Notes on the possibility of a profitable dialogue between Mormons and Protestants

This is a response to Gundek’s suggestions regarding the way forward in my project to create a profitable LDS/Evangelical dialogue. ¬†(Again, I didn’t edit this much and it might be a bit too repetitive, so please read charitably. ūüôā )

Like I have said earlier, I really don’t know much about being a converted Protestant, but I know that I now see something now that I didn’t see as a believing, spiritually minded¬†Latter-day Saint. ¬†I am starting with the Light of Christ because the LDS will have no problem acknowledging that whatever truth I did find, it was not from an¬†experience with the Holy Ghost, or from the Gift of the Holy Ghost. ¬†This is important because I am not LDS anymore and I want to be clear that whatever think about salvation does not threaten the LDS tradition because it comes outside of LDS covenants and outside of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. ¬†Mormonism is, by definition, the religion that is revealed outside of the understanding available through the Light of Christ, i.e. the Spirit of God, that those outside the Church have access to.

The Light of Christ seems a great place to start my dialogue with the LDS tradition because within the LDS tradition, whatever light and knowledge I have found must have come through the Light of Christ.  By couching my understanding in terms of the Light of Christ, it side-steps all LDS revelation and tradition, and tries to go to the root of what non-LDS see in God that Joseph Smith may have taken for granted, or simply failed to grasp.  It is no knock on Joseph Smith to claim that he did not understand the full nature of the Light of Christ, because the Light of Christ encompasses all knowledge.

In some ways I am trying to reverse-engineer my conversion process, restating the ideas that pushed me over the edge. The problem with this approach is that¬†¬†that once I began to recognize the reality of law and the reality of grace, and then feel the joy that this recognition brought, all kinds of ideas started clicking together to the point that I didn’t know precisely what convinced me, and how to explain why the argument was inescapable.

Continue reading

The “God” of orthodox Christianity is the “Light of Christ” of Mormon Christianity

I think one of the most important steps Mormons and Evangelicals need to make in order to have a productive dialogue is to come to terms with what appear to be¬†radically different views of God. ¬†The more I revisit LDS scripture on the subject, the more I am convinced that in¬†the best understanding of¬†Joseph Smith’s conception of the cosmos that thing which traditional Christians call “God” is actually what he termed the “Light of Christ.”

Joseph Smith envisioned God as an exalted and perfected man. ¬†For many reasons, this¬†vision is the foundation of the Restoration.¬† ¬†To Joseph, God became God through intelligent obedience to the laws of the universe, a universe which necessarily was not created by him, but organized by his manipulation of the universe through faith and righteousness. This earth was formed to provide a place for lesser spirits, humans, to do the same by agreeing to become children of God and come to earth, suffer, and die, and then be redeemed by Jesus, who volunteered to be the Christ. ¬†¬†According to the Book of Mormon, the¬†law is the foundation of God’s godhood and all reality:

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” ¬†(2 Nephi 2:11)

God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are bound by the law,i.e. they are not the law, they are outside of the fact that is the source of¬†the way things are. ¬†The question remains:¬†Why does there need to be a Christ? Why is their law in the first place? ¬†Why is the universe the way it is? ¬† Why is the world comprehensible at all? What is the source of God’s intelligence?¬†These questions cannot really be answered in any intelligible or scientific¬†way, these are the ultimate mysteries, they cannot be understood or even spoken of, because these mysteries are what allows for all order and intelligence. As Einstein said: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

For traditional Christians, these questions are¬†answered by pointing to an God that is¬†outside the universe, that is the incomprehensible ultimate cause of the laws of the universe, the¬†ultimate source of the mysterious orderliness and intelligence¬†within the way things work in the universe. ¬†¬†God “is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will.” ¬†(Westminster Confession, chapter 2)

Joseph’s Smith rejected that this mystery was our Heavenly Father, but the religion he envisioned still had to account for the source of the law and the necessity of Christ. ¬†There must be some other mystery that allowed¬†our Father to be God, the fact that required that there be opposition in all things. ¬†Protestant’s call this fact “God,” Joseph Smith called this fact the “Light of Christ”

It was revealed to him that the¬†Light of Christ ‚Äúproceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.‚ÄĚ It is ‚Äúthe light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed‚ÄĚ (D&C 88:12-13; see also D&C 88:6-11). ¬† This Light is not compound,¬†nor is it a being, nor does it have parts or passions,¬†it is the simple fact that allows all things to exist as they do, it is the source of the law, and the source of whatever¬†facts that allow for¬†salvation from the law. ¬†To Mormons,¬†the¬†Light of Christ defines what it is to be God, what it is to be Christ, and the truth that the Holy Spirit testifies of. ¬†The LDS term “Light of Christ” must be that¬†fact that Evangelicals call “God.”

Seeing the God of the Nicene Creed of the Light of Christ might make the creed comprehensible to Mormons.  Translating the Nicene Creed into Mormon terms might look like this:

Continue reading