Vision vs. Explanation: LDS Godhead and the dogma of the Trinity

Andrew brought up a point that I often scratch my head about: Why does it matter whether you describe God as the Godhead or the Trinity?

I am not quite sure how my understanding of the Trinity influenced my new understanding of Christ. But given that a greater understanding of the Trinity may have played an important part, I don’t think the LDS should not reject the creeds simply because creedal Christians reject LDS doctrines.  I think it is reasonable to accept the LDS view of Godhead as a summation of literal interpretations of the visions of God found in the scriptures, but it is not reasonable to fail to affirm the Trinity as a extremely important explanation that fits in with a larger body of philosophy.

The LDS claim that all we know about God comes from direct experience with God (spiritual experience) and thus we can only really grasp God through spiritual practice, which includes asserting as doctrine the literal meaning of scripture.  Joseph Smith’s theology was not in the words themselves, but in the knowledge brought through the Spirit when pondering the words and applying them to life. Joseph Smith  describes this position at the tail end of his most important revelation about the three-tiered nature of heaven (D&C 76):

But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter; Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; . . .


Doctrines are words attached to mystery. Any LDS who thinks that the scriptures explain God should keep this in mind. God is inexplicable, all knowledge of God is going to be essentially beyond explanation to others.  Whatever explanations we do formulate are simply to orient our understanding of God within the other knowledge, perceptions, and beliefs.

The Godhead is a summation of the visions of God.  The Trinity does not do this, it is just a philosophical attempt at defining the mystery of why there is only one God that is three persons.

Joseph Smith taught that spiritual visions were more important and carried more authority than philosophical explanations. This may be true, but even so, it would not eliminate the utility of philosophical explanations and catechism for pointing to spiritual truth.  It is perfectly reasonable to accept a Trinitarian explanation of God in precisely the same way it is reasonable to accept rights-based interpretation of human government.  Likewise, it is fine to conceive of God as a divine Man – as Stephen did in the vision recorded in Acts – because that is how God shows up for some people.  What is not reasonable is to take a vision for a reasonable/philosophical/historical explanation, just as it is not reasonable to explain matter by simply re-telling what it looks like.

As I mentioned before, all theology and creeds are existentially the same as the whistling of beavers.  The difference between theologies is most simply, the attitude they produce in those who speak and hear them as truth.  In some ways, denying the value of the Trinity is similar to denying the value of Newtonian physics. Even if you have proven the validity of the theory of General Relativity, it does not make sense to reject Newton’s theory as vitally useful. Thus, it may be reasonable to posit dogma such as transubstantiation, the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc. to consistently orient our understanding of scripture with the body of intellectual work that girds our philsophically-minded view of the world — even when these explanations conflict with the literal wording of certain visions.

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. 🙂 )

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.

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Pass the Christ-amine.

The scariest and perhaps the strongest argument in front of me that I might a Christian is that, all of a sudden, I find Kirk Cameron interesting.  Kirk Cameron was once my poster child for the intellectually retarded, but now, shockingly, it seems I have no choice but to grant that there might be some genius to his approach to showing people the basics of the light of Christ, and it might be worthwhile.  I might need some Christ-amine.

Is the Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Incommensurate with the Mormon View?

I am always harping about how Mormons are allowed to believe a lot more things than traditional Christians and still be Mormons. I don’t think the Mormons that run the Church care about truth per se, but its usefulness in the cause, and it is eminently useful not to engage in debates about what you have to believe to be LDS.  I think most sane people believe this— it is generally not wise to declare how stupid you think others are within their earshot, and most people are apt to say stupid things when they are cutting down another cause.

From my point of view, this reality presents those who make massive truth claims, such as Evangelical Protestants, an interesting test: Here is a group of people who ostensibly believe a lot of the same things you Evangelicals believe; they are going to hell, forever, because of their confusion; it seems that the power of your message should be able to convert these people.  For me, it’s as if the Mormons are laying ready on Mount Carmel and Evangelicals can’t make so much as a spark to ignite what is dry kindling. I thought a good place to put my pet theory to the test is to determine whether a Mormon can fully believe the Protestant view of Salvation and remain LDS.  Is there some logical necessity of rejecting the message of the Restoration?  If they are not now, Mormons even become saved Christians and remain in the Church?

The question seems important. If the answer is “no,” Protestants should joyfully want Mormons to believe in their view of the Gospel whether or not the Mormons remain faithful to their LDS covenants or attend LDS church or believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or even continue to gather converts.  The entire approach to LDS missionary work would not be to show them where they are wrong theologically (which is extremely boring), but to teach them the truth in spirit and in power like Paul advocated (manifestly less boring). I recognize that many Mormons do not, and never will, understand or believe the theology behind the Evangelical view of salvation from original sin. But most Mormons are new Mormons without set theologies, and LDS Missionary efforts require a wide tolerance for strange beliefs. (I learned this acutely while eating dinner with a Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist and my missionary companion, who was convinced that the earth was hollow.)   Continue reading

Mormons as Bison

English: Bison bison. Original caption: "...

Over the past several years I think I have finally gotten a pretty good handle on the Evangelical view of salvation. As a Mormon I had thought about it, and I believe I understood it, but I only from the skeptical angle.  I didn’t take the theology seriously. As I endeavored to do that over the years, I can see it’s beauty.  I think more Mormons would do well to take it more seriously.  I don’t think there is anything to fear in doing so.

What interests me is why they won’t. The main reason is that Evangelicals are often as close-minded, clueless, and defensive as Mormons, and quite often, openly aggressive.   There is smugness on both sides, which generally produces contempt in both sides as well.  They both revel in the strengths of their religions without understanding what their smug adversaries with the bizarre beliefs have to offer.

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Keep Away from Christ-mongers, Right?

Benny HinnThis is a follow-up on the last post regarding the Didache. Some of my least favorite people are those that preach primarily for money, power, or fame. What I termed “money-preachers.”

As recorded in the Didache, the Twelve Apostles gave the following direction to believers:

12 Welcome Anyone Coming in the Name of the Lord

12:1 Welcome anyone coming in the name of the Lord. Receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, but then, test them and use your discretion.

12:2 If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he should not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be.

12:3 If he wants to stay with you, and is a craftsman, let him work for his living.

12:4 But if he has no trade, use your judgment in providing for him; for a Christian should not live idle in your midst.

12:5 If he is dissatisfied with this sort of an arrangement, he is a Christ peddler [also translated [“Christ-Monger”]. Watch that you keep away from such people.

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Me & the Gentiles– Part 1: Mormon roots

English: The Handcart Pioneer Monument, a stat...

In keeping with Tim’s Me & the Mormons series, I thought I would chronicle some of my encounters with Evangelicals and other Gentiles over the years. But before getting into that, I wanted to give some background for the Mormons out there.  (None of them will know where I am coming from if they don’t know something about my background.) Mormonism is a religion of family activity and each family practices their own brand, especially the older Mormon families.  To get where another Mormon was coming from, I had to know something about how active they were, and how deep they were in the culture.   So for the benefit of Mormon readers, and those interested in Mormonism, these are the people that made me the Mormon I was. 

I grew up in what I would call an old-school Mormon family with an intellectual bent.  I was raised in the mission field, in Kansas. My mom was a fifth-generation Mormon, my Dad was a first.  They met when my dad was 12 and my mom was 10.   My mom’s family contains a healthy mix of every wave of Mormon plains-crossing immigrants since the church began.  My only relatives on my mom’s side that weren’t  newly converted immigrants from Europe, were the ones that were baptized in Nauvoo in the 1840s.  (before Joseph Smith’s murder triggered the migration to Utah and the western territories).

Many relatives on her side were amazingly devoted to the church.  I recognize that this may only have been how they were portrayed in the dozens of accounts of their lives in my mom’s book of remembrance, but most of them had the hard evidence to prove it.  My great-grandfather– one of the 26 children in a polygamist family– was a respected professor at Utah State University, a World War I vet.  He was a missionary in New York in the 1950s. He married his wife’s sister when she died.  For nearly 10 years straight, until his death at 85, he did over 80 endowment sessions a month in the Salt Lake Temple–he spent 50 hours a week watching the temple ceremony.

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Are Mormons and Evangelicals stuck in a Cold War Mentality?

A barnstar

My uncle–an LDS international political consultant-once mentioned to me that he thought the LDS Church today was like the Soviet Union.  He was speaking of problems with having an 80+-year-old leadership base, but I think the analogy goes deeper.

The Soviet Union started with a bold revolutionary, was consolidated by a shrewd, ruthless, pragmatist, and perpetuated by those who were fully indoctrinated into the established order.

Mormonism also began as a bold, revolutionary movement. Joseph Smith was Mormonism’s Lenin, Brigham Young, its Stalin, perhaps Wilford Woodruff was its Khrushchev.Today it is an institutionalized ideology controlled by a small group of older men who are steeped in allegiance to the party line– much like the final Soviet regimes.

Like the Soviets, Mormon centralized authority has allowed the Church to accomplish amazing things that similarly sized religious bodies simply cannot.  Russians and their centralized economy kept up with the U.S. in weaponry, space flight, and world dominance.  Mormons are rich in resources, talent, and good culture, and the leadership focuses these resources relatively successfully on growth.

Just as with the Soviets, the Latter-Day Saints seek to spread their ideology through the world.  It is inimical to the established creeds and religious order.  Just as with Soviet Russia, Mormonism has been in a Cold War since its inception, waged by the established churches–i.e. the “whore of all the earth,” “the very mainspring of all corruption.”

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Mormons are Directioners, Evangelicals are Beliebers

Being around teenage girl culture I have seen up-close a phenomena that took me completely by surprise– Directionerism – the blind devotion to the boy-band One Direction.   I have seen more than one girl stricken with this frenzy.  A close corollary to this strange new sub-religion is  Belieberism- the blind devotion to Justin Bieber.    The devotion inspired by these two forces is truly staggering to me. I saw several girls close to me swept up in the frenzy of these two fandoms.  It was very much like a disease, and also very much like religion.

This made me think about how Evangelicals compare to Mormons, and about how religion works nowadays, and maybe where it will go. My resulting almost-fully-tongue-in-cheek thesis: Evangelicals are Beliebers, and Mormons are Directioners.

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Making sense of Christian Spirituality

The Sun

I believe spiritual experience is as unique as any other personal experience.  We experience the world through the lens of our minds, our culture, and our past experience.  I think it makes sense to think that spiritual experiences will differ dramatically from one person to the other based on these factors.  If an omnipotent God exists, whose Spirit flows through all things, it seems that experiencing it would be very similar to the human experience of the sun, i.e. it will appear very similar but would be interpreted very differently based on the environmental factors.   The sun in the desert is viewed differently than the sun in the rainy Pacific Northwest.  Typical human experience tells us different things about the sun. It may seem a life-giving force to some, or an oppressive burden to others.  This analogy helps me understand why we cannot prove things about God through our contact with the Spirit.   Before modern physics, the sun was an inscrutable force in the universe, no human experience could explain it properly, but its presence and effects were everywhere.   Theology is no match for modern science in its explanatory power because it does not have experimental tools to rule out interpretations.   Theologians rely on conventional interpretations of Scripture to guide them in nailing down what is the Truth of the matter, and the rest of experience is viewed through this lens.

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The Spirit of God — What is it?

Pentecost & The Holy Spirit

Pentecost & The Holy Spirit (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

I have been thinking an awful lot lately about Mormonism, how to explain it, what it is in the grand scheme of things.  I think the most difficult questions surround what the LDS call the Spirit. Nothing is ostensibly more important to Mormons than the Spirit.  Feeling the Spirit is the central experience of Mormonism. It is enshrined as THE only legitimate tool for conversion, it held up as the guide for every decision in life, and is considered the driving force behind the Church and its mission. 

When I was an LDS missionary in California, I participated in the conversion of about two dozen people.  Some of these conversions had an absolutely magical quality to them. I saw dramatic personality transformations. Over and over again, I felt an overwhelming emotional and spiritual response from those I was teaching.  It was like falling in love– an experience equally filled with magic.  It seemed that those I was teaching, my companions, and others involved felt something very real and very similar. The Spirit would seem to fill the room like a thick mist. It was gripping and energizing. The peculiarity and reality of the experiences were unmistakable.  These feelings convinced me of an unseen world and they were the bedrock of my belief in the Church and in Christianity.

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An Evangelical Review: The Biblical Roots of Mormonism

“The Biblical Roots of Mormonism” is a defense of Mormon doctrines using only the Bible. The authors concede that some of the unique doctrines of the LDS church are better defended in LDS scriptures but nonetheless have origins and support in the Bible. Before reading the book I assumed it should be titled “Prooftexting the King James Bible on Behalf of Mormonism.” But I wanted to give it a fair shake so I sat down with the book, my Bible and an open mind.

The book overviews basic Christian and uniquely Mormon doctrines. Each chapter is broken up into two sections; “Biblical Teaching” and “Mormon Understanding”. The “Biblical Teaching” included an overview of a few Biblical passages and an explanation as well as the passages reproduced from the King James Bible. The “Mormon Understanding” expanded on the ideas from the first section and typically took the concept further into the uniquely Mormon perspective. Rarely if ever was the Bible referenced in the second section.

I was generally disappointed with the authors approach to scriptures. Most of the passages were straight forward and on point. It’s hard to disagree that the Bible teaches that there is a God who offers salvation through Jesus Christ. But when the attention of the book was turned on unique Mormon teachings the authors used some odd justifications for some of their scriptural support.

There is a basic approach to reading the Bible that I think everyone should adopt. “Never Read a Bible Verse.” A reader should always read a verse in context to see what the entire passage is talking about. I think if the authors had used this principle and used a modern English translation of the Bible they would immediately have had a deeper understanding of the passages they cited. I won’t list every incident where a Biblical passage was misused but I will focus on one to illustrate my point.
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Romans 12

[I am a life-long Mormon but admittedly not conventional in my views.  I write this from my own perspective which may be an example of Mormon thought but perhaps not typical of it.  I am using both the NIV and the KJV.]

In Romans 12 Paul starts a new line of thought. Shifting focus from salvation, grace, and election, to how Christians should live in the context of these  realities.

A Living Sacrifice ( verses 1-2)

The  most significant and interesting concept Paul brings up in the chapter is found in the first two verses:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

To me, these verses capture an essential mystery of Christianity, and perhaps of the spirituality of love in general.   When we give ourselves,  we are transformed by something outside the world.  Lose your life, and you shall find it.(Matt. 10:30)   Paul speaks of an offering, a willful giving of something of value to us, the only think we have in the end, ourselves.  Upon giving this sacrifice, Paul says that our minds can be renewed and we can begin to  know the will of God.

The sacrifice reference is critical, it entails a choice on our part, something that we give, not that God takes. It also implies that we have something that is pleasing to God, and in that sense Paul’s thought stands against the idea of total depravity of humanity.

Paul points to a phenomena that, perhaps unlike the forgiveness of sins, is something that you can test, that you can try and experiment with.  As you give yourself, your mind will be renewed to something that is beyond yourself, beyond this world, or at least not according to the natural patter. This promise motivates and hits home  more than Paul’s detailed talk of forgiveness of sins, or salvation, which frankly either seems flat wrong to me or far in excess of what we can reasonably say.

If it is by grace that we are saved, we are not really involved in the transaction, if its not up to us, then it is a deal that God seems to be making with himself or for his own purposes.  And to that extent, this deal can’t really interest me because it is beyond my understanding. However, Paul here talks about something we are completely involved in, and have control over and can see the results from.  It gives a challenge and a promise.  It mirrors Jesus of the Gospels:  If we do His will, we shall know of the doctrine (John 7:17)  If we keep Christ’s commandment of love, God will come live in us:  (John 14:21)

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. “

Jesus here, like Paul in Romans, does not promise salvation from God for our sacrifice, he promises His very presence in our minds, the ability to see the world rightly, to participate in the life of God through understanding and seeking His will.

C.S. Lewis discusses the centrality of the sacrifice and its effect in in Mere Christianity:

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call “good infection.” Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

Neal A. Maxwell gives an LDS view of the central place of the sort of submission Paul talks about:

It is only by yielding to God that we can begin to realize His will for us. And if we truly trust God, why not yield to His loving omniscience? After all, He knows us and our possibilities much better than do we.

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ … even to the … yielding their hearts unto God.” (Hel. 3:35.)

To me, the ready availability of this sacrifice and its blessings are perhaps the most profound proof of God’s presence and love.  It’s a move away from the tangible sacrifice of the bodies of animals, to an different ethic of love.  I believe all those who submit to the “new commandment”  that Jesus instituted, whether they explicitly identify as Christian or not, or have the “correct” theology or not will experience a “renewing of the mind” that will make them see the world in another way.

Paul, in the preceding chapters has explained that Christ had allowed for a fundamental change in the world, its redemption. Participation in that redemption has to come with a new mind and the product of the new mind is charity.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ (v. 3-8)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Paul’s analogy of the Body is an apt follow-up to his invitation to sacrifice. An essential element in yielding to the transformational power of the sacrifice, is recognizing that you are not “all that”.  Its a submission into a community, acceptance of a place and acceptance of others’ place.

Love in Action (v. 9-20)

In the final verses of the chapter Paul gives the Romans a general recitation of virtues and practical religion. The fact that Paul culminates his theological discussion of salvation and election with this sort of preaching reminds me of Blaise Pascal’s observation:

669 ” All that tends not to charity is figurative. The sole aim of the Scripture is charity.”

The fact that Paul gives this list of virtues in the way he does dispells any notion that Paul does not see practical love as central to living the Gospel. He knows that if the Romans believe what he says about salvation and grace but don’t submit and practice love, they will be blind or lost.   I think the importance of seeking virtue in the context of salvation and sacrifice is best stated by Peter who brings it all together:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

I particularly like the last verse in Romans 12:

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul’s counsel is in line with Jesus’ counsel to “resist not evil”, the true Christian path to overcoming evil is through virtue.  God does not overcome evil with intolerance, violence, or hatred, but with the good.

Personally, Paul’s description of the supernatural renewal of our minds toward charity, and sacrificing ourselves to God to that end is the only thing that really makes good sense in Romans.   The more I think about his descriptions of the fall, sin, election, and grace, the more inscrutable these ideas become to me.   However, I can understand love and its effects and its power that truly apart from the “pattern of this world”, and I believe that sacrifice to this end is  the only ”  true and proper worship” that I can understand.

Beliefs Before Practice

A common characterization of the difference between Mormonism and Evangelicalism is the idea that Evangelicals emphasize orthodoxy (right belief) and Mormons emphasize orthopraxy (right action).  If you ask an Evangelical and a Mormon “what is more important a correct understanding of God or the proper mode for baptism?”  you will most likely get different answers from each.

As much as I appreciate how pragmatic Mormons are, I think it’s impossible to truly put orthopraxy over orthodoxy.  Even Mormons place a higher importance on right belief over right action, they just may not realize that they are doing it.  The “cart” of practice is impossible to put ahead of the “horse” of ideas.  The idea that “the proper mode of baptism is of highest importance” is first an idea before it is a practice.  The belief that “the appropriate priesthood is required” is first a belief before it is a practice. “How you behave matters” is a doctrinal position.  “Right practice” being shaped by “right ideas” is inescapable. Correct ideas matter to Mormons, they simply must or there is no right practice to emphasize.

The Mormon restoration narrative supports this.  If practice is more important than belief, then why did God not simply restore the priesthood to the apostate Christian church?  Why was a correction of Biblical translation and interpretation necessary?  I don’t want to dive too deeply into Catholic apologetics, but they can demonstrate an uninterrupted priesthood lineage.  So unless “abominable creeds” are not an issue I don’t see how the proper priesthood authority was not alive and well in the 19th Century.  Something more than the lack of priesthood must have been driving the restoration.

A further support for this is the Mormon institution’s approach to correlation.  Mormons who have been excommunicated for false teaching have been told that it is fine to believe anything a person wants, the problem arises when you start teaching other people those false ideas.  I’m confident that this April, if a General Conference speaker left their script and encouraged exclusively praying to Heavenly Mother or posited the idea that temple work is no longer necessary, that person would soon find themselves in a disciplinary counsel.  There would not be Ensign articles the following May praising that Elder’s proper use of the laying on of hands despite his heterodox teachings. If orthodoxy were not important there would be no correlated teaching manuals.  Local leaders would be encouraged to teach whatever the Spirit directed them to teach and no one would mind if the church was widely diverse.

Mormons may object that their real issue with “orthodoxy” is how an emphasis on it may exclude people from enjoying God’s presence based on speculative theories and interpretations.  I think this is both hypocritical and a straw man of Evangelical thought.

First off, there is plenty of speculative interpretation involving Mormon orthopraxy.  Do a search of “Mormon ‘hot drinks‘” and you’ll see what I mean.  As long as the “Word of Wisdom” is used in Temple recommend interviews it is a speculative obstacle to freely enjoy God’s presence via temple ordinances.

Second, the Temple recommend interview requires people to express a belief in basic Mormon truth claims.  Failing to acknowledge the LDS church as the real and true restoration of God’s one true church will keep a person from a temple recommend.  If it was merely about the correct priesthood authority and the proper methods for performing ordinances, the LDS church would open its temple doors wide to believers and unbelievers alike.  This would ensure as many people as possible had these important rituals performed in this lifetime.  Scoffing and ridicule during the ceremonies wouldn’t matter as long as the proper priesthood was there and every gesture was performed correctly and every prayer was recited precisely.

This idea that orthodoxy is used as a barrier to God’s presence totally distorts Evangelical thought.  I can not name a single Evangelical who thinks there is a theology exam given out at the pearly gates. No one believes that the ability to precisely describe the doctrine of the Trinity is a requirement for an indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  God always (and exclusively) reveals himself to people with false ideas.  Evangelicals do not believe we hold the keys to who does and does not have God actively living in their lives.   We do not believe that only the doctrinally pure will receive the Kingdom.

We certainly have a strong emphasis on orthodoxy.  As the LDS church does, we recognize it as a way to determine good fruit.  Because beliefs form practice, we evaluate teachers and preachers based on it.  It is useful in evaluating teachings, but it is never used as a barrier to God’s presence.  In Evangelical theology there is no place, behavior or thought that can keep God out of someone’s life. He is an untamed lion that speaks to and moves through anyone he desires.

Is Barack Obama the next Joseph Smith?

A prominent Evangelical commentator Cal Thomas called Obama a “false prophet” in a recent pre-election op-ed .   He appears to be representing his views as the Evangelical opinion on the subject:

The question which Thomas raises returns us to the issue that I have harped on before, how do we coherently explain prophets, true and false.

In response to a previous post of mine, Tim’s comments seemed to indicate that the reason Mormons are shunned by other Evangelicals is due to the fact that we are followers of false prophets.

Mormons have a lot at stake in coming up with a coherent explanation. The entire history of Mormonism is intimately connected to validating or invalidating prophetic claims.

So, the question I have for both Mormons and Evangelicals:   How can you know a false prophet from a true prophet, and what are the consequences for the sincere followers of the false prophets?

Do we go to hell if we start to believe Obama’s theology?

For those interested in the full transcript of Cathleen Falsani’s interview that is referenced by Thomas, so you can decide for yourself you can find it HERE.