Answering Greg Trimble’s 51 Questions – Part 5

At last, Part 5!  This is what we call in blogging “rounding third.”

I was sad to discover that this is not the first attempt at answering 50 bull dog questions. FAIR, the Mormon apologetics organization took at crack at answering those 50 questions for Mormons.  I also discovered that someone else is working at answering Trimble’s list.  What I learned from both sites is that reading these answers is even more boring than reading the questions.  Holy cow that’s bad news for you Greg.  That means I’m going to have to redouble my efforts at creative insults.  I assure you, they’re not meant for you, just the people who love to hate you.


Some quick caveats for those that missed my first post.  These answers will be short and to the point. I’m not trying give a complete answer, nor am I trying to convert anyone out of Mormonism.  If I throw in a joke or two it’s to keep things interesting and not a personal attack on Trimble or an attempt to disrespect the Mormon faith.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

41. Who are the “other sheep that are not of this fold” referred to by Christ in (John 10:16) Hint: It’s not the Gentles.

Continue reading

Counting the Cost of Discipleship (notes from my underground)

I was looking through my journal and saw some thoughts I wrote down three years ago, I wrote these before sinking into a very dim atheism, this entry was part of my last effort to hang on to the Christianity I had when I was LDS. I think I was grasping at whether it made sense at all to consider ourselves Christian disciples.  Now I realize that it does not make sense to even to attempt Christian discipleship without more than a mere belief that you believe in Christ – a state of grace is necessary. I open them up for discussion to reveal something about how many faithful Mormons see the task of discipleship:

My Journal, September 1, 2012:  Pascal mentions that things are different for Christians now because primitive Christians had to devote themselves to the kingdom of heaven, to forsake all safety and security, in essence, to throw their lives away.  Becoming a Christian was about throwing your life away. It would destroy your career prospects, make you an enemy of the state, risk all of your life and property. It meant a hell of a lot.  What this tells me is that Christianity is simply not for everybody.  We simply cannot expect people to be Christians like this. It’s a very difficult task. But its always marvelous when we do see people approach life with this sort of abandon. Continue reading

Five Possible Reactions to Joseph Smith’s Polygamy

New York Times Front Page Joseph Smith PolygamyThe LDS church has recently taken a big step in respect to the life of Joseph Smith by publicly admitting that Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives, that some of his wives were married to other men, and that some of his wives were as young 14 years old.  The Church’s essays on these things at times strain credulity in offering a faith-promoting narrative and occasionally distort the evidence to favor Smith.  But nonetheless, the Church should be congratulated for taking this first big step in accepting the basic facts.

A friend asked me what this could mean in terms of accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet. I have seen 5 general reactions that I think are possible for the institutional Church to adopt as it moves forward.  They are listed in here in order of trust in Joseph Smith.

1) So What.  If God commanded him to do it, it doesn’t matter what he did. Any action ordained by God is righteous and Joseph was ordered to do all of these things. (This was the Church’s stance toward Smith while Brigham Young was Prophet of the Church and of the polygamous Mormon sects of today.)

2) No Sex. Joseph married these women and it looks creepy but he didn’t have earthly sex with them, his carnal knowledge is in Eternity only. It was Brigham Young who brought sex into polygamy. Implicit in this reaction is that if Smith was having sex with girls 20 years younger than himself or married it other men, it would be a problem. (The Church will try this as long as it can but the historical record doesn’t bear it out. The Church is already in conflict on this by simultaneously saying that the purpose of polygamy was to raise up a righteous seed.)

3) He Was a Fallen Prophet. Joseph eventually fell into sin and abused his position and power as prophet.  We hope he repented before his death but the good things he gave us still stand and are useful for pursuing God. (This is the stance of the Henderickites who own the Temple Lot in Independence, MO. They maintain the Book of Mormon and the general church structure and mode of worship established by Smith.)

4) No Religion Is True, So Stick With What You Know.  This has become popular among the so-called “Pastoral Mormon Apologists” like Adam Miller and Teryl Givens. They don’t outright say it like that but that’s the heart of their argument.  If you’re comfortable remain comfortable and we’ll just slowly reform the things we don’t like. (The Community of Christ, formerly the RLDS, largely took up this and stance #3 in the last 15-20 years. They are now practically indistinguishable from the Mainline Protestant Denominations. Liberal zeitgeist seems to be the greatest source of inspiration and instruction).

5) Repentance. Fully acknowledging the sins of Joseph Smith and the institutional Church’s fault in promoting Joseph Smith and his teachings followed up by a massive and painful reformation. (This was what the stance the non-Mormon Worldwide Church of God took toward their founder in the late ’90s.)

Each of these positions carry risk and most certainly a loss of membership. I think we can look at November 2014 as a watershed moment in the history of Mormonism.

Two Too Many

R.C. Sproul took a question from a pastor on his radio show that interested me quite a bit. The pastor had a new convert in his church that had been a polygamous Mormon. The man had left Mormonism but not any of his three wives. The pastor was curious how he should go about disciplining this man and if he should be encouraged to leave his two additional wives.

You can hear Sproul’s answer here. Start at the 9:00 mark.

I expect Christians to encounter more situations like this one. And the dilemma isn’t just for polygamist. What should two married women with children be counseled to do if they join a church? Two married men? How about a man who divorced, as a believer, for unbiblical reasons and remarried?

I’m sure the situation is semi-regular in the LDS church. What must a polygamous man do to be baptized and enjoy full communion in the LDS church?

What Evangelicals Now Need to Know About Mormonism

I’d like to speak to some common representations Evangelicals have of Mormonism as well as some common questions I hear when people discover that I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying Mormonism.

First off, I think it’s important for Evangelicals to recognize that a lot of information they have about Mormonism comes from second or third-hand anecdotes that Evangelicals pass on to one another. That’s not exactly the most reliable source of information and is typically how urban legends get started. While you might trust the person giving you the information to be passing along what they know accurately, rarely do people pause to question what the original source might have been. More often than not that original source for Evangelicals was a book or a movie titled “The God Makers” by Ed Decker. Without getting too deeply into the specific truth claims of Mr. Decker’s work I think Evangelicals need to know that “The God Makers” was largely created with the intent of scaring Evangelicals away from Mormonism so they would not be tempted to convert. Many Mormon beliefs were twisted to make them sound weirder or more devious than they actually are. Another popular source for Evangelicals is “The Kingdom of the Cults” by Walter Martin.

As effective as these books might have been in saving Evangelicals from Mormonism, they made for a lousy platform to evangelize to Mormons from, even worse if that information was passed on second or third hand. Some of the negative information in those books comes from true things taught by Brigham Young which the modern LDS church no longer teaches or holds to. I commonly hear Evangelicals say “Mormons just don’t know what their church teaches”. This is a laughable statement if you really think about it. If anyone will know what a church teaches it will be the people sitting in its’ pews every Sunday. It might be accurate to say that “Mormons don’t know what Brigham Young used to teach” or even “Mormons don’t understand the deeper beliefs of their church”, but you can be sure they hear exactly what their church teaches. (This same charge can be levied against Evangelicals because most can not give an accurate summation of the Trinity). On that note I’d like to comment on some of the things Evangelicals “know” about Mormonism.

Adam-God, Blood Atonement & Brigham Young
More than once I’ve heard Evangelicals holding Brigham Young’s teachings over Mormons. Quite often these attacks come with references to the Journal of Discourse replete with volume and page numbers as proof. There are two important things Evangelicals don’t understand about these teachings. The first is that the Journal of Discourses is not scriptural. It’s a collection of sermons. It’s no more fundamental to the Mormon faith than any book written by Billy Graham is to Evangelicals. Those sermons may be interesting, but they are not inerrant canon for Mormons.

This naturally leads to the second point, Brigham Young was not an inerrant prophet of the LDS church. Mormons do not believe in inerrancy. Evangelicals make a mistake when we try to hold Mormons to our standard of inerrancy. A fundamental of Mormonism is the belief in modern revelation. That means new prophets can not only introduce new doctrines, they can also contradict and overrule previous doctrines. This is the case with another one of Brigham Young’s favorite doctrines, polygamy. He taught that it was important and necessary; later prophets received new revelations about its’ practice and now taking on a second wife is the kind of thing that will get a person excommunicated from the LDS church. So while discussions on whether or not Brigham Young taught that Adam was God might be interesting or foreign to Mormons, they are Young’s teachings, not the teachings of modern Mormonism.

Jesus and Satan are Brothers
If Evangelicals know anything about Mormonism it is that the LDS church teaches that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. What Evangelicals don’t know is that this is an implication of Mormon teaching. It is accurate, but you can sit through a year’s worth of Sunday school meetings and read every word of the Book of Mormon twice and you will not hear an explicit teaching on this. I’m not saying it is not true. It is. What I’m pointing out is that it’s not the kind of thing Mormons develop lesson plans around.

The more overt teaching that implicates Jesus and Satan as spirit brothers is that we are all spirit children of Heavenly Father. You probably will hear Mormons talk about how Jesus is our spirit brother if you spend any time with them. If they can figure out what you are getting at, they will agree that Jesus and Satan are brothers.

What Evangelicals need to understand about this teaching is that Mormons are not elevating Satan to a similar plane as Jesus. Instead they are lowering Jesus to the realm of created beings. Mormons still consider Jesus to be highly esteemed and want to devote their lives to his teachings, they even call him God. But (fancy word alert) ontologically they don’t consider him any different than us (or Satan). That may not remove the offense to Evangelicals, but it puts it in the proper light.

Angrily confronting a Mormon with “you believe Jesus and Satan” are brothers won’t gain you much traction in getting them to attend church with you this Sunday. It’d be a bit like someone saying to you “Evangelicals believe Adolf Hitler might be in Heaven.”

Temple Mormons
The term “temple Mormons” is one that was solely invented by Ed Decker as far as I can tell. Mormons do not have any such distinction for “temple Mormons” and “non-temple Mormons”. If you use that term, it’s a dead give away that you got your information from “The God Makers”.

The secrecy surrounding LDS temples tends to creep out Evangelicals a little bit. Our minds start racing to all of the worst possible explanations for why Mormons keep the temple ceremony secret. Statues of oxen and pentagrams on some of the temples don’t seem to ease our imaginations. Let me put your fears to rest. There are no animal or human sacrifices taking place. No one is required to perform any sort of sex act on any of the altars. There are no beds in the temple. Mormons do not enter the temple and laugh at how well their mild-mannered, family-values ruse is throwing everyone off from their love and devotion to Beelzebub.

Evangelicals will not find the temple ceremony to be something familiar to their typical religious activities, but there is nothing overtly offensive, crude or blasphemous about it. The rituals performed there would not be terribly unfamiliar to those who are involved with freemasonry. A great many of your Mormon neighbors and coworkers find the ceremony to be uplifting and inspiring and I’m guessing that you’ve found that you can trust them to be decent and honest people in all situations.

If you are a savvy enough researcher you can find the entire temple ceremony and discover what it is about. Mormons consider the ceremony sacred and will not appreciate you prying into it; you need to consider this before you go looking. Within the last year a nationally televised program acted out the entire ceremony. Mormons were upset that this happened, but I did not find any one that would say that the presentation was inaccurate. So all that is to say, if you don’t trust Mormons when they tell you nothing freaky is taking place there, you can go find out for yourself if you’re so inclined.

Are Mormons Christian?
For some reason Evangelicals like to “serve notice” to Mormons that they are not Christian. As if we can wash our hands of the souls of any missionaries who visit our doorsteps because we’ve let them know they are going to hell. This isn’t particularly useful or effective. Please avoid dismissing Mormon missionaries with the words “you aren’t Christians” as you close the door on them.

If you’d like to debate Mormonism’s place in the Kingdom, I’ve found that engaging the question “are Mormons Christians” is not a great place to start. Mormons and Evangelicals are talking about different things. Mormonism comes straight out of Christianity. It doesn’t make any sense outside of the larger religious context of Christianity. So at least in one sense Evangelicals can acknowledge how Mormons are Christian. If you want to talk about the same thing with your Mormon friend, I’d recommend asking the question “Does Mormonism teach a saving faith?” You may not come to any better of an agreement, but at least you’ll be talking about the same thing.

Grace and Works
Mormons are not as monolithic in their view of the role of grace and works in salvation as they might have once been. There are some who believe exactly as Evangelicals do. This is NOT the thing that separates Evangelicals and Mormons the most. Sometimes though it appears to be our biggest dividing line. Part of the reason for this is that both sides are at times engaging in “boundary maintenance” and taking a harder line on their perspective than they actually believe.

Ephesians 2:8-10

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Notice why verse 10 says we are saved by grace; to do good works. Don’t be ashamed of the good works we are called to do. Evangelicals should feel free to give in a little bit and agree that there are good works for us to do. That doesn’t mean we have to agree those good works are adequate to save us, but we shouldn’t give Mormons the impression that we go on doing whatever we want because of grace. Evangelicals should also acknowledge that our good works will earn Christians something, namely jewels in their crowns. Both sides have to fight against a caricature created of them. Instead of reinforcing that caricature, do your best to give in where you can. Not for the sake of giving in, but for the sake of having your beliefs properly understood by someone who may have a cartoon understanding of them. Be prepared to also recognize that your own understanding of Mormon beliefs may be a little cartoonish.


The LDS church does not teach its members to shun those who leave the faith.  There is not an automatic threat that an ex-Mormon will lose all contact to their family including their wife and children.  It does happen at times, but not because the LDS church says it must happen.  Often when family ties are broken for ex-Mormons it is because of the tremendous stress such a paradigm shift creates in their relationships. It’s no different than when Evangelicals decide to become Atheists, Mormons or Catholics.  Sometimes relationships can not adjust to the new expectations and those relationships dissolve or fade away.  Evangelicals should not believe that those relationships dissolve due to a threat of ex-communication from the LDS church.  It simply does not happen.

What Has Changed?

I entered the world of online Mormon discussions at about this time 4 years ago.  It was shortly after visiting the Newport Beach Temple.  Upon returning home my wife promptly fired up the internet to find out all the sacrets that our tour guide wasn’t allowed to tell us.  That lead me to not only learn those sacrets but to discover a dearth of information concerning a fascinating topic I thought I already knew a lot about (but didn’t).  I haven’t learned everything I know about Mormonism from the internet, but certainly most of it.  I used to spend a great deal of time at FAIR, and then Then after having a bad taste in my mouth from both places I played around a little bit on the MySpace Mormonism forums and then dove into the blogging world. (for a more complete history of my life with Mormons, check out my series: Me & Mormons)

I have noticed some changes since I started hanging out on the web with Mormons. The change I have seen has been how Mormon history is discussed.  When I first started blogging, I made a decision to not focus on Mormon history as much as possible.  It was being done elsewhere and the tone of the discussion didn’t seem all that fruitful for what I was after.  It used to be that discussions on Mormon history where a back and forth about what the facts really were, mostly focusing on Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy, Brigham Young’s teaching of the Adam-God doctrine, the Mountain Meadow Massacre and translation methods of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.  Now those facts are for the most part pretty much agreed upon.   The discussion has instead turned to “does it matter”.  The conversation has become about theology rather than history.

Occasionally you’ll find an odd nut attempting to claim that Joseph wasn’t a polygamist, but when that happens both Mormons and Non-Mormons come at them with the same ammo and knowing smirk on their faces.

If I had to say there was one thing that changed the focus of the discussion on the internet it was Rough Stone Rolling.  Bushman provided a faithful Mormon voice to the same things that Non-Mormons had been saying for quite some time.  He gave Mormons permission to own their history rather than being forced to repudiate it.  I’d say very few of us involved in these discussions have actually read the book, but it gave us a common source to point to and agree with.

If I had to say there was one site (or person) that has changed the discussion it would be Mormon Stories (and John Dehlin).  While few of us have the time to read Rough Stone Rolling, it was quite easy and accessible to listen to a podcast that discussed the same things.  Again Mormon Stories provided a voice from someone attempting to be faithful to the church but delivering information that was typically viewed as threatening to Mormonism.

While I’m on the topic of changes on the web I’d have to say the rise of “New Order Mormonsim” is right up there as a shift in the community (again John Dehlin probably gets the lion’s share of the credit for bringing that community out of the shadows).  There’s also the rise of friendly ex-mormonism.  If you haven’t checked out the Mormon Expression Podcast you should.  I’m impressed with their ability to discuss Mormonism and Mormon culture from a knowledgeable but outsiders viewpoint without anger or reprisal.

Of course, if you’re still looking for a good history and archeology debate, the Book of Mormon holds a great deal of potential. But even there, you see very few strongly holding to the Lamanite and Nephite people living near or visiting Palmyra, New York. If they are out there, they find themselves debating against Mormons more so or as much as Non-Mormons.

In Need of Correction

A recent comment on the “Jesus was a Polygamist?” post justified the reason I keep the comments open there. It was everything I would hope a teenage girl in Utah would say in response. It was the good laugh I was looking for.

But I think it brings up another issue.  If you heard someone say these things in your Sunday School class or Bible study, how would you respond?  Would you start correcting the number of misstatements?  Would you let her go on about her way in blissful ignorance?  Some of this information is just her own unfamiliarity with the subject. Other parts of it are clearly things that some oneelse is feeding her.

And for the record, I don’t think this is just about “the problem with Mormonism”.  It’s fair to surmise that some Evangelical teenager is capable of making a similarly uniformed comment.

Here is the comment in question:


I personely love this picture. I never thought of polygamy when I saw it. I always thought of how Jesus loved the youth and children. Now the rose… if you do your research you’ll notice that the rose in the painting is yellow/gold. With the young women values the color of gold represents virtue and yellow represents good works. Also I don’t see loving looks on their faces, but yearning looks, looks yearning for knowledge. The womens’ postures are either representing their love of the lord, like how Mary Magdeline and her sister loved the lord, and how he is our older brother, or the artist just put them that way not thinking of the can of worms it would open up. With the polygamy thing and Brigham Young, wasn’t it Brigham Young that stopped polygamy. Also polygamy with the early saints was just a way to help the women because this is the early to mid 1800s we’re talking about when women had pretty much no rights so they couldn’t own land, get a job, and do many other things women can do today. In the 1800s women couldn’t really survive without a husband, and their husbands were killed just because of their religion, just because they were mormon. So just drop the mormon polygamy thing already. Those were special circumstances and now women can provide for themselves without a husband, so there is no need.

Perhaps you can craft a response to her in the comment section below.

What Jesus Thinks About Polygamy

Exodus 21:10-11

If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights.  If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,  then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

With these scriptures in mind, the Pharisees came to Jesus to get his take on what constitued what “displeasing” meant.  Some thought it only applied to sexual immorality others thought that wrinkles and burnt food counted.  The Pharisees liked the latter definition over the former.  To them Jesus said:

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

There are a number of things set up in the Mosaic law that we would not want to live with and acting on them is not what we would call righteous.  The rest of Exodus 21 talks all about selling off your daughter and how to treat slaves.

As you may noticed the Pharisees tried to say that divorce was commanded by Moses and Jesus corrects them.  It was permitted because their hearts were hard. As polygamy and slavery are mentioned right there alongside divorce in Exodus 21, I don’t think we have to take a huge jump to conclude that they were also permitted because the Israelites hearts were hard  (Further backed up by Paul calling elders to be the husband of but one wife). The rules governing them were provisions for remaining lawfully in the nation of Israel.  They were not commandments for righteous living.

Modern day polygamist often claim that living out polygamy is an act of righteousness.  I think Jesus quite clearly tells us that it is an act of hard-heartedness.

When God commanded Joseph Smith to resume polygamy was it because he was calling him to righteousness or hard-heartedness? Will we have hard hearts in the afterlife?

Eternal Polygamy & You

In regards to my interfaith marriage, I decided a long time ago that when I die, my husband and/or his family can go ahead and have me sealed to him posthumously. They know that I disapprove of work for the dead but they still want to do it. I don’t believe in it anyway, so I figure there’s little point in trying to insist that they not do it after I’m gone.

My husband has indicated that he’s not a big fan of the notion of having more than one wife in the next life and has been adamant that he would never, ever get sealed to a woman who isn’t me. The other day I gave him this scenario: “I die tomorrow, making you a 27 year-old single father with a 2 year-old daughter. You have my work done and have me sealed to you within the next year. Then you fall in love with a young LDS woman who’s never been married. You’re great together, she’s a good stepmother to your daughter, and she’s okay with being eternal wife #2. What would you do?” He groaned and admitted that in that scenario, he’d probably get sealed—but he really doesn’t want there to be a second eternal wife.

I gave him another scenario. He dies young. I eventually re-marry another LDS guy (we all know I have a thing)1 and spend the rest of my life with LDS husband #2. He dies, then before I die my LDS relatives want to know which husband to seal me to. I have the option of being sealed to both.

Again, my husband groaned and stated that he really didn’t want to have to share me with anyone. Fair enough; I don’t fault him for feeling that way.

So, the question is: eternal polygamy (both polygyny and polyandry). How do you feel about it? Can you see yourself having other wives or husbands in the next life? Can you see your spouse having other wives or husbands? What would you do if your current spouse died and you had the option of being sealed to a second person? If you’re a woman, you can either pretend that the church’s current policy allows you to be sealed to multiple people while alive, or you can speculate on which spouse you’d eternally jettison under the current standards. If you’re not LDS, pretend. Continue reading

Oprah’s Cult Club

While on sabbatical from religious blogging a number of blog-post worthy things happened, mostly on television. One of those events was Oprah Winfrey’s journey into the heart of Fundamental Mormonism for some fresh baked bread.

I had two strong thoughts on Oprah’s visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch. The first was that she is extraordinarily savvy at disarming people and becoming accepted by them enough for interviews. The second was that she wasn’t prepared enough to probe past the “milk-before-meat” half-truth answers they were giving. She quite often just accepted their answers on face value. Perhaps that was part of her plan though, to limit any and all confrontations (for future visits).

What surprised me the most was that she used the word “cult” several times (the irony of Oprah talking about cults aside). I think Oprah correctly used the term in referring to the FLDS as a cult. Every expert on mind-control and sociological cults classifies them as a cult and they meet every qualification you can think of.

I recognize that LDS are sensitive to the use of the “C” word. But I’m wondering what LDS think of the FLDS. If you’re LDS, do you consider the FLDS a cult? If not, is that because you eschew the word entirely, because you don’t think any group should be called a cult, because you don’t believe there is any such thing as a mind-controlling cult, or for some other reason specific to the FLDS?

Please note: this discussion is NOT about polygamy or government’s misuse of power in protecting children. It IS about mind-control and the FLDS use of such tactics.

Please ALSO note:
To be absolutely clear. I’m not asking if you think the words “cult” and “brain washed” are good terms for defining groups we don’t like.

I’m asking if you think the FLDS meet the strictest of definitions used by psychological professionals.

Hi from Kolob! Why E.T. might be a Mormon (probably not an Evangelical)

According to some estimates, there are billions of inhabitated planets in the universe, and maybe even tens of billions of “earth-like planets”  in our galaxy alone.

Mormon scriptures are in accord.  We believe that there are unumerable  inhabited planets created by God. In Moses 1:33-39: God tells Moses:

33 And aworlds without number have I bcreated; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the cSon I dcreated them, which is mine eOnly Begotten.

34 And the afirst man of all men have I called bAdam, which is cmany.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I aknow them.

. . .

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no aend to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my awork and my bglory—to bring to pass the cimmortality and deternal elife of man.

For me these are some of the most intriguing and powerful descriptions of God.  They are at the heart of Mormon ideas of the purpose of life and the relationship between man, God and creation.

When you consider that there are over 100 billion galaxies and tens of billions of earth-like planets in each of those galaxies you are really talking about an unimaginably large number of worlds like ours.

Later in the Pearl of Great price, Abraham sees a vision of the greatest of these worlds: Abraham 3:2-3

2 And I saw the astars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

Evangelicals and others are quick to laugh at references to a planet Kolob. In a recent blog conversation I had with a few Evangelicals and I was told that the Mormon belief in the planet Kolob was simply unbelievable.

I really have no idea what Evangelicals think about extra-terrestrial life aside from these sorts of comments,  but given the scientific evidence of other worlds, the evidence for extra-terrestrial life is far stronger than the evidence for a worldwide flood or any number of biblical accounts.

I do think, however, that christian thought is generally earth-centric.  If no one is saved without knowing about Jesus while alive, it looks like the infinitely vast majority of God’s creation is just out of luck, or out of touch. If traditional Christianity hasn’t been able to effectively penetrate the Indian subcontinent, how can we expect it to penetrate the depths of the Milky-way?

Mormon thought seems to take into account of the cosmological reality a bit better than what I know of Evangelical thought.  Am I wrong?

P.S. here is in an interesting related discussion from Parchment and Pen, an evangelical theology blog.

Because Joseph Said It Was True

Leviticus 18:18
Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

In March of 1843 Joseph Smith took two sisters, Emily and Eliza Partridge as polygamous wives. (Actually he married them twice but that’s another story.) In discussing Old Testament polygamy, defenders of latter-day polygamy are quick to point out the provisions and restrictions on polygamy listed in the Bible as justification.

As interesting as polygamy is, this post is not about that.

A problem I think Evangelicals and Mormons encounter in discussing Biblical doctrine is that we’re really not on the same playing field. We have different rules for its application. We Evangelicals want to show why Mormonism is false by illustrating through the Bible why Mormon doctrine is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. The slipperiness or non-existence of Mormon doctrine not withstanding, this is a difficult proposition.

It is difficult for one reason. Despite the fact that Mormons claim that the Bible is scripture and hold it up as such, the Bible will always take a seat when something Joseph Smith said or did comes in contradiction to it. Joseph can do or say anything because he says he’s a prophet with authority over the Bible. I point out the passage from Numbers as an illustration of this. Here on one hand, we have a clear Biblical passage restricting polygamous wives from being sisters. On our other hand we have Joseph Smith’s direct violation of this commandment. Mormons will wave this off quite simply by saying “But God commanded him to do it.”

So it seems that no matter how clearly the Bible might or might not illuminate to us that there is and only will be ONE God, it’s generally fruitless for me to point it out because Joseph was told something different. Mormons will always hold the words of Joseph Smith over the words of the Bible.

What troubles me about that is that I have friends who are willing to reject teachings of the Bible in favor of something one man merely says Gold told him. There is no evidence for any of Joseph’s revelation whether it is the plurality of gods or the plurality of wives that anyone experienced other than Joseph Smith. The only thing anyone has ever had to go on is “because Joseph said it was true” (and perhaps “I’ve got a good feeling about it”).

I could point out Biblical passages which instruct us to accept new prophecy only when it conforms to scripture. But here again, there’s no point in directing Mormons to the Bible, as long as Joseph tells them that his new revelations supercede scripture and they decide to take his word for it.

Lifting The Veil of Polygamy

It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that modern day “Mormon” polygamy is alive and well in America today. I call it “Mormon” because these particular polygamist say they following “true” Mormon teachings though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has banned the practice. I thought this video was really interesting. In particular I thought it was fascinating to hear how polygamous groups “evangelize” mainstream Mormons and convince them to join with them. I recommend a viewing of the video.

I will be upfront that the video is made by Living Hope Ministries. At the one hour you can expect a Protestant evangelical message. That’s not really the point of my posting the video.

I’m most interested to hear how you think polygamy today is substantially different in practice than in Joseph Smith’s time. I’m sure a number of you are already typing in the words “it’s no longer commanded by God”. Let’s just concede that point and talk about how the effects and lifestyle are similar or different.

Jesus Was A Polygamist?


This painting screams at me that LDS view Jesus as a polygamist. Is that its intention? As a non-Mormon I find this image a little disturbing and creepy. What is the general LDS opinion on it? Hat Tip to az10


DISCLAIMER: ( 12/29/08 ) Due to a high search ranking this post earns on Google many pass by without reading the comments or the general context of this discussion.  All comments remain welcomed. If you’re a Mormon teenager in Utah, then your comments are doubly welcomed (based on their comedic value alone).

Before you post, please recognize that the history of Mormon polygamy is often not fully understood or known (particularly by Mormon teenagers in Utah).  Joseph Smith began the practice by taking his first polygamous wife in 1833 (a 16 year old girl). Subsequent LDS Prophets and General Authorities indeed taught that Jesus was a polygamist as well.

The author understands that the intention of the artist was perhaps not to further propagate this teaching. Given the previous LDS teachings and the inappropriate way some of the girls are postured (how many teenage girls touch a teacher/minister/adult/mentor in this manner?) I feel the painting’s intended meaning remains somewhat obscured.

A Different Standard Applies

Elder D. Todd Christofferson recently gave this interview to a Reuters reporter. The reporter left his big question for the end. You can read the complete interview here

REUTERS: We have one last question and we raise this because it seems obvious that there is going to be a lot more scrutiny of the church. There is historical evidence that suggests Joseph Smith took a 14-year-old bride, Helen Mar Kimball, when he was 38 years old. In today’s terms, that would make him a pedophile. Does this bother you or other LDS church members?

CHRISTOFFERSON: It would depend on what all the facts were and the context. In those days, of course, was that it was not so uncommon in the society of the time. Today that would be statutory rape. A different standard applies. What I look to, I’m telling you about my personal approach, is: what do I know through study and through prayer concerning Joseph Smith and at root my witness is that he was divinely called. That’s the foundation. Now whatever questions might arise — as to whether he erred or stumbled in a certain matter — throughout his life he wasn’t perfect. We don’t claim perfection in the human being. I don’t know what he was responsible to before — God I don’t know frankly. But as to his prophetic calling, his prophetic mission and what he achieved in that goal, I’m convinced of that. So the fruits of what he accomplished I think are evident.

From a non-LDS perspective, I have to say that this answer is a little creepy. I know that many sincere LDS find satisfaction with it, but I don’t think it really passes mustard outside the LDS circle. If it works for you, great. But you shouldn’t honestly think that this solves the problem for non-LDS.

Fourteen year old girls getting married, may have happened in the 19th Century but it wasn’t common. Even more so, it wasn’t common for a 14 year old to marry a man nearly 3 times her age. And most certainly it was never common for a 14 year old girl to marry a man who already had a wife. So we don’t need to hold Joseph Smith to today’s standards, we can hold him to his own day’s standards. This was a scandalous act no matter how you swing it.

Christofferson, tries to walk a fine line in his answer by saying that this may have been a mistake on Joseph’s part, but his prophetic message and calling are still intact. The problem is, Joseph used his prophetic calling to marry Helen Mar Kimball. You can’t separate the restoration of the priesthood from his practice of polygamy. They both come with the same authority. They are both the fruits of his mission. If you think his plural marriages were a mistake, then you have to say he was abusing his prophetic authority. I don’t think LDS are willing to do this because then it starts the slippery slope of trying to figure out when he was and when he was not abusing his power as Prophet.

Perhaps I’m reading more into Christofferson’s comments than I should. He didn’t actually say that Smith’s marriage to Kimball was a mistake. He just said that Smith erred and wasn’t perfect. If I happen to misconstrue his comments because he happened to be making them in the context of polygamy, perhaps that’s my fault.

There is another response that only on occasion do I hear from LDS: “you have to have the right kind of spiritual eyes to understand it”. There is one word that runs through people’s heads when they hear this from anyone from any new religious movement.(and it starts with a “c”). They may be right, perhaps you do need to have to be given spiritual eyes to understand it, but what I, and others hear is, “you haven’t been brain-washed yet.” I’m glad that this sort of response is beginning to diminish from the LDS apologetic arsenal. If I ever get the hunger to hear it again I’ll call up a Jehovah’s Witness or a Moonie who are still pretty fond of it.

I’m not a Nauvoo Mormon

Could a Latter-Day Saint start describing themselves as a non-Nauvoo Mormon? Many of Mormonism’s most distinct doctrines and practices were formed while the church was headquartered in Nauvoo. If an LDS person said “I’m really more of a Kirtland Mormon” could they still call themselves Mormon? Is rejecting doctrines that were formed late in Joseph Smith’s life considered heresy that is too unacceptable to remain in the church? Is it heresy that would prevent someone from holding a calling? From getting a temple recommend? (not that they’d want to go through the endowment ceremony) Would it prevent someone from being in leadership?

I’d personally love to see a growth in Kirtland Mormons, but I don’t know if the Nauvoo Mormons would allow it. Do I need to clarify the difference between a Kirtland Mormon and a Nauvoo Mormon?

Anti-American & Anti-Family

With strange curiosity I recently heard someone describe Mormonism as Anti-American and Anti-Family. Not now of course, and that’s what made the statement so strange. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a collection of people who are not more pro-America and pro-Family than Mormons. But that was how the LDS culture was perceived in the latter decades of the 19th Century and I would say rightly so.

When Brigham Young moved the church to Utah, he was moving the it out of the United States. It was an act of rejection of the United States. The way the newly found settlement interacted with the United States over the years was frequently and intentionally antagonistic. It’s my understanding that some of the anti-American rhetoric found in Mormon culture even made it’s way into the temple endowment ceremony. Frankly, I think the Mormons felt they had a number of legitimate reasons to not be so friendly to the USA. To some degree Mormons were proud to be unAmerican.

Mormons were also perceived to be anti-Family because of the practice of polygamy. I think this perception was correct. I think polygamy destroys families. It warps the role of the father, pits women against their family and isolates children. There is no possible way that a husband or wife can experience the physical and emotional intimacy God intends for them in polygamy. They are stretched apart instead of joined together. A wife becomes part of a collection rather than a co-partner. There is something evil in the idea that a woman has to claw and clamor for family resources against others in her own family. It certainly produces a lot of children for one man, but a large family does not necessarily mean a good family. How can children view their father as close and loving when he is pulled to so many households? The ideas of what a family is like that are created out of polygamy are horrible. I can see why Emma Smith did everything she could to pull her children out of a polygamous society after Joseph was murdered. She lived it and knew she didn’t want anything more to do with it (perhaps she didn’t have a polygamy problem but a testimony problem).

Yes, polygamy is practiced in the Bible and every time it is mentioned it is followed by sad stories of families falling apart as a result. Look at the immediate results of polygamy in the Bible, you will never see a testimony of a healthy family. Righteous men practiced polygamy, but it was not polygamy that made them righteous (Hebrews says that it was their faith in God that made them righteous not the actions of their life).

I think Mitt Romney was on to something when he said that he couldn’t think of anything as terrible as polygamy. If the family is the most important and foundational unit in our society, then something that destroys families like polygamy does is terrible.

I’m glad that Mormonism is no longer anti-American nor anti-Family and amazed at how the culture was able to transform itself into the exact opposite on both accounts.

Polygamous Women Don’t Get Jealous

When ever I hear a woman in a polygamous marriage speak, they always talk about jealousy. And it always leaves me feeling like they don’t understand what jealousy is at all. Polygamous women always say that we are all selfish and jealous people. Living polygamously helps them reform their character because it puts their own jealousy right in their face. I think they fail to see that some jealousy is good. They ignore all of the scripture in which God himself declares that he is a “jealous God”. You absolutely should be jealous if some one takes something that is only supposed to belong to you. Wives should feel justified jealousy if another woman is sleeping with their husbands. That is a right and appropriate feeling.

It’s akin to saying “God is really showing me what an angry person I am. Every time I see my husband beat my kids I get so angry. God obviously put me in this situation so that I would learn not to be angry.” Wrong lesson!

In looking at the events of Emma Smith’s life after the death of Joseph, it seems obvious that she was never going to have anything to do with polygamy again. I think she learned what righteous jealousy was all about. I feel bad that she had to learn it in such a difficult way.