My false, pagan, so-called Christian church of men

The more I hear about the new 2009 Gospel Principles manual, the more I feel for my thoughtful, ecumenically-minded LDS friends.

My own LDS husband has always hated the Gospel Principles manual and (by extension) the “Gospel Essentials” class. He applauded Robert Kirby’s suggestion that all “Gospel Essentials” courses ought to be held in the church parking lot. It looks like, with the advent of the new manual as the text for Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, holding the second and third Priesthood/RS meetings of the month in the church parking lot might not be such a bad idea.

A chapter that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately is Chapter 16: The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times. In addition to being historically faulty in almost every way imaginable, this chapter seems to be giving the Gospel finger to a decade or two of Mormon attempts at a kinder relationship with the rest of the Christian world. Here’s a relevant excerpt (emphases mine):

Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance.

These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we are his children. They did not understand the purpose of life. Many of the ordinances were changed because the priesthood and revelation were no longer on the earth.

The emperor chose his own leaders and sometimes called them by the same titles used by priesthood leaders in the true Church of Christ. There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts. The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “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). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name had been changed.

I especially appreciate that second to last line. Yes, the non-LDS Christian world is the church of men, as opposed to the LDS church, which is what? The church of women? (Remember us?) The church of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who (as far as LDS theology goes) are also men?

I have a hard time deciding what to think of the 2009 Gospel Principles manual given how little we know about the church correlation process and who is involved in actually producing and revising these manuals. I imagine that these lines have been changed little (if at all) from the original 1978 version of the manual, which would certainly explain some of the harsh rhetoric and outdated understanding of ancient church history. Nevertheless, someone higher up must have looked at this chapter and ok’ed it for publication, and someone decided it would be a good manual to teach to the entire church for two years.

Maybe I should open the floor to my LDS friends. What’s a non-LDS Christian to think of all this?

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Other links:

“Those called Christians” and their “false Christianity” by Loyd at Project Mayhem

2009 Gospel Principles criticizes the “pagan beliefs” of those “called Christians” in “false Christianity” by Aaron Shafovaloff at Mormon Coffee

The Pierian Spring, Aquinas’s new blog for more internal LDS matters. He has been reviewing the Gospel Principles manual chapter by chapter, but Chapter 16 is not done yet. Chapter 1 is here.

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About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a human resources professional living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and an MA in American religious history from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. You can read more of her writings at www.Weighted-Glory.com.

152 thoughts on “My false, pagan, so-called Christian church of men

  1. I think for us to suppose that Constantine’s Christian Church is the same as yours would be high error. There’s room for Mormons to say, “Yup, apostasy!” while also room for Mormons to acknowledge the error-correction that has gone on outside Mormonism since that time.

    I think that you, as an Evangelical Protestant, have benefitted from the deep faith and scholarship which accompanied the Restorationist movements of the early 19th century, of which Mormonism was only a very small part of a very large whole. The sola-scriptura approach to doctrine corrected a lot of interpretive and cultural error in Christianity, in my opinion.

    Further, we all benefit from the rigorous standards imposed by Enlightenment philosophies. We can see that medieval people thought the ancient Church fell into error, or there would not have been Lutherans, or Anabaptists, or Anglicans (well there might have been Anglicans anyway), or Puritans, or a Catholic Reformation, or, or, or, or…

    That’s all I take from that lesson text. It seems very clear to me that there is more unity in the Christian world than was even true in 1830; there are no internecine Christian wars going on.

    It’s certainly not a manual chapter that would justify a Mormon Nelson exclaiming “Ha-ha! You apostates can’t *have* the truth!” which is just, y’know, such a counter-Christian stance…

    I’m not actually fond of the simplistic content in the GP manual myself, but I am very fond, so far, of the way the teachers in my ward have taken that content and produced some really interesting discussions in the 3rd hour meetings this year. Two sides exist on that coin.

  2. I can see how it is offensive, but I also don’t think the language of the manual was intended to be parsed with this level of scrutiny. It doesn’t help to interpret their words in the worst way imaginable. The “church of men” in the context of the quote above has nothing to do with gender.

  3. Rob, it was Theodosius I who made Christianity the state religion of Rome, not Constantine. Either way, I do take issue with a judgment on 4th century Christianity as I consider myself an heir of that tradition. I believe in the Nicene Creed, so that makes me a practitioner of the false Christianity that was the state religion of Rome, too, and I take issue with the implication that 4th century Christians weren’t true Christians who didn’t have access to true spiritual gifts.

    I mean, I’m reading On the Incarnation by Athanasius (c. 293 – 373) for my theology class next week. There’s a reason Christians today still study the writings of church fathers from that era.

    Mephibosheth, I don’t think the expression “church of men” is a helpful one to apply to other religious groups even if we ignore its archaic sexist connotations.

  4. Since traditional Christians today are more creedal now than they were back then, by Mormonism’s own standards it would be worse than ancient “false Christianity”, not better.

  5. While I would personally write the chapter differently, the jist of the chapter is no worse than Evangelicals who call Mormons heretics.

    Remember, we’re fine being called heretical Christians (by other’s standards) but I see nothing wrong with us claiming the same. By our standards, you are all heretical (that is incorrect) Christians. That’s kind of what it means to believe that your own religion is right, and that other’s religions are not.

  6. As a non-LDS Christian, this excerpt makes me laugh, purely because it seems like such a caricature of the evolution of Christianity. But I do appreciate the apparent resurgence of my favorite “The LDS church is the true” argument. (That being, “My church has Jesus in its name and yours doesn’t, so your church must be false.”)

    For the record, the UMC also continues to affirm the Nicene Creed.

    I guess my biggest question after reading the whole chapter (and the following one) is why the “error-correcting” that went on in the centuries following the Apostasy is completely glossed over? I mean, Chapter 17 doesn’t even discuss the Reformation, which was surely one of the most important developments facilitating Joseph Smith’s revelations? I guess you can try to argue that both chapters leave the door open for recognizing that other denominations aren’t completely lost in spiritual darkness, but the general rhetoric and structure certainly lean heavily toward “They’re all just total apostates.”

    And finally, I can see this as a nice easy set up for discussing traditional distinctions between Mo’s and Protestants, but do these classes even attempt to discuss and compare Eastern Orthodox traditions?

  7. For my money, it’s a relic of the past, a vestigial discussion that made it through correlation because no one noticed it. I think that recent conference talks (e.g. Elder Holland) have taken a very different approach.

    But yeah, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff in the vault, and sometimes it gets dragged out again in an ill-advised reboot.

    In any case, it’s obnoxious, and inaccurate, and perpetuates bad belief. It should be disavowed, and then buried forever and never exhumed.

  8. Whitney,

    I’m glad that you included a suggestion.

    “error-correcting” that went on in the centuries following the Apostasy is completely glossed over? I mean, Chapter 17 doesn’t even discuss the Reformation, which was surely one of the most important developments facilitating Joseph Smith’s revelations?

    I would guess it’s not mentioned because the class is not meant to be a world religions history, and therefore, only the history which directly impacts the Mormon narrative (e.i., there was an apostasy) was considered important. Besides, would you really feel any better if they included a statement akin to “While most reformers wanted to return to the original Christian church, they did not have the authority to speak authoritatively. As such, while their motives may have been pure, their actions obviously weren’t, especially when we consider such apostate views as TULIP.” Somewhere the line in the sand will have to be drawn, where people recognize that each religion thinks itself correct.

  9. darn you Jack, I really don’t have time for this now. But I must ask, can we safely assume that this is something the church teaches?

  10. I don’t think the expression “church of men” is a helpful one to apply to other religious groups even if we ignore its archaic sexist connotations.

    Fair enough. Let’s talk about the unhelpfulness of the expression then, rather than manufacture objections to meanings that were obviously not intended.

  11. And I also believe that 4th Century traditional Christians had access to spiritual gifts, but don’t some churches today teach that spiritual gifts ended with the apostles? So is it really that controversial?

  12. This Latter-day Saint does not agree with the language you have bolded.

    I am sorry that the language was not removed this go round of correlation. I think it will be gone (or seriously watered down) by the next revision, or the revision that follows the next one.

    One can believe in a glorious gospel and priesthood restoration (as I do) without casting aspersions of the wonderful Christianity and understandings and faith into which the restored gospel sank its roots and from which it sprang.

  13. Point well-taken, PC.

    Obviously there’s no way to get around the apostasy line, but I guess the way that the chapters frame the issue just comes off as…sloppy? As has been noted in other comments, there’s been a push within the LDS church to put the apostasy and its aftermath into a better context, so seeing a return to something that condenses both the Reformation and the Enlightenment into a rather glib sentence about people “wanting to know the truth” seems unnecessarily simplistic.

    And now that it’s taken this long to write that…I think DavidH said it pretty well.

  14. Quick update: I just noticed that I was linking to and quoting the 1997 version of the manual. I’ve updated my post. These are the changes that were made in 2009:

    ~”It taught that God was a being without form or substance” was originally “Members of this church believed that God . . .”
    ~ “The emperor chose his own leaders and sometimes called them by the same titles used by priesthood leaders in the true Church of Christ” — the word “sometimes” was not in the 1997 edition.
    ~ “Church officers were given honor and wealth. Bishops and archbishops fought among themselves to gain more power” was removed altogether.

    I’m amazed that this section was revised for the 2009 manual and these were the only changes made—the only significant change being the third one.

    Gotta run, will reply to more people later tonight.

  15. Ms. Jack, maybe the best place to start is to understand what the Evangelical view of the Christian Church is during the era of the Imperial Church and the Middle Ages. After all, you’re not Catholic. There was a Reformation, in which a large body of Christians were so *unhappy* with the Catholic Church they left it and started their own Protestant (state) churches. Those Reformers — and generations of Protestants after them — said some very nasty things about the origins, practices, and doctrines of the Catholic Church, hardly different than the things Mormons sometimes say that you are so unhappy about.

  16. This Latter-day Saint does not agree with the language you have bolded.

    Do you think a Christian religion with abominable creeds should be called “true Christianity” instead of “false Christianity”?

    In other words, are you disagreeing with the meaning of the language, or the mere expression of the language?

  17. Tee hee, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was originally incorporated as “The Church of Latter-day Saints.”

    Ooops.

  18. Jack,

    I am surprised you are surprised/dissapointed with the context of this chapter in the new gospel principles book.
    Or maybe I am wrong and you are not surprised?
    Did you not know that this is how the LDS church “officially” views the history of the Christian church?

    What did you think they would say? Hope they would say?

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  19. I read somewhere the name change in 1834 was to distinguish from copycat churches formed by Mormon apostates. But yeah, I suppose that by this logic, between 1834 and 1838, this was not the true church. You got us!

  20. This is my first comment, so I hope it does not come across as overly harsh, but how is this section “historically faulty in almost every way imaginable”? I completely agree that this section is in no way reflective of the “kinder relationship” and that certain church authorities would definitely phrase this differently, but I’m not understanding how it’s entirely historically faulty.

    Maybe my Mormon view has skewed things but I always thought there was general consensus on a few facts: Nicene creed organized under Constantine’s direction in 325 and then the church was officially established under Theodosius I in 380, meaning that during the fourth century there was increasing government involvement in the church and less rule from within the church. Thus, a gradual apostasy. Obviously, there were some spiritual gifts, but these faded out over time and returned gradually as well, starting around the time Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenburg.

    Even if you take issue with the Mormon interpretation of these events, how are these facts wrong? Because I read the statement above and can’t find much to quibble with historically; I only see language that needs massaging.

  21. I think it’s interesting to label Nicene beliefs as pagan. I’m no expert, but I had thought that pagans generally did *not* subscribe to the idea of a no-form, no-substance God. In fact, Mormon beliefs in a corporeal God sometimes cause creedal Christians to label *us* pagan.

  22. Kaimi, the manual doesn’t say that belief in a formless God is pagan. That’s a connection you (and apparently Jack) are reading into it.

    I wouldn’t use the word “dominated,” but that paganism influenced Christian thinking is beyond dispute, much to the glee of irritating neo-atheists everywhere.

  23. psychochemiker ~ Are you honestly saying that it would not bother you in the slightest if my Web site abruptly stated that Mormonism is a false Christianity that was corrupted by Americanized thought, that Mormons have no understanding of God’s love for us or our purpose in life, that Mormons lack spiritual gifts and that the LDS church is a “church of men”? You really think that the gist of the two would be the same? Because I don’t.

    Mephibosheth ~ Sexist language in religion bothers me. I know that those who use it don’t intend for it to have anything to do with gender, but if all we ever did was look at author intent when it crops up, it would never end. If the LDS church really wants to deny that God was involved in the formation and evolution of our churches (which is problematic in itself), the least it can do is acknowledge that women were involved.

    Cessationists don’t believe that the spiritual gifts ended with the apostles; they believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts ended with the apostles. God was still giving out the non-miraculous gifts. The text of the manual clearly implies that God had nothing to do with the post-apostasy Christian world.

    DavidH ~ Thank you. Much appreciated.

    Dave ~ I’m unhappy with what the LDS church is saying about other Christians in 2009 and not any earlier date. I think I’ve been pretty consistent in calling out Protestants who say harsh, condemnatory things about Mormons as well as other religions in our day and age. I don’t see how the words of Protestants past (or Mormons past, for that matter) are particularly relevant. I already know that Protestants used to tear each other apart on certain issues, to say nothing of their views on Catholics. That my spiritual ancestors were guilty of poor behavior towards other faiths doesn’t mean I’m going to let it slide where I see it today.

    Adam Smith ~ The chapter’s claims about offices in the church and the establishment of a monolithic “Church of Christ” are the historically faulty part. Beyond that, there are a couple of Latter-day Saints posting on this blog who would argue that Nicaea did not cause “the great apostasy”; the apostasy happened in the first century (they argue) and was long gone by the time Nicaea rolled around.

    See this comment by Seth R., for example.

    See also Loyd’s post on this chapter.

  24. Regarding Seth’s comment: I think it’s a straw man to say the Nicene creed did not cause the Apostasy. Of course it didn’t cause it, but that doesn’t mean the apostasy didn’t happen over time, just like the reformation and restoration lasted hundreds of years.

  25. I’m aware of a number of Latter-day Saints (myself included) who see much sloppiness in the manual, and wish it had undergone more significant revision/re-write. Sometimes, many of the concerns expressed about the manual from people outside of the LDS church echo the concerns some of us inside the Church have. Just goes to show, once again, that there will always be multiple views. I just hope more of those alternative views are actually listened to. Every conversation matters and moves us forward.

  26. Agreed Clean Cut. The imprecision in the manual plus the exhortation not to deviate can be a disaster sometimes. Hopefully these things will improve over time.

  27. Cessationists… believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts ended with the apostles

    It’s an over-simplification, to be sure. But I think that is meant to be a feature, not a bug, in an introductory manual.

    And let me say again, even though I think some of the critiques here (and at Loyd’s, yeesh) are petty, I want to reiterate that I agree with the greater point, that the harsh rhetoric is probably leftovers from the 1970’s edition, and it should be re-written in a way that won’t offend our Christian interlocutors. So yeah, this chapter is bad, and I imagine the week we discuss this in class the discussion won’t be much better.

    But with these few exceptions noted, I like the manual. Our last few lessons in Elders Quorum have been excellent. Since there is so little actual material in each lesson, the teachers have been forced to go to the scriptures and life experiences for content, and we’ve just had some great discussions.

  28. Jack: With respect to the “men”, the anonymous author was clearly relating this to the distinction between “men” and “God”, not “men” and “women”. Besides, in this context, the term “church of men” is meant to be pejorative. Why you would want the statement to criticize “a church of men and women” is puzzling to me. For Mormons, the phrase “church of men” is meant to evoke the statement of Christ to Joseph in the official 1838 First Vision account, in which Christ says “They [the churches in 1820] teach for doctrines the commandments of men, hving a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” The churches of 1820 America were not (except for the Shakers) founded by women, nor was their theology formed by women. They were teaching doctrines that had been formulated by men, from the early Fathers through Augustine and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin and Wesley.

    When I learned Japanese, I became skeptical of the whole idea that making language gender neutral would cure gender discrimination. Japanese uses a neutral term “hito” for a human being, which is usually translated simply as “man” even though it can refer to a woman, and when the gender is important the speaker will specify “otoko no hito” (a male person or man) or “onna no hito” (a female person or man). That has been true for centuries. Yet few societies could be more entrenched over male privileges versus those afforded to women. I know because my Mom is Japanese.

    It is not the use of a common term like “men” in its general meaning of “person” that makes people discriminate against women. Focusing on terminology at that level is a distraction, and can allow sexist behavior to continue so long as “gender neutral language” is used in perpetrating it.

  29. I think the LDS church suffers from a chronic failure to understand and acknowledge its relationship with history. Ever since Joseph Smith (who gave us the Book of Abraham and several different versions of the First Vision), we LDS have preferred myth-making to “just the facts.” Rather than acknowledge our continual reconstruction and reconception of historical events, we blithely pretend that the myth du jour is the only story we have ever told, and that it is God’s truth. So if you lived in the nineteenth century, we told you that polygamy was necessary to salvation; nowadays, not so much. Until recently, all American Indians used to be Lamanites. The list could go on, and (from my point of view) it would certainly need to include our gross misconception of Christian history before Joseph Smith.

    Jack’s perception of our understanding of early Christian history is more sanguine than mine. I studied early Christianity extensively at BYU with several professors. I found a few brave professors who acknowledged “facts” (like the attested persistence of spiritual gifts outside anything resembling the modern LDS church). The vast majority, however, especially those in the Religion Department proper, just parroted the myth of the Great Apostasy with no real interest in digging any deeper to see if there is really anything in the historical record to substantiate it. My own conclusion, after years struggling with the evidence, is that there is not. The Great Apostasy never happened, folks. Individual apostasies and conversions happened and continue to happen all the time, but there was never a time when God (however you conceive him/her/it/they) did not communicate in some way with humanity and endow individuals and groups with “power from on high.” The motif of “restoration” is almost as old as Christianity itself: by the time Joseph Smith picked it up, it had already rallied more prototypes to the LDS movement than you can count on both hands. Why do we dismiss the medieval restorationists (with their revelations, spiritual gifts, apostolates, etc.) as cranks but accept Smith as the real deal? In too many cases, the answer to this question is simple: ignorance. We need to know some real history, so that we can base our faith in the LDS gospel on true principles (not ignorance of known facts). That is my two cents.

  30. No Jack, I’m not saying it wouldn’t bother me, in fact I think in some ways your blog already does that. But I just don’t think it’s a valid expectation to have of you to think Mormonism is true Christianity if you’re not Mormon. I’m not saying I agree with the way the chapter was written, and I’ll make sure I teach this lesson to ensure it’s taught correctly. But, quite frankly, if you don’t believe Mormonism is true Christianity, what type of Christianity is it? If it isn’t directly inspired by God, what was it corrupted by? If the doctrines don’t come by revelation to God, are they made up by men, as Raymond pointed out?

    Look, I really don’t want to be appearing to defend how it was written. I fully agree with Clean Cut that lessons written this poorly shouldn’t be delivered too literally. But I would have already ensured it’s fixed. I think I’ve shown that I think it is wrong to call other Christian’s apostates or members of the Great and Abominable church. And while I think that many early Christians were very sincere and pious, I certainly don’t think they were authorized. But then, my faith allows them to be sincere, pious, and accepted by God even if they taught without authority (at the time) and believed incorrect things. See, unlike most Protestants, I don’t believe passing a theological creedal exam is necessary for salvation.

    I think the gist is exactly the same. And if you think otherwise, I could point out anything I find slightly offensive about your blog about my beliefs. I just don’t think that’s necessary. I don’t think that’s a fair expectation of others. In other words, I’m comfortable enough about my faith that I don’t mind that all ya’ll think I’m heretical. And I don’t think you’ve ever gone far enough to say that Mormons aren’t heretical. If I’ve missed that, please point that out to me, and I’ll recant.

  31. RTS ~ I hate to waste a good pedantic explanation, but I was beyond aware that “church of men” is a pejorative expression. That’s precisely why I sarcastically made fun of the gendered aspect of it.

    Given all the bandwidth that’s now been spilt over it instead of actually interacting with the main topic of my OP, I’m starting to feel sorry that I ever brought it up.

  32. PC, I’ve been pretty outspoken in calling out bad behavior towards Mormons from evangelical Christians, all to thundering applause from Mormons—yourself included.

    Now I point out what to me is a pretty clear example of bad behavior on the part of the LDS church towards the rest of the Christian world, and most of the responses from Latter-day Saints on this thread have been apologetics, justifications, and equivocations.

    I’m just stunned.

    If that’s how you guys really feel about this passage in the Gospel Principles manual, I guess all I can say is, thank you. This has been very informative.

  33. Come on Jack. That’s not fair. I’m not defending the way it was expressed. Maybe I could work out a way (read: correction) that I would be more comfortable with that still gets the same point across. But I don’t think it’s fair for you to expect us all to be NOM like Kaimi. I can still believe the LDS church is the “one true church” without being as off-putting as the gp manual. I’m not defending that.

  34. I’m sure “pagan beliefs” is inept shorthand for Greek philosophy, which LDS apologists (following Protestant anti-Catholic polemicists of yore) regularly finger as the primary source of early Christianity’s corruption. The dig about early Christian denial of God’s “substance” is truly a headscratcher, given the centrality of ousia/homoousios (substance/consubstantial) to trinitarian theology and the creeds. But really, these are not considered historical positions. I doubt any of those who wrote or reviewed this knew anything on the subject beyond what was came down in previous curriculum.

    Anyway, this is a necessary theological narrative. I’d be interested for Jack’s, or anyone’s, ideas on how the church might jettison its ecumenically distasteful apostasy narrative and still retain its absolutely fundamental restoration narrative. Every church has its foundational narrative, its raison d’etre. That narrative requires everyone else to be wrong, or at least, ahh, less right. I think it rare for even the most irenic Protestants to apologize for, well, protesting. If they admitted they were wrong about Catholics being wrong, they’d of course be Catholics. The Mormon apostasy narrative is simply an extension of Reformation theology and rhetoric.

  35. I agree that the book (including this section) has its shortcomings; but while I wouldn’t have written the passages referred to in the original post as they were written, I see the the parts that Jack highlighted more as poorly worded oversimplifications than anything else.

    That said, I also have to agree with something Mephibosheth said: The discussions that we’ve had in high-priests group as a result of the book have been pretty good. If a teacher uses the manual as a springboard for discussion (which is the intent) and further study, rather than treating it as some sort of scripture in itself (which it isn’t), the book doesn’t have to be limiting for us.

  36. “The discussions that we’ve had in high-priests group as a result of the book have been pretty good. If a teacher uses the manual as a springboard for discussion (which is the intent) and further study, rather than treating it as some sort of scripture in itself (which it isn’t), the book doesn’t have to be limiting for us.”

    That has been my experience in Elder’s Quorum as well.

  37. In questioning the traditional LDS narrative of the apostasy, Joseph, above makes this interesting observation: “Individual apostasies and conversions happened and continue to happen all the time, but there was never a time when God (however you conceive him/her/it/they) did not communicate in some way with humanity and endow individuals and groups with ‘power from on high.'”

    Well know LDS liberal theologian, Boyd K. Packer, has made a similar point: “Then the shadow of apostasy settled over the earth. The line of priesthood authority was broken. But mankind was not left in total darkness or completely without revelation or inspiration. The idea that with the Crucifixion of Christ the heavens were closed and that they opened in the First Vision is not true. The Light of Christ would be everywhere present to attend the children of God; the Holy Ghost would visit seeking souls. The prayers of the righteous would not go unanswered.”

    Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr 2005, 8–14

  38. A part of me secretly hopes the LDS Church gets totally roasted over this manual.

    Maybe it’ll motivate them to write up a better one.

  39. “…liberal theologian, Boyd K. Packer…”

    LOL.

    Harikari asks above how to better address the apostasy. The sentiments expressed in the quote by Elder Packer would be a good start. Whitney also made a similar point earlier, in that we believe there couldn’t have been a Joseph Smith without the Reformers. That could be in there too.

  40. I’d be interested for Jack’s, or anyone’s, ideas on how the church might jettison its ecumenically distasteful apostasy narrative and still retain its absolutely fundamental restoration narrative

    I think that’s a wonderful and important question. I personally don’t believe that is possible, and that liberal Mormons are in denial about it. But I would like to hear what both Mormons and non-Mormons here think about the possibility (or lack thereof).

  41. Easy Aaron.

    You move the apostasy back a couple centuries.

    Problem solved. The LDS Church can even blend the idea in gradually over the period of ten years or so.

    We have some hard things to deal with, but this one looks like a piece of cake to me.

  42. Honestly, I have no illusions about the ecumenical reality of how the LDS church views Christian history. I just think it’s fairly bad practice for a church to teach a shoddy version of that history to the masses when it’s not all that difficult to add some proper context. Even if this kind of thing is generating useful discussion in class despite its shortcomings, I don’t see why the church leadership should get a pass on patronizing members with such an overly simplistic presentation of the matter.

  43. A truly embarrassing passage.

    Sloppy blanket denunciations of the ancient Romans are offensive to thoughtful modern Christians with a more nuanced view of the ancient Romans. Maybe the manual editors were genuinely unaware of this.

    Jack should write them a letter. Actually, Jack says this has already been getting a lot of attention. Who else is discussing it?

  44. I’m sorry, I must be more tired than I thought. I misread your comment Aaron.

    To try and address your ACTUAL comment, I think it depends on which Christians you’re talking about.

    In my mind, we made a big step when we stopped equating Catholicism with the apostasy and stopped following the lead of anti-papist Protestant writers on the subject. Moving back from fingering Nicea as the focal point of the Great Apostasy could make even further progress in this respect.

    I think just refraining from dumping most of the blame on particular religions is a big step all by itself.

    But you’re right that there’s a non-negotiable point here. We have to continue asserting that something crucial was lost after Christ’s death, and has been restored by God via Joseph Smith. That’s not something I see us relinquishing.

    But, it does not follow that this concept is going to be equally offensive to all Protestants or Catholics. Sure, it’s going to irk Protestants whom I assume share your viewpoint Aaron. But there are a lot of different Christians out there. Many of them already acknowledge the mess of the first two centuries of Christianity. For them, the doctrine is unlikely to be as big a deal as it is to you.

  45. I’d be interested for Jack’s, or anyone’s, ideas on how the church might jettison its ecumenically distasteful apostasy narrative and still retain its absolutely fundamental restoration narrative.

    I have to agree at least in part with Aaron (!) in that there’s a certain sense in which it’s impossible. As Seth suggests, if we were to say that there wasn’t anything that Joseph Smith restored, we lose our raison d’être.

    On the other hand, a bit of humility in our attitudes toward others can go a long way. One way of expressing such humility is to recognize that we don’t have a corner on truth. As a corollary, we can recognize and even honor the good that others bring to us, both past (indeed, a part of the LDS narrative is that the Protestant Reformation set the stage for the Restoration) and present.

  46. Jack,
    I don’t entirely get your beef here. The essence of Mormonism is the Protestant reforms combined with the claim of restored authority. I’m not talking about modern LDS Mormonism and all the silly baggage that comes with it, but the Mormon essence stripped bare. Both of our paths make no sense w/o an early Christian apostasy, or we’d both be happy Roman Catholics content in our church claiming unbroken authority back to Peter/Christ combined with traditions we picked up along the way. This LDS lesson, however poor the scholarship and writing, sets a stage for the Protestant reformation and later restoration in the Mormon context. It just seems pretty low on the totem pole of problems/concerns with the modern LDS church.

    Aaron,
    Please stop citing Smith’s first vision out of context; my co-religionists do it more than enough. The “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.” applied to anyone beyond the clergy of Palmyra circa 1820 is grossly out of context.

  47. The “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.” applied to anyone beyond the clergy of Palmyra circa 1820 is grossly out of context.

    You think we’ve stopped believing in the creeds that Christians were using in 1820? Because I don’t know of a single confessional denomination that has removed any of its creeds since 1820. Books of confession usually just get longer and longer.

    I also feel like I’m seeing a poor understanding of the Protestant Reformation on this thread. Martin Luther did not want to leave the Catholic church, and he did not want to start his own branch of Christianity. He loved the Catholic church. He honestly thought that it could be reformed, and the ironic part is, most of the reforms he demanded, the Catholic church has since acquiesced to. (They just took several hundred years to do it!). That is not the same as the LDS concept of apostasy. Joseph Smith never tried to reform Protestantism. He saw no baby in that bathwater.

    I agree that harikari asks an excellent question. I have a lot on my plate this morning, but I will try to get back to it later tonight.

    I’m pretty surprised that people would wonder why I take issue with this passage. Even if we accept that this passage is just a ham-fisted outgrowth of the canonized First Vision narrative, is saying that non-LDS Christians don’t understand God’s love really necessary? I mean, really? And personally, I don’t believe the line about lack of spiritual gifts had anything to do with cessationism. Even if it did, there’s a huge difference between an internal movement arguing that we don’t have some spiritual gifts and an external group asserting that we have none of them.

  48. It is a terribly-worded passage. No doubt about it. If I had time, I’d try to write a draft that gets across the same points without the offensive language. (Odd hobby of mine: re-writing things.) Actually, it occurs to me that there is no need to re-write. I would have just taken two paragraphs from Preach My Gospel:

    After the death of Jesus Christ wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.

    Even if you disagree with the general idea, as I would assume most non-LDS people would, the language is such that it allows for many good, well-meaning people to have done good, well-meaning things, rather than accusing all of being Godless pagans wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

  49. “Both of our paths make no sense w/o an early Christian apostasy, or we’d both be happy Roman Catholics content in our church claiming unbroken authority back to Peter/Christ combined with traditions we picked up along the way.”

    I think that this is a rewriting of Christian history and I am sure that the Eastern Orthodox would have a differing opinion. If you date an apostasy prior to Nicaea the Church of Rome had not achieved ascendancy and didn’t even have a legate at the First Council of Constantinople. There are five or six (depending on who is counting) other ecumenical councils whose declarations are generally considered sound doctrine (with, admittedly a few quibbles) by the East, Rome and Protestants and three creeds also generally accepted as orthodox. All of these are rejected by the LDS.

    Jack is correct, as a member of a “confessional denomination” we subscribe to the same basic 1647 confession as any Presbyterian in Palmyra circa 1820 with a couple of changes.

    I am not in the least bit offended by being told I have pagan beliefs by the Mormons. I fail to see the difference between this and the claim that the LDS Church is the “one true church”. In either case a schism has occured. On one side is the “one true church” on the other is everybody else, East, West, Rome, Geneva, Whittenberg etc. The only debate is who is correct not that the schism has occurred.

    Its kind of like being told that the Pope rejects all other Churches except those in communion with Rome, and His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople rejects papal supremacy, or how I would say that that a Church that does not teach the Gospel of free grace is teaching a false gospel. These are fundamental truth claims, of course they conflict with each other. This is a no brainer. The interesting thing to watch is people who believe the LDS Church has “authority” and “keys” equivocate at how it uses them.

  50. Gloria ~ I am surprised you are surprised/dissapointed with the context of this chapter in the new gospel principles book.
    Or maybe I am wrong and you are not surprised?
    Did you not know that this is how the LDS church “officially” views the history of the Christian church?

    What did you think they would say? Hope they would say?

    You know Gloria, I’ve been interacting with Mormonism for twelve years now. Did my degree at BYU. Worked for the BYU religion department doing New Testament research. Worked for L. Tom Perry Special Collections processing collections for some pretty famous Mormons. I helped out at the bookstore at the 2003 FAIR Conference and introduced one of the speakers there. I’m as inside as an inside-outsider gets. And the message I’ve constantly gotten from my LDS friends is that they would like to see some measure of healing between our camps.

    I’m beyond aware of what the First Vision says. I’m beyond aware of what, historically, Mormons have said about other Christians; I just did a paper on that last semester for one of my history classes. If the canonized First Vision is viewed as an inerrant, divinely-inspired text that captures a literal dictation of what God said to Joseph Smith, then I suppose there’s little room for improvement. That also means that there’s little room for Mormons to complain if the rest of the Christian world refuses to accept them as Christian. You can’t have it both ways.

    However, I’m also beyond aware that harsh imprecations against other denominations and movements within Christianity were par for the course throughout the 19th and early 20th century. 19th century Protestant history is chock-full of them; Mormons just happen to have one of them as a scripture. If the First Vision is seen as Joseph Smith’s later reconstruction of the event (which would best fit the historical evidence involving multiple first visions), a reconstruction that bore a reflection of the divisive mindset that was typical among 19th century sects, then there is room for improvement. Significant room for improvement.

    I realize that the church can’t abandon its claims to exclusive priesthood authority without a major paradigm shift. But it can move the date for loss of that authority back to the 1st century, stop pinning the blame on Nicaea, and accept that all of the Christians who came after the apostasy were just trying to do their best with what they had. It can acknowledge that the love of God was still manifest in the world. It can acknowledge that what it calls “the light of Christ” was still present in the world, that spiritual gifts and miracles were still around, that God was still hearing and answering prayers. It could even acknowledge God’s hand in some of the key events in Christian history, such as the Reformation. That would be a much kinder look at the whole of Christian history than what the current Gospel Principles manual says.

    But most of all, it could stop implying Christians of ages past weren’t really Christians. That is an awful lot of good men and women to insult.

    I’m honestly just appalled that anyone would ever believe in a god who just ignored the whole of humanity for ~1750+ years, all because of events that they could not help. Even if such a god existed, does he really sound like someone worth worshiping? Yet that’s exactly what the manual seems to imply.

    This thread really has come as something of a shock to my system though. I asked my own husband what he thought of the passage. He said that the things I say about Mormonism are far worse so I have no room to talk. I won’t hold my breath for anyone to document where I’ve said that Mormons don’t have access to spiritual gifts and don’t understand the love of God. People tell me I’m worse, I guess it must be true. Or something.

    Last year, Aaron accused me of being steeped in BYU-FAIR-Millet-Robinson Mormonism and said that I was out of touch with what Mormons really say and think about other Christians. I’m starting to think he was right.

    Thanks everyone who has agreed with me on the badness of this passage and expressed desire for positive change. I appreciate it.

  51. Jack, you can count me as one of the people who objects to the passage. It perpetuates stereotypes that are inaccurate, overly simplistic, and offensive.

    I’ll do what I can to “set the record straight” in my Relief Society when this lesson comes up. It’s not much, I realize. But I’ll try.

  52. I don’t know…

    It seems to me that all this stuff about Protestants including the Catholic Church in the “Body of Christ” is a very RECENT development.

    There’s a reason that LDS authors like Talmage borrowed so heavily from Protestant anti-papist sources.

    I think parallels between Mormon-creedal Christian relations and Protestant-Catholic relations are a lot more apt than modern Protestants would like to admit.

    I still see knock-down, drag-out fights between Protestants and Catholics online every bit as vicious as anything I’ve seen on the topic of Mormonism. Often involving some of the same Protestants who criticize Mormons.

    So it seems to me that if some Protestants are trying to claim a united front here with Catholics, it’s a fragile alliance at best.

  53. Aaron sees what he wants to see in our faith’s attitudes. If that’s what he’s looking for, that’s what he’ll find. And he’ll find plenty of evidence for it, I have no doubt.

    It all becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy though. People are usually willing to make changes in thinking, if approached correctly. But if your sole aim in interacting with Mormons is to reinforce already existing prejudices and dig up some dirt. Then yes, you’re going to see an equal hardening on the other side.

    It’s the same attitude that kept Northern Ireland one of the longest running conflicts in the world.

  54. “Are you honestly saying that it would not bother you in the slightest if my Web site abruptly stated that Mormonism is a false Christianity that was corrupted by Americanized thought, that Mormons have no understanding of God’s love for us or our purpose in life, that Mormons lack spiritual gifts and that the LDS church is a “church of men”? You really think that the gist of the two would be the same? Because I don’t.”

    It would bother me only so far as disagreements are bothersome to those who hold different ideas on important subjects. On the other hand, I also think that (other than maybe parts of it, although I have heard enough Christians state such that it isn’t beyond the pale) it is more truthful to what you think of Mormonism.

    “And the message I’ve constantly gotten from my LDS friends is that they would like to see some measure of healing between our camps.”

    Most Mormons I know don’t care so much about healing as the other side stop telling lies or distortions of beliefs. Above all else, stop calling Mormons non-Christians, even if you use the words un-orthodox or non-traditional, or even heretic.

    “Last year, Aaron accused me of being steeped in BYU-FAIR-Millet-Robinson Mormonism and said that I was out of touch with what Mormons really say and think about other Christians. I’m starting to think he was right.”

    I don’t much agree with Aaron, but in this case I do. You have been dealing with academic Mormons who must show some care and professionalism (i.e. politically correct social constraints) as University trained. Online you have been interacting with the more articulate and liberal Mormons who themselves often question how much they actually represent the typical church member. Many Mormons don’t trust other Christians because there hasn’t been many reasons to trust them.

  55. Jack said:

    I realize that the church can’t abandon its claims to exclusive priesthood authority without a major paradigm shift. But it can move the date for loss of that authority back to the 1st century, stop pinning the blame on Nicaea, and accept that all of the Christians who came after the apostasy were just trying to do their best with what they had. It can acknowledge that the love of God was still manifest in the world. It can acknowledge that what it calls “the light of Christ” was still present in the world, that spiritual gifts and miracles were still around, that God was still hearing and answering prayers. It could even acknowledge God’s hand in some of the key events in Christian history, such as the Reformation.

    That states exactly what I believe. Furthermore, as far as I can recall, I have never heard teaching otherwise (although the date when the priesthood “disappeared” is always vague, my impression has always been that it was well before 325).

    And, to be honest, I’m surprised you aren’t aware of this, but the idea that God had is hand in the Reformation is about as established of a doctrine as something can be without being in the scriptures. Here is one of many, many examples of an article in a church publication (Friend), in this case from 1984, teaching exactly that:

    Heroes and Heroines: Martin Luther — Defender of Justice and Seeker of Truth

    One excerpt:

    It was never Martin Luther’s intention to start a new church, least of all one bearing his name. But because of his search for truth and his desire to change abuses within the church he belonged to, the floodgates of the Reformation were opened, and the unrest in people’s hearts would not be stilled.

    President Joseph F. Smith said that “Calvin, Luther, Melanchthon, and all reformers, were inspired in thoughts, words, and actions to accomplish what they did for the liberty, and advancement of the human race. They paved the way for the more perfect gospel of truth to come.” (Improvement Era, “Editor’s Table: Fountain of Truth,” June 1907, page 629.)

    Luther died in 1546 at the age of sixty-two. And to the end of his life the valiant advocate of truth could declare, “I would rather lose my life and head than desert the crystal-clear word of God.”

    And that’s just one example of many.

    Jack also said:

    If the First Vision is seen as Joseph Smith’s later reconstruction of the event (which would best fit the historical evidence involving multiple first visions), a reconstruction that bore a reflection of the divisive mindset that was typical among 19th century sects, then there is room for improvement. Significant room for improvement.

    I don’t have any problem with that, although I’m not in the majority. I would say, though, I have heard other faithful church members say that Smith’s words need to be understood in a 19th-century context. There’s no question in my mind, and in the minds of others I have talked to who have studied 19-century America, that the Protestantism of Joseph Smith’s childhood was far different than much of the non-LDS Christianity we see around us today today.

  56. Sorry to take a 90 degree turn here, but it strikes me that there is an intractable aspect to this discussion — it seems clear that we (individually and as denominations) attempt to use our version of history to justify our exceptional claims. It also seems clear that while we can refine our understanding of the facts, we’ll never get to a 100% accurate picture of the historicity of any of this. So we’re left with quibbling about semantics and playing “gotcha” on little (or sometimes big) specifics. Result: remonstration, defensiveness, apologia, and entrenchment.

    Ultimately we are individual believers (or non-believers), who seek a means to refine and apply our belief (or philosophical fundamentals) in the service of improving our lives and the lives of those around us. The further away we get from the question “How can I live my beliefs today in order to make things better” the more we’re going to be lost in the realms of logical circles and philosophical/theological trench warfare.

    I’m a lifelong LDS member, a returned missionary, temple-married, and a high counselor in my stake. I struggle to reconcile a fixation on making the historical narrative support exceptional claims with a desire to practice “pure religion” (see James 1:27 or Mosiah 18: 8-10).

    I seek community with anyone who will help me be better at mourning with those who mourn, comforting those in need of comfort, visiting the sick and the fatherless, etc. I’m not particular about the creed.

  57. My non-PC reading of the above:

    “dominated”

    As pointed out above, even studied Protestants themselves recognize that the language, if not the theology, represented a Hellenistic (i.e. Pagan even to some Jews of the time) influence. They often argue that it was used because it was understood. Mormons mostly believe the language, no matter how needed for understanding, distorted the purity of the original gospel.

    “adopted this false Christianity”

    Well, for a Mormon it wasn’t Hinduism, had no authority, and had little truth. That pretty much sums up the word “false” as correct. Adopted also means that there was a precursor. It may or may not indicate the Apostasy came before the Nicene Creed.

    “It taught that God was a being without form or substance.”

    Did it or didn’t it? Isn’t the fact that Mormons see God as having a body (glorified as it might be) considered an abomination by most Christians? If not there has been a lot of mockery for nothing.

    “These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us.”

    I can see taking this wrong outside of context, but you would need to understand the vision of Nephi in the Book of Mormon to get a full theological context. The list of what gospel knowledge was denied or lacked in the same paragraph hints at the first sentences meaning. It is similar in sentiment as those who say Mormons aren’t saved by grace.

    “There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts.”

    Again, a theological rather than historical narrative going on here. Without the true priesthood there cannot be any spiritual gifts beyond general blessings of Heaven. The gifts must be tied in with Priesthood authority or they are not of eternal significance.

    “It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. ”

    Again, a theological narrative based on the supremacy of Priesthood authority and direct revelation. Lose that and you have nothing more than Christian platitudes, general blessings, and good intentions. I see nothing wrong with the above other than simplistic history.

  58. Jack, we seem to approaching the manual with different assumptions.

    The church can… accept that all of the Christians who came after the apostasy were just trying to do their best with what they had.

    Not all of them were doing their best, though. And I think that’s where some of the confusion is coming in. You read the passage in the manual and think that is a terrible thing to say about St. Francis of Assisi. I read the manual and think that is a spot-on thing to say about Pope Alexander VI. You might answer, well, he wasn’t really Christian. And the manual writer would say, “Agreed! He was ‘called Christian.'” So I think we’re talking about two different groups of people here.

    I have a few other quibbles with your comment, but I agree with the vast majority of it so I’ll leave it at that.

  59. Seth

    I hope you didn’t confuse my statement, I just don’t get particularly worked up about truth claims or competing religious views. My point was that the ecumenical creeds and councils of the church prior to the Great Schism are for the most part agreed to (with exceptions of course) today by the East, Rome, and Protestants. Because the doctrines that Mormons have drawn the line in the sand over predate both the Protestant Churches or the Church in Rome, my observation is that to call one branch of Christianity pagan is to call all of them pagan. Any reference to disagreements between Protestants and the Church in Rome are beside the point.

    I know that in some settings people will express religious views with words like “Pagan” and in other settings they will use more charitable language. I simply have no drama with that.

    My own confession at one time identified the pope as the anti-christ, this has been changed but in all honesty I find Rome’s claims to primacy to be just as schismatic as the LDS claims to be the “one true church”. At the same time I understand the East West divide and major issues there are about ecclesiology I hold out great hope for the dialogs that have been ongoing between confessional Reformed denominations and the Churches in the East on the subject of justification.

    I participate in this online dialog because I have people I care about who are LDS and I want to better understand their beliefs, not out of a misguided effort to convert the Internet or create some form of orthodox Reformed and Mormons together society. I can say the one thing that I have learned is the quickest way to shut down any conversation is to say that you aren’t a Christian. The other thing I have learned is not to get worked up about hyperbolic language like Pagan.

  60. Mormons I know don’t care so much about healing as the other side stop telling lies or distortions of beliefs. Above all else, stop calling Mormons non-Christians

    Congratulations, Jettboy. You win the Golden Cognitive Dissonance Award concerning the entire point of this thread.

    I hereby officially think that this would be a perfectly acceptable thing for Protestants to teach about Mormons in their Sunday school classes. Tell me what you guys think:

    Soon white supremacist, androcentric, Masonic beliefs dominated the thinking of those who styled themselves “saints.” Brigham Young adopted this false Christianity as the main religion in Utah. This church was very different from the historic Christian faith as founded by Jesus. It taught that God was an exalted man from another planet with multiple goddess wives.

    These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we become his children only through adoption via faith in Jesus Christ. They did not understand the purpose of life. Many of the ordinances and simple truths of the Gospel were distorted because of their false claims to priesthood and revelation.

    Brigham Young established his own leaders and sometimes called them by the same titles used throughout the historic Christian church. There were false Apostles or other leaders who erroneously claimed power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that person be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name was repeatedly changed in an effort to counterfeit the true Body of Christ.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would never publish that in a manual myself. But I wouldn’t object if this is what our manuals said about Mormons, provided the teachers ensure a really good discussion in spite of it.

  61. I think its accurate so far as the beliefs of many other Christians when it comes to Mormons. Of course its objectionable, because I don’t agree with it. However, it is more truthful than a lot of other things I have read about Mormons.

  62. I think HC/Believer has hit upon the only tenable answer to harikari’s question. If the LDS church is going to survive as a force for good in the world, and a force to which I can continue to feel comfortable contributing time and effort, it will have to move away from revisionist history as the source of its “truthfulness” and substitute some solid ethics. James 1:27 and Mosiah 18:8-10 provide a great place to start building.

    Meanwhile, we can invoke the principle of continuing revelation to cancel the historicity of our old mythologies and relegate them to their proper position in church teaching. Remember that they have no integral connection to ethics anyway. They are just stories that help us visualize the principles by which we aim to live our lives. They do not have to be “true” historically to do that (think of Aesop’s fables). I think the Mormon myth contains a lot of true principles that have a tendency to be obscured and even violated when we lie to ourselves and the world in a hopeless attempt to make it a narrative of historical facts.

  63. My comment got nabbed by the spam catcher. Or I jacked up the tags, no disrespect to peoples named Jack 🙂

  64. [COMMENT DELETED BY JACK DUE TO BEING OFF-TOPIC, WALL O’ TEXT COPY ‘N’ PASTE, SEE BELOW. THE COMMENT WAS COPIED AND PASTED FROM HERE.]

  65. Spam, I deleted your wall-o-text, copy ‘n’ paste comment.

    You want to link to articles at your blog, fine, but please don’t derail my thread by copying them in their entirety here.

    And for the record, the subject is not whether or not other Christians have ever taught an apostasy (they have). The question is, whether or not the LDS church’s portrayal of non-LDS history and belief as presented in the 2009 Gospel Principles manual was fair, accurate, and well-mannered.

  66. Now Jack,
    Although I respect that SPAM did violate a rule by copying an enormously large block of text (somehow, SPAMLDS makes a lot of sense as a name…), he did bring up a valid point.

    Lots of people have said similar things to the lesson manual about past heretical christianities. And unless you’re going to de-friend all of them, you should really rethink taking the point of LDS belief in apostasy too personally. The manual’s bad, but you are also taking it in the worse possible way. Paul pointed out to you, essentially, that we could ALSO take everything you write in the worst possible way, but you’ve got street cred. Paul’s married to you, so he knows he can give you a major benefit of the doubt. I met you once, yeah, we trust one another, but that friendship requires constant charity, about what you write, and I hope you give me charity on what I write. I have to remind myself that you see things through your own experiences which are not my own.

  67. “But I wouldn’t object if this is what our manuals said about Mormons, provided the teachers ensure a really good discussion in spite of it.”

    Jack, that’s not what we’re saying. Most of us agree here that we too have been frustrated with the narrow views expressed in this manual. I object to multiple things that are presented there precisely because I care and it does matter to me. I’m optimistic it will be changed, despite that fact that it already should have been. It’s just not the way our current leaders even teach it, so it’s clearly outdated and out of step with much Mormon thought. Why it didn’t undergo more significant revision is beyond me. So thank you, as you said in the OP, that you “feel” for those of us who get it.

    The point is that we’re not condoning its deficiencies. The fact that we have managed to have “good discussions” in spite of it doesn’t mean we approve of the status quo. Just as you would most certainly shed some better light on Mormonism if the topic came up in your classes, there are many of us that are trying to do the same in ours in terms of traditional Christianity. Thankfully, I have yet met anyone like Jetboy in my neck of the woods.

  68. LOL! Sorry guys, I don’t worry with making friends with the likes of Aaron Shavoloff and the street preachers who protest in front of General Conference, temple dedications, etc.

    I simply presented the historical facts and you can do what you want with them. You’ll note that I didn’t use one LDS source in the lot.

    Members of the Church need to stand up and boldly declare that the apostasy occurred and a Restoration was necessary. Preaching the truth will necessarily offend people who have a vested interest in preserving the false creeds.

    Joseph Fielding McConkie said it well. Paraphrasing him, whenever latter-day saints preach the gospel, they need to ask, was their message worth the blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Did Joseph and Hyrum die and seal their testimony with blood so we could simply seek acceptance by “Babylon?” No, they gave up their lives as a testimony for the truth.

    Jesus didn’t try to make friends with the Pharisees and the Sadducees who sought his destruction. Neither should we seek to appease those who seek our destruction.

    If there was no apostasy, then there was no need of the Restoration. If there was an apostasy and Joseph Smith wasn’t the Restorer, then the Christian world would still be in apostasy. It isn’t the apostasy that’s in doubt by history–it’s the veracity of the Restorer. The Holy Spirit bears witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

    A real “LDS & Evangelical Conversation” is now occurring, because someone on our side stood up for the truth instead of apologizing for it. You can keep the Dale Carnegie books and the “ecumenical dialog.” I’ll stick with the Book of Mormon and the revelations.

  69. So Jettboy is merely echoing other commentators in this thread and people are defending spamLDS.

    In the immortal words of BtVS’s Xander, “Did everybody have their crazy flakes today?”

    In any case, this thread has gotten way more attention than I expected it to and I really need to move on to my homework and other online commitments. Feel free to keep posting comments, but I hereby exit stage left.

  70. Jack,
    I’m not defending SPAM. In fact, I just told him to go take a flying leap. I said that he did have a point. Besides, I was mostly agreeing with Paul.

  71. Ah, Ms. Jack Meyers of the anti-Mormon “Clobberblog” (what a charitably named site!) has cut and run after deleting my reply on the history of the apostasy.

    How wonderful to see to unveil anti-Mormon activity that is only thinly disguised as “dialog.”

  72. Yup. And now I’m disemvoweling your comments, too.

    This is Tim’s blog, not mine. You’re welcome to comment on it all you like.

    But you are hereby banned from this thread.

    UPDATE: While I feel little remorse about not giving free speech to someone who bypasses thoughtful interaction with my ideas in favor of calling me names, I’ve restored spamLDS’s non-copy-and-paste comments to make it easier for people to follow our exchange. I’ve also added a link to the source of his copy-and-paste comment.

  73. BTW, I just noticed that spam has a pending comment at 1:19 pm apologizing for the breech in copy-n-paste etiquette and linking to his articles on the subject. It went into the moderation queue without any help from me due to containing three links.

    But since I just banned him from the thread for his name-calling spasm, I feel no inclination to rescue it from the pending queue or let him advertise his site here.

  74. Well someone did.

    I get that people are sissies and everything, but maybe we could compromise somehow and I could, like, keep just one very favorite bad word.

  75. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life edited your swearing on this blog. Maybe it was Tim.

    There could be a language filter in place. My admin rights for this blog don’t go far enough to check.

  76. I agree with what Clean Cut said:

    But I wouldn’t object if this is what our manuals said about Mormons, provided the teachers ensure a really good discussion in spite of it.

    Jack, that’s not what we’re saying. Most of us agree here that we too have been frustrated with the narrow views expressed in this manual. I object to multiple things that are presented there precisely because I care and it does matter to me. I’m optimistic it will be changed, despite that fact that it already should have been. It’s just not the way our current leaders even teach it, so it’s clearly outdated and out of step with much Mormon thought. Why it didn’t undergo more significant revision is beyond me. So thank you, as you said in the OP, that you “feel” for those of us who get it.

    I’d also point out that near the beginning of the manual — and I don’t recall seeing anything like this in other manuals, although it may have been — the editors specifically ask for input on how future editions might be improved and provide an address for doing so. Although my quibbles are mostly just that, and certainly involve only a tiny portion of the manual, I do plan on taken them up on their offer.

  77. I must admit I am surprised to see the lesson written so harshly (and un-factually!). I think that in the LDS church we have an unfortunate tendency to assume that those priests and emperors the lesson mentions were acting in an actively oppressive, power-grabbing, evil mustache-twirling way. Were there no faithful, God-loving people between Paul’s time and Joseph Smith’s? The GP manual must teach about an apostasy of some sort, but I would like to see it written in a way that gives credit to the millions of good, faithful people who didn’t/don’t belong to the LDS church. Until that happens, I guess I can only apologize, for what it’s worth.

  78. I could be totally wrong, I doubt an official replacement of the manual will be published for another 10 years.

  79. This is true. Kind of depressing, but true. I’ll just have to be extra-obnoxious in class to make up for it. Now that the manual’s out, is there any other solution? Barring mass-mailing of corrected copies to Church headquarters, of course. Though, now that I think about it, maybe that’s not such a bad idea 😀

  80. Jack, you’re excessively well beyond aware these days. When did that happen? Or did I just miss it? 😉

    Frankly, it seems to me this whole issue is over “tone.” But when it comes down to it, we ALL think our OWN church is “the only true church” or “the most true of all the churches.” And to that extent, we all believe the the other churches have become non-Christian or non-correctly-Christian or diverged from the path of what we think is true Christianity. Or pagan-ish.

    So, the manual actually spells it out. So what?

    In Florida my kids (and the Jewish kids and any non-evangelical kids) were told repeatedly they’d rot in hell for eternity. While I didn’t do that kind of screeching at kids nor in public places as it was done to us, I didn’t find it terribly offensive, more just inappropriate for the venue. That IS what they believed. (And I believed they couldn’t got the celestial kingdom unless they converted.) At least they were honest about it instead of trying to fluff it up in “friendly” verbiage.

    Like Aaron S said, I wonder what that would look like. “Because you are Mormon you will spend a very long time in an extremely toasty place with other people like you”?

  81. But Alison, Mormons don’t believe people of other religions will go to hell, and there’s a big difference between “fluffing” that sort of accusation and being respectful (not to mention historically accurate) when talking about other people’s beliefs. As a Mormon, I believe that any one of those “apostate” people can be just as good of a person as any faithful Mormon, and gain everything I hope to gain in the next world. God is the judge, not me, and I think He wants my conversation with others to reflect that. Its one thing to say that the LDS church is the only one that teaches the doctrine and has the ordinances necessary for salvation. It’s another thing to question the character of the people who founded other religions, or call their beliefs pagan, or say that they have lost understanding of God’s love for us when we haven’t even met them and have no way of knowing!

  82. Allison, it’s possible the issue is tone. But perhaps it also has to do with nuances, or a lack thereof. Acknowledging an apostasy and a restoration doesn’t mean that all other Christians are false Christians and that they don’t understand God’s love, etc. It’s much more nuanced than that.

    SPAMLDS apparently has no interest for nuances–he seems to think that either others are for us or they’re against us. Anyone who says anything critical is labeled “anti-Mormon”. Thus, he mistakenly takes a black and white, all or nothing view. Those of us who know better recognize room for a more nuanced teaching.

    We don’t have to attribute bad motives here. Most Christians were doing their best to counteract apostasy. We already acknowledge the Reformers as assisting the Restoration and that they were inspired–that Tyndale was inspired that and Columbus was inspired. Many of the apostles have talked about Plato and Socrates as being inspired and about God raising up men in various parts of the land to teach and give light, even if they didn’t have the priesthood.

    We can recognize the good–and I believe most LDS do (maybe except for Jetboy) without having to attribute stereotypes of early Christians or traditional Christians today. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or praiseworthy, we [ought] to seek after those things. And I see A LOT of praiseworthy in other Christians. Mormonism does claim a monopoly on the priesthood and temple ordinances but as far as truth and inspiration, there is more than enough to go around.

    We always hope that others will be careful to not stereotype Mormons–we can (and should) return the favor.

  83. Here’s a quote that should be supplemented into the lesson when the time comes:

    “God, the Father of us all,” Ezra Taft Benson said, “uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future.” Elder Benson then quoted the following from a conference address delivered by Orson F. Whitney in 1928: “Perhaps the Lord needs such men [and women] on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else.

    “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people.” Elder Whitney then pointed out that we have no warfare with other churches. “They are our partners in a certain sense.”

  84. Clean Cut, I like you, and I appreciate your continued comments on this thread (as well as those who have stated similar thoughts).

    Kullervo, I’ll forward you the email notifications I get for comments. The disemvowler cannot reach Spam LDS there. Mua ha ha.

  85. I have never heard of “disemvowelling” and thought the commenter was being particularly obnoxious. So I read the whole stupid thing just to see what he was being so obnoxious about.
    Tricks on you, spamlds, because you probably just aided an atheist in avoiding Alzheimer’s. ha ha!
    I did get handed a copy of the new GP when I went to RS this last Sunday to hear ZDLynette. I giggled a little bit thinking, “maybe this is just a stupor of thought” because my overwhelming impression was, “man this is boring.” And the illustrations are almost nauseatingly twee.
    But Lynette was teaching so there WAS a great discussion and all of the things I find so compelling about you peculiar people came rushing in: a breathtakingly intelligent woman standing in front of a room of other women, revealing her broken and corrupted nature, teasing out meaning from a scene in a garden thousands of years ago and bearing witness on what it means to her in 2010.
    I would love to have a larger discussion- (maybe a Sunstone panel, Jack?!) on this interplay between internet Mormons and the rank and file Mormon who, preumably, knows better than to dabble in the dark arts of the bloggernacle…

  86. Jack,
    On your reaction to ’“all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.”, again, I believe it is a matter of context. In Smith’s accounts of his first vision he is claiming to convey an experience he had as a young teen circa 1820. Moreover, at best, Smith can only communicate an aspect of his vision (hence why I think all scriptural accounts should be read skeptically, but I digress). Please don’t fall into the common LDS pitfall of hanging onto every word of LDS canon and ending up on a tangential meaning that likely was never intended. I doubt the word “creeds” Smith quotes from his vision has anything to do with creedal books that I doubt he had been exposed to in any depth at that time. After all, following his vision, he didn’t go seek out the Quakers or another worship group that has no creeds, so there’s not much to read into that word. The gist of the message is Smith’s claim that he was told to join none of the churches, as they were all wrong. While, I know many of my fellow LDS love to cite Smith’s account out of context as a club against all other modern churches, to apply it beyond the churches/preachers of Palmyra circa 1820 is out of context.

    In short, rising above the poor standard of scholarship you condemn in the LDS manual really limits interpretation of Smith’s account.

  87. Steve, that would be all fine and dandy except for the way Joseph lived out the message he received in that First Vision. HE clearly thought it meant more than just the churches in the Palmyra area. Do you think Joseph was unable to accurately interpret his own vision? If so, then you’ve got bigger problems than Chapter 16 of the Gospel Principles manual.

    Kullervo, I’m manually editing you. The word doesn’t make my ears bleed, but I don’t want this blog to be blocked from religionist who use internet filtering software.

  88. We have no need for people here that don’t want to make friends. Jesus said love everyone.

    Thank you, PC. That was a very nice comment.

  89. Tim,
    We know Smith was very poor at interpreting much of what he received. His hemispheric model of BofM geography when a causal read of the book screams limited geography is a prime example (not that I’m sold on BofM historicity anyway), but the point is Smith dictates a book and then doesn’t even understand the book superficially. If I had a vision from The Almighty and could understand/interpret/convey 1/100th of it, I’d be doing very well. G-d is independent of His creation, space-time, etc. There’s only so much that can be understood about G-d in this mortal realm.

    Again, whether it is Smith at age 36 or modern LDS, to use the account of the vision of young Smith circa 1820 as a club against modern churches is out of context. Yes, I’m aware it’s commonly done my co-religionists. That doesn’t make it right. It’s certainly not scholarly.

  90. I was bored so I read through SpamLDS’s ramblings. I think they made more sense after having been disemvoweled than otherwise. But, then, I feel that way about most of the people that Jack has disemvoweled. 🙂

    Jessica – I agree! I think it is totally rad that I have internet friends (some of whom are also real friends) that I can disagree with and still love.

  91. Kullervo,

    Email me. I got the whole thing in my email inbox before Jack could delete it. I can send you a transcript.

    Mwah, ha, ha…

  92. I was trying to figure out who SpamLDS was and found his website where he has a post about this post. I am currently waiting to see if he will allow me membership to respond, but I personally couldn’t resist pointing out his comments here. Especially when he refers more than once to “Clobberblog” as an anti-Mormon site, and to this site as a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”.

    Personally, I am LDS and proud of it, but I also appreciate this site (and others like it, like Clobberblog). I feel somewhat embarrassed when I see comments like this. I feel a bit like saying, “Anti-Mormon, sir? I have known anti-Mormon sites, sir, and Clobberblog is no anti-Mormon site!” 😀

    I’m betting I won’t be able to comment over there, will I?

  93. Originally, this comment was me thanking Tom for pointing that link out to us and linking to where I’d responded to spamLDS.

    But I’ve decided in retrospect that he’s really not worth it and his words on his own blog and this thread speak for themselves. So I’ve removed the response.

    I sure do love being called a “sheep in wolves clothing” though. I don’t know what that is, but I love it.

  94. Jack-

    ” What’s a non-LDS Christian to think of all this?”

    I think that you can think that some LDS don’t understand “non-restored” Christian beliefs and they don’t have a good handle on history. This reads like a fairy-tale. I don’t think most Mormons think about other Christians that way, but they may think about the great apostasy this way.

    I think the manual reflects the simplistic approach that most people I have met (not just most LDS) to religious narrative, i.e. simplistic, not historically accurate depictions of events and sweeping unsupportable conclusions.

  95. BTW-

    The text Jack quotes is the same as the 1978 Gospel Principles manual, one place where a little revision would have been very helpful.

  96. Kullervo, I’m manually editing you. The word doesn’t make my ears bleed, but I don’t want this blog to be blocked from religionist who use internet filtering software.

    Sighhh. That’s fair I guess. Still won’t stop me though. I’m recalcitrant. Those religionists had better appreciate the work you have to do.

  97. I sure do love being called a “sheep in wolves clothing” though. I don’t know what that is, but I love it.

    I think this means that as much as you try to come across all mean and nasty, in reality you are cute and cuddly.

  98. I think this means that as much as you try to come across all mean and nasty, in reality you are cute and cuddly.

    Awww . . .

    Would you believe that I still sleep with a teddy bear?

    Well, I do sometimes. My three year-old daughter keeps stealing it from me. Brat.

  99. Amen. I know for a fact that many like SPAM are trying to do the right thing. I am sorry that they think the most important aspects of the gospel of Christ (in whatever faith tradition they construe it) are those that (in my view) are least valuable: they insist on absolute adherence to a naively historicized mythology that must be embraced as dogma. In practice it seems that this almost invariably contravenes the two great commandments, since it is hard to love your neighbor in a way that she will recognize when you are busy browbeating her, just as it is hard to really love God when you conceive of him/her/it/them as a fascist dictator. But what is a good, orthodox LDS to do?
    I remember a time in my life as an LDS when I had no more knowledge of reality than SPAM, and I occasionally behaved just as badly. God have mercy on all of us. And while we are trying to sort out what exactly that means, maybe we can have a little charity for each other, too.

  100. I don’t know about SPAM Boy not blogging anymore. He’s an Adam Greentool type of AH who will disfellowship some poor kid for self pleasure and ex him if he used his left hand. I pity his branch now that he’s not blogging.

  101. Steve EM ~ It’s funny that you bring up Adam Greenwood. In the 10-11 years since I turned my back on the evangelical counter-cult ministry and began my “friendly dialogue” approach, a grand total of two Mormons have called me “anti-Mormon.”

    Guess who the second one was?

    Oh, and just for the record: I don’t love Mormons. I just enjoy using them for sex.

  102. Yeah Jack, the way “anti-Mormon” gets throw around by the Greentools and SPAM Boys of Mormondom, it’s lost all meaning. I’ve heard active LDS called anti for stating truisms like “JS had a healthy libido” or “BY was a bigot”, etc. I wish it would be reserved for haters seeking to harm the Mormon people.

  103. “I wish it would be reserved for haters seeking to harm the Mormon people.”

    And for people who say disparaging things about the Mormon dress code, of course…

  104. Yeah Seth, funny how both the LDS and FLDS both fell into the period clothing trap (albeit different periods) that befalls some religions. The GAs with TMBS and white shirts is ok for a bunch of old farts you don’t know what year it is and some not-so-old farts who kiss up to the old farts, but the worst are our young bike riding missionaries wearing a tie like a hundred years ago. OK Greenknob, have at me.

  105. Jack, I hope that our missionaries continue to wear the suits. I do sincerely wish that the wearing of 70s-era belly-warmers would be grounds for dishonourable discharge. The ties are ugly, ridiculous, and don’t even have the charm of the juggling snowman.

    Regarding the second issue of heckling folks for their clothing… those are the kind of people that I feel need a good junk punch. (Or the female equivalent.)

  106. those are the kind of people that I feel need a good junk punch. (Or the female equivalent.)

    The female equivalent of a junk punch is a junk punch. It hurts women, too. The bosoms are sensitive as well.

    You know that part in the Mr. Deeds remake where Winona Ryder gets into a bar fight with that large woman and attempts to kick her in the groin, only to have the large woman laugh at her and say, “What are you kickin’, sweetie?” I was disappointed with that gag. You can tell that joke was written by men.

    (The entire movie is on YouTube; that clip starts here at 3:28.)

  107. To clarify, it’s the tie wearing while riding a bike that’s definitely 100% period clothing of ~100 years ago. It was an anachronism when I served in the South of France circa 1978!

    The GAs with the white shirts and TMBS is borderline period clothing (circa 1950 corporate America). I say borderline given the top leadership doesn’t even know what year it is and the younger GAs got there by sucking up to the old guys, etc. It’s amusing now when I here doctrinal rationales for white shirts evolving such as it’s a symbol of purity by the passer of the Sacrament, etc, when it’s just a corporate uniform of yesteryear.

    My guess is some day, likely in my lifetime, an LDS Pres will start showing up at events in a blue shirt few times and the whole silly nonsense will unravel overnight. The alternative is for the LDS white shirt to become entrenched 100% period clothing within the next generation. Any period clothing religion is too exclusionary to ever have a prayer of becoming the rolling stone that fills the earth. Oh, the irony of orthodoxy undermining the LDS church!

  108. If Jack’s still reading:

    I realize that the church can’t abandon its claims to exclusive priesthood authority without a major paradigm shift. But it can move the date for loss of that authority back to the 1st century, stop pinning the blame on Nicaea, and accept that all of the Christians who came after the apostasy were just trying to do their best with what they had.

    You’re right, and in fact it takes exactly your view. Well, at least many LDS scholars do. Does that count for “the church”? (I didn’t think so.)

    Now (a big breath) . . .

    As far as I know, “the church” (meaning, correlation) has never set a date for the loss of authority in any official literature, and neither does the passage cited. It does imply that Christianity was already “false” when adopted by the Roman emperor as the state religion (presumably, Constantine is meant), which is the prevalent current thinking. But Nicaea isn’t mentioned at all.

    Certainly Mormons have tended to think of Nicaea as the terminus ante quem of the Great Apostasy because that was Talmage’s conclusion in his book of that title. He depicts it as a process that took place in the first few centuries up to Nicaea, but is no more specific.

    More recent LDS authors have tended to place that loss of authority, and effectively the Apostasy, much earlier, at about the end of the 1st century. Starting probably with Stephen Robinson, some have pointed to a perceived gap in Christian literature between the end of the NT (traditionalist dating) and the earliest patristic literature, a period of perhaps 100 years (Robinson says).

    Robinson describes the portraits of Christianity revealed in the NT and this earliest patristic literature as dramatically different. His metaphor is that its like going into a room (NT), having someone turn out the lights, “we hear the muffled sounds of a great struggle,” and when they come back on (Apostolic Fathers, etc.), the same furniture is there but it’s all been rearranged. This is in his famous article, “Nephi’s ‘Great and Abominable Church.'”

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=7&num=1&id=168

    Robinson calls this gap in Christian literature a “blind spot.” Emeritus GA Alexander Morrison calls it a “black hole,” and reaffirms Robinson’s basic position with much more exposition in his book, Turning from the Truth. (2005). Later the same year Noel Reynolds articulated the same view in his introductory essay to the conference volume, Early Christians in Disarray. And in fact, Reynolds and Morrison are personal friends; Reynolds was Morrison’s primary source of views and information, I think.

    But several other LDS authors have also taken this same view. It is clearly dominant now among LDS academics. I think for three reasons, at least. First, the “blindspot/black hole” thesis provides a certain historical space for all sorts of unseen nastiness to happen, removing both the need and even the possibility of describing the Great Apostasy in historical terms. Second, I think Mormons cannot conceive of a true and living church without apostles and prophets, so as soon as the apostles and apostleship disappear into the “black hole,” so does the true and living church.

    Finally, this enables Mormon scholars of Christian history to view it all, from stem to stern, in more generous terms as the best efforts of sincere, well-intentioned and faithful Christians who had, alas, lost the priesthood and revelation somehow, somewhere, in the Black Hole. This characterization has been repeated a number of times by those just named and others. This obviously also dovetails into current Mormon characterizations of our “friends from other faiths.” Contrary to what I think some have implied here, the church does not view the Great Apostasy cum apostasy as individual, but strictly institutional. Other Christians are not apostates from the truth, but victims of institutional failure. As were all early Christians. Only Mormons can be apostates, in any full and fitting sense.

    However, I don’t think the curriculum writers have read these books or give a fig about current LDS academic thought on the topic. Ah well.

  109. Oh, that first full paragraph is a quote from Jack, if that can be fixed.

    And sorry to derail the great “junk punch” subtopic you had going . . .

  110. I don’t see how pushing back the Great Apostasy into the “black hole” time period removes the idea that God told Joseph that the Christian creeds were an abomination.

    And I have a hard time seeing how a religion with abominable creeds can be “true Christianity”.

    So I’m not really seeing how the main substance of the Gospel Principles quote in question is refuted by the new direction BYU professors are taking.

    Help me out here.

  111. In the first version of the First Vision, there is no reference to non-LDS Christian creeds as being “abomination.” The reference shows up later, in a version of the vision composed during a period of severe trial for the LDS church. At the time of this revised, augmented version, many people were leaving the church, founding their own splinter groups and/or reassimilating into more traditional faith traditions. Joseph added the polemical reference to combat these dissenters and cement his authority among those who remained members of the young church. For a quick look at the details, see Grant Palmer’s _Insider’s View of Mormon Origins_, pp. 235-258. A really radical solution to the problem we LDS face would be to retreat to the earliest version of the First Vision, de-emphasizing the later version(s) as setting an adversarial tone that the church no longer has any compelling reason to adopt. The only thing preventing us from doing this (as I see it) is our pig-headed determination (as a church, not necessarily as individuals) to maintain that “all is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth” (2 Ne 28:21) and hath no need that any prophet should reveal anything new to her (beyond how many earrings faithful women ought to wear). Maybe God is waiting for Thomas Monson to follow Spencer Kimball’s example and ask for a real, paradigm-changing revelation. How many of us would remain faithful if he did? Are we the dead weights holding the church back?

  112. @Aaron – I’m not saying this POV addresses your concerns (it has nothing to say on the First Vision), but I think the quote under discussion is generally consistent with it anyway. And the quote itself doesn’t bring up creeds except perhaps by implication, i.e., what the imperial church taught about the nature of God. So I think you’re bringing up a related but separate issue.

    In any case, I don’t believe (other scholars have noted this, too) that “their creeds” in JS-H 1:19 is being used in the narrow and technical sense of the conciliar creeds of the ecumenical councils, the Westminster Confession, etc. It’s being used in the more general sense of religious teaching, as was common at the time. And the possessive “their” has as its referent both the sects soliciting Joseph (mentioned antecedently) and more specifically the “professors” that are given both barrels in the rest of the verse. In other words, it refers specifically to the teachings of the ministers soliciting Joseph.

    I’m not saying Mormons affirm all the traditional creeds or the theology surrounding them. Of course we don’t, in part because we know nothing about them. They just are not part of our own theological history. But too, I’m uncertain to what degree we specifically reject them. The church has just never addressed this, which is why we’re here hanging so very much on one instance of one word.

    In any case, many other Christian faiths don’t accept the creeds or ecumenical councils, in their totality. Most emphatically, all non-Chalcedonians. Are Copts, Armenian Orthodox, etc., “false Christians” because they do not? Does their rejection of same imply a belief that Chalcedonian Christians are not Christian? Of course not. Do most Christians even know the difference between Chacedonians and non-Chacedonians? Of course not. These are fairly scholastic issues.

    Every Christian faith has its own preferred credal confessions, which it uses in preference to others. Our creed is called the Articles of Faith. I’m drilling it into my Primary kids right now. I’d be comfortable teaching them the Nicene Creed, too (there’s nothing in there Mormons necessarily reject), but it’s just not in our curriculum. Maybe someday.

    The rejection of creeds and credal theology, in whole or part, is nothing more than a point (however important) of intra-faith disagreement. Christians have argued about this endlessly. To say Mormons reject Christians as Christians, are not Christian themselves, etc., because of some nebulous disagreement over credal language and theology has no credible historical precedent in Christian history. Wars have been fought over it, but it was always civil war between brother and sister Christians. I think this whole line of argument no more than theological rationale for an ultimately arbitrary exclusion by naming.

    On the bright side, in days bygone, we’d be considered Christian heretics and subject to a pogrom. I guess I’m OK with any entirely bloodless form of exclusion from the club.

  113. And Jack, I really can’t believe you think the female version is at all comparable to the male. I mean I am all for equal treatment but in this area you need to be far more careful with men.

    Comparing a cock punch to a female groin shot is like comparing comparing Brigham Young to Jonathan Edwards. . . orders of magnitude greater.

  114. Mormons don’t belive that secular-christianity (that which is done by man-even when shaped, honed and perfected (man being the race of man including woman-man with a womb)) is, in Mormon belief, different than prophetic guidance. Mormons believe that God, in addition to communicating with people (any) individually, has always directed His people as a whole through prophets since the beginning of time (Adam).

  115. I feel like I’m back in algebra class – looking at one of my own attempts to solve the problem – where I’m not sure where I went wrong.

  116. Please! it’s very rudimentary:

    Secular-Christianty = that Christianity which as been shaped honed and perfected by man and those men with wombs or women with wombs or any combination of wombed or wombed free men.

    Mormon belief = God communicates with man (or wombed or wombless) as well as any individual people or peoples on an individual basis and/or on a wholistic basis through a designated womb-free man.

    Mormon belief = Secular Christianity => Adam had no womb.

  117. Perhaps Gidgiddoni’s real (name is) Frank. That name being his called upon title (by many (yea even his mother)).

  118. Tium I want you to know that I “know” (“TESTIMONY”) that my name is not Frank and it is not reverent to calll people things like “frank” or “Jesus” but we should call prople Brother Johnson if their name is Frank johnson not Frank because it is not the priesthood. I know this because I have prayed to thy heavenly Fatgher’s Ghost of jesuys Christ to know and his still, small voice told me “No. You should not sa that. Your name is not Frank.” It was a burning bosom. IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST AMEN.

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