Skip to comments.HAVE YOU NOTICED THIS ABOUT MORMONS?
Posted on 04/17/2011 2:58:04 PM PDT by greyfoxx39
"In presenting the statement that follows we are not conscious of putting forth anything essentially new; neither is it our desire so to do. Truth is what we wish to present, and truth--eternal truth--is fundamentally old. A restatement of the original attitude of the Church relative to this matter is all that will be attempted here. To tell the truth as God has revealed it, and commend it to the acceptance of those who need to conform their opinions thereto, is the sole purpose of this presentation. 'God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.' In these plain and pointed words the inspired author of the book of Genesis made known to the world the truth concerning the origin of the human family."
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. By His almighty power He organized the earth, and all that it contains, from spirit and element, which exist co-eternally with Himself. He formed every plant that grows, and every animal that breathes, each after its own kind, spiritually and temporally--'that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal, and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual.' He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with Godlike reason and intelligence. Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, each class in its 'distinct order or sphere,' and will enjoy 'eternal felicity.' . . . Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God."
AND THIS: The non-creedal creed of the LDS church
The Articles of Faith
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
- We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
- We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of PaulWe believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
May 15, 1829, while Joseph translated passages of the Book of Mormon about the necessity of baptism, he and Oliver Cowdery had asked the Lord who had to baptize in His name. "The voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us," Oliver later wrote, and a heavenly messenger, John the Baptist, "came down clothed with glory." He conferred upon the two men the , which holds the "of the gospel of repentance, and of for the remission of sins."
John the Baptist directed the two men to baptize each other, and they soon also baptized others converted to the restored gospel. Through priesthood ordination they authorized others to perform baptism by immersion. From that small beginning, many millions of people worldwide have been baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Weeks later, Peter, James, and John, who possess "the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times," appeared to Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon them the . Now the fulness of the gospel could be restored, the Church of Jesus Christ could be organized to "roll forth," and all the necessary for the salvation of God's children could be performedincluding bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Because were restored to Joseph Smith, all of God's children can receive the ordinances of salvation such as baptism administered by those called of God to act and speak in His name. D&C 13:1.2. D&C 128:20.3. D&C 65:2.
Keys are the rights of presidency, or the power given to man by God to direct, control, and govern God's priesthood on earth. Priesthood holders called to positions of presidency receive keys from those in authority over them. Priesthood holders use the priesthood only within the limits outlined by those who hold the keys. The President of the Church holds all priesthood keys (see D&C 107:6567, 9192; 132:7; The Guide to the Scriptures, "Keys of the Priesthood," 141). Note: Women are not eligible to become "Priesthood Holders".
Then, if you become "worthy" according to mormon requirements, which include among other things, obeying the Word of Wisdom;
Doctrine and Covenants Section 89
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, 27 February 1833 (see History of the Church, 1:32729). As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently, he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result. The first three verses were originally written as an inspired introduction and description by the Prophet.
19, The use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks is proscribed; 1017, Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; 1821, Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings.
You may then appear before your "spiritual leader" or Ward Bishop, to answer these questions:
Temple Recommend Questions:
1 Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
2 Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?
3 Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
5 Do you live the law of chastity?
6 Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
7 Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
8 Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
9 Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
10 Are you a full-tithe payer?
11 Do your keep the Word of Wisdom?
12 Do you have financial or other oblgations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
13 If you have previously received your temple endowment:
Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple?
Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?
14 Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?
15 Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord's house and participate in temple ordinances?
You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the Law of Consecration as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion .
NOTE: This vow has been taken by Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch and ALL others who have a position in the US Federal Government who are "worthy" members of the mormon church including FBI, CIA, Secret Service, etc. and by "worthy" members of the mormon church in your city, state, on your school board...wherever a position of authority is available.
After you take part in the temple rites, you are required to wear a specific underwear garment for the rest of your life.
Those baptized members including girls and women, who are too young to take part in the temple rituals will be required to take part in "proxy" Baptism for the Dead after they also acquire their own "temple recommend".
There are several religions larger than most Christian denominations, and together they are larger than all of them combined. Their adherents for centuries have lived and died and never heard the word baptism. What is the answer for them?
That is a most disturbing question. What power would establish one Lord and one baptism, and then allow it to be that most of the human family never comes within its influence? With that question unanswered, the vast majority of the human family must be admitted to be lost, and against any reasonable application of the law of justice or of mercy, either. How could Christianity itself be sustained?
When you find the true church you will find the answer to that disturbing question.
If a church has no answer for that, how can it lay claim to be His Church? He is not willing to write off the majority of the human family who were never baptized.
Those who admit in puzzled frustration that they have no answer to this cannot lay claim to authority to administer to the affairs of the Lord on the earth, or to oversee the work by which all mankind must be saved.
Since they had no answer concerning the fate of those who had not been baptized, Christians came to believe that baptism itself was not critical in importance, and that the name of Christ may not be all that essential. There must, they supposed, be other names whereby man could be saved.
The answer to that puzzling challenge could not be invented by men, but was revealed. I underline the word revealed. Revelation too is an essential characteristic of His Church. Communication with Him through revelation was established when the Church was established. It has not ceased and it is constant in the Church today.
As I address myself to the question of those who died without baptism, I do so with the deepest reverence, for it touches on a sacred work. Little known to the world, we move obediently forward in a work that is so marvelous in its prospects, transcendent above what man might have dreamed of, supernal, inspired, and true. In it lies the answer.
In the earliest days of the Church the Prophet was given direction through revelation that work should commence on the building of a temple, akin to the temples that had been constructed anciently. There was revealed ordinance work to be performed there for the salvation of mankind.
Then another ancient scripture, ignored or overlooked by the Christian world in general, was understood and moved into significant prominence: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Cor. 15:29.)
Here then, was the answer. With proper authority an individual could be baptized for and in behalf of someone who had never had the opportunity. That individual would then accept or reject the baptism, according to his own desire.
This work came as a great reaffirmation of something very basic that the Christian world now only partly believes: and that is that there is life after death. Mortal death is no more an ending than birth was a beginning. The great work of redemption goes on beyond the veil as well as here in mortality."
The Redemption of the Dead, Ensign, Nov. 1975, 97
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant, as also plurality of wives. HC 5: 501507. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.
, Exaltation is gained through the new and everlasting covenant; , The terms and conditions of that covenant are set forth; , Celestial marriage and a continuation of the family unit enable men to become gods; , The strait and narrow way that leads to eternal lives; , Law given relative to blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; , Promises of eternal increase and exaltation made to prophets and saints in all ages; , Joseph Smith is given the power to bind and seal on earth and in heaven; , The Lord seals upon him his exaltation; , Emma Smith is counseled to be faithful and true; , Laws governing the plurality of wives are set forth.
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many a and b
2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.
3 Therefore, a thy heart to receive and b the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting a; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye b; for no one can c this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
Now, to those of you who are reading this I have ONE question:If ANY OF US cannot be called "mormon" unless WE adhere to all the requirements (and more) listed above.......WHY IS IT THAT MORMONS BELIEVE THAT ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS INSIST THAT THEY BE CALLED "CHRISTIAN" AND THE CHRISTIAN WORLD IS REQUIRED TO BOW TO ITS DEMAND?
On all threads, but particularly open threads, posters must never make it personal. Reading minds and attributing motives are forms of making it personal. Making a thread about another Freeper is making it personal.
When in doubt, review your use of the pronoun you before hitting enter.
Like the Smoky Backroom, the conversation may be offensive to some.
Thin-skinned posters will be booted from open threads because in the town square, they are the disrupters.
Thin-skinned (emotional, whiney or mercurial temper) posters are the disruptors on open threads.
Have you ever noticed this about anti-Mormons?
When Christians start demending to be called “mormon” then there I will consider your link.
This is the most objective, scholarly, and definitive treatise on the subject. It requires a careful and dispassionate read: I wish all Mormons would read this. They would immediately ditch this “religion” as a fraud.
Is Mormonism Christian? A Respected Advocate for Interreligious Cooperation Responds
Copyright © 2000 Richard John Neuhaus.
All rights reserved. Used with permission..
That is not the only interesting question, but it is probably the most important. Most non-Mormons have little occasion to think about Mormonism, and those who do tend toward distinctly negative thoughts. Although there is this curious thing of recent years that many conservative Christians warmly welcome Mormons as allies in various cultural tasks. To cite but one recent instance, it was an alliance of Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons that was instrumental in persuading the people of Hawaii to reject same-sex marriage. Yet a few issues ago we published an article by a Mormon doctor presenting the case for Natural Family Planning and received blistering letters of protest.
We thought that the fact that the argument was not being advanced by a Catholic might make it more persuasive to some. But at least some readers did not see it that way. Didnt we know that Mormons are the enemies of Christ and his Church? Such views are stronger in the Northwest and, increasingly, in the Southwest where the Mormon presence is a force to be reckoned with.
“For missionary and public relations purposes, the LDS may present Mormonism as an ‘add-on,’ a kind of Christianity-plus, but that is not the official narrative and doctrine.”
Ours is an interreligious enterprise, basically but not exclusively Jewish and Christian. Dr. Bruce Hafen is on our Editorial Advisory Board. He has held prominent positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), including that of provost and dean of the law school at Brigham Young University. I cant say that many of my friends are Mormons, but some are.
We are obliged to respect human dignity across the board, and to affirm common discernments of the truth wherever we find them. Where we disagree we should try to put the best possible construction on the position of the other, while never trimming the truth. That will become more important as Mormons become more of a presence, both in this country and the world.
There are about ten million of them now, with about one-half of the membership in the U.S. Sociologist Rodney Stark a non-Mormon with strong personal connections to the LDS predicts that, on the basis of present growth patterns, there will be more than 265 million Mormons by the end of this century, making it the most important new religion in world history since Islam. For reasons I will come to, I think that is improbable. Put differently, if that happens, Mormonism will be something dramatically different from what it has been over the last century and a half.
Some while back we were sent for review the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture, Doctrine, and Procedures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its a big five-volume set, written largely by professors at Brigham Young; we werent sure what to do with it, but Ive been reading in it with great benefit. Then comes a big new book by Richard N. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, published by HarperSanFrancisco (454 pp., $26). It is a remarkable piece of work and likely to be the best general introduction to Mormonism for years to come.
The Ostlings are evangelical Protestants. Dick was for many years religion editor at Time and now covers religion for the Associated Press. I have had frequent occasion to say that he is one of the two or three best religion reporters in the country. Joan is a freelance writer with a background in the practice and teaching of journalism. What they have achieved with this assiduously researched and very readable book puts us all in their debt. Apparently the powers that be in Salt Lake City are ambivalent about the book, but it is probably as thorough and fair a treatment of the LDS by outsiders as they are likely to get.
Much to Admire
The Ostlings find much to admire. Mormonism gives a whole new meaning to being “pro-family.” In Mormon belief, families are, quite literally, forever. Proxies are baptized on behalf of the dead, and families and relatives hope to go on living together and procreating in a celestial eternity. All children are baptized at age eight, and at twelve boys (no girls allowed) take their place of responsibility and status by entering the first level of the priesthood the priesthood, according to Joseph Smith, having been restored by John the Baptist in upstate New York in 1829.
While bar mitzvah among Jews and confirmation among Christians too often means that young people graduate from their religious responsibilities, Mormon youth at that point in life graduate into intense and clearly defined responsibilities within the community. Also widely and justly admired is the LDS welfare system, whereby the community takes care of its own when they get into economic or other difficulty. At present, in a time of economic prosperity, only about 5 percent require help from the welfare system. (A figure, interestingly, about parallel with Edward Banfields famous claim about the percentage of people in any society who will never be able to make it on their own.)
There is no denying that the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine has a payoff. Mormons live; on average, eight to eleven years longer than other Americans, and death rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases are about half those of the general population. Of course, it is fair to note, they do die of other things, and one may do ones own calculation about the risk worth taking for a scotch before dinner and a cigar afterward, never mind ones morning coffee. (The most recent Harvard longitudinal study found that the strongest positive correlation between health and habits is the daily consumption of about three ounces of wine or liquor. Go figure.)
In addition, a strong emphasis on chastity sharply reduces sexually transmitted diseases, while a tightly knit and supportive community makes homicide and suicide rare. Put it all together, and one concludes that Mormonism is good for your physical health. Whether it is good for your spiritual health is a disputed question. (It should also be noted that medical data on the strongly committed in other religious communities are comparable to the Mormon findings.)
There are other things to admire. Brigham Young University, for instance, where, because of church subsidies, young Mormons get the entire package (tuition, room, board, etc.) for less than $10,000 a year. The ticket is slightly more for non-Mormons, but there are very few takers. There is also the Church Educational System, which involves hundreds of thousands in continuing education programs here and around the world. Nor can the most severe critics deny the energy, enthusiasm, and organization of the LDS in its missionary zeal, and in its dramatic presentation of its colorful history, whether through the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or annual pageants reenacting the key episodes of its sacred stories.
In a world that seems to be largely adrift, it is no little thing to be part of an organized crusade in which you and those who are closest to you view your life as crucial to the unfolding of the cosmic drama.
Restoring the Church
The LDS is, among other things, a very big business tightly controlled from the top down. If one believes that the entire enterprise is based on revelation that is authoritatively interpreted by divinely appointed officers, it makes sense that control should be from the top down. The LDS claims that God chose Joseph Smith to reestablish the Church of Jesus Christ after it had disappeared some 1,700 years earlier following the death of the first apostles. To complicate the picture somewhat, Gods biblical work was extended to the Americas somewhere around 2000 B.C. and continued here until A.D. 421. This is according to the Book of Mormon, the scriptures given to Joseph Smith on golden tablets by the Angel Moroni. American Indians are called Lamanites and are part of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Jesus came to preach to these Indians and for a long time there was a flourishing church here until it fell into apostasy, only to be restored, as the golden tablets foretold, by Joseph Smith. In addition to giving new scriptures, God commissioned Smith to revise the Bible, the text of which had been corrupted over the centuries by Jews and Christians.
Todays Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is, allegedly, in direct succession to Smith, and the First Presidency claims powers that would have made St. Peter, never mind most of his successors, blush. The top leadership is composed, with few exceptions, of men experienced in business and with no formal training in theology or related disciplines.
The President (who is also a prophet, seer, and revelator) is the oldest apostle, which means he is sometimes very old indeed and far beyond his prime. Decisions are made in the tightest secrecy, inevitably giving rise to suspicions and conspiracy theories among outsiders and a substantial number of members. Revenues from tithes, investments, and Mormon enterprises have built what the Ostlings say “might be the most efficient churchly money machine on earth.” They back up with carefully detailed research their “conservative” estimate that LDS assets are in the range of $25-30 billion.
Protecting the Stories
But, of course, the most important control is over the sacred stories, and attendant truth claims, upon which the entire enterprise rests. Of the telling of history, Orwell wrote, “He who controls the past controls the future and he who controls the present controls the past.” The Ostlings devote a great deal of attention to “dissenters and exiles” who have tried to tell the sacred stories honestly, and in a manner that might bring them into conversation with other stories of the world. Some may think the Ostlings devote too much attention to these “troublemakers,” but I think not.
In my limited experience with, for instance, people associated with the publication Sunstone, these are devout Mormons who are seized by the correct intuition that truth that must be protected within the circle of true believers, that cannot intelligently engage critical examination by outsiders, is in some fundamental sense doubtfully true. Some of the “dissenters and exiles” may be dismissable as troublemakers a species all too familiar in other religious communities as well. I expect, however, that what most of these people are trying to do is much more important to the possible futures of the LDS than all the billions in assets, massive building programs, and ambitiously organized missionary campaigns combined.
To give a credible account of the sacred stories and truth claims is no easy task. Not to put too fine a point on it, the founding stories and doctrines of Mormonism appear to the outsider as a bizarre phantasmagoria of fevered religious imagination not untouched by perverse genius. Germinated in the “burnt-over district” of upstate New York in the early nineteenth century, where new religions and spiritualities produced a veritable rainforest of novel revelations, the claims of Joseph Smith represent a particularly startling twist of the kaleidoscope of religious possibilities.
In 1831, Alexander Campbell, cofounder of the Disciples of Christ, said that Smith pasted together “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” Much of the teaching reflects the liberal Protestantism of the time, even the Transcendental and Gnostic fevers that were in the air: e.g., a God in process of becoming, progressive revelation, the denial of original sin, and an unbridled optimism about the perfectibility of man. Mix that in with the discovery of golden tablets written in a mysterious language, the bodily appearance of God the Father and Son, angelic apparitions, and a liberal dose of Masonic ritual and jargon, and the result is, quite simply, fantastic. The question, of course, is whether it is true.
In what sense true? It is true in the sense that it is meaningful for those who believe it uncritically, and even for more critical souls who embrace the community whose fabulous founding, they contend, points to higher truths. In the conventional version controlled by LDS authorities, it is true if you believe it is true. Thus is the back door shut against potentially subversive reason. One possible response is to say that all religion is finally based on faith and is incapable of rational demonstration. Did not St. Paul say that the gospel of Christ is “foolishness” according to the wisdom of the world? Of course he did.
But every part of the traditional Christian story has been and is subjected to critical examination, by believers and nonbelievers alike and that examination, with its attending disagreements, will go on to the end of time. Over two thousand years, from Origen and Augustine through Anselm, Aquinas, Newman, Barth, and Balthasar, the truth claims of Christianity have engaged, with utmost intensity and sophistication, alternative and opposing construals of reality. In short, there is a very long Christian intellectual tradition. There is not, or at least not until very recently, such a Mormon tradition. And those who are interested in encouraging such inquiry typically find themselves in the company of “dissenters and exiles.” Keep in mind, however, that Mormonism is not yet two centuries old. A youngish Mormon intellectual today is in relation of time to Joseph Smith roughly comparable to Origen in relation to the apostles.
But his task is ever so much more difficult than that of Irenaeus, Origen, and the many other early Christian thinkers. There is, for instance, the surpassingly awkward fact that not a single person, place, or event that is unique to the Book of Mormon has ever been proven to exist.
Outside the fanum of true believers, these tales cannot help but appear to be the product of fantasy and fabrication. There is, moreover, a corrosive tradition of make-believe in the LDS, such as the claim that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham a book he said was written by Abraham from Egyptian papyri that were later proven to be nothing but conventional funerary inscriptions.
The sanitized story of Mormonism promoted by the LDS tries to hide so much that cannot be hidden. The Ostlings are to be commended for resisting sensationalism in relating the sensational history of polygamy in the LDS, including Joseph Smiths coercive use of threats of eternal damnation in order to procure young women he desired as additional wives. (On this score, the quasi-official Encyclopedia is also considerably more candid than the usual LDS presentations.)
And how, except by a practiced schizophrenia, can LDS biblical scholars engage with other scholars if they are required to give credence to the normative status of Smiths “translation” (i.e., rewriting) of the King James Bible? There is a long list of particulars in the formidable obstacles to be overcome if anything like a credible intellectual tradition is to be secured, and not least among the obstacles is the history of LDS leadership in backstopping secretiveness with mendacity. Taking note of these realities is not to deny the frequent moral courage, indeed heroism, of the early leadership, or the continuing devotion and talent of their successors.
The LDS is much given to boosterism, and it is no surprise that its leaders relish the projections of almost exponential growth offered by such as Rodney Stark. Nobody can help but be impressed by the thousands of clean-cut Mormon young men who go on mission, two by two, knocking on the doors of the world, but the Ostlings helpfully put this missionary enterprise into perspective by comparing it with the many times larger enterprise of various Christian groups, noting as well that, unlike the Mormons, these missionaries do not limit themselves to winning converts but minister to the illiterate, the poor, and others in need.
Moreover, these Christian efforts result in large and thriving indigenous churches that engage and transform local cultures, whereas the Mormon mission, totally controlled and directed from Salt Lake City, is about as pure an instance of American cultural imperialism as can be imagined, albeit a benevolently intended imperialism.
It appears also that the figures of Mormon growth are considerably inflated, not taking into account the massive defections through the back door, especially in developing countries. The Ostlings observe, “Mormonism succeeds by building on a preexisting Christian culture and by being seen as an add-on, drawing converts through a form of syncretism. Mormonism flourishes best in settings with some prior Christianization.” There is, in this view, a parasitic dynamic in Mormon growth.
Yet the Ostlings suggest that, despite doctrinal and demographic problems, Mormonism may continue to thrive. “Ours is a relational era,” they write, “not a conceptual one. Members are more likely to be attracted by networking and community than by truth claims. The adherents appear to be contented or docile in their discontent, except for some thousands of intellectuals.” I am not so sure, and that brings us to the opening question of whether
Mormonism is Christian or a new religion tenuously founded on fables and sustained by authoritarian management. Maybe ours is a time in which truth does not matter that much in terms of institutional flourishing, a time in which communities can get along with useful, if not particularly noble, lies. But we should not too easily resign ourselves to that conclusion.
An Insulting Question
Asking whether Mormonism is Christian or Mormons are Christians (a slightly different question) is thought to be insulting. “How can you ask that,” protests a Mormon friend, “when we clearly love the Lord Jesus as much as we do?” It is true that St. Paul says that nobody can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). But that only indicates that aspects of Mormon faith are touched by the Holy Spirit, as is every element of truth no matter where it is found.
A Mormon academic declares that asking our question “is a bit like asking if African Americans are human.” No, it is not even a bit like that. “Christian” in this context is not honorific but descriptive. Nobody questions whether Mormons are human. To say that Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists are not Christians is no insult. It is a statement of fact, indeed of respect for their difference. The question is whether that is a fact and a difference that applies also to Mormonism.
The question as asked by Mormons is turned around: are non-Mormons who claim to be Christians in fact so? The emphatic and repeated answer of the Mormon scriptures and the official teaching of the LDS is that we are not. We are members of “the great and abominable church” that was built by frauds and imposters after the death of the first apostles.
The true church and true Christianity simply went out of existence, except for its American Indian interlude, until it was rediscovered and reestablished by Joseph Smith in upstate New York, and its claims will be vindicated when Jesus returns, sooner rather than later, at a prophetically specified intersection in Jackson County, Missouri.
The Ostlings, in a manner common among evangelical Protestants, address the question of whether Mormons are Christians exclusively in terms of doctrine. Mormonism claims that God is an exalted man, not different in kind as Creator is different in kind from creature. The Mormon claim is, “What God was, we are. What God is, we will become.” Related to this is the teaching that the world was not created ex nihilo but organized into its present form, and that the trespass in the Garden of Eden, far from being the source of original sin, was a step toward becoming what God is.
Further, Mormonism teaches that there is a plurality of gods. Mormons dislike the term “polytheism,” preferring “henotheism,” meaning that there is a head God who is worshiped as supreme. If Christian doctrine is summarized in, for instance, the Apostles Creed as understood by historic Christianity, official LDS teaching adds to the creed, deviates from it, or starkly opposes it almost article by article.
LDS teaching that believers are on the way to becoming gods has, of course, interesting connections with early church fathers and their teaching on “theosis” or “deification,” a teaching traditionally accented more in the Christianity of the East than of the West, but theologically affirmed by both. Some Mormon thinkers have picked up on those connections and have even recruited, not very convincingly, C. S. Lewis in support of LDS doctrine. (Lewis simply offers rhetorical riffs on classical Christian teaching and in no way suggests an ontological equivalence between Creator and creature.)
Christianity and the History of Christians
Beyond these doctrinal matters, as inestimably important as they are, one must ask what it means to be Christian if one rejects the two thousand year history of what in fact is Christianity. Christianity is inescapably doctrinal but it is more than doctrines. Were it only a set of doctrines, Christianity would have become another school of philosophy, much like other philosophical schools of the Greco-Roman world. Christianity is the past and present reality of the society composed of the Christian people. As is said in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” That reality encompasses doctrine, ministry, liturgy, and a rule of life. Christians disagree about precisely where that Church is to be located historically and at present, but almost all agree that it is to be identified with the Great Tradition defined by the apostolic era through at least the first four ecumenical councils, and continuing in diverse forms to
the present day. That is the Christianity that LDS teaching rejects and condemns as an abomination and fraud.
Yet Mormonism is inexplicable apart from Christianity and the peculiar permutations of Protestant Christianity in nineteenth-century America. It may in this sense be viewed as a Christian derivative. It might be called a Christian heresy, except heresy is typically a deviation within the story of the Great Tradition that Mormonism rejects tout court. Or Mormonism may be viewed as a Christian apostasy.
Before his death in 1844, Joseph Smith was faced with many apostasies within the Mormon ranks, and since then there have been more than a hundred schisms among those who claim to be his true heirs. Still today LDS leaders quote Smith when censuring or excommunicating critics. For instance, this from Smith: “That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that man is in the high road to apostasy.”
With respect to the real existing Christianity that is the Church, the words apply in spades to Joseph Smith. He knew, of course, that he was rejecting the Christianity of normative tradition, and he had an explanation. On the creation ex nihilo question, for instance, he declared only weeks before his death: “If you tell [critics] that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow; and he is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him.”
By definition, he could not be apostate because he spoke for God. It is an answer, of sorts.
The history of Christianity, notably since the sixteenth-century Reformation, is littered with prophets and seers who have reestablished “the true church,” usually in opposition to the allegedly false church of Rome, and then, later, in opposition to their own previously true churches. There are many thousands of such Christian groups today. Most of them claim to represent the true interpretation of the Bible. A smaller number lay claim to additional revelations by which the biblical witness must be “corrected.” One thinks, for instance, of the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
There are other similarities between Mormonism and the Unification Church, such as the emphasis on the celestial significance of marriage and family. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Gods and humans are the same species of being, but at different stages of development in a divine continuum, and the heavenly Father and Mother are the heavenly pattern, model, and example of what mortals can become through obedience to the gospel.”
Some have suggested that the LDS is a Christian derivative much as Christianity is a Jewish derivative, but that is surely wrong. The claim of Christianity is that its gospel of Jesus Christ is in thorough continuity with the Old Testament and historic Israel, that the Church is the New Israel, which means that it is the fulfillment of the promise that Israel would be “a light to the nations.” The Church condemned Marcions rejection of the Old Testament, and she never presumed to rewrite or correct the Hebrew Scriptures on the basis of a new revelation.
On the contrary, she insisted that the entirety of the old covenant bears witness to the new. While it is a Christian derivative, the LDS is, by way of sharpest contrast, in radical discontinuity with historical Christianity. The sacred stories and official teachings of the LDS could hardly be clearer about that. For missionary and public relations purposes, the LDS may present Mormonism as an “add-on,” a kind of Christianity-plus, but that is not the official narrative and doctrine.
A closer parallel might be with Islam. Islam is a derivative of Judaism, and Christianity. Like Joseph Smith, Muhammad in the seventh century claimed new revelations and produced in the Quran a “corrected” version of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, presumably by divine dictation. Few dispute that Islam is a new and another religion, and Muslims do not claim to be Christian, although they profess a deep devotion to Jesus. Like Joseph Smith and his followers, they do claim to be the true children of Abraham.
Christians in dialogue with Islam understand it to be an interreligious, not an ecumenical, dialogue. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between Christians. Dialogue with Mormons who represent official LDS teaching is interreligious dialogue.
One must again keep in mind that Mormonism is still very young. It is only now beginning to develop an intellectually serious theological tradition. Over the next century and more, those who are now the “dissidents and exiles” may become the leaders in the forging, despite the formidable obstacles, a rapprochement with historic Christianity, at which point the dialogue could become ecumenical. As noted earlier, there is the interesting phenomenon of Mormon thinkers appealing to the Christian tradition, from Irenaeus through C. S. Lewis, in support of aspects of their doctrine.
And there is the poignant and persistent insistence of Mormons, “We really are Christians!” Sometimes that claim means that they really are Christians and the rest of us are not. Increasingly, at least among some Mormons, the claim is that they are Christians in substantively the same way that others are Christians.
It is a claim we should question but not scorn. Such a claim contains, just possibly, the seed of promise that over time, probably a very long time, there could be within Mormonism a development of doctrine that would make it recognizable as a peculiar but definite Christian communion. Such attempted development, however, could produce a major schism between Mormons who are determined to be Christian, on the one hand, and the new religion taught by the LDS on the other.
Meanwhile, Mormonism and the impressive empire of the LDS will likely be with us for a long time. They are no longer an exotic minority that is, by virtue of minority status, exempt from critical examination and challenge. Such examination and challenge, always fair-minded and sympathetic, is exemplified by the Ostlings very helpful book, Mormon America. I am skeptical about the more dramatic projections of Mormon growth in the future. That depends in part on the degree to which the Ostlings are right in thinking our era is “relational” rather than “conceptual.”
It depends in larger part on developments internal to the LDS and transformations in its self-understanding and self-presentation to the world. The leadership of the LDS will have to decide whether its growth potential is enhanced or hampered by presenting Mormonism as a new religion or as, so to speak, another Christian denomination. Sometimes they seem to want to have it both ways, but that will become increasingly difficult. And, of course, for Mormons whose controlling concern is spiritual, intellectual, and moral integrity, questions of marketing and growth, as well as questions of institutional vitality and communal belonging, must be clearly subordinated to the question of truth.
As for the rest of us, we owe to Mormon Americans respect for their human dignity, protection of their religious freedom, readiness for friendship, openness to honest dialogue, and an eagerness to join hands in social and cultural tasks that advance the common good. That, perhaps, is work enough, at least for the time being.
Pretty much eliminates all mormons.
Here is what I’ve noticed about the Mormons that I’ve known through the years:
Loyal friends, even to non-Mormons like me.
Quick to forgive.
Honest as the day is long.
Fallible like us all.
I guess I haven’t paid much attention to the other stuff you mentioned.
I find this interesting.
As we all (or mostly) have experienced a kind of shunning from lds family if we do not go along with their mormonISM.
Why should the Christian world bow to the demand of the mormon church that they can truthfully claim the name "Christian" when there is no way on this earth that anyone can claim the name "mormon" without adhering to all the requirements? Especially after more than 160 years of mormon leaders demeaning Christianity and all Christians?
Are Christians to be swayed by slick PR campaigns on TV, radio and the internet? Or should mormons adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ..and GIVE UP the idolatry and polytheism?
There is a forum for religion, which is where your vanity post should be and as far as I can recall "vanity posts" have always been frowned upon.
Some of you clowns living in fear of other religions really need to get a life and grow up.
Can you answer the question I asked?
LOL....none are so weak when they invoke God to justify their own weakness by bashing someone elses faith.
You need to re examine you own beliefs, FRiend.
I do not know much about the theological issues, but, in case you’re interested, I have worked with many Mormons in my career and found them to be wonderful people...professionally and personally. The number of individuals is around 10...FWIW.
This is the Religion Forum...it's what we do.
I was born mormon and have known them to be no better nor worse than any other group of people. I have found that Jehovah's Witnesses are by far the most honorable group I have had dealings with. I don't see them demanding to be called Christian. If they were, I would be objecting.
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