Christian J pointed out in the discussion of my last post that he thought the Mormon model of seeking spiritual confirmation of doctrine was biblical. I think he is right. When I was LDS, I was very impressed by Paul’s discussion in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 2. It captured perfectly my view of the core of Missionary work. Those interested in Mormonism would do well to understand how Paul’s words are lived by LDS today.
One thing that strikes me as a key difference in how Mormons and Evangelicals view being “saved” is what they believe they are saved from. For Mormons, the flip-side of not feeling the joy of being COMPLETELY forgiven like Evangelicals do, is the comfort of never having to worry about hell in the least, for me or anybody else. I think this difference may shape how Mormons and Evangelicals differ in they way they see God, their purpose in life, and, to some degree, what life is about. I offer my own experience as a way for Evangelicals to gain some insight on how not believing in Hell can shape your thoughts and behavior.
To somebody raised in the LDS church in the late twentieth century, there is no hell. A fiery place where souls are sent by God to burn forever? As a Mormon growing up, I took that as seriously as the idea that the devil had horns and pitchfork. The only thing close to “hell” that I was taught about was not anywhere God would send me, It was merely the pain and disappointment of not being with our Father again, who wanted us to be there and provided a way for us to do it. I was taught that if we even got a glimpse of the Telestial kingdom, we would want to kill ourselves just to go their. The absolute worst part if it was that I couldn’t be with my family forever. This sounded crappy enough, so I couldn’t imagine my Father in Heaven, who loved me more than my real parents did, wanted any of us to go through anything worse.
In response to my last post an ex-Mormon, Evangelical teenager, Richard, come pretty strong and hard in expressing his reasoning from scripture that Mormons hate God and don’t understand him. He argued specifically that I was blind to the “Real” truth, qouting this scripture:
1 Corinthians 2:14 : But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Kullervo (in his typical understated manner) responded to Richard and suggested that Richard’s approach was evidence that, according to Christianity, it didn’t seem that his religion was really inspired by The Spirit:
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”
Now at this point in my spiritual quest it would be hard to classify me as either a Mormon or a traditional Christian by my partly because of my “lifestyle” and partly because of my eccentric theology but I think the idea that we can find out what is good by examining the fruit. Love, joy, peace, gentleness are things I that I can sink my teeth into. It’s experience rather than abstraction. Something that even atheists may understand. Real proof . . .
Of course the question is, is this an appropriate way of going about discerning what is of God from either the Mormon or Evangelical (or any other) perspective?
Does lack of these fruits demonstrate a failure to be “fully” Christian?
Do fruits of the Spirit demonstrate a closeness to the Spirit regardless of theology?
If I feel the Spirit and experience its fruits outside of either Mormonism or Evangelical Christianity, maybe even to a greater degree than I have experienced it in those contexts what conclusions can i draw?
Since Tim is gone, I thought I would back him up by writing a Tim-Style Post. i.e. throw out a controversial LDS doctrine in sort of a challenging way and then open it up for comments.
Few Mormon doctrines are more radically paradigm-shifting than the believe in the existence of a Heavenly Mother.
What equally interesting to me is what this particular doctrine tells about how Mormonism works.
I think Evangelicals often stand with open-mouth when they read that those crazy Mormon’s believe such things because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Aside from being a radical shift in understanding of God and Man between Protestants and Mormons, the doctrine also shows a fundamental difference in the way Mormons form their personal theology vs. the way Evangelicals seem to go about it. This is what I want to explore with this post. To try to explain to bible-focused (limited?) Evangelicals why Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven, even when its not in the bible. For this I am going to have to call on the usual bunch of commentators.
Few people, if any, know the ultimate origin of the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven. Joseph Smith does not seem to have spoken directly about it in his life and there is no reference in the LDS Canon.
The first time we see it in writing comes from a woman, Eliza R. Snow, in a hymn, “O My Father” President Kimball acknowledged that “O My Father” was a “doctrinal hymn” and dozens of prophets and apostles have reiterated this idea.
President Lorenzo Snow explained that Eliza Snow got the doctrine from Joseph shortly before he was murdered.
President Spencer W. Kimball in a general conference address:
“When we sing that doctrinal hymn … ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less?” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 6.)
The doctrine of the hymn is pretty straightforward, there is a mother in heaven and we will return to live with Her and the Father, and that they together sent people on their mission to earth:
I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Let me come and dwell with you.
With your mutual approbation
All you sent me forth to do,
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
So there we have it, a revolutionary new way of looking at God and heaven that turns traditional notions on their ear.
Mormons believe it, but I can see the Evangelicals left scratching their heads:
- The doctrine is not found in scripture, including Mormon Scripture
- The doctrine was not explicitly taught or explained by Joseph Smith (even though it is pretty clear that he was claimed that he originally taught the doctrine)
- It really shifts away from all traditional interpretations of the Bible.
I can see how an Evangelical is probably left dumbfounded: “You can’t win with those Mormons, how can I teach them correct theology whenthey are going to beleive stuff like this with such slim support or understanding?”
Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible. To some Mormons, this doctrine is very uncomfortable. We sometimes downplay it and even reproach those that make “too much” of it due to the little we “know” about it. To others, agreeing with Eliza R. Snow, it makes religion make more sense: i.e. “If man is made in the image of God, why wouldn’t there be family in heaven as well as on earth. “
I think if we can give a good explanation to our Evangelical friends of why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism. (and we might have a clearer way of understanding our own view of how “doctrine” is born).
So Mormons, explain to Evangelicals :
1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and
3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?
Evangelicals, we know you don’t believe it, and we know its not in the Bible, if you try to understand why we believe you may learn a lot about Mormonism in general that will enlighten you on how we do religion in other areas.
I don’t know what faith this guy belongs to, but I for sure know he belongs to the group lovingly known as “. . . . . s” (sorry I felt convicted for calling names)
Utah Republican Blames ‘The Devil’ For Immigration
First off, I can’t stand the idea that America is somehow God’s chosen nation. It’s just plain false. We are not the apple of God’s eye. Far from it. We have a false view of God if we think he is American. False views of God lead to idolatry.
Second, have we ever thought how WE might be responsible for illegal immigration. There is a lot we could debate (and I’d rather we didnt) about illegal immigration. But rarely do I hear any one suggest that maybe we have sinned in the way we have chosen not to help our neighbor (or even perhaps in how we HAVE chosen to help our neighbor).
I think the Republican party should send out a memo suggesting that Satan is trying to tear down the GOP by inserting this guy into their elected ranks.
This touches on a lot of things we’ve been talking about
Here are 2 more
Truthiness is a satirical term coined by television comedian Stephen Colbert to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively, instinctively, or “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or actual facts (similar to the meaning of “bellyfeel”, a Newspeak term from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). Colbert created this definition of the word during the inaugural episode (October 17, 2005) of his satirical television program The Colbert Report, as the subject of a segment called “The WØRD”. It was named word of the year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.
By using the term as part of his satirical routine, Colbert sought to criticize the tendency to rely upon “truthiness” and its use as an appeal to emotion and tool of rhetoric in contemporary socio-political discourse.
Does the Bible to call us to live by Faith or Truthiness? I believe that faith is so much more than truthiness. It can coincide with fact. Ignorance doesn’t make faith increase, obedience does.