Where The Troubles Lie

I was recently asked what kinds of things in practice and in doctrine would the LDS church have to change in order to be accepted in the realm of Christian orthodoxy. I’m not under any delusion that the LDS church is interested in making any of these changes.  But this serves as a reference for how I would categorize Mormon distinctives in comparison to Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches. I’m sure there will be some dispute of whether or not the LDS church actually teaches some of these things.  So consider this a list of things that would need to be specifically disavowed since some Mormon somewhere has given me the impression that this is what they have learned from the LDS church. If the LDS church doesn’t teach it, then they would need to do more than remain silent on it, they would need to remove confusion over it.

I’ve placed these items in four categories.

No Compromise, This Must Change

  • God was created or formed and was not always in his present state
  • The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind
  • There is more than one god
  • God the Father has a corporeal body
  • God lived a mortal life before the creation of this world
  • God might have been a sinner
  • As God is, man may become
  • Joseph Smith (or any other mortal) is serving in the role of “Holy Ghost” (a speculative theology I’ve heard a few Mormons opine)
  • Heavenly Mother(s) (another speculative theology)

Should Really Be Reviewed

  • Salvation comes in part from our own works
  • Ordinances are required for salvation
  • “The Miracle of Forgiveness” as recommended reading
  • All references to God in the Old Testament are only references to Jesus
  • Marriage is required for the highest degree of glory
  • Acceptance of The Joseph Smith Translation
  • Canonization of “The Pearl of Great Price” and large portions of “Doctrine & Covenants”
  • Creation ex Materia
  • Belief that no Mormon Prophet has ever led the church astray
  • There are High Priests in the order of Melchizedek other than Jesus
  • The Book of Mormon is an actual history (I may hedge on this one)

Just Different, but Weird

  • Eternal Marriage
  • Canonization of “The Book of Mormon”
  • Temples for making covenants with God (content dependent)
  • Baptism for the dead
  • Sacred undergarments
  • Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods
  • The canon is open and continues to expand (content dependent)

Have Fun

  • Lay clergy
  • Expectation of missionary service
  • Canning
  • King James Bible
  • 19th Century Methodist-style worship services
  • General Conference
  • Leadership determined by longevity
  • Geographically designated worship communities

Would any other non-Mormons disagree with my list and how I’ve ordered these items? Does this clarify our differences?

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206 thoughts on “Where The Troubles Lie

  1. I notice that all of your non-negotiable items deal directly with the nature of God. Maybe that’s obvious since we’re talking about orthodoxy (i.e. right belief) here, so the list of things that would need to change would need to be in the category of things believed.

    Also, I don’t know that I have ever heard the bit about Joseph Smith from an authoritative source. It rings a bell, like some weird doctrine I read somewhere, but it doesn’t jive with basic Mormon theology about the godhead, so i think I just junked it into the “uh, whatever” pile. And I think most believing Mormons (except those that get off on the idea that they are somehow privy to esoterica) do the same, if they have heard this at all.

    In other words, I think you can make a much stronger case that “they don’t teach that” than you can about the other peas you have indicated are under the Mormon theological mattresspile.

  2. Also, I don’t know that I have ever heard the bit about Joseph Smith from an authoritative source.

    I agree that it would probably be impossible to show this as an authoritative teaching. But I included it because whatever caused Mormons (and I’ve heard it more than once) to think that this might even be a possibility needs to be corrected.

  3. Now, what if instead of abandoning the bad doctrine, Mormons instead abandoned their borders.What if the Church dropped the organizational structure and its identity as a distinct religion altogether and became instead merely the Mormon movement? What then?

  4. Joseph Smith or any other mortal is “serving in the role of Holy Ghost.” This is ludicrous. Where and how did you get this idea? Go to LDS.org and under “Manuals” look up the Gospel Principles manual (“Mormonism 101”) and read the chapter on the Holy Ghost. For crying out loud, Joseph was a prophet, a man, and not a divine being.

    What have you got against “The Miracle of Forgiveness” or is this point tongue-in-cheek?

    Not all the references to “God” in the Old Testament are references to Jesus. The references to “Elohim” refer to God and the references to “Jehovah” refer to Jesus. Do you really think that Mormons believe that the OT does not refer to God?

    Why do you think that only “large portions” of the D&C are canonized? The entire D&C is scripture. What parts do you think are not canonized?

    Which Mormon prophet do you think led the Church astray? And as to what?

    What do you mean by “(content dependent)” with respect to temples?

    What do you mean by “(content dependent)” with respect to the open canon?

    What were 19th Century Methodist worship services like?

    Don’t Catholics and Episcopals have parishes and diocese that are geographic units comparable to LDS wards and stakes?

    Why did you not include in your list that extra-biblical, centuries-after-Christ fabrication of Greek philosophy, intentionally incomprehensible, imposed at the insistence of the Roman Emperor to achieve political unity, known as the Trinity?

  5. Don’t Catholics and Episcopals have parishes and diocese that are geographic units comparable to LDS wards and stakes?

    Only superficially.

    Catholics and Episcopalians can attend and fully participate in any parish they please.

  6. I have questions about your quibbles. (I realize they aren’t quibbles, but I did like the alliterative Q so I said it anyway.)

    1. “God was created or formed and was not always in his present state”

    If God was always in His present state… does that mean that God operates within the same timeline as us? Couldn’t it be that in some other timeline, or time frame, or dimension, or thing that doesn’t make sense to my time-oriented brain, God was different than now, but for all of human intents and purposes God has always been the same?

    2. “God the Father has a corporeal body”
    Why does this matter? How would your worship or belief in Jesus Christ change if you found out that he had a body in the afterlife?

    3. The Book of Mormon is an actual history (I may hedge on this one)
    By ‘hedge’, do you mean, consider it okay? Or do you mean, this might have to go?

    What do you think becomes of Christian Flat Earthers?

  7. Without conceding that everything in the lists represents LDS doctrine (because it doesn’t’; I’ll get into that in my next comment), I think Tim’s division of differences is fairly reasonable. And Kullervo is right — the biggest sticking points relate to the nature of God, and those are in the first category.

    If I were to guess what Tim means in part by “Should Really Be Reviewed,” it would be that those are things that standing alone might not be a bar to full fellowship with “orthodox” Christians, but taken as a whole, or in conjunction with some of the things in the first list, they are. For there are some churches that are more or less accepted by “orthodox” Christians despite some “unorthodox” beliefs. I’m thinking, for example, of Catholics, who have a different canon, a leader who is vaguely similar in function to the LDS prophet, an elevation of Mary to suprahuman status, and so on; Seventh-day Adventists, who believe there was an apostasy (a sign of which is Sunday worship) and belief in annihilation rather than eternal punishment; the Eastern churches, which have a different belief in terms of the nature of the Holy Spirit; the Community of Christ, which uses the Joseph Smith Translation and the Book of Mormon as scripture; and so on. And if you also consider widely divergent views on issues such as baptism and predestination, the spectrum of more or less acceptable belief is surprisingly wide. But none of those groups would stand by anything comparable to the items in the top list.

    I’m not sure, though, why it should be necessary to explicitly disavow every flaky idea that has come along somewhere; I certainly don’t hold Lutherans to everything that Martin Luther said, and there are plenty of strange Christian groups out there teaching all sorts of weird things today (I’m thinking of some of the folks on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, for example) that I don’t expect evangelicals to explicitly disavow. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not in the LDS scriptures, hasn’t been preached from General Conference in the last 50 years and isn’t taught in current instructional manuals, there’s no need to consider it LDS doctrine.

    If I were thinking of items that should be in one of the top two lists but aren’t, probably No. 1 on the list would relate to the three kingdoms of glory and the near absence of any eternal punishment for the lost. I suppose our vague belief in a Heavenly Mother could fit in there somewhere too.

  8. Murdock ~ Why did you not include in your list that extra-biblical, centuries-after-Christ fabrication of Greek philosophy, intentionally incomprehensible, imposed at the insistence of the Roman Emperor to achieve political unity, known as the Trinity?

    I’m not sure why you’re showing so much hostility for what others believe about God. Tim showed far more courtesy for LDS beliefs in this post than you’re showing here, so I don’t see why you’re trying to lash out at what he believes.

    In any case, I’ll answer your question. The Mormon conception of God as taught by the LDS church today has rather obviously evolved under the following American influences:

    19th-Century Manifest Destiny Beliefs
    Sexism & Republican Motherhood
    Antebellum Racism
    Freemasonry

    So, if the Trinity is a fabrication on account of having been corrupted by all that nasty extra-biblical Greek philosophy, can we also safely conclude that the Mormon conception of deity is a fabrication on account of having been corrupted by these aspects of American religious history—some of them rather unsavory?

    Or in other words, that’s why Tim didn’t put the Trinity on the list. He also didn’t demand that the LDS church divorce itself from manifest destiny, sexism, racism, or its ties to freemasonry in order to be admitted to Christian “orthodoxy,” so I’d say he played pretty fair in this regard.

    Tim ~ One that I would quibble with would be “Ordinances are required for salvation.” Like it or not, a good chunk of the Christian world throughout history did believe baptism was a requirement for salvation. They may have been wrong (I certainly think they were), but their belief in that hardly means they were flirting with heterodoxy.

    Also, you can add me to those who have never heard of this:

    “Joseph Smith (or any other mortal) is serving in the role of ‘Holy Ghost'”

    I would say that belief in a separate deity called Heavenly Mother or multiple Heavenly Mothers is on the “No Compromise, Must Go” list as well. Well . . . she was sort of never there in the first place . . . but you know what I mean.

  9. Here’s my personal quick take on the items in the top list. Except where I say otherwise, I don’t pretend to speak for the Church or even a small minority of it.

    God was created or formed and was not always in his present state: I see nothing in the scriptures to suggest this in the way I think Tim means this, and even post-Biblical revelation (e.g. D&C 76) suggests otherwise. While I acknowledge there are plenty of unanswered questions about the origins of God, I see no reason at this point to go beyond what the scriptures teach, although it can be interesting to speculate a la Katyjane about alternative divine timelines and such. I would point out, though, that to be technical, even traditional Christians don’t believe this in all senses; the second person of the Trinity at one point had no body and now does, so in some sense God isn’t in his original state (and wasn’t in his original state during Jesus’ mortality). So if traditional Christians can stand by Tim’s original statement and still believe there has been a significant change in the nature of God, I’m not sure why Mormons should be held to a different definition.

    The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind: Although I’m not sure we teach this explicitly, it’s a logical deduction from what we know. In any case, there’s no question that traditional Christianity sees human potential as much less than we do.

    There is more than one god: This is a matter of definition. By some definitions we believe in one god/God, by some definitions we believe in more than one god/God. The same is true for traditional Christianity.

    God the Father has a corporeal body: Although I believe this true to be true, it’s not a big deal to me (although it is to most Mormons who grew up in the Church). In any case, I don’t see why this by itself should be a bar to acceptance. Traditional Christians already believe that Jesus is of the same essence as the Father even though Jesus has a body and the Father doesn’t, so I don’t see why adding another body to the mix should necessarily change that.

    God lived a mortal life before the creation of this world: There’s nothing in the scriptures that say so, and I have no compelling reason to believe this is true (although it might be). But I’ll still go back to what I said earlier: If the Son is an equal part of the Trinity and is still God even though he lived a mortal life, what’s the big deal about Heavenly Father having lived a mortal life and still being God? They’re equal, aren’t they?

    God might have been a sinner: I have no reason whatsoever to believe this.

    Joseph Smith (or any other mortal) is serving in the role of “Holy Ghost”: Where did this come from? In all the studies I’ve done and in all the conversations I’ve had, in person and online, I have never heard it suggested that Joseph Smith is the Holy Ghost. I’d go so far as to call the idea blasphemy.

    As God is, man may become: That sounds Biblical to me.

  10. BTW Tim

    Why didn’t the Great Apostasy make your list?

    Murdock

    Because Apostolic succession isn’t a universally held Christian doctrine. If both Catholics and Protestants are going to be considered “within the fold of orthodoxy,” it has to be optional, not fundamental.

    Particularly, as an Evangelical Protestant, Tim doesn’t believe in the necessity of Apostolic Succession. so the idea of a Great Apostasy doesn’t bother him as much as, say, divergent ideas about the nature of God.

  11. I’m not sure, though, why it should be necessary to explicitly disavow every flaky idea that has come along somewhere; I certainly don’t hold Lutherans to everything that Martin Luther said, and there are plenty of strange Christian groups out there teaching all sorts of weird things today (I’m thinking of some of the folks on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, for example) that I don’t expect evangelicals to explicitly disavow. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not in the LDS scriptures, hasn’t been preached from General Conference in the last 50 years and isn’t taught in current instructional manuals, there’s no need to consider it LDS doctrine.

    But there’s a fundamental difference in terms of claims of authority. Mormons believe that the Church’s priesthood structure is God’s authorized conduit for revealing truth about the Plan of Salvation. Evangelicals (and Lutherans) believe no such thing.

    When some pastor on the Trinity Broadcasting Network says something crazy, that’s just some dude saying something crazy. If Martin Luther was wrong about somethings and right about other things, it’s irrelevant to a Lutheran, because they don’t ascribe any special, particular authority to Luther the person beyond the authority of the things Luther said.

    But when Brigham Young says somethign crazy, Mormons have to deal with an authorized prophet of God teaching crazy things. Mormons can’t discard uncomfortable doctrines and keep their ideas of revealed truth and the priesthood structure and the restored Church. That’s having your cake and eating it too.

  12. Murdock,

    I’m not sure what was the cause, but you seem to either have missed my point or responded with a knee-jerk reaction and tried to find the shortest path to deconstructing my thoughts. It could be that I’m a terrible writer and failed to clarify why I was posting the list. If that is the case I apologize.

    I’ll try to respond to your critique as best I can.

    Joseph Smith or any other mortal is “serving in the role of Holy Ghost.” This is ludicrous. Where and how did you get this idea?

    I’ve seen more than one Mormon make this statement on various online discussion boards without a single Mormon finding offense at the idea or even posting a concern. I’m glad you and I agree that the idea is garbage.

    What have you got against “The Miracle of Forgiveness” or is this point tongue-in-cheek?

    Unfortunately, I was not being tongue-in-cheek. The joke goes “Why didn’t they name that book ‘It’s a Miracle Anyone is Forgiven’?” I don’t think the book is Biblical nor helpful for anyone struggling with sin.

    Not all the references to “God” in the Old Testament are references to Jesus. The references to “Elohim” refer to God and the references to “Jehovah” refer to Jesus. Do you really think that Mormons believe that the OT does not refer to God?

    My apologies for not being specific. Of course I think Mormons believe that the OT refers to God. Mormons believe that Jesus is God, so it follows that references to Jehovah/Jesus are references to God.

    Why do you think that only “large portions” of the D&C are canonized? The entire D&C is scripture. What parts do you think are not canonized?

    Mormons have clearly canonized the entire D&C. My point was that the canonization of large portions of the D&C are a problem for the orthodox Christian world. Most of the D&C (but not all of it) would have to be disregarded for the LDS church to be considered orthodox

    Which Mormon prophet do you think led the Church astray? And as to what?

    Currently, all of them. Mostly because of teachings on the nature of God and the nature of man. I’d include polygamy, institutional racism, blood atonement and institutional sexism to the list as well.

    What do you mean by “(content dependent)” with respect to temples?

    I mean going to a Temple is not a problem for me as much as what happens and what is taught in the Temple.

    What do you mean by “(content dependent)” with respect to the open canon?

    I mean I’m open to the idea that the canon is not closed, but that doesn’t mean you can include anything you want in the canon.

    What were 19th Century Methodist worship services like?

    Sit in on an LDS ward service this Sunday and you’ll discover that 19th Century Methodism has been neatly preserved. You can experience it at any LDS chapel in the world.

    Don’t Catholics and Episcopals have parishes and diocese that are geographic units comparable to LDS wards and stakes?

    They do but attending your local parish is not required. You can still serve as an active member in good standing even if you go out of area. And as I said, this isn’t a big deal for me. I think the LDS church model has some problems but it’s not a hill I would die on.

    Why did you not include in your list that extra-biblical, centuries-after-Christ fabrication of Greek philosophy, intentionally incomprehensible, imposed at the insistence of the Roman Emperor to achieve political unity, known as the Trinity?

    Because the Trinity is considered to be an orthodox belief and because Mormons reject it. I’m surprised you weren’t aware that Mormons don’t believe in the Trinity. Spend some time talking with just about any Mormon I’m sure they’ll be quick to inform you that they don’t believe it.

  13. KatyJane said

    If God was always in His present state… does that mean that God operates within the same timeline as us? Couldn’t it be that in some other timeline, or time frame, or dimension, or thing that doesn’t make sense to my time-oriented brain, God was different than now, but for all of human intents and purposes God has always been the same?

    Christians believe that God is eternally uncreated. He always was as he is. Eric brings up the question of Jesus taking on a human form as an objection to this. But Jesus’ nature (as God) didn’t change when he took on a human body any more than my nature changes when I put on a jacket.

    The discussion of God being in or outside of time is one we could get into but it would veer us way off course for this discussion.

    2. “God the Father has a corporeal body”
    Why does this matter? How would your worship or belief in Jesus Christ change if you found out that he had a body in the afterlife?

    If we had some evidence that told us that the Father has a body I’m sure we would accommodate the new information and switch over to a Social Trinitarian model. The reason we reject it is because the Bible contradicts it with its declaration that God is spirit.

    We don’t reject it because it might fundamentally changes how we practically worship or view Jesus. We reject it because of how the idea treats the Bible.

    3. The Book of Mormon is an actual history (I may hedge on this one)
    By ‘hedge’, do you mean, consider it okay? Or do you mean, this might have to go?

    What do you think becomes of Christian Flat Earthers?

    The reason I said “hedge” is because I could probably be talked in to dropping it down into the next category. As you suggested maintaining a belief in a Flat Earth would probably be a concern for most Christians but not of the highest order.

    I do think that Mormonism would begin to make some significant shifts on the higher order concerns if the Book of Mormon were viewed as fictional. And that is despite the Book of Mormons being generally non-threatening to orthodox beliefs.

  14. Jack said

    One that I would quibble with would be “Ordinances are required for salvation.” Like it or not, a good chunk of the Christian world throughout history did believe baptism was a requirement for salvation. They may have been wrong (I certainly think they were), but their belief in that hardly means they were flirting with heterodoxy.

    That’s why it’s in my second category. By itself, I would think it is wrong but in isolation I wouldn’t disqualify a church from orthodoxy over it. But when it gets added to some other things it causes problems.

    I agree with you that Heavenly Mother should be added to the list. Particularly if I’m going to include the Joseph Smith/Holy Ghost thing. Both are speculative doctrines that the LDS church could squash (and would probably need to).

  15. Murdock said

    Why didn’t the Great Apostasy make your list?

    You’ll notice that “One True Church” and “Exclusive Priesthood” didn’t make the list either. I think all three are wrong but they are all things various denominations believe and remain Christian.

    They really have to with how you practically treat other Christians (and their ordinances) rather than how you treat God.

  16. Eric said

    I’m not sure, though, why it should be necessary to explicitly disavow every flaky idea that has come along somewhere; . . . As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not in the LDS scriptures, hasn’t been preached from General Conference in the last 50 years and isn’t taught in current instructional manuals, there’s no need to consider it LDS doctrine.

    Why 50 years? Why not 2 years? or 200 years?

    I know this is how you overcome an obstacle in your faith. I’m not sure whether to call it “passive-deniability” or “active-ignorance”.

    The problem is that many of those things that “you’re not sure we teach” were quite clearly and authoritatively taught. They remain in the minds of many Mormons who do remember and cherish those ideas. I don’t think repentance ever looks like a long, slow, quiet, “I’m-not-sure-I-did-that” slide. Particularly for someone who actively led other people into sin or false ideas.

  17. Eric said

    The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind: Although I’m not sure we teach this explicitly, it’s a logical deduction from what we know.

    Do any Mormons have an objection to this?

    If not, then there shouldn’t be any objection to the means in which the doctrine of the Trinity was formed. Either be opposed to Greek-influence or don’t badger us over it. We’re all working with the information we’ve been given. The question really isn’t over methodology. It’s whether or not our information is complete and reliable.

  18. I said:

    . As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not in the LDS scriptures, hasn’t been preached from General Conference in the last 50 years and isn’t taught in current instructional manuals, there’s no need to consider it LDS doctrine.

    To which Tim responded:

    Why 50 years? Why not 2 years? or 200 years?

    I know this is how you overcome an obstacle in your faith. I’m not sure whether to call it “passive-deniability” or “active-ignorance”.

    I’d call it a firm belief that God nearly always speaks through imperfect human beings who sometimes take a while to get things right. An implication of that belief is that mistakes will be made along the way, and I’d be surprised if it were otherwise.

    Tim also said:

    … there shouldn’t be any objection to the means in which the doctrine of the Trinity was formed. Either be opposed to Greek-influence or don’t badger us over it. We’re all working with the information we’ve been given.

    Actually, I agree with that sentiment.

  19. I like this.

    What I get is that you’re saying that we can keep most of our unique cultural Mormon-ness and still be counted among the orthodox, which is cool.

    One thought…

    I think that, as a people, the most important thing we can do is begin to really wrestle with the more difficult aspects of our history. As we do, we will begin to see that some of the narratives and ideals we’ve built up over the years — especially as it relates to the infallibility of the leadership — will have to crumble. And once that happens, some of the more spiritually damaging teachings will fall away, because we will be in a position to truly repent of them. Right now, we are still too invested in apologizing for our existence to appropriately handle some of the darker areas of our past, and that’s unfortunate, but it’s changing.

    Many people think that this will be the end of Mormonism. I disagree. Mormonism as a unique culture, spiritual practice, and Christian tradition is strong enough to stand on its own. It has built-in mechanisms for massive reform without splintering a diverse body. I trust God to lead us where He wants us to go over the next years and generations, but the future looks bright.

  20. Why 50 years? Why not 2 years? or 200 years?

    The magic number for this is actually 41 years. Material on LDS.org generally only goes back to 1970. Material that is older than that tends to be present only if quoted in post-1970 works. For example, lots of Brigham Young stuff appears in the Teachings of the Prophets course for Sunday School which was produced after 1970, but little to nothing of BY’s speeches, talks, or whatever appears in its original context.

    Why is 1970 the magical year? Correlation.

    Oh, if it’s race related, then the magic number is 33 years.

  21. Do any Mormons have an objection to this?

    This Mormon doesn’t. But I like the doctrine of the Trinity. I think it’s beautiful.

    I’d call it a firm belief that God nearly always speaks through imperfect human beings who sometimes take a while to get things right. And implication of that belief is that mistakes will be made along the way, and I’d be surprised if it were otherwise.

    This.

    I always say to Mormons who feel threatened by my position that the leaders aren’t always right (and yes, I do say it — even in Sunday School!), that one glance at scripture tells us that we shouldn’t be surprised to see human beings making mistakes. From the beginning, Adam (the first prophet for Mormons) partook of the Forbidden Fruit. Noah got smashed. The children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years because they couldn’t get their act together. Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. Jonah ran away. Peter, the President of the Quorum of the 12 (to use Mormon-speak), denied Christ three times. Peter and Paul had serious theological disagreements.

    Heck, even in Mormonism the idea that the leaders are always right is a pretty recent development. They were having public theological disagreements as recently as, what, 50 years ago?

    It’s an unreasonable expectation that they should always get things right. It’s an unreasonable teaching that they do (I’m not saying it doesn’t get taught; I’m saying it’s unreasonable). This will change.

  22. I am also interested in complete, reliable information: in my experience, pursuing it means becoming largely agnostic where theology is concerned. Every monotheist is already something of an atheist, denying the ontological reality of others’ gods. Why should Yahweh (or Allah) get a pass where Zeus doesn’t? I cannot find any rational reason. Even if we are going to be deists, why is the name of the god who sets the world in motion so important? Even for monotheistic believers, isn’t interaction with God about a personal relationship? Is that relationship necessarily grounded on an arbitrary moment in history, an arbitrary person, an arbitrary name? Why were so many of my ancestors arbitrarily cursed to be shut off from “the one true God” because of where and when they happened to be born? Does my faith journey necessarily involve a denial of theirs?

    I can think of plenty of good cultural reasons to be a Christian as opposed to a neo-pagan: the social experiences open to Christians are more and more varied, especially in the US. But I cannot think of any concrete instance where Christianity possesses more complete, reliable information than any other ideology (like ancient Hellenic paganism and the ancient religions of India, China, and neighboring countries). If we possess more cultural information than some primitive cultures, I think that is owing more to guns, germs, and steel (and other historical factors that have nothing demonstrable to do with religious orthodoxy except insofar as they create the conditions where it can exist).

    If God is really so into being a particular person(age) with a particular name (that all must know him by) or particular rituals (that all must worship him by), wouldn’t he be a little upset that we English speakers continually refer to him using a noun (god) originally used in pagan contexts (in India, Persia, Europe)? If the name is arbitrary, what else is? I asked myself these questions for years, and today the only answer I have is that every person deals with the mystery of life in a slightly different way. Some call it one thing, and some another. Some tell one story about it, and some another. As long as the storytellers treat one another with respect and advocate what looks to me like good behavior (even when they don’t tell the same story), I have no problem with the stories they tell, but I do not accept any of them as authoritative vehicles to absolute truth about the nature of the universe. Together (especially where they converge and diverge), they are much richer and stronger than any one of them is separately, and they paint a picture of the human condition that is more honest than any of the creeds (Christian or other) that I have seen. We humans like to tell stories about life. We are very creative, and the wide variety of stories we tell reflects that. We like to form tight-knit communities grounded in ethical behavior (which all of us tend to view pretty similarly, at least since the dawn of recorded history). Through all these things (our stories, our communities) we catch glimpses of the ultimate reality (or realities?) out there in the world, but none of our stories or communities are the realities onto which they shed light. They are fingers pointing at the moon: the moon is something else, something existing outside and beyond all our attempts to describe it (attempts necessarily arbitrary, as most of what we do is pretty arbitrary). The God we define rigorously is not the God who lives outside the realm of definition. Reality is by definition undefinable (and ahistorical: it resists being bent into a single narrative with absolute validity).

    I should probably have shut up a long time ago! Sorry if I have strayed too far off topic here. I guess I come at this from the perspective of someone who sees the same problems in Christianity (broadly speaking) that many Christians find in Mormonism (broadly speaking: please, don’t anyone feel like I have called you out personally). I think we might all (Mormons, Christians, and other religious people) benefit from less insistence on dogma at the expense of the mystery. I think most of us see the mystery, but then we get caught up arguing over dogma and forget it, losing our connection to the transcendence that gives us peace and makes us all better people to live with (more moral, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more Christlike, if you will). That is what I think whenever I hear people talk about how churches might improve. For me, what really needs to change is the manner in which we apply dogma. This kind of change is much easier (and so on some level likelier to occur) than a change in actual dogma (which we always fight: we humans hate changing our minds about stuff). It is also much harder, since it involves renouncing the idea of orthodoxy (or at least refusing to make that a definite category with hard boundaries). The need to be absolutely right (or believe that someone else is) is something else to which we humans are very much attached.

  23. David Clark: Why is 1970 the magical year? Correlation.

    Me: They were having public theological disagreements as recently as, what, 50 years ago?

    Or 41 years, as the case may be. 🙂

  24. Zeus doesn’t get a pass because he raped someone in the form of a swan. To get a pass you must avoid animal avatars. to conceive your divine offspring. Sorry, dems the rules.

  25. Regardless, as per testimony of Yeats and Michaelangelo, no pass for Zeus.

    “How can those terrified vague fingers push
    The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
    And how can body, laid in that white rush,
    But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?”

    How indeed. simply appalling.

  26. Of course it was never official doctrine, whatever that means. I never believed it when I was a practicing Mormon (though in hindsight, maybe that was the root of my apostasy).

    Or maybe you believed that Joseph Smith transformed into some kind of an animal.

  27. Joseph Smith still has a pass, you are not going to invalidate that by bare accusations without any literary evidence.

  28. Eric

    First of all, I apologize for (apparently) causing some confusion. In your post you asked: “Would any other non-Mormons disagree with my list and how I’ve ordered these items?” I didn’t pay attention to the fact that you were soliciting comments on your list from non-Mormons and, when I commented, I neglected to say that I am Mormon. A couple of your responses to my comments appear as though you did not realize that I am Mormon. Sorry.

    Some of your responses to my comments do spark my curiosity so, if you don’t mind, I have some follow up questions. Here is one:

    Your original post said Mormons believe that: “All references to God in the Old Testament are only references to Jesus”

    I wrote: “Not all the references to ‘God’ in the Old Testament are references to Jesus. The references to ‘Elohim’ refer to God and the references to ‘Jehovah’ refer to Jesus. Do you really think that Mormons believe that the OT does not refer to God?”

    You responded: “Of course I think Mormons believe that the OT refers to God. Mormons believe that Jesus is God, so it follows that references to Jehovah/Jesus are references to God.”

    Thank you for responding, but now I am really puzzled as to what you are saying. My point that, in the OT, “Elohim = God” and “Jehovah = Jesus”, is exemplified by this excerpt from the entry for “God” in the LDS Bible Dictionary:

    “When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children. The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim.”

    Thus, Mormons believe that Jesus is a god but, in practice, when we say “God”, we are invariably referring to the Father, who is named “Elohim” in the OT, and not to Jesus, who is named “Jehovah” in the OT.

    Consequently, I do not understand why you write that “Mormons believe that Jesus is God” and I think it is inaccurate, or at least confusing, for you to write that Mormons believe that “references [in the OT] to Jehovah/Jesus are references to God [the Father/Elohim].”

    If you would explain what you mean, I would appreciate it.

    Thanks

    Murdock

  29. I maintain that Zeus’s literary swan copulation is evidence for his existence and real divinity, not against it.

    Real gods are visceral and compelling. Leda and the Swan is visceral and compelling. Therefore Leda and the Swan is persuasive and substantial evidence that Zeus is real.

    I’m flabbergasted that you are attempting to Yeats as counterevidence for the divinity of his subject. It’s such a nonsensical position to take that I can’t even really engage it without resorting to logical dada.

  30. Kullervo,

    I have it on good authority that Jared has simply been offended by one of Zeus’ followers and desires to sin against Zeus. Just let it go man.

  31. Murdock — I think what you directed at me was supposed to be directed at Tim.

  32. Murray

    If you are Mormon, why did you ask me why I left the Trinity off of a list of Mormon beliefs. I’m confused.

  33. Thus, Mormons believe that Jesus is a god but, in practice, when we say “God”, we are invariably referring to the Father, who is named “Elohim” in the OT, and not to Jesus, who is named “Jehovah” in the OT.

    As a Mormon, I just want to distance myself from this little-g distinction of Jesus’ godness. He is not just a god, He is definitely big-G God to me.

    That is all.

  34. Question: There are probably hundreds of places in the Old Testament where God is called both YHWH (Jehovah) and Elohim in the exact same sentence. I think Genesis 2:4 is the first occurrence of this and it goes from there.

    So, whom would Mormons say is being referenced in these passages? Jesus, the Father, or both?

    And if the answer is anything other than “both,” why should we care so much about this “Jesus = Jehovah, Elohim = the Father” distinction when apparently the Old Testament writers did not? It doesn’t sound like a useful distinction for understanding the text of the Old Testament at all.

  35. Thanks for the clarification, Katie L. I thought Murdock sounded a bit off center in his description of LDS theology on the Trinity.

    Tim’s post made reference to being “accepted in the realm of Christian orthodoxy.” I wonder if in Tim’s mind Christian orthodoxy = all of Christiandom.

    I happened to run across a statement by John Crowder in his book “Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics” that touches on the issue of whether Christian orthodoxy carries absolute authority from God to set the boundaries for all true Christianity. I’d be especially interested in Gundek’s opinion of Crowder’s statement, which goes like this:

    “Constantine called the famous Council of Nicea, largely as a means to hold together the empire, which was beginning to fall apart by that time. His primary interest was unity within the empire. Here, Constantine weighed in on doctrinal matters and, in effect, became the virtual leader of the church. Church leaders who would not sign the Nicene Creed were persecuted—for the first time, Christians were persecuting their brothers.”

  36. Excellent point, Ms. Jack.
    I believe Jehovah (YHWH) can refer to either Jesus or the Father—not because they are one person but because they are one in their eternal nature. Murdock, if not also LDS leaders, create confusion by saying “Jehovah” always refers to Jesus.

  37. Kullervo,

    Listen, I am not necessarily claiming that Zeus is not real or divine, but because he assumed the form of a swan and impregnated a human female, he is not going to get the assumed credibility that Jesus and his devotees have. i.e. No pass.

    What a “pass” gets you is unquestioned divinity and the presumption that everything written about you or by you is divine without having to pony up the proof. You also get the keys to mass devotion, able to spread your fame and message over entire nations in the modern era.

    Now I understand that you are arguing that the very fact that a being can take the form of a swan and sire offspring with a human is evidence enough of divinity to qualify for a pass. But even if you are are a lighting chucking certified son of a titan, if your exploits can’t be spoken of in polite company, you don’t get a pass.

    Mormons argue that Joseph Smith does get to claim the biblical pass and parlays that into mass devotion to the Book of Mormon, the Pof GP and the D&C. Admittedly The entire Mormon PR and political machine has been designed and focused on protecting this claim to the biblical Yahweh pass.

    This issue is perhaps forms perhaps the biggest battlefield in the Mormon v. Anti-Mormon debate. Anti-Mormons want to take away or question Joseph Smith’s claim to the Yahweh pass because he engaged in all sorts of weird stuff that polite company laugh at. Mormons want to preserve JS’s pass by shielding him (and other early leaders) from ridicule by downplaying all the strange stuff.

    The strange stuff, in itself, is no stranger than what you would find in the Bible, but that pass has been set in stone through centuries of politics. Which is why “traditional” Christians can get away with TBN and all other kinds of vile exploitation. You can be, literally, batsh#t crazy as long as you can claim the pass.

    Joseph Smith went out on more than one limb in his time, its taken a while to sponge away polygamy and the church still has to guard the pass it has cultivated from this impolite practice from rearing its head. But Zeus, that dude makes Joseph Smith’s exploits look like Mother Teresa. The swan debacle definitely crossed the line. I give him props for not giving a damn about what people think of how he rolls, but being a bad-ass alone doesn’t get you a pass. It takes hundreds of years of passionate PR and politics, not awesome powers and thunderbolts.

  38. Question: There are probably hundreds of places in the Old Testament where God is called both YHWH (Jehovah) and Elohim in the exact same sentence. I think Genesis 2:4 is the first occurrence of this and it goes from there.

    Of course one also has to ask what to do with “El,” “El Roi,” “El Shaddai,” “El Elyon” etc., to whom to they apply?

  39. Eric

    You are, of course, correct. It was directed at Tim. sorry for the error.

    Jim

  40. I don’t know the answer to that question, but the belief isn’t unique to Mormons. Following, for example, is a link to an article that equates Jesus with Yahweh, and this is from a church that belongs to the National Association of Evangelicals: Who Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?

    To me, the idea of Jesus as the God of the Old Testament makes perfect sense. But I’d also agree that not every reference to Yahweh/Jehovah/Lord in the Old Testament is a reference specifically to the second Person of the Godhead/Trinity.

  41. I definitely know that other Christians believe Jesus = YHWH, the God of the Old Testament. Even I believe that, because I think it’s what Jesus meant in John 8:58 when he said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He was identifying himself as the God who appeared to Moses. That doesn’t mean that all references to God in the Old Testament are references to Jesus; there are other places where I believe we’re seeing the Father at work as YHWH Elohim.

    What’s weird to me is insisting that Jesus is YHWH (Jehovah) vs. the Father as Elohim. I know that that’s how they’re identified in the temple liturgy, and I wonder if some Latter-day Saints aren’t just crudely forcing what they learned in the temple onto the text.

  42. I wonder if some Latter-day Saints aren’t just crudely forcing what they learned in the temple onto the text.

    Yes, for sure they are.

  43. Tim listed the following as things that “must change” if Mormonism is to be accepted as—I guess he meant—Christian:

    # God was created or formed and was not always in his present state
    # The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind
    # There is more than one god
    # God the Father has a corporeal body
    # God lived a mortal life before the creation of this world
    # God might have been a sinner
    # As God is, man may become

    But where in the Bible are these listed as non-negotiables—as issues on which someone cannot be in error and still land on the new earth & enter through the gates of the heavenly city?

    While it’s true that not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom (Matt. 7:21), it is those who do not KNOW the Lord who are the evildoers (Matt. 7:23).

  44. Why are the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods on the “just fun but weird list?” Have you not read Hebrews 7? Those are a mockery of Christ. In order to be a mainstream Christian Church, you would need to accept “Priesthood of All Believers.”

  45. Cal, two things

    1) You’re switching categories on me.

    This post is not about whether or not individual Mormons are saved (I know you REALLY want to talk about that). This post is about whether or not the LDS church, as an institution is in the realm of orthodox teachings.

    2) You’re being extremely reductionistic. It’s inappropriate to read the Bible and assume everything we need to know is specifically stated in the context of a couple of verses. Salvation of individuals has a larger context. One part of that larger context is “what kind of God saves us?” Everything we know about God is not going to be found in 4 verses in the New Testament. Nor is all of that information going to be simultaneously grouped with “what must a man do to be saved?” Your asking the Bible to do a trick it simply doesn’t do.

    I hope you would agree that it would be a mistake for anyone to intentionally dismiss something we know to be true of God. I hope you would also agree that it would be a mistake to add things to our “knowledge of God” that are false.

    Step outside of your laser focus on “what must a man do to be saved” for just a moment. Would you agree with me that it is a mistake to proclaim false things about God when they contradict the Bible?

  46. New Christian said:
    Why are the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods on the “just fun but weird list?” Have you not read Hebrews 7? Those are a mockery of Christ. In order to be a mainstream Christian Church, you would need to accept “Priesthood of All Believers.”

    I agree that the LDS church is severely distorting Hebrews 7 and mistakenly proclaim people other than Jesus to be the High Priest. That’s probably something that belongs on my list.

    Catholics and Orthodox both have exclusive priesthoods. They quite clearly fit the definition of mainstream Christian. If you think only Protestants fit the definition of Christian, then I suppose you’re correct. But I’m not operating with that definition.

  47. Tim, I did understand that your post talks about “whether or not the LDS church, as an institution is in the realm of orthodox teachings.” Maybe I should have said, “It is those institutions who do not tell people to come to know the Lord personally who are the evil institutions” (Matt. 7:23).

    You asked, “Would you agree with me that it is a mistake to proclaim false things about God when they contradict the Bible?”

    Yes, I agree.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you when you refer to the “realm of orthodox teachings.” I thought you were setting the LDS institution completely outside the boundaries of Christianity so that any Mormon who believes everything they teach about God—good and bad—will not be saved.

    I don’t think this is a narrow focus. There’s a BIG difference between being in the kingdom of darkness and being in the kingdom of light. And as you know, I have often strayed from the “narrow” focus to criticize Mormon falsehoods.

    Thanks.

  48. I do in fact place the LDS church outside the boundaries of Christianity. It is not a Christian church.

    I do not have any capacity or desire to decide who is saved and who is not.

    Those are completely different questions.

  49. Tim,

    Fair enough about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but at the very least they don’t claim to have an Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood. That’s the most bothersome part to me in Mormonism.

    Even worse is the definitive evidence that there was no evidence of the classic restoration story until late 1834 inside of the Mormon Church. It was not even published in the first editions of the Book of Commandments.

    Due to those very reasons, I am now an Evangelical Christian.

  50. Fair enough about the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but at the very least they don’t claim to have an Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood. That’s the most bothersome part to me in Mormonism.

    Even worse is the definitive evidence that there was no evidence of the classic restoration story until late 1834 inside of the Mormon Church. It was not even published in the first editions of the Book of Commandments.

    Again, understand what Tim is trying to do. He’s not naming the LDS Church’s biggest flaws, or the areas where he thinks the LDS Church is in the most grievous error. He’s not listing the things that, if changed, would make him okay with joining the LDS Church.

    His list is merely what it says: the points that set Mormonism outside the pale of orthodox Christianity. Those doctrines and practices that would have to be changed, at an absolute minimum, for Tim to be willing to say that Mormonism comes at least barely within orthodoxy.

    That’s not to say the Church would then be perfect, in need of no further reform, or in no doctrinal error. Plenty of churches that assent to the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity teach other doctrines that Tim might object to, or have practices that Tim might feel are unnecessary or inappropriate. But they’re still fundamentally orthodox.

    If the necessity of a correct doctrine regarding the Aaronic and Melchizidek priesthoods is a fundamental, why has the Christian world not been identifying that as a fundamental for the last 2,000-or-so years?

  51. Kullervo–

    As per your comment, “If the necessity of a correct doctrine regarding the Aaronic and Melchizidek priesthoods is a fundamental, why has the Christian world not been identifying that as a fundamental for the last 2,000-or-so years?”

    Frankly such a clarification has not been needed, since NO reasonable Christian Church would delve into such a realm. It’s only been the Mormon Church that has departed from scriptural understanding regarding this.

    Aaronic Priesthood was a preparatory priesthood that was inherited by the sons of Levi and Aaron. It was no longer needed with the arrival of Christ. There were only two High Priests in the priesthood, Melchizidek in the Old Covenant and Christ under the new, as far as I understand it. That’s why I don’t have a problem necessarily with the idea of an exclusive priesthood, but rather with the accepting of these two orders under such banners. I think that could not be present in a Christianized Mormon Church. Again, keep the “priesthood,” but don’t claim it was restored– Palmer and other LDS historians have refuted that it was every “restored in the first place”– and drop the names “Aaronic” and “Melchizidek.”

  52. Frankly such a clarification has not been needed, since NO reasonable Christian Church would delve into such a realm. It’s only been the Mormon Church that has departed from scriptural understanding regarding this.

    Total nonsense.

    The Christian church has consistently articulated exactly what fundamentals are necessary to be able to come within the fold of orthodoxy, and a correct understanding or doctrine pertaining to the “Melchizidek priesthood” has never been among those fundamentals in any way.

    They didn’t leave anything out on the basis that “NO reasonable Christian Church would delve into such a realm.” Would a reasonable Christian Church deny the existence of God the Father or the resurrection of Jesus? nevertheless they are in the creeds as fundamentals of belief.

  53. Kullervo–

    Take a chill pill, buddy! 🙂 Yes, it’s been articulated, BUT, it’s not been an issue of establishing such a priesthood under the banner of *THAT* order, such has been done in the Morg. I may have not explained myself correctly, but I was trying to say that such a notion of a Church with thousands of holders of a high priesthood that belongs exclusively to Christ is INANE! I stand by that statement.

  54. I may have not explained myself correctly, but I was trying to say that such a notion of a Church with thousands of holders of a high priesthood that belongs exclusively to Christ is INANE! I stand by that statement.

    But we’re not talking about whether Mormon ecclesiology is INANE. We’re talking about what Mormon doctrines, at a bare minimum, would need to change in order for Mormonism to fall within the pale of Christian orthodoxy. Period.

    What doctrines are objectionable or heretical but not so much that the Church fails the orthodoxy litmus test is a part of the question, but distinguishing between the two is really the heart of the issue.

    I think the Evangelical Christian notion of penal substitution atonement is not only INANE, but it actually eradicates the concepts of justice, good and evil.

    I also think contemporary Christian praise music is INANE.

    But that’s not what we’re talking about here. This isn’t a list of Mormon doctrines we don’t like or that we object to. Until you can get that through your head, you are going to be unable to contribute to the discussion meaningfully.

  55. I was trying to say that such a notion of a Church with thousands of holders of a high priesthood that belongs exclusively to Christ is INANE!

    I reckon the newness of your Christianity is the reason you think it’s A-OK to call other people’s sincerely-held beliefs names, and as such I’ll try to not to hold it against you…

    😉

  56. (Was that the most passive-aggressive comment I’ve ever made on this blog? Probably. Sorry, everyone. But NewChristian, I’ll admit it, you got to me there.)

  57. Katie– I espoused those beliefs and was a member of the false priesthood for nearly 3 decades of my life.

    If you think being a Christian means rolling over and not participating in a charged debate, consider the following:

    Christ called the Pharisees such names as “brood of vipers” and “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” Matthew 10:34-35

    I don’t feel that calling something “inane” is overtly offensive. It was not an ad-hominem attack on anyone in particular; it was a doctrinal attack on something that in fact cannot be reconciled with Christian theology. No matter how hard you try, if you believe in the Bible, you CANNOT accept a current AARONIC PRIESTHOOD. PERIOD!

    I might respect Mormons for who they are, and love them, but I categorically declare myself to be ANTI-MORMONISM. I will not be duplicitous such as Bob Millet (or apologetic like Richard Mouw) in accepting the idea that there are areas in which can be compromised. I cannot nor will not compromise on the priesthood issue, it is of utmost importance. Again I do believe dialogues are necessary, but my use of the lexicon “inane” is strikingly mild in today’s context.

    If offense is taken, I will gladly permanently leave this blog.

  58. New Christian, I’m sure leaving the church was a difficult experience for you. I admire your willingness to follow the strength of your convictions and am genuinely glad you’ve found something that sits better with you. And I can certainly appreciate the zeal you must feel for your new beliefs.

    Again, it’s not my nature to be passive-aggressive, so I do ask your forgiveness for the underhanded comment I made above. I regretted it soon after I posted it. Dang internet makes it too easy to be impulsive. 🙂

    I will say that the current discussion about priesthood isn’t one that interests me much, so I probably won’t be engaging in it, but I certainly wish you well. God bless!

  59. Jared, I thought the same thing. Download this pamphlet which USES LDS DOCUMENTS, and you will see the restoration was backdated and created as an afterthought to Smith’s changing theology.

    http://www.box.net/shared/3u15zyvc75

    Katie– My apologies to you if I was overly aggressive.

  60. I reiterate that the Priesthood issue is of UTMOST importance to both Mormonism and Christianity. If we don’t understand the proper Biblical role (and subsequent incantation), then we are liable for permitting the permeation of a false religion.

  61. I don’t feel that calling something “inane” is overtly offensive. It was not an ad-hominem attack on anyone in particular; it was a doctrinal attack on something that in fact cannot be reconciled with Christian theology. No matter how hard you try, if you believe in the Bible, you CANNOT accept a current AARONIC PRIESTHOOD. PERIOD!

    Let me tell you something else that can’t be reconciled, namely this:

    Kullervo–

    Take a chill pill, buddy!

    with whis:

    If you think being a Christian means rolling over and not participating in a charged debate, consider the following:

    Christ called the Pharisees such names as “brood of vipers” and “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” Matthew 10:34-35

  62. In that point, we concur. I prefer a relationship to a religion.

    The fact that you draw a semantic distinction does not impress me much. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

  63. Kullervo–

    You win on that account. It can’t be reconciled. I am humble to admit that it can’t be reconciled.

  64. That’s bad manners. Waltzing into a conversation yelling at everyone is just going to make everyone ignore and mock you. It’s certainly not going to make anyone listen to what you say.

    I know you think this priesthood thing is important, but if you actually want to convince anybody, you’re going to have to find a different way of getting your message across.

  65. Kullervo–

    Yes, I understand your point, but sometimes caps are used for emphasis, not necessarily screaming. Welcome to hyperbole 101.

  66. On the internet, all-caps means yelling. It’s a convention. Welcome to internet 101.

    Try italics or bold for emphasis.

    Seriously, you are not making a very good first impression here.

  67. “The Christian church has consistently articulated exactly what fundamentals are necessary to be able to come within the fold of orthodoxy.”

    Not true.

    New Christian, I agree that the Aaronic Priesthood was no longer needed with the arrival of Christ, but the Mormon version of an Aaronic Priesthood is nothing like the OT version. The LDS does recognize the high priesthood of Christ, as you know. So even though Mormonism includes many rules that were made up by humans, because they recognize the priesthood of Jesus at the right hand of the Father as Mediator for we fallen people who need forgiveness for, and help to overcome, sin, it is at core a Christian system.

  68. And since I’m feeling inspired at the moment, let me add something else: Certain evangelicals (won’t mention any names ;-)) want to assign Mormonism a place outside true Christianity because it may have suggested God might have been a sinner. But what about the Christian who was in a bad auto accident, lost use of his or her legs, and for a period of time became angry at God and told God he was unfair because God did not protect him while Joe Blow non-Christian down the street is walking on both legs even though Joe Blow has been ignoring Jesus?

    To call God unfair is to claim he is sinning—now. Not in the past but now. That’s worse than saying God might have sinned in the past! Yet people like that maintain their relationship with the Lord all the time—I’m not saying the relationship wouldn’t be seriously hurt.

  69. Who says being unfair is a sin?

    Evangelical Christian God is incapable of sin by definition. Sin is breaking God’s commandments.

  70. Tim: Thanks for this post and sorry for getting to it so late. (And I still owe you a response on “grace.”)

    This is really a great post, and I’ve been interested (and pleased) to see that the others on this thread have more or less left it as is. It’s a small sample size, but it leaves me with some hope that your list is/could be The List.

    As for my response, I think you confirmed that from my point of view Mormonism can never be reconciled to mainstream Christianity. Or, to word that more definitively, my beliefs cannot ever be reconciled to yours, regardless of what steps (however unlikely) the LDS Church takes.

    For what it’s worth, here are the ones I could let go without any sweat:

    No Compromise

    God was created or formed and was not always in his present state
    God lived a mortal life before the creation of this world [
    I’m wide open to the possibility that he never did]

    God might have been a sinner
    Joseph Smith (or any other mortal) is serving in the role of “Holy Ghost” [I have heard this one before, but always thought it crazy]
    Heavenly Mother(s) [I’m agnostic on this anyway]

    Should Really Be Reviewed

    Ordinances are required for salvation
    “The Miracle of Forgiveness” as recommended reading
    All references to God in the Old Testament are only references to Jesus
    Acceptance of The Joseph Smith Translation
    Belief that no Mormon Prophet has ever led the church astray
    The Book of Mormon is an actual history (I may hedge on this one)

    Just Different, but Weird

    Temples for making covenants with God (content dependent)
    Baptism for the dead
    Sacred undergarments
    Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods
    The canon is open and continues to expand (content dependent)

    Have Fun

    Lay clergy
    Expectation of missionary service
    Canning
    King James Bible
    19th Century Methodist-style worship services
    General Conference
    Leadership determined by longevity
    Geographically designated worship communities

    Sorry to make that so long, but I wanted to emphasize the point that you and I could see eye to eye on a lot of this. So basically, the big separation between us rests on:

    The difference between God and man is one of degree not kind
    God has a body
    Salvation comes in part from our own works*
    Creation ex Materia
    Importance of marriage*

    *would require some definition of terms to make sure we fully understand each other, but anyway….

    I guess another way for you to read that short list of mine is as my way of saying, “Here is why I will never be an Evangelical.”

  71. Tim: “there shouldn’t be any objection to the means in which the doctrine of the Trinity was formed. Either be opposed to Greek-influence or don’t badger us over it.”

    Word. No, double-word. I hate nearly all “anti-Trinity” talks/lessons.

    Katie L: “What I get is that you’re saying that we can keep most of our unique cultural Mormon-ness and still be counted among the orthodox, which is cool.”

    Not that I want to change your mind, but I would view this exactly the opposite as you. I don’t have any desire to retain (or dismiss) Mormon culture.

    BFF Jack: “And if the answer is anything other than “both,” why should we care so much about this “Jesus = Jehovah, Elohim = the Father” distinction when apparently the Old Testament writers did not? It doesn’t sound like a useful distinction for understanding the text of the Old Testament at all.”

    Agreed. But it is a very useful way to emphasize and re-emphasize that Jesus = God and not “god” and was so before he was born, etc. I think that that, coupled with correlation to wording in the temple, is what really drives this impractical definition.

  72. Brian: “But it [Jesus = Jehovah] is a very useful way to emphasize and re-emphasize that Jesus = God and not “god” and was so before he was born, etc.”

    Good point.

  73. Not that I want to change your mind, but I would view this exactly the opposite as you. I don’t have any desire to retain (or dismiss) Mormon culture.

    BrianJ, that’s funny. I like it. 🙂 Mormon culture isn’t perfect, but it’s ours, and I think there are some pretty special things about it. I confess I’d be sad if Jello and funeral potatoes went the way of the dinosaur.

  74. BrianJ,

    Although Tim’s list is a good list, it’s not “The List.” “The List” was enumerated 1500 years ago. The most succinct way I know to say what Mormons must do to be considered Christians is to accept and believe the first four Ecumenical councils (Nicea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, and Chalcedon).

    Of course this would mean accepting abominable creeds.

  75. David is right. I just turned the creeds in the opposite direction and started with Mormonism.

    Brian, it was interesting that you shifted “Eternal Marriage” in my list to “Importance of Marriage” in your own. I think marriage is important, most Christians do. Why do you think this some how separates you from orthodoxy?

    As for the other 3 items, do you just feel more inspired by those beliefs than what is found in orthodox Christianity, or do you think Joseph Smith is more reliable in those teachings than the outside Christian world?

  76. Although Tim’s list is a good list, it’s not “The List.” “The List” was enumerated 1500 years ago. The most succinct way I know to say what Mormons must do to be considered Christians is to accept and believe the first four Ecumenical councils (Nicea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus, and Chalcedon).

    Of course this would mean accepting abominable creeds.

    What if Mormons officially rejected those abominable creeds, but in actuality taught doctrine that was consistent with the creeds?

  77. David Clark: what I like about Tim’s list better than just pointing to the Councils is that 1) there’s stuff in the Councils that Mormons already can agree on, so Tim’s list filters that out (i.e., in that way, Tim’s list is even more succinct); 2) there’s stuff in Mormonism that is not (to my limited knowledge on the Councils) addressed in the Councils but that could be a sticking point; e.g., temple garments, proxy baptisms, etc.; and 3) related to the previous, there’s some borderline stuff that has separated Christians in the past but it’s not clear if it would exclude Mormons; e.g., saving ordinances, priesthood.

    Tim: It’s going to be difficult to answer your question about the “marriage distinction” because my own views are nebulous. As I noted, this divider would require some dialog, and I didn’t mean to imply that marriage was not important to most Christians. A better way for me to have written that would have been, “The importance of marriage in deification .”

    Since I don’t claim to have even a fuzzy idea of what it might mean to be deified, or exalted, or even just “be in heaven,” it’s hard for me to say how marriage could fit into all that. But since I believe in deification/exaltation—which I ultimately view as the “oneness” Jesus prayed about for his disciples—I can think of marriage as an important experience for getting us there…and keeping us there. In other words, perhaps marriage is essential not only because of what marriage allows us to do for eternity (which as I said is a nebulous concept anyway), but also because the experience of marriage is itself essential/formative. (As an analogy, I can’t exactly say why we all have to go through this mortal life instead of simply skipping it all and going straight to heaven, but clearly God sees some value for us in it.)

    Anyway, that’s a terrible explanation, but hopefully it clarifies why I was reluctant to put marriage in the take-it-or-leave-it pile: Why does it separate me from orthodoxy? Because orthodoxy rejects my concept of exaltation altogether. (Sorry, I know this is a fuzzy answer, but that’s why I put an asterisk on it!)

  78. The objection to the creeds may be procedural not substantive.

    Then the objection would be one based in ignorance. The same procedures used to define the New Testament canon were used to define the creeds.

  79. Sure, whatever. It’s a hypothetical anyway. Calling them hypothetical boneheads for a hypothetical doctrinal position doesn’t answer the question.

    What if the mormon Church formally rejected the creeds as creeds, but in practice, the Church’s doctrine was unambiguously consistent with the creeds?

  80. Kullervo,

    Thinking more about it, I don’t know what to say. There is something consistent between pulling the stunt you are talking about and saying “horse” = “tapir” and “steel sword” = “Maquahuitl.” There does seem to be some fascination with redefining words in LDS culture (especially apologetic culture).

    My guess is Christians would consider LDS fully orthodox at that point, just not too bright.

  81. Well, I think there’s something about us that feels a need to reject creeds on principle. Maybe it’s our rebellious frontier sensibility.

  82. Katie, I think there’s something to that. One of Joseph Smith’s complaints about the creeds was that the seemed to constrain God and deny the possibility of further revelation. I have the feeling (and that’s all it is) that he was more concerned about that than the content of the creeds.

  83. The problem is that the Creeds were formulated without the help of new revelation and they purport to the final word on these matters. They are the product of a closed system and only allow limited input. The problem with the creeds is that they close down all discussion, debate and prevent acceptance of any new revelation that may clarify the issues. So, even when they might get things right, they represent something that is not consistent with ongoing revelation and “further light and knowledge”.

    The creeds don’t purport to be simply our understanding based on the information we have now, they are considered THE only correct answer possible and all future revelation is judged by them.

    I think that Mormons (and other reasonable people) find this very backward.

    The creeds were deduced from scripture, but ultimately the Creeds become more important than scripture because you can’t deviate from this interpretation.

    If science was done this way nobody would accept general relativity because it disagrees with Newtonian physics.

    Believing in that Force = Mass * Acceleration is different than saying that Newtonian physics is the only possible answer.

    It seems that creeds are a primarily a means of maintaining organizational stability in the face of a library of information that could be interpreted a bunch of ways.

    In that way they could be an “abomination” even if they are in fact true because they prevent humans from hearing the continued revelation of God on matters that are not at all clear cut in scripture.

  84. Eric: Why can’t we just view the creeds as abominable because they describe a God that has no body, cannot exalt others, is not even our same “species,” etc.? I mean, I don’t see much difference between that and the flak we get from other Christians about how we’re “not Christian because we say that Jesus and Satan are brothers.” If someone redefined you as a bodiless person, wouldn’t you find that “abominable”?

  85. primarily a means of maintaining organizational stability in the face of a library of information that could be interpreted a bunch of ways.

    A perfect definition of Correlation.

  86. Well, I think there’s something about us that feels a need to reject creeds on principle. Maybe it’s our rebellious frontier sensibility.

    I don’t see why it’s so unreasonable to reject creeds in general as a matter of principle even though you agree to the terms of a particular creed.

    By analogy, you could reasonably reject monarchy as a form of government while supporting all of the actions of a particular monarch.

  87. Okay, I thought Jared’s comment explained it. I don’t retract my point, but I can see Eric/Katie/Jared’s view as well.

  88. …and I think Jared also illustrates how, at least in principle, the Correlation Committee is different than the Creeds.

  89. Correlation is indeed a means of maintaining organizational unity, and I believe probably necessary one. But it does not really shut down discussion or debate. You can be a non-heretical Mormon if you disagree with a correlated doctrine. You just can’t try to shake up the church or throw it off track by pursuing your disagreeing doctrine.

    Correlated doctrines are far softer than creeds. They are the current state of the “mainstream” they will and do change when other more popular or compelling viewpoints or revelations push them to.

  90. Mormons could probably accept creeds if they were more like Correlation. But as they are, they are inconsistent with new revelation (which they were designed to be.)

  91. On Elohim = Father, Jehovah = Jesus, Kevin Barney argues in a 2006 comment at By Common Consent, that this equation shouldn’t be applied too rigidly. He also identifies a First Presidency statement from 1916 drafted by James Talmage as a key source for this equation:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/09/13/authorized-doctrine/#comment-62751

    I wonder whether Talmage’s book Jesus the Christ might have played a role in popularising this too. He makes this distinction in Chapter 4 on ‘The Antemortal Godship of Christ’, which makes interesting reading: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22542/22542-h/22542-h.htm#chapter_4

    As a Trinitarian Christian, I have no problem with the idea that uses of YHWH in the Old Testament could in various places refer to any of the three persons of the Godhead or to the one triune God. I don’t think it’s always clear in any given passage which of these is the case, but I also suspect this doesn’t matter too much.

    Incidentally, with regard to the hypothetical situation of the LDS church rejecting creeds in principle but in practice teaching doctrine consistent with the creeds, I think there are already Protestant churches in this category. I’m happy to accept them as creedally orthodox Christians 😉

  92. To Eric’s point, The best way to see how abominable the creeds are is to see how they create significant political consequences for those who accept the new revelations of Joseph Smith.

    Its the Galileo problem, he gets sanctioned by the Church even though he saw the truth, simply because it didn’t agree with previously accepted truth.

    Its more pronounced because it closes minds to anything new God may have to offer.

    Creeds are impossible to correct, even by God.

    This seems like creeds could be an abomination whether or not you believe Joseph Smith, since they bind human minds to certain human understanding of who God without leaving any room for God to reveal more about who he is. All new prophets will be villified or killed without further examination if they dispute any part of the creeds.

  93. Mormons could probably accept creeds if they were more like Correlation. But as they are, they are inconsistent with new revelation (which they were designed to be.)

    This is a complete nonsense. Creeds are not inconsistent with new revelation, they are inconsistent with new revelation that is inconsistent with the creed. But that’s just definitional.

    Creeds establish that which must be believed. There are a great many things which can be believed and promoted, provided they are not inconsistent with the creeds.

  94. What if the mormon Church formally rejected the creeds as creeds, but in practice, the Church’s doctrine was unambiguously consistent with the creeds?

    I think there have been a number of Protestant denominations that have done this at one point or another. I think they’ve all figured out that it’s kind of a weird thing to do and don’t mind if you personally accept the creeds. Not surprisingly these denominations were 19th century contemporaries of Mormonism.

    Katie said
    Well, I think there’s something about us that feels a need to reject creeds on principle. Maybe it’s our rebellious frontier sensibility.

    The LDS church does have creeds though. They just aren’t called creeds. The Articles of Faith might as well be a creed. The baptism and temple questions included elements of doctrinal orthodoxy as well. If God is opposed to the act of making creeds, he didn’t stick to it very long.

  95. This is a complete nonsense. Creeds are not inconsistent with new revelation, they are inconsistent with new revelation that is inconsistent with the creed. But that’s just definitional.

    I guess you are right, God can reveal anything he wants so long as it doesn’t dispute what the creed say.

  96. The difference with the Articles of Faith is that, in principle, if a new revelation came along that said there would not be literal gathering of Isreal, it wouldn’t shake anybody up. They, like correlation, are a summary of current beliefs, not the end of discussion.

    The essence of a creed is that it is the final word.

  97. Jared C,

    And just so that I understand your thinking, are you of the opinion that there is no Mormon doctrine that is nailed down and beyond revision?

  98. This seems like creeds could be an abomination whether or not you believe Joseph Smith, since they bind human minds to certain human understanding of who God without leaving any room for God to reveal more about who he is. All new prophets will be villified or killed without further examination if they dispute any part of the creeds.

    Yes.

    The LDS church does have creeds though. They just aren’t called creeds. The Articles of Faith might as well be a creed. The baptism and temple questions included elements of doctrinal orthodoxy as well. If God is opposed to the act of making creeds, he didn’t stick to it very long.

    Nah. Creeds are extra-canonical consolidations and interpretations of scripture. The A of F are in the canon, so they can’t be a creed.

    Your temple recommend question analogy is more compelling to me. I’ll have to think on that one. Funnily enough, I generally dislike the whole temple recommend practice and think it’s probably not the best idea we’ve ever had. So maybe I have a more rugged frontier spirit than even I knew. 😉

    For the record I don’t think the creeds are an abomination. I think they’re quite lovely and useful. But there are downsides to them, Jared’s point chief among them. There are downsides to not having them, too. There’s always give and take.

  99. I don’t think the creeds are quite as air tight as Jared does. If we found a manuscript of a 5th Gospel that we had as much justification to include in the canon as any of the other 4, I think it would be added to the Bible. If it happened to include information about the Father’s corporeal nature, we would have to accommodate that information.

    The creeds serve as a benchmark to measure our own speculative theology against. They don’t lock out new information from God or the 1st Century disciples. They protect us from bored theologians.

  100. Tim,

    I think you make the claim that creeds are not airtight only because the hypothetical is a bit flawed.

    The problem is that a 5th Gospel would be instantly rejected if it differed from the creeds. There are plenty of other Gospel’s floating around out there. Even if we had DNA evidence of that the manuscript was written by Paul my guess is that it would still rejected as a “different Gospel”.

    But why would it have to be an ancient text to be authoritative anyway? Couldn’t people just use the same process that was used when the New Testament was put together. (oh, right, there is no such process anymore.)

    Every Evangelical I have ever met gauges all new revelation by the Bible and the creeds. Because they are the standard, they are impervious to correction. Even by angels from Heaven.

    Evangelicals and other protestants are particularly locked into the creedal/scriptural model. Because everything is judged by Scripture alone (which is inerrant) and the creeds are considered an accurate reflection of scripture, the system is no open to any correction.

    David-

    There is nothing in Mormon doctrine that is beyond revision in principle. Its pretty obvious that Mormons are plenty open to having God reveal things that call into question all kinds of previous scripture and revelation. Are you really going to attempt to dispute this?

  101. There is nothing in Mormon doctrine that is beyond revision in principle. Its pretty obvious that Mormons are plenty open to having God reveal things that call into question all kinds of previous scripture and revelation. Are you really going to attempt to dispute this?

    No, I just find it disingenuous and self-defeating. But, if that’s how you want to roll, be my guest.

    The creeds serve as a benchmark to measure our own speculative theology against. They don’t lock out new information from God or the 1st Century disciples. They protect us from bored theologians.

    And horny prophets.

  102. BrianJ asked me:

    Why can’t we just view the creeds as abominable because they describe a God that has no body, cannot exalt others, is not even our same “species,” etc.?

    Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s only the fixed nature of the creeds that Joseph Smith found objectionable, but I do think that’s the main thing. Clearly, Smith saw the creeds as not conveying the whole picture.

    And even though the Articles of Faith and the statement of belief D&C 20:17-26 (which forms part of the restored church’s original “constitution”) have much in common with the creeds (and are mostly compatible with traditional Christian belief), both indicate that further revelation is to come. Certainly that belief was a big part of what made Smith so revolutionary.

  103. Tim

    You wrote: “The LDS church does have creeds though. They just aren’t called creeds. The Articles of Faith might as well be a creed. The baptism and temple questions included elements of doctrinal orthodoxy as well. If God is opposed to the act of making creeds, he didn’t stick to it very long.”

    I think that your above comment comes very close to hitting the nail on the head. When God told Joseph that all of the creeds of the sects of the day were abominations, the Lord must have meant, or at least Joseph must have understood, that it was the CONTENTS of those creeds that are abominable. For one thing, it was Joseph who wrote the Wentworth Letter from which the Articles of Faith are taken. Joseph would have seen that he was writing something that resembled a creed and he did nothing to keep it from being understood, by non-Mormons at least, as either a creed or something very similar. That seems unlikely, if Joseph understood that God condemned the very concept of creeds.

    In fact, as far as I have seen, the idea among some Mormons (usually young people) that the Lord told Joseph that it is “creeediness” that is abominable, rather than that the contents of the creeds that is abominable, is of relatively recent vintage. I suspect that it is a mental gyration some (usually young) politically-correct Mormons are undertaking to try to avoid acknowledging, at least publicly, that the creeds of other Christian faiths, which summarize the most important beliefs of those faiths, are abominations.

    Thus, for example, if the Nicene Creed were modified, so that it acknowledged expressly that God, Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate personages, united in purpose but not in substance, then it would be acceptable to God. In fact, if the Apostle’s Creed is read very literally, meaning without implying into it the Trinity, then it would be acceptable to God.

    However, although your comment is well taken, it is not quite correct, for the Articles of Faith are not really a creed, like the creeds of the sects, which attempt to collect the most crucial truths. Thus, the Articles of Faith do not purport to be nearly so important as do the creeds of the sects. Your comment as to the questions of the baptismal interview and the temple recommend interview is a good one, because, presumably, these questions do focus on the most essential beliefs and practices of Mormons. However, Mormons hear the baptismal interview questions only once, and the temple recommend interview questions only every two years (although twice), and few Mormons could recite them from memory or even look them up quickly, so these interview questions do not function like a creed.

    Murdock

  104. I don’t care whether it’s true, or how true, or anything—Tim wins with “They protect us from bored theologians.” Great line.

  105. David Clark :
    No, I just find it disingenuous and self-defeating. But, if that’s how you want to roll, be my guest.

    Disingenuous? You mean disingenuous in the way of someone who says they are open to accept new revelation from God or understanding from God, but in fact they are completely closed to that possibility?

    Are you talking about me or traditional Christianity?

    Self-defeating?

    No, I think I win on this one.

  106. Murdock,

    You stand on the opposite side of this issue from a great many prominent Mormons including Robert Millet and Blake Ostler. I’m not saying your wrong, but your position is disputed.

    few Mormons could recite them from memory or even look them up quickly, so these interview questions do not function like a creed.

    few Christians could recite the Christian creeds. I know I can’t. Ability for the populace to repeat something does not make it a creed anymore more than an inability to recite it.

  107. Jared,

    It’s disingenuous because the church acts in every way as if there are doctrines that are set in stone. Probably because the general authorities believe that there are some doctrines set in stone. For example, missionaries don’t go around saying, “Joseph Smith restored some really neat ideas, all of which are subject to future revision.” No, they say things like, “Joseph Smith restored the true church of Jesus Christ.” Sure, it makes for cute conversations on the Interwebs, but the actual practice of the church contradicts the idea in every way.

    Disingenuous? You mean disingenuous in the way of someone who says they are open to accept new revelation from God or understanding from God, but in fact they are completely closed to that possibility?

    Are you talking about me or traditional Christianity?

    As I have said previously, this is not the case. Christians are open to new ideas, they are simply not open to contradicting what they consider to be received truths.

    In actual practice the LDS church has received new revelation from God over the past 100 years at the same rate as has mainstream Christianity, which is to say none at all.

    No, wait, I take that back, you did get one revelation in that time period. God told you to stop being racists 10-20 years after Christians figured that one out, sans revelation.

    No, I think I win on this one.

    Whatever makes you feel better Jared.

  108. In fact, as far as I have seen, the idea among some Mormons (usually young people) that the Lord told Joseph that it is “creeediness” that is abominable, rather than that the contents of the creeds that is abominable, is of relatively recent vintage.

    like this young man :

    “Try the spirits,” but what by? Are we to try them by the creeds of men? What preposterous folly–what sheer ignorance–what madness! Try the motions and actions of an eternal being (for I contend that all spirits are such) by a thing that was conceived in ignorance, and brought forth in folly–a cobweb of yesterday! Angels would hide their faces, and devils would be ashamed and insulted, and would say, “Paul we know, and Jesus we know, but who are ye?” Let each man of society make a creed and try evil spirits by it, and the devil would shake his sides; it is all that he would ask–all that he would desire. Yet many of them do this, and hence “many spirits are abroad in the world.”

    (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, section 4, p. 203.)

    It seems like Joseph Smith is most upset by the fact that the creed is used to gauge new revelation, not that they are flat wrong.

  109. Never seen so much activity here!

    Why don’t we try focusing on what we AGREE on some time? Has anyone ever posted a blog that asks us to figure out what we agree on? That would be a fresh twist.

    This might go over like a led balloon but I think the devil is inspiring many of the non-Mormons here to focus on the creeds instead of the Bible because the LDS is apparently far more against the creeds than against the Bible (it’s not against the Bible at all except through unintentional misinterpretation).

    Satan wants the rift left intact so he leads some of you guys around by the nose and you don’t even know it. As Bob Dylan sang, “When you gonna wake up?” (I love you guys too much to withhold the truth from you.)

  110. Cal: it’s probably worth noting that I posted a ~two page-scrolls comment showing just how much I agreed with Tim. Then later, agreed with his comment on the Trinity. Katie also agreed with Tim. And so on. It’s not that it never happens here; it frequently does. It’s that it takes a whole lot longer to discover and understand disagreement than it does agreement.

    Just think, if I bring up the theory of general relativity and everyone here already believes it and understands it, then there isn’t much to discuss; if someone objects to it, however, then we might be in for a very lengthy physics-text-book-length discussion.

  111. “Cal wins.”

    True. And to think that just a few comments ago I had you picked as the winner on this thread.

  112. Of course, the minute someone writes about about how we agree on Doctrine A, someone will pipe in something to the effect of “But the Mormons define their words differently!” and that there’s disagreement masquerading as agreement.

    I guarantee it.

    For the record, I agree with the Apostles’ Creed.

  113. BrianJ,

    I agree with the General Theory of Relativity.

    And the the special one too.

  114. I agree with the general and special theories of relativity, but I disagree with the Apostles’ Creed and Moroni 8:18.

    But I do agree with the Mandukya Upanishad and most of the Delphic Maxims.

  115. I suspect that it is a mental gyration some (usually young) politically-correct Mormons are undertaking to try to avoid acknowledging, at least publicly, that the creeds of other Christian faiths, which summarize the most important beliefs of those faiths, are abominations.

    Except that it’s not a mental gyration. This relatively young Mormon really doesn’t believe that the creeds of other Christian faiths are abominations. I’m not trying to avoid publicly acknowledging something that I secretly believe. I think JS’s language was excessively harsh on this one.

  116. Sorry, something must have gotten caught on her nose ring. It won’t happen again.

  117. Eric said, “I agree with the Apostles’ Creed.”

    Does that mean you’re not 100% Mormon? My local Mormon friend manages to find a few phrases to disagree with.

    Brian said “it takes a whole lot longer to discover and understand disagreement than it does agreement.”

    I understand, Brian.

    Tim said, “Cal wins.”

    I’m not trying to win anything.

    Jared said, “if you write one Cal, i’ll post it.”

    Would it be cheating to steal something from my website? How would I get it to you?

    You all have a good night’s sleep, sweet guys & gals!

  118. Cal — There’s nothing in the Apostles’ Creed that any 100% Mormon wouldn’t agree with (except that it’s a creed). It doesn’t include any trinitarian formula, which is the most problematic issue of later creeds from an LDS point of view, and nothing much at all about the nature of God.

  119. “There’s nothing in the Apostles’ Creed that any 100% Mormon wouldn’t agree with.”

    Good to know. My local friend thinks it’s important that I become a Mormon. Sometimes I think he manufactures disagreements (primarily unknowingly) because, after all, if I think we agree on most of the important issues, there is no longer much reason for me to be Mormon.

  120. In the same way that Eric believes in the Apostle’s Creed, I believe in D&C 132 and The King Follet Discourse.

    Interfaith dialogue problem solved. Let’s all get on with our lives now.

  121. So, I’ve never actually read most of the various Creeds. I just read the Apostles’ Creed. I really don’t know what Cal’s Mormon friend has against it, unless he is interpreting “the holy catholic Church” as referring to the Roman Catholic Church, which I think would be erroneous. So add me to the list of Mormons who completely agrees with it.

  122. Alex, that’s interesting. It’s a lot to agree on!
    My friend did say something about the “holy Catholic Church.” And I think he said something about Jesus descending into hell. What do you guys believe about that?

    Mr. Clark, FOUL. Five more and you’re out. 🙂 (I’ve been watching NBA action.)

  123. Cal – Christ spent three days among the captives in prison, preaching to them His Gospel. This is one of those cases in which Mormons interpret “hell” as “the spiritual waiting place for those who have not yet received the Gospel, as opposed to paradise, which is the spiritual waiting place for those who have”. No problem there; heck, Peter’s description of it in the NT is taught ad nauseum by our missionaries when teaching about the Plan of Salvation.

  124. The word “hell” there doesn’t refer to the place of eternal punishment (Greek gehenna), but the place of the dead (hades). That comes from 1 Peter 3:18, which we interpret to be the spirit prison. Our understanding of what Jesus did for the time between his death and resurrection doesn’t necessarily agree with other Christians’ views, but we all pretty much agree that he went to the place of the dead, whatever that may be. The key here is that his death was real.

    Modern-language version of the creed usually say that “he descended to the dead,” which is less easily misinterpreted.

  125. It looks like Alex and I were writing at the same time. I wasn’t ignoring what he said; I hadn’t seen it yet.

  126. BrianJ — Earlier, you said:

    Since I don’t claim to have even a fuzzy idea of what it might mean to be deified, or exalted, or even just “be in heaven,” it’s hard for me to say how marriage could fit into all that. But since I believe in deification/exaltation—which I ultimately view as the “oneness” Jesus prayed about for his disciples—I can think of marriage as an important experience for getting us there…and keeping us there. In other words, perhaps marriage is essential not only because of what marriage allows us to do for eternity (which as I said is a nebulous concept anyway), but also because the experience of marriage is itself essential/formative.

    Is it possible that a Catholic might have part of the answer to your questions? When I read the following article, I was reminded of your post: Twenty and Engaged.

    Here’s the key excerpt from an essay by Elilzabeth Hanna, a University of Georgia student:

    What is marriage for? Marriage is for companionship and children, and in the long term, to lead each other to Heaven. As God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” By marrying, we participate in the greatest reflection of God’s union with His creation. We become one person with another, we engage in complete and total self-giving, and thus become fulfilled and complete. We were not created to be isolated — we were made to love, made by Love, for love; and the more complete that love is, the more self-giving, the greater taste of Heaven we receive.

    Cool, huh?

    When I started reading her article, I didn’t know I was on a Catholic web site. Until she mentioned never having had a legal glass of wine, I was suspecting she might be LDS.

  127. The word “hell” there doesn’t refer to the place of eternal punishment (Greek gehenna), but the place of the dead (hades).

    Quibble: the “Gehenna” is the English version of a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word. So while it technically appears in the New Testament as a Greek word, that’s just because that’s the language the book is written in. “Gehenna” as a place of punishment is not a Greek concept.

    Hades is Greek though.

  128. Quibble: The Apostles Creed is a Latin text so Gehenna is absent from the creed in the first place.

  129. Question for our Latter-day Saints who say that they agree with the Apostle’s Creed:

    How do you interpret the phrase “holy catholic Church”? That’s the only part that I would think a Mormon would disagree with—not because it refers to Roman Catholics, but because it refers to the entirety of the body of Christian believers which would include non-LDS Christians. It seems to me that Mormons would have to re-interpret the phrase to refer only to themselves.

  130. As a Mormon I firmly believed that the Church of the Lamb of God included people who were not LDS and excluded many people who were LDS. While I did believe that God’s priesthood and revelatory authority were only in the LDS Church, I believed that there were penty of believers who were Christ’s who were not in the LDS Church and plenty of people who were in the LDS Church who were ont Christ’s. And everyone in the world would have access to priesthood ordinances through the LDS Church’s efforts anyway.

    And I believed that there was solid scriptural support for this position as well as support in reliable teachings of modern prophets and apostles.

    So while I would not have said that “the holy catholic church” did not include all Christians, I would have said that it included everyone who was Christ’s, which was a group not defined by membership in an organization.

  131. Nephi wrote that there are only two churches: the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil. Amaleki and Mormon (among others, I think, but these are the two that I always remember), said that everything that is good comes from God.

    I interpret these as being much like kullervo has said: there are people who are of “the church of the Lamb of God” because they believe in Him, they act in accordance with His teachings, and the things they do that are good come from Him. I think of the holy catholic Church as being the same concept that Nephi wrote about. It isn’t a specific denomination; it is a group of believers of Christ. I have long-held the belief that Mormons do not have a monopoly on faith in Christ; while I believe my church is the only organisation on earth authorised by God to administer in His name, I do not believe that only Mormons are part of Christ’s flock.

  132. How do you interpret the phrase “holy catholic Church”? That’s the only part that I would think a Mormon would disagree with

    And that’s the only part I think a Mormon would disagree with as well. But, any interpretive stance which allows a Mormon to say they believe in it is sufficient to allow me to say I believe in D&C 132 and the King Follet discourse. Once you empty a term of any originally intended meaning, you can always make it say whatever you want it to say, and hence you can always agree with it.

  133. Combining response to Alex and Kullervo since they are saying essentially the same thing (though I acknowledge that Kullervo no longer holds the view he expressed).

    Once you put in provisos like this:

    while I believe my church is the only organisation on earth authorised by God to administer in His name,

    you render the concept “catholic” null and void. Sure, you can argue that people are people are part of Christ’s flock sans membership in the LDS church, but it’s clear that at some point to continue membership in that flock they have to be members of the LDS church, whether here and now or in the hereafter. For the concept catholic to retain its meaning “In the Flock” has to mean in the flock, full stop. No provisos, no baptisms for the dead, no preaching in spirit prison, etc. Once you put in those provisos you convert catholic/universal to Mormon/particular.

  134. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of anyones claiming to confess the truthfulness of the Apostles Creed, I am not sure how you can claim the status as the “one true church” without denying the catholicity of the church as an institution outside of the Salt Lake bureaucracy.

  135. A question might be, “At the time the Apostle’s Creed was written, did the authors recognize that everyone who was a part of the body of Christ at that time was actually a part of the body of Christ?”
    I doubt anyone knows the answer, but since the creed can be traced back to the A.D. 100’s, it’s unlikely they were as sectarian as the LDS is.

    ———-
    In any case, there seems to be general agreement among Mormons and non-Mormons on this blog that the LDS agrees with the Apostle’s Creed except for the “holy Catholic church” part.

    This leads us to another even bigger question for the fine evangelical scholars here to consider: Is someone who confesses the Apostle’s Creed from the heart a Christian?

    The LDS would say “no” because hands also would need to be laid on the confessor by proper authorities.

    However, most evangelical churches would no doubt say “yes” because the creed (quoted below) says “I believe in . . . Jesus Christ,” and the Bible says if you believe in Christ you will be saved (Acts 10:43).
    The creed also refers to Jesus as God’s Son, while 1 John 4:15 says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him.”
    The creed refers to Jesus as “our Lord” and says he “rose again from the dead.” Meanwhile, Romans 10:9 says “that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    In fact, the creed has more truths in it than most evangelicals use when leading someone through a prayer to receive Christ.

    If it’s true that the Apostle’s Creed has enough of the gospel in it to start someone on the Christian walk, and the LDS teaches its truths, we can, in my view, declare that the LDS is a Christian denomination.

    If the ldstalk.wordpress.com gang gets this revelation, we will then be sort of like groundbreaking lab technicians who discovered a cure for cancer!

    “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

  136. But don’t Roman Catholics claim the same exclusivity? Or at least haven’t they historically?

    Although Roman Catholics are exclusive, it functions very differently than does the LDS version.

    Take for instance the exclusivity of ordinances. The Catholic Church does claim the exclusive right to administer the sacraments, but in practice they recognize baptisms from every trinitarian church. Although they claim exclusive authority, their doctrine is that the act of baptism correctly done (i.e. say the right words, pour the water) is efficacious in and of itself. This goes way back to the Donatist controversy in the 4th century.

    The best analogy I can make is to compare the Catholic church to a car manufacturer that has exclusive rights to make cars. But, if you steal a car from the factory, they still consider it a car. If you build your own car, they still consider it a car. Though they have exclusive rights, they recognize other cars and are happy to consider you a car owner even if you didn’t buy your car from them.

    The LDS church also thinks of itself in this way, as an exclusive manufacturer of cars. But, if you steal a car from the LDS church, they will tell you it’s no longer a car. If you make your own car, they will tell you it’s not a car. The only “cars” in the LDS world are those manufactured by the LDS church, purchased from the LDS church, and have all the necessary paperwork filed to prove ownership of the car. If one of those doesn’t hold, it’s not a car in the LDS church’s opinion.

    Also, what is really important to Catholics is unity in affirming the pope as the vicar of Christ, and not much else. For instance Eastern Rite Catholics have different vestments, different liturgy, different canon law, have married priests etc. If you visit one of those churches you would not guess you were in a Catholic church unless someone told you. Plus, a similar situation holds for Episcopal churches seeking to be in communion with the Catholic Church via the Anglicanorum Coetibus.

    OK, I’m rambling now. Bottom line is that they claim exclusivity, but it’s a complicated issue. The claims are actually much weaker than the LDS church’s claims to exclusivity are, and they are willing to be a lot more accommodating to local needs and historical developments.

  137. “But don’t Roman Catholics claim the same exclusivity? Or at least haven’t they historically?”

    Not after Vatican 2.

  138. Jack said:

    Question for our Latter-day Saints who say that they agree with the Apostle’s Creed:

    How do you interpret the phrase “holy catholic Church”? … It seems to me that Mormons would have to re-interpret the phrase to refer only to themselves.

    The creed purports to state what the Apostles taught, and the LDS church’s position is that it is a restoration of the church from the apostolic era. I’m making no claim about when the creed was actually written; but if it had been a creedal-type statement at, say, A.D. 50, when the phrase presumably would have referred to the church led by the Apostles, then (from an LDS viewpoint) the LDS church is in the same position as the “holy catholic church” being referred to.

    While I pretty much agree with Alex’s statement (and Kullervo’s statement of what he used to believe), I’m not sure that’s what “catholic church” in the creed meant when it was written.

    To answer Jack’s question directly, I’d interpret the phrase to refer to the LDS church, although I wouldn’t consider that a reinterpretation so much as a clarification.

    Not knowing much about the history of creed, I’m probably digging myself in a hole, so anything I say here is subject to revision upon further information and reflection.

  139. I tried to catch up on comments pretty quickly, but I got a bit distracted when David Clark at first ragged on the Mormons here for “emptying a term of any originally intended meaning,” and then proceeded to differentiate between two uses of the word “exclusive,” wherein one nuanced use allows the Roman Catholic Church to acceptably claim adherence to the Apostles’ Creed.

  140. I think the real reason Catholicism accepts Protestantism is that the latter has survived (and survived well) numerous assassination attempts. (What we couldn’t bear in the 16th century we tolerate and even embrace after Vatican II.) Mormonism and Protestantism relate much the same way. (Many more Mormons and Protestants today are willing to “kiss and make up” than their counterparts in the 19th century, when the other side was the devil’s host.)

  141. wherein one nuanced use allows the Roman Catholic Church to acceptably claim adherence to the Apostles’ Creed.

    BrianJ,

    The Apostle’s Creed was written before there was a Roman Catholic Church. That’s one reason why they can claim adherence to it. Another reason is that the exclusivity arguments matter. When the LDS church starts accepting the baptisms of Jack and Tim as valid and efficacious, I will drop any complaints I have against Mormons saying they believe in the Apostle’s Creed.

  142. “But don’t Roman Catholics claim the same exclusivity? Or at least haven’t they historically?”

    Not after Vatican 2.

    Thus, “Or at least haven’t they historically?” You’re not seriously trying to say that the Roman Catholic Church could not truly assent to the apostles’ creed until 1965, are you?

  143. DC – Okay, if you want to limit me to your interpretation and beliefs, then, yeah, you’re right.

    But you aren’t, and neither is Cal when he said that Latter-day Saints would deny the Christianity of those who profess belief in the Apostles’ Creed without Priesthood ordinances.

    Christians are not just members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not the only Christians. So yes, I can say that, on the one hand, the LDS church is the only church that provides authorised Priesthood ordinances but, on the other hand, God has revealed Himself to many other peoples in many other faiths, and those people who are filled with His Spirit are a part of His church (using the word church to mean congregation, or body of followers, and not as a reference to a specific denomination). I see absolutely no contradiction in this view, and I will stand by it. Tim, Jack, David, Cal, Eric, BrianJ, Katie, katyjane, myself, gundek, Hermes, and everyone else who professes to be a sincere follower of Christ is a part of the universal body of the followers of Christ who are inspired by Him.

  144. This leads us to another even bigger question for the fine evangelical scholars here to consider: Is someone who confesses the Apostle’s Creed from the heart a Christian?

    The LDS would say “no” because hands also would need to be laid on the confessor by proper authorities.

    Mormons definitely do not believe that you need any priesthood ordinance whatsoever to in order a Christian.

    The flip side of that is, Mormons also believe that “being a Christian” is not enough to qualify for exaltation.

  145. Tim, Jack, David, Cal, Eric, BrianJ, Katie, katyjane, myself, gundek, Hermes, and everyone else who professes to be a sincere follower of Christ is a part of the universal body of the followers of Christ who are inspired by Him.

    HEY!

    Don’t forget Whitney.

  146. Why thank you, Kullervo.

    Alex, may you spend the rest of your days trembling in fear imagining how an Assassin Wife might exact her revenge.

  147. The flip side of that is, Mormons also believe that “being a Christian” is not enough to qualify for exaltation.

    Thus reducing “the holy catholic Church” to the soteriological equivalent of the local Elk’s lodge.

  148. Thus reducing “the holy catholic Church” to the soteriological equivalent of the local Elk’s lodge.

    Eh, I dunno. My understanding was that both true faith in Jesus Christ and proper priesthood ordinances were required for exaltation. The LDS organization was God’s tool for getting the ordinances done in an authorized manner and making them available to everyone. But faith in Jesus Christ was your own responsibility.

    Ordinances-as-a-requirement-for-organizational membership was significantly less important than ordinances-as-a-requirement-for-exaltation, with or without an organization. They just happened to go hand-in-hand.

    So everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ and is thus a part of the Church of the Lamb gets to say yea or nay to the ordinances (whether performed personally or by proxy by the LDS Church), and will certainly say yea.

    Everyone else who gets the ordinances (whether as members of the Church or by proxy) but does not develop faith in Jesus Christ is out of luck.

    Organizational membership is thus not relevant in determining who belongs to the Chruch of the Lamb. It’s only important in getting the Kingdom’s work done.

  149. “Organizational membership is thus not relevant in determining who belongs to the Chruch of the Lamb. It’s only important in getting the Kingdom’s work done.”

    Worth repeating.

  150. Glad to know I’m not getting any Kingdom work done.

    Takes the presure off. You’re probably not even in the tribe of Ephraim. Don’t even sweat it.

  151. “You’re not seriously trying to say that the Roman Catholic Church could not truly assent to the apostles’ creed until 1965, are you?”

    Certainly not. But if we are going to discuss Mormons confessing the Apostles Creed shouldn’t we look at how the creed itself is understood historically, where the term “catholic” was to distinguish the church from schismatics? Does Rome emphasize its ecclesiastical system as part of its claim to catholicity? Yes, but it also recognizes the universality of the whole church.

    We should also understand a few basics before Mormons decide to include the Apostles Creed in their liturgy. First, the creed in its current form probably dates to the 7th-8th century, (not 50AD) JND Kelly argues that it was probably a catechetical aid, not a baptismal formula. Second, the creed, in its current form, probably owes its popularity more to Charlemagne and his church reforms than is does to its apostolic origins. Third the creed, as it is currently received, is a theologically mature liturgical text, used in public worship and catechesis. As such the creed gives a positive statement of belief, not a refutation of error. Third, depending on when you date the creed (early 5th century – later 8th century) the creed predates either 4 or 6 of the ecumenical councils where most of the Trinitarian and Christological controversies had already been settled. Basically the Apostles Creed presupposes the doctrines of creation out of nothing, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the creator/creature distinction that divide Mormons from orthodox Christianity, it was and is a tool to teach these doctrines.

    More significantly for defining “catholic” in the Apostles Creed you find 2 of the 4 marks of the church, “holy” and “catholic”. The four marks of the church “one”, “holy”, “catholic”, and “apostolic” are properties of the church, not of the church’s membership. The first property of the church “there is one…” is traditionally used by Rome to refer to the visible institutions of the church while catholicity refers to universal doctrine and a universality across geographic, racial, and governmental distinctions.

  152. Gundek said, “the creed in its current form probably dates to the 7th-8th century, (not 50AD).”

    That’s an eye-opener. I failed to pay attention to the words “earliest version” when I read in the World Book Encyclopedia that “the earliest version of the Apostles’ Creed can be traced back to the A.D. 100’s.”

  153. Why is that an eye opener Cal? As a Christian it is the history of your people.

  154. It’s was an eye opener because when I read in the World Book Encyclopedia that “the earliest version of the Apostles’ Creed can be traced back to the A.D. 100′s,” I was thinking that the version we are referring to on this blog was the earliest version. Apparently not?

    Do you know how the earliest version differs from the following version?:

    “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

    Is it also correct that it cannot be proven that the original Apostle’s actually wrote it?

  155. The most important difference I see right off the bat is that the Methodist church doesn’t capitalize “catholic,” since it’s supposed to mean “universal” rather than referring to the Catholic church.

    Not that I know anything about which version appeared when, but…that’s an important nuance.

  156. So basically, I repeated what gundek said above. But I’d be very surprised if any protestant churches were publishing the Creed with “Catholic” capitalized.

  157. Yes, I started to make a comment about that, too, Whitney, but erased it! You read my mind.

    I read that the Protestants also changed “Creator” to “Maker.” Did they think “creator” was too complicated?

  158. If you start with the Old Roman Symbol (mid 2nd Century) and work your way forward to the first existing manuscript of the Apostles Creed in its received Latin text (ST Priminius 710-724?) you find remarkable similarity in the various local versions of the Apostles Creed. Some will have “I believe” others “We believe”. Some do not contain “decent into hell” others add “only begotten son”. There are many variations.

    The thing to remember is that the Creed was used, in addition to being a baptismal formula and liturgical device, as a catechetical tool for teaching basic doctrines. Standing behind the Creed is a host of doctrinal education teaching the church what each phrase of the Creed signifies.

    Looking at “maker” or “creator” the capitol “C” on Catholic we should remember these are translations of the Latin.

    When you think about it it is kind of incredible that the church is using the Apostles Creed, that started its development at the end of the first century, to help a new generation to be “trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine…” as the apostle Paul commanded. Our Creedal declarations are tools, summaries of sound doctrine and a window into the history of our people.

    Carl Truman said, “Church has always had to face the same old tired errors and heresies afresh for each generation” It has always used the Creeds to do this, from the simplest Creed “Jesus is Lord” to the complexity of Athanasius. When the church forgets them things get “wobbly”.

  159. Interesting.
    From what you’ve said, it sounds like the differences between the original version and today’s are insignificant.

    You said, “the Creed was used, in addition to being a baptismal formula and liturgical device, as a catechetical tool for teaching basic doctrines.”

    Is that not so often the case today in Catholic &/or Protestant churches?

  160. I cannot comment on Roman Catholic, except to say that adult coverts are required to attend about a years worth of education prior to baptism. The Catechisms of the Catholic Church are laid out in a broadly Apostles Creed pattern

    I know that there are Protestants that use creeds and catechisms to educate their children, members and church officers but American evangelicalism for the most part has forgotten them.

  161. Pingback: Mormonism: Christian Cult or Radical(ly Distinct) Religion? | Wheat and Tares

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