abominations. It is a leap to say that I said that creed=christian and an unreasonable one. Also, while the formal creeds you mentioned didn’t exist at the beginning of Christianity the early Christians had core beliefs. If anything I said creed=the beliefs of a group of people or an organization (which is correct). That isn’t to say that the creeds adopted by the early Christian mainstream are Christianity. That would be silly considering the various “heresies”. However, I never, ever said that creed (which I didn’t know was a noun that could only be applied to one creed which I thought was something as broad as it is defined in most dictionaries) is Christian. I never said that accepting the creeds of the mainstream Christian churches was necessary for one to be Christian. I never claimed to be able to say what was or wasn’t Christian. You made me out to do that in your head to feed your persecution complex and your hypersensitivity because you have been taught that being persecuted means you are right. You should examine your beliefs if you are so hypersensitive as to see an attack that wasn’t there and persecution that isn’t there because those are signs that your faith isn’t that strong. I won’t be your bogyman and unless you say something worth debating rather than continue with these senseless arguments I am not going to humor you further with attempting to explain myself.

      • Thomas Johnson

        Trueinar, My understanding and belief is that Jesus Christ was not saying to Joseph Smith that there are no good things in any of the religions; indeed, I believe there are many good things in pretty much all religions; but he was saying there are errors in those religions that are detracting from the fullness of the gospel. Joseph Smith was called to restore the fullness of the gospel.

        • trueinar .

          Another one of the current stock responses. This is my one of my biggest problems with the LDS church. It is all about the canned responses and no one explains things from their own point of view or using their own language.

          • Thomas Johnson

            trueinar, I am saying that is what I believe and I am a Mormon, so I am explaining it from my own point of view and using my own language.

          • trueinar .

            I believe that you believe that. I, as much as I am probably not properly expressing it, don’t have a problem with the people of the church so much as the organization. You believe they are your words but they are a tagline you have been fed over and over and over and over again to make it seem to be your own. It is just like when you hear politicians of one party or the other use the exact same language to talk about a subject but never deviate from the script. I know it is tricky and all religions seem to do it to one degree or another and I should be more understanding of it but with the LDS church it is kind of personal. I accepted their lines for most of my life. I thought I was using my own language but now that I am out it is so clear what is going on. Members of the LDS church don’t seem to search out much of a personal theology (something I have come to view as extremely important). They are given a completely prepared message. Until fairly recently missionaries gave word for word lessons when teaching people about the church. Even now there isn’t that much wiggle room. It isn’t just the LDS church but I have dealt more with it there.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Trueinar, I feel sorry that you have lost your faith in what you used to believe. You obviously feel that you were deceived or weren’t given all the facts. I can assure you, though, that when I say I believe that there is good in all religions that I mean it. I am now 65 years old. I have studied Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam in the course of my life. I have studied and attended many denominations within Christianity. Like you seem to be saying, I have met some good people in all the religions and denominations I have studied, but the problem is that the truth they have is mixed with errors, which I say not because the LDS Church says that, but because I have personally researched it. One of the great things about the LDS theology is it embraces all truth:

            ” . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (thirteenth Article of Faith).

          • trueinar .

            Yeah, but I tested out the promises and found them lacking. I devoted my life to it and was given nothing but pain, frustration and got to see it start to eat my grandfather away. I have seen it destroy families and feel more at peace outside of it. Leaving was the best thing I have ever done for my mental and emotional help.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Yes, I can feel the pain in your posts. My daughter is going through this right now. She married in the temple then her husband cheated on her two years ago (with both genders). She divorced and then met an LDS former bishop on-line who represented that he was worthy to hold a temple recommend. She moved to be near him with her three children at his request and expecting to marry, but it turned out he was immoral, and she felt the Lord had let her down. Now, she thinks maybe it would be easier to just try to be an honorable person and qualify for the Terrestrial Kingdom than to make all the effort to comply with the requirements of the Celestial Kingdom. I do concede that qualifying for the Celestial Kingdom is not easy in today’s world.

          • trueinar .

            I have to say something here. I have felt more peace and happiness at trying to be good for the sake of being good than I ever did when I was trying to earn the Celestial Kingdom. I have new beliefs and love them and benefit from them but now being good isn’t about the afterlife for me. The reward/punishment paradigm didn’t work for me. I will admit that my early thoughts included feeling okay with going to the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms but I honestly don’t believe in that view of the afterlife anymore. I hope things go alright for your daughter. It sounds like you will be supportive of her and I applaud you for that. The church would be quite a bit better if more people were willing to be supportive of family members who leave.

          • Thomas Johnson

            The “Mormon” belief is that the Celestial Kingdom is not for every everybody and Jesus said that “strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it.” One of the things I like about our religion is that there is a Terrestrial Kingdom for those who decide they don’t want to make the sacrifices necessary for the Celestial Kingdom but live honorable lives–they can have a better reward than going to the Telestial Kingdom with the serious sinners. In other Christian denominations (and Islam) it’s either heaven or hell in the after-life and I have never thought that was fair.

          • LindaSDF

            I am a “convert” to the LDS church, about 34 years ago. I don’t ever remember being taught that there is a list of requirements to be in the Celestial Kingdom, and if you miss one, you might as well just try to qualify for the Terrestrial Kingdom.
            Yes, being sealed in the temple for time and all eternity to a worthy priesthood holder is a “requirement” (for want of a better word) for the Celestial Kingdom. However, there are women who may never find the worthy priesthood holder to marry. This does NOT preclude them from “qualifying” for the Celestial Kingdom.
            There are two sisters who have served as counselors in the Relief Society General presidency, who have never married. Does anyone honestly think that the Lord would call these women to such positions if they can’t “qualify” for the Celestial Kingdom, just because they were never married?
            I do not do the things I do to “qualify” for the Celestial Kingdom. I do them because to do them brings blessings to my life, and to not do them makes life that much harder.
            It’s not the destination that’s most important. It’s the journey. Bad things do not happen to us because the Lord let us down. And the blessings we get for doing what we should do does not always manifest as what WE want.
            Bad things happen to us to either make us stronger, or make us give up.
            Also, to respond to what trueinar said, I have never heard of a “reward/punishment paradigm”. God does not punish. The worst that He would ever do is “discipline” which is totally different from “punish”. If we do not do what He asks of us, if we do the opposite, then He will allow the consequences, but that’s not Him punishing anyone. It’s Him allowing the chips to fall where they may.
            Blessings are not rewards. Sometimes, the blessings we receive are not what we wanted, or expected.
            I had determined that, if I could not find a worthy priesthood holder to take me to the temple, and BE that worthy priesthood holder, I would not ever get married. And that’s when I met my husband.
            Thomas, your daughter can best “qualify” for the Celestial Kingdom by keeping herself worthy to go to the temple, by being the best mother she can be, and by preparing to be the best wife she can be. If she never gets married in this life, that’s not her fault, unless she conscientiously turns down someone who is worthy of her. She will not go to the Terrestrial Kingdom because her husband, and a potential husband, were both idiots.
            I forget who said it, but the phrase “Never give up. NEVER give up. NEVER, ever, ever, give up” is one she should write on her bathroom mirror so she can see it every day.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Linda, it seems you are misunderstanding what I am saying. There are definitely requirements for the Celestial Kingdom. Those requirements are: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins by someone who hold proper priesthood authority, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (Acts 2:37-38; 3 Nephi 11; D&C 76). Exaltation if the highest sub-division of the Celestial Kingdom. In order to be exalted, it is a requirement to marry in the temple and keep the covenants made in the temple. (D&C 131:1-2). It is not necessary to marry in the temple in order to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. I absolutely agree with you that there are women, and also men, who are not able to find someone in this life who is worthy that they can marry in the temple. I believe that the Lord has promised to them that if they desire to be married for eternity and live worthily that they will be provided a worthy spouse after the resurrection in the Millennium. This applies to those two worthy Relief Society counselors and many others.

            As to rewards and punishments, Joseph Smith taught, “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). The “punishment” that God gives for not obeying his commandments is that the person loses the blessings they could have had by such obedience. I think it was because you were tested and determined that you would rather not marry in this life than marry someone who was unworthy to take you to the temple that the Lord blessed you with someone who could do that.

            I also fully agree with you that you cannot lose your blessings of the Celestial Kingdom or exaltation just because your spouse breaks their covenants to the Lord. The issue for my daughter is that she knows all these things but is considering giving up on seeking a person to marry in the temple and marrying someone else who is not LDS.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            May I ask this, Thomas, regarding your belief in “divinity” relative to “Trinity”: Do you think that Catholics and LDS believers believe in the same God?
            And a related question: Does “the Heavenly Father” possess a human soul that has existed through all eternity?

          • Thomas Johnson

            Yes, I do think that Catholics and LDS believe in the same God. The reason I say that is that we both believe in the Bible. While there are 275 Christian denominations that all have their own interpretation of the Bible, the purpose of the Bible is to testify of the existence of God and help us to understand Him. As to your second question, I don’t really understand it–I don’t know what you mean by God the Father possessing a “human” soul. I believe, and the Bible teaches, that we are all the spirit children of God. I believe that means God created our spirits.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Thanks, Thomas, for the reply. I probably didn’t phrase my second question so well. Should focus on the term “spirit” rather than “soul” perhaps? In reading some LDS theology, I’ve understood it to affirm that *all* “spirits” are pre-existent–they do not actually have a beginning? But your reply might suggest otherwise? Do you then believe that God creates our “spirits” from nothing? That our spirits have not always existed? Thanks for any clarification, as I may have misunderstood this point…

          • Thomas Johnson

            O.K., Jim, now I understand your question better. Mormons believe that “intelligences” have always existed and that matter (or “element”) has always existed (I confess I can’t comprehend anything always existing, but that’s what we believe about God, so I’ll have to remain ignorant on this issue). We believe that the creation of this earth spoken of in Genesis is more correctly described as organizing existing matter than creation ex nihilo. We have been told by a revelation from Jesus Christ that everything that we know about the creation in the Bible pertains only to this earth, so that we don’t have any revealed knowledge about the earlier creation of the universe, which takes us back to the ex-nihilo question of the universe again, but science seems to say you can’t create matter without converting it from energy, so the question becomes where did the energy come from that was used to create the matter in the universe? Did it come from some previous conversion of matter to energy, repeating some cycle going back forever?–I don’t know, but this question is no harder than if you assume God created the universe out of nothing because you still have to answer the question of who created God, right?). Anyway, God created individual spirits by combining intelligence with spirit and thereby creating a “spirit child” and becoming his or her Heavenly Father (Mormons believe that our spirits have specific form similar to the physical bodies we now have). According to a revelation of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith, “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter; but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified [after the resurrection] we shall see that it is all matter.” According to our doctrine, after existing with our Heavenly Father for an unknown period of time, God created an earth where we were born and our spirit, created by God, united with our physical bodies to undergo further experience in this life, particularly learning to understand the benefits, powers, and temptations of a physical body. Just to finish it off, when we die our spirit separates from our body, but in the resurrection the spirit and a perfected, immortal, incorruptible body reunite.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Thomas–thanks indeed for a very thorough response. In my view, I’d say your comment above helps to illustrate the significant chasm between the classical philosophical view of the nature of God and the LDS view, regarding creation of both the universe and the human person. *Lots* of profound differences to wrestle with, and I think it makes clear that, while we have the Bible in common, having it so does not actually yield compatible descriptions of who God really is, who we ourselves really are, and who Jesus is as Messiah….I thank you for helping me understand your view. Please let me know if you want me to elaborate on any of the differences I’m mentioning.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Well, Jim, I suppose you ought to have equal opportunity to tell me your view.

          • Thomas Johnson

            Did you sign off? I really would like to hear your view.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Thomas–unable till now to give this some attention. From my perspective, here are some of the essential issues arising from the LDS theology when compared to Catholic theology rooted in both Jewish origin and a “classical” philosophical understanding of God and us:
            1. LDS founders add the idea of eternally existing “intelligences.”
            2. LDS founders add the idea of eternally existing “element” (matter).
            3. LDS founders add that God does not “create” the heavens and the earth from nothing but merely “reshapes” matter *into* our Earth and its creatures.
            4. LDS founders add that God creates us humans by combining eternally existing “intelligence” with pre-existing “spirit” (with the help of a “spirit mother”, correct?) and that we exist like this with God *before* getting physical bodies.
            5. LDS founders add that “spirit” is really a form of “matter”.
            6. LDS founders add that we the “spirit children” of the Father (and the mother, right?) *then* get human bodies here on earth.
            These I surmise from your detailed comment above. I would also add (correct me if I’m wrong on any of these please):
            7. LDS founders say that the Heavenly Father has a human body, as does Jesus, but the “Holy Spirit” does not (is merely a “spirit child”?), and denies the Trinity.
            8. LDS founders claim that Jesus was Incarnate through Mary’s sexual union with the Heavenly Father.
            9. LDS founders claim that Lucifer (Satan) is a “spirit brother” of Jesus.
            10. LDS founders claim that “the Heavenly Father” was once *not* God but “progressed” to “godhood” from an origin like our own.
            11. LDS founders claim that we, too, are capable of progressing to the same kind of “divine” status afforded “the Heavenly Father” whom we call God.
            12. LDS founders do not accept the idea of a place of the damned–hell–but rather embrace the threefold “terrestrial, celestial, and telestial” kingdoms.
            So, here are a dozen claims made by the LDS Church that begin not with the Bible but with the founders of the LDS Church in the early 19th century and following. None of these claims, to my knowledge, can be found in the history of Christianity before then. Even these dozen alone result in such a markedly different view of God, Jesus, Mary, the Bible, Creation, and Man as to be mutually *exclusive* with even “mere Christianity”, let alone Catholic teaching.
            This is why I think it’s hard to believe we have the same God in mind when we worship. I really think the term “Christian” cannot contain both a Catholic and an LDS view of these things. Catholics believe in the Blessed Trinity and in a God who creates *everything*. We believe “spirit” is *not* matter. We believe that our intelligences and “spirits” do *not* exist before bodily conception. We believe in the Virgin Birth. We believe in heaven, purgatory, and hell. We believe in sanctification but not in a divinization that can make us into gods.
            So many differences. And honestly both views can’t be “right.” Ought we not follow the historical evidence where it leads?

          • JohnH2

            Your #8 is a fringe view of Brigham Young that has been discounted.

            #10 has been a view, but it also contradicts things like the Book of Abraham. A more doctrinally sound position based on scripture is that just as Christ was God before being born and continues to be God even while born and after resurrection that is the state of the Father. There are a few possible implications of that which are probably best not to get into as everything is speculation.

            #11; It really isn’t too very different then Theosis or Divinization.

            12: that really depends on what you mean by damned; I mean Paul talks about three heavens.

            Christianity already contains Arians and Catholics so I don’t see what the problem with having Mormons and Arians and Catholics be Christians because they all try to follow Christ is.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Argh! JohnH2–I had a really detailed reply for you that disqus just apparently ate and I can’t get back! If time permits I’ll try again later, but thanks for your comment!

          • Thomas Johnson

            Jim, I was really looking for you to tell me what you believe. You refer to the “classical philosophical understanding of God and the Christian religion. What is that? Who is the author of that? You’re not really trying to say that the Catholic interpretation of the Bible is the same as the Eastern Orthodox or the various Protestant denominations’ interpretation, are you? When you say the following about what Catholics believe, are you saying that’s what you believe: “Catholics believe in the Blessed Trinity and in a God who creates everything*. We believe “spirit” is *not* matter. We believe that our intelligences and “spirits” do *not* exist before bodily conception. We believe in the Virgin Birth. We believe in heaven, purgatory, and hell. We believe in
            sanctification but not in a divinization that can make us into gods.” I suppose you contend that all of these things that you say Catholics believe (and apparently, you, too) come from interpretations of the Bible. Why is your interpretation any more correct than our interpretation. If you contend that some or part of your interpretation comes from philosophers, my position is that I trust information revealed from God more than the opinions of philosophers.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Thomas—yes, I’ve given you my beliefs in stating what Catholics believe. Part of the difficulty is that you seem to reduce the question to one of Biblical “interpretation” as the measure of truth and authority. Actually, we Catholics are more like the LDS Church when it comes to authority–at least to the extent that the Bible alone doesn’t do it. In fact, *unlike* the LDS Church, it is the Catholic Church herself whose authority has determined just what the “Bible” really is (and isn’t). Catholics believe and accept (just like the Bible says) that it is the *Church* that is the pillar and foundation of truth.
            In this regard, the LDS Church comes to the scene way too late to have her “authority” taken seriously, whereas the Catholic Church arrives right on time. The LDS Church seems to understand and imitate this concept, given that it appeals to ecclesial authority to actually *expand* the canon of Scripture to the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, etc. So I’m assuming you will understand the Catholic view is that the Bible needs an authoritative teacher and interpreter–the successors of the Apostles (the Pope and bishops)….

          • Thomas Johnson

            O.K., Jim, I am going to try to maintain a civil, respectful discourse with you, but you are sounding very patronizing by saying that the “LDS Church comes to the scene way too late to have her authority taken seriously, whereas the Catholic Church arrives right on time.” Probably, you take the position that the Catholic Church came into existence when Christ died and Peter became the first “pope” in Rome. You would also say that the authority of the Catholic Church to perform ordinances that were valid in the sight of God and to interpret the scriptures came into existence at the same time and has continued unbroken since then. However, the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Coptic Christians, and all the Protestant denominations, including the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Quakers, Pentecostals, Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. disagree with you. All of them say that the Roman Catholic church changed the doctrines of original Christianity and corrupted them; that the Roman church changed and corrupted the ordinances and lost the authority to perform them. They say that the lives of many of the popes were too shamefully sinful to believe that they were acting in accordance with the guidance of God. When printing was invented and the Bible became widely available, the Catholic Church was no longer able to enforce its prohibition on the laity reading the Bible. Many realized that there was a vast difference between the teachings of the Bible and the corrupted Christianity being taught and practiced in the Catholic Church. These people became the Protestant churches whose aim was to reform Christianity and restore it to the original teachings of Christ. The problem was, of course, that they had only the Bible to rely on and there are many interpretations of the Bible. The Catholics claimed that the Protestants worshiped the Bible (“Bibliolatry”) and had no authority (priesthood) from merely reading the Bible to organize a church that would be recognized by God. The Protestants retorted that there was a “priesthood of all believers.” “Mormons” believe the Eastern Orthodox and Protestants are right that the doctrines and ordinances of the Catholic Church have been corrupted from original Christianity, and we agree with the Catholics that you can’t get authority to organize (or re-organize) Christ’s church merely from reading the Bible. The Mormons declare that Jesus Christ himself instructed Joseph Smith and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints how to reform Christianity and restored the authority to perform valid ordinances, such as baptism, that would be recognized by God through the visitation of John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John, Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Malachi. We do not claim our authority from reading the Bible. Jesus Christ caused the Book of Mormon to be written 1400 years before the birth of Joseph Smith and brought it forth “right on time” in preparation for the gathering of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as a means for Joseph Smith and the members who accepted it as a way to compare and contrast the popular interpretations of the Bible and to know which interpretation was the truth. This is also true of the revelations given to Joseph Smith collected in the book, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Finally, in regard to the timing of the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ, we believe that the saving atonement that Jesus Christ would perform was known from Adam through all the prophets of the Old Testament and that “Christianity” existed long before the birth of Jesus Christ. We also believe that periods of corruption, apostasy and disbelief, were interspersed with re-establishment of that knowledge from time to time as God called prophets to testify and re-teach the correct gospel. So, Joseph Smith was not creating some new gospel in 1830; his calling was to restore the gospel taught by the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ himself, and the believers of the New Testament Christian church. As such, the gospel we teach and practice is far older than the Catholic Church, which “arrived on the scene too late to have its authority taken seriously.”

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Thomas–sorry, didn’t mean to come across as completely dismissive, but I am being frank about how I view the LDS claims, I guess. Here would be a time-saver–*everything* claimed by the LDS Church ultimately rests upon the historicity of the “great apostasy” 2000 years ago (although one might also add that a lot rests on the claim that Native Americans are really lost Israelite tribes and that Solomon Spaulding really did *not* write the manuscript upon which the Book of Mormon was based, but that’s for another time…).
            So, let’s talk history–can you give me a date and place for the great apostasy, and who were the main players in the drama, and where does one find the historical evidence from ancient times of this event? Where will one find evidence of it?

          • Thomas Johnson

            Jim,

            The “great apostasy” occurred over time after the death of Jesus’ apostles. It consisted of gradual changes in the doctrines and ordinances of Christianity. It is not even necessary to resort to “Mormon” writings to document this, since the Protestants did a very thorough job. The only thing the “Mormons” added to the discussion was Jesus Christ’s declaration to Joseph Smith that all the sects were wrong and that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that the professors of religion were corrupt and that they teach for doctrines the commandments of men. Further, that the religious leaders “have strayed from mine ordinances and broken mine everlasting covenant.” The Book of Mormon and other scriptures that clarify and settle disputes over the proper interpretation of the Bible are also witnesses that the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church were corrupted. I should tell you that when I went out as a young missionary for the Mormon Church, there was only a couple of paragraphs to discuss with investigators about the great apostasy. I realized that that was the area of the gospel that I had the least knowledge. I then spent 30 years of my life researching history to see if there was any evidence for what our church teaches. I was overwhelmed by all the evidence I found. Eventually, in 2004, I wrote a book entitled, Life’s Three Greatest Questions: Does God Exist? Is Christianity the “True” Religion? Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the True Form of Christianity. In discussing the last question I documented extensive historical evidence of the great apostasy in 128 pages. You can understand that I am not going to include all of that in an e-mail response to you. If you would give your word as a Christian that you would read it, I would send it to you for free. Just let me know if you really want to know.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Thomas–I’m quite open to the possibility of reading through your book. But can you whet my appetite a bit by offering just one piece of your evidence here? Can you share what you consider to be the earliest evidence of the apostasy that you have found?

          • Thomas Johnson

            Jim,

            The discussion of the “Great Apostasy” that occurred through what historians are virtually unanimous in characterizing as the “Dark Ages” (as opposed to the various apostasies that occurred during Old Testament times), begins with the prophecies in the Bible that this Great Apostasy would occur:
            1. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24:5)
            2. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it (Amos 8:11-12)
            3. The heads thereof [of the house of Israel] judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us (Micah 3:11)
            4.. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
            5. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
            6. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. . . . [T]he
            dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and
            threescore days [years] . . . And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the
            wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent (Revelations 12:1,4-6, 13-14; JST Revelations 12:5)
            7. And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. . . . And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations (Revelations 13:7)
            There are also scriptures that prophesy of the restoration of the gospel

          • dhrogers

            Re: Item 5 LDS founders add that “spirit” is really a form of “matter”.

            John 4:24 which says that “God is spirit” was understood by the early Christians to be proof that god had a body because spirit was considered to be made of substance.

            The Greek term “asomatos” for incorporeal does not appear in the Bible. And when this term appears in noncanonical Christian writings the use of the term meant for Early Christians “a material body that is just much finer and palpable than those conceived through the senses.” (Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Being: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” in “Harvard Theological Review” 83 (1990): 108-9)

            The Greek word “pneuma” literally meant air, or breath, thus implying that spirit is both material and corporeal. (Paulsen, p. 109).

            Origen even noted that the text John 4:24 “God is spirit” was initially understood as proof against incorporeal thinking for a spirit was considered to have substance. “I know that some will attempt to say that, even according to the declaration of our own scriptures, God is a body, because they find it said in the Gospel according to John that God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Spirit according to them is to be regarded as nothing less than a body.” (Paulsen, p. 109).

            Origen in speaking of the resurrection, and of man being made in God’s image, says that the argument arose of “whether God of all things is clothed with a body… He was with some material covering “that the likeness of the life of God, may be in the end produced also in the saints.” [Origen, "De Principiis", The Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., "The Ante-Nicene Fathers", Eerdmans, reprint Oct. 1979., vol. 4, p. 345].

          • dhrogers

            Re: Item 8. LDS founders claim that Jesus was Incarnate through Mary’s sexual union with the Heavenly Father.

            Critics are fond of taking parts out of quotes from LDS leaders like, like Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith, Brigham Young, and others, and they make them say something different than what was actually said.

            Brigham Young and other LDS leaders state that the pregnancy and birth of Jesus were mortal processes and maybe even the conception was a normal conception but not that the conception was accomplished through sexual activity. The idea that God had sex with Mary is an idea not found in Mormonism. It is something that critics of the Mormon Church make up as a straw man argument. Mormon leaders have consistently taught that Mary was a virgin after the conception and after the birth meaning that there was no intercourse involved in the conception. Mormon leaders make the point that the pregnancy was a normal mortal pregnancy from beginning to end but they don’t address HOW the pregnancy was initiated. Anti-Mormons twist this into God having sex with Mary but that is their own invention and not a Mormon belief.

            Mormons teach that Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost as both the Bible and Book of Mormon teach. Mormons teach that Mary was still a virgin after she conceived. Even we humans have the ability to create test tube babies where the sperm donor and the egg donor never have to know each other let alone have intimate relations with each other. If we can do that then certainly God is smart enough to cause Mary to conceive without a sexual act. Mormon teaching says nothing about a sexual act being involved. This is a straw man invention of the critics, does not represent LDS teaching, and is not worthy of serious journalism. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that Mary was still a virgin after conception. This means that there was no sexual act involved.

            Note the following teachings of the Mormon Church:

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to Fox News on this question as follows:
            “The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.” (Fox News, “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith,” (18 December 2007).)

            Mormons believe the following from the Bible:

            Luke 1:34-35
            34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
            35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

            Mormons believe the following from the Book of Mormon:

            1 Neph1 11:18-20
            18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
            19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
            20And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

            And:

            Alma 7:10
            10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

            Ezra Taft Benson, president of the LDS Church, taught:
            He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Nephi 11:20.) (From Ezra Taft Benson, “Joy in Christ,” Ensign (March 1986), 3–4)

            Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland taught: in 2007:

            “Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well.”

            Since Mary was still a virgin after the birth she clearly had no sexual intercourse before that time.

          • dhrogers

            Re: Item 9. LDS founders claim that Lucifer (Satan) is a “spirit brother” of Jesus.

            In an electronic search of 1,000 LDS church books and Scriptures, the phrase Jesus and Satan are brothers appears nowhere.

            In December 2007 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) issued the following press release on this issue:

            “Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan,” Press release (12 December 2007))

            God is stated to be the father of spirits: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the father of spirits and live?” (Heb. 12:9). The Bible also tells us that “angels are ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:13-14). So God is the Father of the spirits which are angels and he is also the Father of the spirits that inhabit our bodies. “We are the offspring of God.” (Acts 17:28,29) Jesus had a spirit in him for when he was on the cross He said “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus also said that, with Him, we have a common father, saying: “I ascend to my Father and your Father (John 20:17).

            Romans 8:29 says that Christ was appointed beforehand (KJV uses “predestined”) to “be the firstborn among many brethren.” Since Jesus was not the firstborn on earth then in what way is He the “firstborn among many brethren?” Speaking of the council in Heaven before the world was Job says: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord…” (Job 1:6) and Job also speaks of the time “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:4-7). Jesus is “the morning star.” (Rev. 22:16) Job tells us that there were other “morning stars” (Job 38:7) and he reminds us that Satan was also among these “sons of God” or “morning stars” saying: ”Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. (Job 1:6). Job repeats this information again in Job 2:1.

            So, Satan was among those “sons of God,” and “morning stars.” But we learn from Jesus that Satan fell from his high position because of rebellion against God. Jesus said “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18) Lucifer, another name for Satan, means “light bearer” and so we see this “morning star” or “light bearer” fall from heaven like lightning. Isaiah confirms that Lucifer is a son and he marvels asking “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isaiah 14:12) and John tells us that: ”there was war in heaven: “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:7-9:)

            The Bible tells us that before his fall Satan was among the sons of God and among the morning stars which gathered together before the earth was created. Jesus is THE morning star meaning the preeminent morning star but with Him were other morning stars including Lucifer. Additionally, Christians understand that God created all things and that everything that exists are His creations as the Apostle John taught (John 1:3 see also Col. 1:16 & Rev. 4:11) Then it is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are “brothers.” Both are morning stars among the sons of God that were gathered together in beginning and both have the same spiritual parent, or creator, God the Father. To believe otherwise is to believe that Satan was not created by God and exists independent of God. We would then have to accept that God did not create all things.

            Cain and Able were brothers, and yet no Bible believer would say that they are spiritual equals. Mother Teresa and Hitler are siblings, both being children of God, yet no one would say that they are equivalent. The scriptures teach the superiority of Jesus over the devil.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdQbtpUbfy0&feature=em-uploademail-new

            At least some early Christians teach a doctrine very similar to LDS Belief regarding Jesus and Satan being brothers. Would you then dismiss the early Christians as not Christian because they believed the same as Mormons?

            The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius (A.D. 260-330), wrote

            Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,–inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,–in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father… Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father. This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us. God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power. (Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2.9. in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (1885; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 7:52–53.)

            Here, Lactantius, considered an Orthodox Christian in his time, teaches that God “produced a Spirit like to Himself” who is Jesus and “then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain” who was Satan. Lactantius has Jesus and Satan as brothers. Were the early Christians of Lactantius’s time then, not Christian?

            Many things Lactantius here taught are not considered “orthodox” by today’s standards. However, Lactantius shows us that they were definitely orthodox during his lifetime. Amazingly, many things here correspond to LDS doctrine precisely in those areas that are “unorthodox.” For example,

            1) “He produced a Spirit like to Himself,” namely Christ. Christ, in this sense, is not the “co-equal,” “eternally begotten,” “same substance” “persona” of the later creeds.
            2) “Then he made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain.” God made another spirit who rebelled and who fell from his exalted status. He is the diabolus.
            3) 3. Christ is the “first and greatest Son.” Not the “only” son.
            4) 4. Lastly, since the diabolus and Christ are both spirit sons of God, they are spirit brothers.

            People sometimes claim that believing that Jesus and Satan are brothers is non-Christian; but would these same people then exclude Lactantius, and other early Christians from being Christian for that same belief? Would they deny the Biblical teaching that Jesus had many brothers, not all of which were obedient to God? Would they reject the Biblical teaching that God created all things and all creatures, which would include Satan? Or would they prefer to believe that God did not create Satan which means that God did not create all things?

          • dhrogers

            RE: Item 11. LDS founders claim that we, too, are capable of progressing to the same kind of “divine” status afforded “the Heavenly Father” whom we call God.

            So did the early Christians and Apostles. Even Jesus spoke of this doctrine.

            Item 11 part 1

            Christians today may be appalled at any suggestion that there could be more than one god or that men can become like God, or that there is any hint of polytheism in the Bible. However, that is a Christian tradition of today which is at odds with Biblical fact and early teachings of the Christian Fathers and Bishops in the early Christian Church.

            Jesus taught the following:

            “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

            “Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

            “The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

            “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God:” (John 10:31-36)

            Here, the Jews wanted to stone Jesus ” for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” Jesus then reminded them of their own scripture which teaches that “, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” from Psalms 82:6.

            After this the Jews had to back down. They could not stone him because they knew he was right. They knew that their own scriptures teach the same thing and they had no case against Him. Jesus reminded them that God had “called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken”.

            The Apostle Paul makes a similar point as recorded in the New Testament. Like Isaiah, he writes of false man-made gods in 1 Corinthians chapter 8. In addition to the false man-made gods on earth, he also writes of the existence of true gods in the heavens He says:

            “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many,) But to us there is but one God.. .” (1 Cor. 8: 5-6)

            Here Paul recognizes that there are both false gods on earth and true gods in the heavens, but out of them all, there is only one God for us. Some may doubt that Paul was referring to true gods when he said “in heaven” and “(as there be gods many and lords many,). Yet, among true Bible believers, who can believe that there are false gods in heaven? So, when Paul talks of gods in heaven, he can only be talking of true Gods. Here, the Apostle Paul speaking polytheistically about the gods in heaven but monotheistically when he says that only one of them is our God.

            Psalms 8:4-5 teaches that man is “a little lower than the gods.” The King James Version (and most translations) give it as “lower than the angels,” but the word used in the Hebrew is gods. The Hebrew term “elohim”,or “gods” is used to describe human judges in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8-9. Here authorized servants of God are called “gods.” Exodus 7:1 says that Moses was to be “god to Pharaoh.” Note that these are with a small “g” recognizing the pre-eminence of the God we worship.

            And Paul says in Romans 8:14-18: “For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;”

            And again Christ said to John the Revelator: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelations 3:21)

            John says: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

            In the first verses of the Bible, in the Hebrew, Moses refers to the head God who called forth the other gods. It is not rendered this way in English translations. Yet, scholars have noted that throughout the Bible there is a theme of a head God who presides over the other gods.

            Thus, the head God says “Let US make man in OUR image and after OUR likeness” ( Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis added) Jewish teachers understood Genesis 1:26-26 to teach a plurality of Gods as taught in Kabbalistic (Jewish) readings of the verses. (Owens, “Joseph Smith and Kabbalah Ibid., 182-83.)

            God confirms this elsewhere when He speaks to the other gods, saying “Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil.” (Gen 3:22). Again, notice the reference to “us” – this group that the head God called together.

            And again, the head God speaking to the council said: “let US go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:5-7, emphasis added).

            This council of gods is recognized by Bible scholars as a concept that runs throughout the Bible and includes a head God and the council which He presides over. Thus God can say “let us make man after our own image” and “let us go down,” and so forth.

            Furthermore we read: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.” (Ps. 82:1) Or as it is rendered in the NRSV translation “God has taken His place in the divine council, in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” In this verse the Hebrew term rendered “congregation of the mighty” is from the Hebrew la td[ (cedat ‘el), which really means “the council of God.” The idea of a council of God, wherein the head God meets with the other gods is referenced throughout the Bible. Another Hebrew term that means “council” is dws (s?d). (See the discussion in Frank Moore Cross, “The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,” 274, n. 1; also R. Gordis, “Democratic Origins in Ancient Israel,” in Saul Libermann, ed., Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1950), 376-388.)

            This Hebrew term is often translated “secret” in the KJV. One passage in which it should be read as “council” are Job 15:8 and Job 29:4 wherein it should be rendered “hast thou listened in the council of God?” Other examples of this are:Psalm 25:14; and Proverbs 3:32. Indeed, in some passages, KJV translates it “assembly” (Psalm 111:1; Jeremiah 6:11; 15:17; Ezekiel 13:9), while in a few others KJV renders it “counsel” (Psalm 55:14; 83:3; 89:5-7; Proverbs 15:22; Jeremiah 23:18, 22), while in Psalm 64:2, KJV renders it “secret counsel.” (For a discussion of the Hebrew term, see Raymond Brown, “The Pre-Christian Semitic Concept of ‘Mystery’,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 20 (1958): 418-421.)

            SOWD is the Old Testament Hebrew word for “assembly”, “circle of people in council”, or “confidential talk, secret.” It is similar in meaning to the New Testament “musterion” or mystery. For example, in the King James version, SOWD is translated “secret” (e.g. Amos 3:7, where it literally means “what is going on in the heavenly council” of the gods.)

            Thus, Amos was referring to the idea that God makes known to his prophets the “secret,” or what goes on in the heavenly council. This is repeated throughout the Bible, for instance: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.” (Psalms 82:1)

            As one scholar notes :

            “The existence of other gods is not denied in the first commandment of the decalog itself; in fact it presupposes their existence and forbids the Israelites to worship them.” (Roland de Vaux, The Early History of Israel, Philadelphia, 1968, p 463)

            This teaching of a council of gods is presented in other ancient Jewish and Christian texts. But, even more important, it is clearly found throughout the Bible itself:

            “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex. 15:11)

            “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and the Lord of lords, a great God…
            “Thou shalt fear the Lord they God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
            “He is thy praise, and he is thy God…” (Deu. 11:17, 20-21)

            “Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.” (Ps. 86:8)

            “For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.” (Ps. 97:9)

            “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.” (Ps. 135:5)

            “O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth forever.” (Ps. 136: 2-3)

            “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God.” (Deut. 10:17)

          • dhrogers

            Item 11 part 2

            Not only was this belief a part of the Hebrew religion and not only is it found throughout the Bible, including the New Testament as taught by Jesus Himself as well as Paul, and John, but the Early Christian fathers continued to teach it for centuries following Biblical times. These early Bishops and respected orthodox theologians taught the belief very bluntly and clearly:

            “God became man that man might become God.” (St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinis in: Philip Barlow, doctoral candidate in American Religious History at Harvard: Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History, Sunstone, Vol 8, no 5, pp 13-16))

            “He became what we are, in order that we might be what he is.” (Maximus in Ibid)
            “I may become God to the same extent as he became man.” (Gregory of Nazianus in Ibid)
            “The Holy Spirit aids man in being made God.” (Basil of Ceasarea in Ibid)

            “Flee with all in your power from being man and make haste to become gods.” (Origin in Ibid)
            Speaking of the soul which seeks to become pure Clement of Alexandria said: “The soul, receiving the Lord’s power, studies to become a god.” (Clement in Ibid)

            IRENAEUS, Bishop of Lyons [A.D. 130-200]
            It has been claimed by some that this doctrine of becoming gods is an altogether pagan doctrine that blasphemes the majesty of God. Not all Christians have thought so, however. Irenaeus was instructed by Polycarp. Polycarp was personally instructed by the apostle John. Irenaeus became a prominent bishop in the Church in the second century and became the most important Christian theologian of his time, and is considered orthodox by mainstream Christianity. Yet he taught:

            “If the Word became a man, It was so men may become gods.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk. 5, pref.)

            Irenaeus also taught: “We were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods.” (Ibid, also in (Bettenson, H., The Early Christian Fathers, [London: Oxford University Press, 1956,] p. 94.)

            Also: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, of his boundless love, became what we are that he might make us what he himself is.” (Irenaeus in Henry Betteson, The Early Christian Fathers, London: Oxford University Press, 1956, p 106)

            And: “While man gradually advances and mounts towards perfection; that is, he approaches the eternal. The eternal is perfect; and this is God. Man has first to come into being, then to progress, and by progressing come to manhood, and having reached manhood to increase, and thus increasing to persevere, and persevering to be glorified, and thus see his Lord.” (Irenaeus in Henry Betteson, The Early Christian Fathers, London: Oxford University Press, 1956, p. 94)

            And :”How then will any be a god, if he has not first been made a man? How immortal, if he has not in his mortal nature obeyed his maker? For one’s duty is first to observe the discipline of man and thereafter to share in the glory of God.” (Ibid, pp. 95-96; and Against the Heresies 4.28.4-29.3)

            Indeed, Saint Irenaeus had more to say on the subject of deification:

            “Do we cast blame on him [God] because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men, and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, he declares, ‘I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High.’ For it was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that, what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies,4.38. Cp. 4.11)

            “But man receives progression and increase towards God. For God is always the same, so also man, when found in God, shall always progress toward God.” (Ibid)

            CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
            In the second century, Saint Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.” (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 1; Also in Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 1, (8,4), in Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers, p. 244.)

            Clement also said that “If one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God.. His is beauty, true beauty, for it is God, and that man becomes a god, since God wills it. So Heraclitus was right when he said, ‘Men are gods, and gods are men.’” (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 3.1 See also Clement, Stromateis, 23.)

            And also: “‘To him who has shall be added;’ knowledge to faith, love to knowledge, and love to inheritance. And this happens when a man depends on the Lord through faith, through knowledge, and love, and ascends with him to the place where God is. . . .because of their close intimacy with the Lord there awaits them a restoration to eternal contemplation; and they have received the title of ‘gods,’ since they are destined to be enthroned with other ‘gods’ who are ranked next below the Savior.” (Ibid pp. 243-244)

            JUSTIN MARTYR
            Still in the second century, Saint Justin Martyr insisted that in the beginning men were “made like God, free from suffering and death,” and that they are “thus deemed worthy of becoming gods and of having power to become sons of the highest.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 124)

            ST. CYRIL OF JERUSLEM
            Here is an interesting quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem, an early Christian bishop. This fascinating quote is from his Prologue to the Catechetical Lectures:

            “When thou shalt have heard what is written concerning the mysteries, then wilt thou understand things which thou knewest not. And think not that thou receivest a small thing: though a miserable man, thou receivest one of God’s titles. Hear St. Paul saying, God is faithful. Hear another Scripture saying, God is faithful and just. Foreseeing this, the Psalmist, because men are to receive a title of God, spoke thus in the person of God: I said, Ye are Gods, and are all sons of the Most High. But beware lest thou have the title of ‘faithful,’ but the will of the faithless. Thou hast entered into a contest, toil on through the race: another such opportunity thou canst not have. Were it thy wedding-day before thee, wouldest thou not have disregarded all else, and set about the preparation for the feast? And on the eve of consecrating thy soul to the heavenly Bridegroom, wilt thou not cease from carnal things, that thou mayest win spiritual?”

            JEROME (the Pope’s secretary)
            St. Jerome explains Psalms 82:6 as did Jesus and other early Christian fathers:

            “‘I said: You are gods, all of you sons of the Most High.’ Let Eunomius hear this, let Arius, who say that the Son of God is son in the same way we are. That we are gods is not so by nature, but by grace. ‘But to as many as receive him he gave power of becoming sons of god.’ I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods. ‘I said: Ye are gods, all of you sons of the Most High.’ Imagine the grandeur of our dignity; we are called gods and sons! I have made you gods just as I made Moses a god to pharaoh, so that after you are gods, you may be made worthy to be sons of God. Reflect upon the divine words: ‘with God there is no respector of persons.’ God did not say: ‘I said you are gods,’ you kings and princes; but ‘all’ to whom I have given equally a body, soul, a spirit, I have given equally divinity and adoption. We are ‘all’ born equals. Our humanity is one of equality.” (Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome, Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964 pp 106-107)

            Jerome later indicates that after having become “mere men”, those men can still become gods. He quotes the scriptures and explains: “‘Give thanks to the God of Gods.’ The prophet is referring to those gods of whom it is written: I said: ‘You are gods;’ and again: ‘God arises in the divine assembly.’ They who cease to be mere men, abandon the ways of vice and are become perfect, are gods and the sons of the Most High.” (Ibid p. 353)

            TERTULLIAN
            “If, indeed, you follow those who did not at the time endure the Lord when showing Himself to be the Son of God, because they would not believe Him to be the Lord, then call to mind along with them the passage where it is written, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are children of the Most High;’ and again, ‘God standeth in the congregation of the gods:’ in order that, if the scripture has not been afraid to designate as gods human beings, who have become sons of God by faith , you may be sure that the same scripture has with greater propriety conferred the name of the Lord on the true and one-only Son of God.” (Tertullian, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1885, vol. 3, p. 608)

            ORIGEN
            Like other early Church Fathers, Origen, [A.D. 185-254], also teaches the same Biblical doctrine, of Genesis 1:1, that there is a head god who is “Lord of gods”, Origin teaches that there is a distinction to be made between “the God” and others who are also “gods.”

            “Everything which, without being ‘God-in-himself’ is deified by participation in his godhead, should strictly be called ‘God,’ not ‘the God.’ The ‘firstborn of all creation,.’ Since he by being ‘with God’ first gathered godhood to himself, is therefore in every way more honored than others besides himself, who are ‘gods’ of whom God is the God, as it is said, ‘God the Lord of gods spoke and called the world.’ For it was through his ministry that they became gods, since he drew divinity from God for them to be deified, and of his kindness generously shared it with them. God, then, is the true God, and those who through him are fashioned into gods are copies of the prototype.” (Ibid p. 324)

            Origen went on to teach: “The Father, then, is proclaimed as the one true God; but besides the true God are many who become gods by participating in God.” (Ibid)

            Origen claimed that God “will be ‘all’ in each individual in this way: when all which any rational understanding, cleansed from the dregs of every sort of vice, and with every cloud of wickedness completely swept away, can either feel, or understand, or think, will be wholly God….” (Origen, De Principiis 3:6:3, in Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, p. 345.)

            AUGUSTINE
            Finally, Saint Augustine himself, the greatest of the Christian Fathers, said:

            “But he himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying he makes sons of God. ‘For he has given them power to become the sons of God’ [John 1:12] If then we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods.” (Augustine, On the Psalms, 50.2 Augustine insists that such individuals are gods by grace rather than by nature, but they are gods nevertheless.)

            ST. MAXIMUS
            “We find it in early Orthodox tradition as well, for the ‘chief idea of St. Maximus [who died in 662 A.D.] as of all of Eastern theology, [was] the idea of deification” (S.L. Epifanovic as quoted by Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700). The Christian Tradition, vol. 2, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1974, p. 10, as cited by Peterson and Ricks, p. 79).

            As Paul taught in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, there is a duality to Christianity. Paul taught that there are many gods but only one that we worship, only one that is our God. Mormons hold to the doctrine of Paul and Jesus and not necessarily the doctrine of Western Christianity of today because they no longer teach what Jesus and Paul taught. We do.

            To paraphrase Origin’s thoughts in the words of Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie: “There is and can only be one who is supreme, who is the head and to whom all others are subject”. Becoming like God is not saying we will ever be equal to Him, frankly we won’t and can’t He, and only He, will forever be worshipped by us.”

          • dhrogers

            Re: Item 12. LDS founders do not accept the idea of a place of the damned–hell–but rather embrace the threefold “terrestrial, celestial, and telestial” kingdoms.

            Item 12 part 1

            But LDS theology also includes “outer darkness” which is both a state of being and a place where the most wicked go.

            There is actually more than one meaning of the work “Hell” as used in the scriptures. The first, which could be called a temporary hell, is where departed spirits go to await the resurrection. This could be considered a hell as all dead persons are separated from their bodies and must await, in prison as it were, for the resurrection. The imagery from the scriptures, particularly the writings of Isaiah and Peter, refer to death as hell, or prison, or spirit prison, and speaks of being released from prison by the resurrection provided by Jesus Christ.
            The King James version of the Bible sometimes calls this waiting place “hell” but this comes from the Greek “Hades” and the Hebrew “Sheol”, both of which mean “the world of departed spirits.”
            After passing through the spirit world, the dead are resurrected and the final judgment occurs. It is at this time that assignment to a permanent and final reward is received. At this time some of the people will have accepted the gospel and will be prepared and worthy to receive a high reward. Some will receive exaltation in the highest or Celestial kingdom and will have no bounds to the increase of their kingdoms and dominions. Some will enter into a lower order of the Celestial kingdom where they will be without exaltation and their progress will have a limit. Likewise some will be assigned to the middle or Terrestrial kingdom, and some to the lower or Telestial kingdom where they will also have limits to their advancement (See 1 Cor. 15:41-42; D&C 76). These kingdoms – even the lowest or Telestial kingdom – are kingdoms of glory where conditions much better than those experienced during mortal life.
            All who do not receive exaltation in the highest order of the Celestial kingdom will, in one sense, be damned and will be in hell. Just as a dam holds back water those who do not receive exaltation will be damned because they have limits past which they cannot go. But there is an even more explicit hell reserved for those who will not abide the laws required for entrance to even one of the three kingdoms of glory. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants about a kingdom of no Glory. See Doctrine and Covenants 76:31-48.
            The following is taken from the LDS Bible dictionary under “Hell” and should dispel any notion that Latter-day Saints do not believe in a permanent hell:
            “An English translation of the Hebrew word Sheol, hell signifies an abode of departed spirits and corresponds to the greek Hades. In common speech it generally denotes the place of torment for the wicked, although it has been often held, both in the Jewish and the Christian churches, that Hades (meaning broadly the place of all departed spirits) consists of two parts, Paradise and Gehenna, one the abode of the righeous and the other of the disobedient. ‘Ghenna,’ or ‘Gehenna of fire,’ is the Greek equivalent of the ‘valley of Hinnom,’ a deep glen of Jerusalem where the idolatrous Jews offered their children to Moloch (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 19:2-6). It was afterwards used as a place for burning the refuse of the city (2 Kings 23:10), and in that way became symbolical of the place of torment (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Expressions about ‘hell-fire’ are probably due to the impression produced on men’s minds by the sight of this ceaseless burning, and fire figurative of the torment of those who willfully disobey God.
            “In latter-day revelation hell is spoken of in at least two senses. One is the temporary abode in the spirit world of those who were disobedient in this mortal life. It is between death and the resurrection, and persons who receive the telestial glory will abide there until the last resurrection (D&C 76:84-85,106) at which time they will go to the telestial glory. In this sense the Book of Mormon speaks of spiritual death as hell (2 Nephi 9:10-12). Hell thus defined, will have an end, when all the captive spirits have paid the price of their sins and enter into a degree of glory after their resurrection.
            “Statements about an everlasting hell (Hel. 6:28; Moro. 8:13) must be interpreted in their proper context in the light of D&C 19:4-12, which defines eternal and endless punishment.
            “On the other hand, the devil and his angels, including the sons of perdition, are assigned to a place spoken of as a lake of fire – a figure of eternal anguish. This condition is sometimes called hell in the scriptures (2 Peter 2:4; D&C 29:38; 88:113). This kind of hell, which is after the resurrection and judgment, is exclusively for the devil and his angels, and is not the same as that consisting only of the period between death and resurrection. The one group are redeemed from hell and inherit some degree of glory. The others receive no glory. They continue in spiritual darkness. For them the conditions of hell remain.” (LDS Bible Dictionary, HELL)

          • dhrogers

            Item 12 part 2

            Latter-day Saints believe, as did the original Christians, that heaven has three major divisions or levels. The apostle Paul refers to these three levels: “There is on glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another in glory. So is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:41-42)

            Here Paul explains that in the resurrection there will be different glories, one like the sun, one like the moon, and one like the stars. Paul also talks about being “caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Cor. 12:1-2)

            Early Church Father, Papias, refers to the three levels and says they “are the gradation and arrangement of those that are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature.” (cited in Irenaeus, Adv. Haereses, v36)

            The very early Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, opens by quoting the Lord himself where he admonishes that the document is to come into the hands “only of proven saints who dwell in the third order (or level) next to the mansions of my Father who sent me.” (Test. Dom. N. J. Christ; Rahmani, ed., I, xviii, pp 22 on).

            There are quite a few references to the three heavens in early Christian literature. Non-Mormon scholar, Dr. Dart, commented on this teaching found in early Christian writings, when he said of Christ’s post resurrection ministry: “The Redeemer came back as a resurrected person, and taught them the sacred secret passwords that their souls must have to pass by the different spheres, planets, watchposts, and angels, on their way to the third heaven.”( Quoted in a talk by Vernon Matsen)

            The Bible makes clear that all mankind will be “judged. . . according to their works.” (Revalatiions 20:12) Since people are judged according to their various works, their rewards must differ according to their works. Jesus taught that in His “Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2)

            Paul had a vision of “the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Therefore, Paul teaches us that there are three heavens or, as Mormons put it; three degrees of glory. Paul illustrates the three glories people will receive in the resurrection “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:40-42)

            Early Christian father Origen’s teaching, in the early third century, shows that the early Church interpreted this passage in the same way:

            He says: “Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, “One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars.” (Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294.)

            He further explained that the highest of the three degrees is associated with the Father, and the second degree with the Son:

            “And some men are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely in Him. And third are those of whom we spoke before, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols. “ (Origen, Commentary on John 2:3, in ANF 10:324-325.)

            John Chrysostom was another witness to the fact that the early Church considered this passage to be a reference to degrees of reward in the afterlife:

            “And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, ‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon.’ For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God’s kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:2)

            Even before Origen and Chrysostom, however. Irenaeus taught the same doctrine which had supposedly come from the elders who knew the Apostles. Many think he received it from Papias:

            “And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy. [They say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; also that they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the Apostle, “For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:36:1-2, in ANF 1:567, brackets in original.)

            Clement of Alexandria also expressed belief in the three degrees, and echoed the Lord’s revelation to Joseph Smith. (D&C 76:58)

            “Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed . . . . These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel–the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to “a perfect man,” according to the image of the Lord . . . . To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught.” (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506)

            Clement also preached that the three gradations of glory are procured by virtue of three types of actions:

            Clement of Alexandria] reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is . . . right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him to the height of glory. The second is the class of . . . medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place he reckons sinful actions, which are done by those who fall away from salvation. (ANF 2:506.)

            The older Jewish apocalyptic tradition and many other early Christian groups held to the three heavens scheme. (Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 174.)

          • dhrogers

            “Ought we not follow the historical evidence where it leads?”

            Exactly! How about all those Biblical teachings and also the teachings of the Early Christians that match up with with the theology and practice of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

      • bytebear

        I think I need to call you out on your polemics. First,k your use of “Elohim” instead of God the Father is a pretty big tell that you want to represent Mormonism using Mormon theological verbiage (incorrectly I might add) than to actual practice and belief. Mormons don’t call God Eloheim, they call Him God the Father. Second, the account you reference is found here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng

        Reading it in context, Joseph Smith was looking for the true church, and Jesus Christ (not God the Father) answered that none of the churches were correct, and that the fullness of the Gospel would be restored through Smith. Notice it said the fullness of the Gospel. Christians do have truth and their status as “Christian” is not based on their lack of a fullness of the gospel (meaning priestly authority), but on their belief in Christ.

        And of course, you and I both know that the Whore of Babylon is a common Christian symbol and hardly indicative of unique Mormon belief (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whore_of_Babylon).

        Of course Mormons had their issues with the Christians who were persecuting them. Certainly the Lord was right to call their actions against the Mormons an abomination. But they were grateful for those who did not.

        “Christian sympathy was not very strong for the Latter-day Saints. But we feel very thankful to those who did contribute, and shall ever remember with kindness their generosity towards the Saints.” (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:123)

        But, really the issue isn’t who is Christian. As a former Mormon, you know that Mormons believe that there is a place in Heaven for those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ. But, that to gain higher blessings one must covenant with God administered by proper authority. Mormons most definitely believe they are the sole possessors of that authority, but that does not preclude others from being Christians.

        • trueinar .

          “I think I need to call you out on your polemics. First,k your use of
          “Elohim” instead of God the Father is a pretty big tell that you want to
          represent Mormonism using Mormon theological verbiage (incorrectly I
          might add) than to actual practice and belief. Mormons don’t call God
          Eloheim, they call Him God the Father”

          I think your statement here is a pretty big tell that you don’t know what you are talking about and are one of the huge chunk of LDS defenders who only listen to what is currently being said and slop it up whole without study. Elohim is what Joseph Smith said God the Father’s name is just like Jehovah is what they say Jesus’ name was in the per-existence when he and Michael(Adam in the per-existeince) helped make the Earth. It is a name used over and over and over in early church writings and is also used in the temple (yeah, I went there. The whole thing is already on the internet so it is spilt milk). Saying I am using the term incorrectly shows you have a shallow understanding of the subject and loose all credibility. I use the term to differentiate between deities as I am a polytheist and don’t like the use of a title that belongs to a lot of beings to refer to one of them.

          Also, I didn’t say that they don’t claim that the other churches aren’t Christian but make the distinction of true churches. In the first vision (currently accepted account as it changed multiple times) he called their creeds (aka the core of their teachings and beliefs) ABOMINATIONS which is stronger language than most Christians would when disagreeing on theology.

          As far as the persecution goes do a little study and you might find that those claims are overly strong. I recall one Institute teacher admitting that in Missouri they weren’t well liked because they were rowdy and not good at following the law. They also didn’t have a good history with anyone in their communities who dared speak out against them. Joseph Smith, as a political official, destroyed a printing press for saying bad (but clearly true) things about him. They bullied people and showed that when they gained power they didn’t treat people of other religions that well.

          • bytebear

            The name is used both rarely in the early church and certainly not used commonly today. And you are using the term incorrectly. It would be akin to saying Mormons use the term Jehovah instead of Jesus. Yes, Mormons believe that Jehovah was the pre-Mortal name of Christ, but they don’t use it in any way that you claim they use Eloheim. And as you know El is the word for God, and Eloheim is the plural of El, so really Eloheim really is more akin to “the Gods” or in Christian terms, the Godhead or Trinity.

            But, at least you clarified that it was their Creeds and not them that were abominations. And I can see why. God is disowning doctrinal texts that he did not authorize. It’s not that they are wrong. Most of the creeds fit perfectly with LDS teaching. it’s all about authority from God.

            “As far as the persecution goes do a little study and you might find that those claims are overly strong.” yes, the murders and rapes at Haun’s Mill were exaggerated I am sure. The extermination order by Missouri Governor Boggs was exaggerated too. The fact is that order wasn’t about “rowdiness” but that the Mormons allowed free blacks to associate with them. And the press was destroyed by the city council after days of deliberation for fear it would rise more mobs against the city. As for treating other faiths well, perhaps you should see how Mormons treated Jews and Catholics at the time compared to their Christian counterparts.

          • trueinar .

            “The name is used both rarely in the early church and certainly not used commonly today.”

            It is used every day thousands of times in the temples. So you are very wrong.

            ” It would be akin to saying Mormons use the term Jehovah instead of Jesus.”

            Once again, thousands of times in the temples.

            “but they don’t use it in any way that you claim they use Eloheim. And
            as you know El is the word for God, and Eloheim is the plural of El, so
            really Eloheim really is more akin to “the Gods” or in Christian terms,
            the Godhead or Trinity.”

            Except, they have very historically used it in the way I said and do every day thousands of times in the temples. You are using currently accepted scholarship for your definition and I am using the teachings of the LDS church as presented by its early leaders and within its temples. You clearly don’t know what you are talking about here. Are you a new convert who hasn’t been to the temple or someone who doesn’t live near one? I have been many times. Bow your heads and say yes.

            ” yes, the murders and rapes at Haun’s Mill were exaggerated I am sure.
            The extermination order by Missouri Governor Boggs was exaggerated too.”

            Tragic occurrences. I had ancestors who barely avoided being at Haun’s Mill. I view Governor Boggs extermination order as one of the greatest violations of the U.S. constitution ever perpetrated by a Governor. However, the early church members weren’t good neighbors. Within their communities their church leaders wielded political power in the name of the church. They castrated a lot of young men who got upset when the Lord revealed that their fiances were supposed to be the fourth or fifth wife of some church official.

            “And the press was destroyed by the city council after days of
            deliberation for fear it would rise more mobs against the city.”

            And is still up there in one of the worst violations of the 1st amendment ever perpetrated by an government official in the U.S. They talked about polygamy and other actual church practices that the church clearly lied about and Joseph Smith didn’t like it and used his clout to destroy their press. There weren’t any calls for violence in that paper. There was no trying to raise up mobs. They just printed what we now know as truths the church was trying to hide at the time.

          • bytebear

            Oh, so you shift from “their claims are overly strong” to “tragic occurrences” Again, who are you lying for?

          • trueinar .

            No, I didn’t shift anything. Two occurrences do not make the entire claims of persecution. Most are still wildly overstated. Differentiating between a whole and a couple of the parts is still consistent. I am not lying for anyone. You are clearly lying as you constantly make false claims about terms. I used Elohim correctly to reflect the teachings of the church. You are just trying to deflect as you have no answer for being beaten on the subject and being shown to not know what you are talking about. Study and then come back to talk to me.

          • bytebear

            You didn’t use the term Elohim correctly. Yes, the title is used in the temple, but it is a title, not a name, and it’s translation is God. It could just as easily have been Allah or LORD GOD (which the KJV uses). The point is, you use it to mock Mormons by misrepresenting their beliefs. I won’t even go into the persecution of Mormons, but it was far more that “two occurrences”.

          • trueinar .

            http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/04/come-know-the-lord-jesus?lang=eng&query=elohim

            In conference, thus making it LDS scripture, Bruce R. McConkie says his NAME IS ELOHIM. Spencer W. Kimball said his name was Elohim. The usage in the LDS temple is clearly a name and not a title. It is used with Jehovah and Michael in similar context and those are very, extremely clearly names. Stop talking about a subject you seem woefully misinformed about. Seriously, have you never read any old conference talks or been to the Temple? The vast majority of LDS people over the age of 20 would agree with me about it being his name. I have never encountered a single church leader who didn’t agree that that was a name and not a title. I have heard mission presidents, apostles, and other general authorities (aka the authorities of the church) make fun of other denominations for only using titles when the LDS church has a name. I was not and am not trying to mock the LDS church by using correct terminology and theology. I am stating facts. I have explained why I used it if you would learn to read. I am a polytheist (someone who believes in more than one deity since I don’t think you are likely to know what that means since you don’t even know your own doctrines) and as such feel it is inappropriate to refer to a deity as god since that is too vague and can be applied to literally thousands of beings believed in by mankind. It is just like using Jehovah when talking about The Watchtower Society isn’t mocking them or using Vishnu or Shiva when discussing Hinduism isn’t mocking them or when using Yahweh when talking about denominations who use that name isn’t mocking them. Even if it was a title, which it most clearly isn’t to anyone who has studied beyond the lessons at church, it still wouldn’t be mocking to use it because it is one of their terms. If you are so sensitive about people using your terminology you don’t have any actual faith and are desperately clinging in fear of the unknown and if that is the case you have my sympathy and I hope you put forth the effort to study so you can have a more concrete belief system and stop floundering. Seriously though, I am done talking to you.

          • bytebear

            “In conference, thus making it LDS scripture” LMAO. Thanks, I needed a good chuckle. When one has to resort to non-canonized statements and declare them as scripture, it becomes clear you have lost all credibility.

            As for Michael/Adam, that actually was canonized and is included in LDS Scripture (D&C 107:54). Here’s a lesson, if it’s not in the canonized standard works (Bible, Book of Mormon, PoGP, D&C) then it’s not scripture. A quick search for Elohim has not a single scripture in any of those books unless you go to the original translation which is usually translated as LORD GOD meaning God the Father. So, I suppose you could say it’s canonized but not translated, but isn’t that circling to my original beef with you. You used a title that, although technically correct, is not the common way Mormons address God the Father. And yes, of course, you use that as a form of mockery.

          • trueinar .

            I really should ignore you just like you ignore over 100 years of the teaching of the LDS church. I guess what happens in the temple isn’t cannon? Your prophets, seers and revelators don’t speak for your god? I guess you have just denied some of the core tenets of your church. You should probably send in your resignation letter soon or at least turn in your temple recommend if you have one because you lied in the interview. I mean the church has only taught that what an apostle says in conference as approved by the first presidency of the church is an authoritative statement and a key part of ongoing revelation which you have also effectively denied. These are things that have been taught in the church for about as long as it has been around. Now that you don’t have a testimony about church authority, modern revelation or the truthfulness of temple ceremonies what is left of your church? The Book of Mormon which teaches against polygamy and baptism for the dead? It is like talking to a rock. I think I effectively won when I could point out that it was called a name by one of the most respected apostles in LDS history and the constant use as such in the temple which is considered the most important place in the LDS church. You can choose to remain ignorant and petty or you can actually study? You still in high school? You probably aren’t aware of the changes in the temple ceremonies (which don’t include using Elohim as a name like it always was). You don’t even know who Bruce R. McConkie was do you? If you seriously believe the standard works are the only scripture in the LDS church you are at odds with its core teachings and its leadership. If you can’t understand my usage of Elohim wasn’t mocking that you aren’t bright enough to continue to talk to. I really am going to stop giving a troll like you more attention and may whatever deity you believe in have mercy on your soul.

          • bytebear

            As I said, the term Elohim isn’t foreign to Mormonism, but it’s not what Mormons call God the Father. The Temple represents the creation of the Earth, and as such, it uses the Old Testament titles for God and Christ (Elohim and Jehovah). But you, rather than present the true doctrines of Mormonism, have twisted and mocked them. Do Mormons pray using the title Elohim, or do they say “Heavenly Father?” The answer is obvious but you will still beat the drums of deceit.

          • JohnH2

            Titular names are both names and titles.

          • trueinar .

            You have been wrong over and over and over again. You clearly don’t know your Mormon theology and clearly don’t know more than they teach in sunday school about the history so I am not going to bother talking to you further. You shift from topic to topic after you loose to try to beat me on a single topic and I have acknowledged actual tragic events and you have ignored every single good point I made. Your faith and understanding are shallow and you are overly defensive. Again, study. Look into things deeper than what you are told at church. Your faith should be your own.

          • bytebear

            As for the 1st Amendment, can you incite riot? Can you yell fire in a crowded theater? So funny that you say they were not inciting violence, and yet, Nauvoo had to be abandoned because of the persecution against the Mormons there. Why are you misleading and twisting the facts of history?

          • Guy Briggs

            “… worst violations of the 1st amendment ever perpetrated …”

            Of course, when the same thing had happened to Mormon presses, earlier, that was OK by you – right?

            “… castrated a lot of young men …”

            And you have objective and verifiable evidence that this ever happened, right? Not just an isolated example, but to “a lot” of men? Outside of the turgid fiction that was popular at the time?

            “… printed what we now know as truths …”

            There was nothing that remotely resembled truth, until well into the second page (and there were only four pages total).

        • trueinar .

          Also, 1 Nephi 14:10 is the verse that specifically teaches the two churches doctrine and it uses the term “church of the devil”. If you read the writings of the various Apostles over the years a majority weren’t shy about calling other churches the church of the devil. Bruce R. McConkie refereed to the Catholic church as the specific whore in a different way than the term is generally used by other Christian churches(most don’t call each other it). Several people proclaimed as prophets, seers and revelators said things that support my statements and if you both a) did your research and b) were going to be honest about it (might be asking a bit much for a church that teaches “lying for the Lord”) you would admit that it is established church doctrine that the church viewed (change a lot for a church that believes it is getting instruction from an unchanging being) all other religions, churches and religious organizations as deceptions from the devil. Stating such isn’t polemics but the truth. All the current PR B.S. pisses me off because it is only used to increase membership. The church doesn’t stand by its teachings. It changes to meet popular opinion and then pretends that is how it has been all along. Changing is okay for churches and religions that can admit to being wrong because they are people but the Church of Jesus Christ claims inerrant, direct revelation from a perfect being so it must be held to a higher standard.

          • bytebear

            I thought I already covered this in the Whore of Babylon post. It’s pretty clear your view of Mormonism is being seen through a prism of hate. You mention “lying for the Lord” but really, who are you lying for?

  • harrystamper727

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Three 1838–39, p.121
    The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

  • Robert

    Paul wrote to Christians, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from the gospel i taught you … ” After the deaths of the original twelve apostles who were the unifying force in the Early Church (as Sam and I both describe it), there grew up many “flavors” of Christianity. What later became the Roman Catholic church was the simply the “flavor” that gained the favor of the government and outlasted the other “flavors”. To say that only those who agree with post-Nicene theology deserve to be called Christians is to ignore both history and the Bible.

    • bytebear

      Eastern Orthodox would say their flavor is just as old and just as valid.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    This is probably the MOST Christian of sermons that I have ever heard:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3

    Notice the absence of a list of anything that we should, ought, or must be doing (the law).

    • Thomas Johnson

      Steve, on your recommendation, I listened to this sermon. I find that the idea that what we do is totally irrelevant and that we are completely and totally saved by grace is completely opposite to the many scriptures in the Bible that teach that we will be judged by our works: (1) Jesus’ teaching: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21); (2) Jesus’ teaching: “For the Son of
      man, shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works (Matthew 16:27); (3) Jesus’ question: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord and do not the things which
      I say?” (Luke 6:46); (4) Jesus’ teaching: “Be ye therefore
      perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48); (5) Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me . . .He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:15, 21, 24). (6)
      John saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the dead were judged “according to their works”(Revelations 20:12); (7)
      Paul’s teaching: “[In the judgment day God] will render to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6); (8) Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” (2 Corinthians 5:10); (9)
      Paul’s teachings to the Galatians: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7);
      (10) James’ teaching, “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20); (11) John’s teachings: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (I John 3:7); (12) See also Matthew 25:35, I Corinthians 3:8, I Peter 1:17, Revelations 2:23, 22:12.
      “Mormons” believe that both works and grace are necessary to salvation.

  • A. H. Wright

    Those in the Book of Mormon called themselves Christian because of their, “belief in Christ who should come” (Alma 46:15). Maybe we could call this the Mormon definition of the word “Christian”.

  • halraiser

    Thanks for your friendly tone. However you are mistaken when you say that Mormons (LDS) do not consider Catholics Christian. There is a difference between disagreement with doctrine and saying that someone is not Christian. Both religions teach that:

    Jesus entered this world as the Son of God, born of a virgin.

    He atoned for our sins.

    He died and was resurrected. Because of that we will all be resurrected.

    It is our duty to follow Him and accept Him as our Lord and Master.

    To me that is the essence of Christianity. Disagreement over things like if the Pope or LDS prophet is the real representative of the Lord on earth, celibate priests etc. are important but not what determines if someone is Christian or not.

  • JohnH2

    Catholics and Mormons have very different views of what the word Apostasy means, and very few Mormons (or Catholics) are at all aware that they are using the term so utterly differently. It would also seem to me to be more accurate to say that the Gnostics screwed things up and the Catholics picked up the pieces, as in I don’t believe there is a doctrinal thing implicating specifically the Catholic Church.

    It is so odd that everyone is going to the creeds and the theological marrying of neo-platonic thought with Christianity. I am not sure what the Academy has to do with the Porch of Solomon or Athens with Jerusalem. I am not sure why the wisdom of the world which knew not God is taken as the basis for ones understanding of God. I am not sure why the teaching of a philosopher is accepted over the simple beliefs of the Christians (as Augustine did and gloried in his rejection of Christian belief). Clearly many, if not the majority, of Christians prior to that time would not now be called Christians.

    Even more odd is that Arians were still considered Christians after that point, as were other groups with varying ideas on the nature of the Godhead in Ecumenical council from that time to this. If that Cathars and Arians were Christian (if heretics) with there set of beliefs then why not the Mormons? Though given the treatment of both those groups, and others, by the Catholics perhaps it is a good thing that Catholicism doesn’t think of Mormons as a Christian heresy, they might persecute us out of love if they did, which I am sure is a very Christ-like thing to do and conclusively demonstrates, to me, the nature of the exclusive claim of Catholicism to be true followers of Christ.

    Which is what Christian is, a follower of Christ; As Jesus said, it isn’t those that say Lord, Lord which are saved, but those that do the will of God in loving their neighbor and blessing those that curse them. It seems quite a bit more accurate to say that Catholics and Mormons, and anyone else who says they believe in Christ, may be followers of Christ but membership in a church does not make them so.

    Mormons are highly dismissive of taking philosophy and applying it to scripture; but we have a quite complex set of doctrines in terms of the nature of existence, of God, of the soul, of the devil, of evil, of free will, and of everything else that theology covers. Extrapolating from that to get further ideas is not also doctrine and very often is wrong, consider large portions of Brigham Young’s and many others which have been shown to be built off of a position of limited knowledge and understanding. For us, God has to reveal more and God reveals more as we grow in faith and in understanding and following that which God has already revealed.


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