Friday, 10 April 2009

21 Questions about Mormonism – A Cult? You Decide

To find out what this series is about look here.

To Summarise:

The Mormon Plan of Salvation is the plan by which God himself became God according to Mormonism. God made this planet to accommodate his spirit children (us) and faithful Mormons will go on to create and inhabit their own planets, which will be populated by their spirit children who will, in turn, worship them – and the whole process starts again.

The god of Mormonism has a body and, like the Wizard of Oz, he only appears omnipotent. Pull back the veil and you see a man. Mormons use the phrase “literally the Son of God” of Jesus as though it is a classic orthodox Christian tenet but by this deceptively simple phrase they are conveying their belief that an “exalted man” with a physical body had intercourse with an exalted woman and, from that union, came the “literal Son of God”. While the Bible teaches and Christians believe that Jesus is “literally God the Son”, the eternal God, Mormons believe he is “literally the Son of God”, the offspring of a man they worship as God and a woman they regard as their goddess mother.

Kolob illustrates the idea that the Mormon god is relatively omniscient (an oxymoron), not an eternal God but an exalted man who is only eternal going forwards; going backwards he clearly decreases until that time when he did not reign.

Following this example, Mormon men intend to become gods, just as their god has done before them. Joseph Smith taught this and, in 1974, Mormon apostle Marion G Romney stated, “God is a perfected, saved soul, enjoying eternal life.” That is what “salvation” is to a Mormon, i.e. godhood. (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct.6, 1974)

Not only do Mormon women need to have passwords but they need the permission of their husband to access heaven. Mormon women take the role of “heavenly Mother” with their god husband, heavenly Father, yielding “the most perfect obedience to their great Head.” Not only so but eternal happiness depends on entering into this eternal arrangement, a wife among countless wives of an exalted man among many gods. The seemingly innocent Mormon message about the family is the basis for this dynastic arrangement.

Mormons in their tens of thousands go out every year into areas where traditional Christianity is already established and the Christian message regularly preached. This despite the fact that there is no evidence for or reason to believe Mormonism, its original founders and witnesses discredited and/or excommunicated, denounced by their fellow Mormons and the larger world.

Why do some call the Mormon Church a cult? I think you can answer that question for yourself.

Previous Posts:

Mormonism: A Cult?

Jesus: God the Son, or the son of a god?

Kolob: Where God Lives?

God, Mary and the 'S' Word

Jesus in America

What Every Mormon Wants: godhood

Mormon Women

Mormon Secret Underwear

More Than One Kolob?

In Black and White

The Elusive Gold Plates

The Mormon Java Jive

Mission or Metaphor?

Family of The gods

14 comments:

Clean Cut said...

I'd say you're painting a caricature. But whatever floats your boat...

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Define caricature

Clean Cut said...

Caricature:
1. A picture, description, or imitation, of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

2. The art of style of such exaggerated representation

3. A ludicrous or grotesque version of someone or something

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Uhh, I think I could have looked that up myself. What does caricature mean in this context? Do you really think that what Mormons have traditionally taught is a caricature?

Clean Cut said...

Okay, let's take this statement, for example: "God made this planet to accommodate his spirit children (us) and faithful Mormons will go on to create and inhabit their own planets, which will be populated by their spirit children who will, in turn, worship them – and the whole process starts again."

I’m concerned about your generalization here that "all Mormons" believe this, rather than "some" Mormons may believe this. Your implication is that I believe I can “become God”, as in become a worshiped being and independent of God. There’s a big difference between gods (by grace) and the One God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) we worship and will worship and reverence throughout eternity.

My goal is simply to “arise, and go to my Father” (Luke 15:18). For me, the purpose of the gospel is not so much to get me to heaven as it is to get me back home. It is to return to live with my Father in Heaven–not “become God” (as if I could somehow equal Him or supplant Him!) Some Mormons might indeed assume this, but I sometimes wonder whether more Evangelicals believe this of Mormons more than even some Mormons do.

I’m also sure you’re aware of the restored narrative of our pre-earth life, which has been compared to Act 1 of a three act play. (Our mortal life would be act 2, and our post-earth life act 3).

We believe we lived in that heavenly home, as spirit children of heavenly parents, and God the Father presented his plan of salvation/happiness of which coming to earth would be so integral for so many reasons. Jesus, both the Son of God and God the Son would be absolutely key to the plan’s success, and our only hope. We had faith in Him then and we must continue to have faith in Him now.

I’ve heard it expressed by some evangelicals that our view somehow brings God down or lessens him, while my perspective is quite the opposite–an exalted view of our eternal growth and destiny actually enhances God and His work and His glory.

Having said that, there is still plenty that we do not know. Latter-day Saints have no definitive answers (although multiple interpretations/theories have been presented) about the “history” of God. And frankly, to me, none of that matters for now. I’m looking forward to learning many more of the mysteries of God once we cross over to the other side of the veil.

Please don’t confuse my statement about not “becoming God” for disingenuousness since I’m sure you’re aware of the King Follet discourse and Lorenzo Snow’s couplet--that’s not the case at all. I just have a different interpretation of the King Follett discourse than what most people think of at first glace (and even than some LDS have believed/believe about it). This may be more than you even care to hear, but at least I’m erring on the side of full disclosure.

A more true perspective of the couplet: “As man now is God once was, as God is man may become” can be gained by putting a different slant on it. I see it more in the light of “As man now is, Christ once was, as Christ is, man may become”. In other words, I do not believe God necessarily had a mortal experience exactly like ours, but rather like unto Christ’s mortal experience. Christ never sinned. I do. He is now glorified. He did what he did to allow us to share in all the Father has as “joint heirs” and to partake of the “divine nature”–fully biblical–but I do not believe I will ever become independent of God. I will worship Him forever. Perhaps I will share in his work and power as I pass the eternities (who knows, maybe even organizing planets?), but it will always be as an extension of His power, not of my own. What we may or may not do throughout the eternities is less important than the understanding that we will never be independent of Him.

I realize I still have a different view of theosis/deification than you must, since I’m not under the constraint of a strict wall of separation between the "uncreated" God and the "created" us, that are you under. In my view, Christ’s Atonement breaks down that barrier and literally puts us “at one” with God, just as described in John 17. I don’t see how that oneness could be truly possible with such a huge gulf placed between the human and the divine. Christ’s work truly is to make us divine. And in my view this is an enhancement of the greatness of the infinite power of the Atonement.

Apparently you’re not aware that there is quite a plethora of opinions/interpretations within Mormonism. Sure, there are many who like to engage in speculation far beyond our official and concrete doctrine—but it would be a caricature to say that the “Mormon Church” teaches what your statement above says.

Rather:

“We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Clean Cut

I appreciate your candour and your efforts to make your beliefs as clear as possible. First let me point out that I am not addressing the issue of what you believe but “What Mormons believe”. You will know as well as anyone that Mormons are always insisting commentators address themselves to what is “officially” Mormonism and not to the “opinions” and “private interpretations” of individuals. It hardly seems right then to criticise a commentator who cites official sources for not representing the views peculiar to an individual Mormon.

I am familiar with the Mormon scheme; I should be because I taught it and believed it for many years. Mormonism “officially” teaches that the Mormon god became god by following the Mormon “Plan of Salvation” and that Mormons expect to become gods by the same process.

“We learned that if we followed his plan, we would become like him. We would have a resurrected body; we would have all power in heaven and on earth; we would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as he does (see D&C 132:19-20)” (Gospel Principles, p14)

I well understand that no Mormon expects to become equal to the Mormon god but since the Mormon god is said to be “progressing” (though how is a matter of controversy even among Mormon leaders) where your god is now Mormons expect one day to be, albeit he would have progressed beyond that point by then and kept the differential intact. This is not the same however as not expecting to be equal to God.

Brigham Young taught that there never was a time when there were not gods and that this process is an eternal one. This, of course, leaves Mormons believing in an infinite regress, without an explanation of where the Plan came from and without an uncaused first cause; philosophically this seems rather impossible but perhaps that is for another time.

This brings me to the point you wish to press home that your way of believing does not demote God but rather exalts him. This is at the very least questionable since your god is subject to something greater than himself, i.e. the Plan. The Christian God was always God, needs no one to burnish his glory or enhance his reputation and everything that is issues from him. The Mormon god was not always god (according to Joseph Smith, KFD), is made greater by the works of his children and is himself the issue of and subject to the Plan of Salvation.

Before he was god, according to official teaching, this Plan was making men into gods. Now you may believe something different but before I accept the charge of misrepresenting Mormonism I would want you to show me official sources that teach what you believe. After all, it’s only right that if I am bound to official sources then so must you be.

A third point I wish to address is your remark that:

“Having said that, there is still plenty that we do not know. Latter-day Saints have no definitive answers (although multiple interpretations/theories have been presented) about the “history” of God. And frankly, to me, none of that matters for now. I’m looking forward to learning many more of the mysteries of God once we cross over to the other side of the veil.”

And then:

“Apparently you’re not aware that there is quite a plethora of opinions/interpretations within Mormonism. Sure, there are many who like to engage in speculation far beyond our official and concrete doctrine—but it would be a caricature to say that the “Mormon Church” teaches what your statement above says.”

I am aware of the speculations you mention and I have already addressed the question of “private interpretation” but something more troubling issues from these words.

The Mormon story begins with the account of Joseph Smith’s early experiences and his being confused by the apparently contradictory teachings, speculations and interpretations of different denominations. The restoration was meant to dispel the conjectures of men and bring clear truth. Now you want me to believe that this “restored” church of prophets and apostles is unable to teach us anything beyond the speculations of men about two of the most fundamental issues of the Christian faith, i.e. the nature of God and the nature of men.

These have been settled issues in the Christian Church for the best part of 2,000 years. Your church should, above all else, be able to bring us “concrete doctrine” about the nature of God since it has always taught that the so-called first vision has dispelled all speculations. Judging by your words and the rising tide of “opinions and interpretations” of which I am fully aware, your faith, far from advancing our knowledge, has taken a massive retrograde step. My own and all previous generations were confident that we knew these things above all else; what has changed?

If I may write from my own experience for a moment, I was a Mormon in the 1970’s and 80’s and taught everything, from the Gospel Essentials Course through priesthood classes and Seminary and Institute courses. I was a serious student of my faith and the only organisations in which I did not serve as a teacher were Primary and Relief Society.

The way I have described Mormon teaching is the way Mormonism was taught then and is officially taught now and there was, at least in the question under discussion, an identifiable continuity with the teaching of previous generations of Mormons. It would not have occurred to anyone to “interpret” Joseph Smith in any way other than the way officially taught in the church manuals.

The Mormon god was an exalted man and Mormon men expected to become gods that would populate their own planets, continuing a process that had gone on forever. Mormons had large families (this too has changed) so as to allow the faithful in the pre-mortal world access to bodies so that they might become mortal and face the test of mortality, as their god had done before them, and the Plan of Salvation was the vehicle by which they expected to go on to become gods as he had done.

Now you might wish to insist that this is just one interpretation but this latter-day speculation is an aberration as far as previous generations are concerned.

You write as though you regard God as “uncreated” and again this is far removed from what is officially taught in the Mormon Church. There is a nice distinction to be made, of course, between creation as the Bible teaches it (ex nihilo) and creation as Mormons see it (“matter unformed”). The Mormon god, as Mormonism teaches, is “uncreated” only inasmuch as all of us are “uncreated”, having no real beginning because of being eternal spirits. But the Mormon god is not eternally god as is the Christian God, he had a “beginning” in the same way we all had a beginning as eternal spirits, and became a god.

The Christian God, on the other hand, is eternally God, having no beginning or end, being immutable, having no gods before him and none who will come after him (Isaiah 43:10; 44:8; 45:21)

Finally, it is true of course that Christians are joint-heirs with Christ but their inheritance is not godhood but God himself (Dt.18:2; 32:9; Ps.73:25; 1 Cor.15:28). The glory Christians inherit is Christ’s by right but ours by adoption and faith and we share in it because we are in him (Ro.8:12-7, 23)and not because we become gods in our own right.

Clean Cut said...

Again, I don't take issue with you saying some Mormons believe what you just stated, nor do I doubt that believed that while a Mormon--I'm just saying that I think you were wrong. I also think it's incredibly dishonest (or just ignorant) and that to say that "Mormons believe" this in general.

If anything, I'd be willing to bet it's a shrinking minority of uninformed Mormons that read too much into what Joseph was teaching and make that jump to say that God was at one point just like us--a sinful man? No, that's wrong. (see http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/qa/god_sinner.htm).

And I don't care who I have to correct, ignorant Mormons or ex-Mormons alike, but I'm going to correct it. And I'm not being extreme here Mike--I'm mainstream LDS--always have been.

Forgive me for being so blunt when I say that you continue to paint a caricature. You state: "Mormonism 'officially' teaches that the Mormon god became god by following the Mormon “Plan of Salvation” and that Mormons expect to become gods by the same process."

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

Perhaps I can point you to some thoughtful posts from respected Mormon bloggers that could provide you a much needed education:

http://mormoninsights.blogspot.com/2008/10/jesus-is-everlasting-to-everlasting.html

http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/04/15/tripartite-existentialism/

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Clean Cut

There is nothing to forgive in your comments. They are frank and honest and that is no more nor less than I expect. But who are these people you cite? Are they apostles, are they prophets? It seems to me that they speak with no more authority than the average Mormon - or ex-Mormon come to that.

Now I have a lot of time for the average Mormon and I find what Mormons have to say very interesting but when people want to know what Mormons believe or question what Mormons say then it is to church leaders Mormons insist we must look and not to people whose blogs "do not officially represent the Mormon Church".

The Mormon claim to authority is very clear but you are directing me to people who have no authority who write questioning those who do. People who offer their own "private interpretation" of what Mormon leaders mean when they say. You have generously shared your own thoughts but have failed entirely to address the question I raise about authority.

I am sure there will be those church members who subscribe to the same views as your own but what is that to me? I am writing about what Mormonism teaches not what some more revisionist Mormons like to believe. Allow me to illustrate the difference.

John Walsh writes insisting that Mormons do not believe God to be a reformed sinner. But in 1974, Mormon apostle Marion G Romney stated, “God is a perfected, saved soul, enjoying eternal life.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct.6, 1974)

According to Romney the Mormon god is a "saved soul". if he was never a sinner what was he saved from? Now I have a choice. I can believe this man Walsh of whom I have never heard or I can take Romney at his word and understand the King Follett Discourse as I have written. What would my Mormon neighbour have me do? Do you see the problem? Who speaks for Mormonism?

Indeed, I wrote something on the subject a while back and I will make that my next blog post so you can see for yourself what I am getting at. Don't misunderstand me, I appreciate your own thoughts and am heartened that you are thinking about these things, but I can't see how the average Mormon can insist that I only quote official teaching and then direct me to unoffical sources that correct that teaching.

Clean Cut said...

If you only want to quote the "authorities", that is fine too. But when you quote them, you have to at least make an effort to understand their perspective in context.

For example, you quote Marion G. Romney correctly as saying “God is a perfected, saved soul, enjoying eternal life.” But you fail to take into account that LDS Christians and Evangelical Christians do not use the word "saved" in the same way. For Latter-day Saints, it's used more to mean "sanctification".

In fact, just prior to that sentence, Romney states that "'Saved' as here used means resurrected...sanctified, celestialized, immortal soul". (“How Men Are Saved,” Ensign, Nov 1974).

Thus, to properly understand him, one must take into account how the Latter-day Saints understand or use the term--it's different than Evangelicals. Fortunately he clearly states what he means by "saved", and he isn't using it in this case to mean saved from sin. But how many "offenders for a word" who cite that quote put it into proper context?

I admit that we use different theological vocabularies, and this is why it is truly rare to be able to find those both willing and able to dialogue in a way that is theologically bilingual.

Not even the the LDS authorities spend much time to learn the other language, which can also lead to misunderstandings on THEIR part. (For example, I have read where Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes the doctrine of the Trinity, but he actually mistakes the Trinity for Modalism).

Let me just reiterate that Joseph Smith taught in the King Follet discourse that "God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did"--not the same as you and me! Sure, Joseph taught that God is an "exalted man", but that's what we believe--meaning that we are of God, of the same kind or species as God! By any means, the same could be said of Jesus Christ.

I have no reason to believe that His mortal experience consisted of a sinful existence. "The same as Jesus" would entail a life of NOT sinning, since Jesus never sinned, and I do. Jesus was God. I am not. Our scriptures make perfectly clear that God is Eternal and Everlasting. Thus, my understanding is that the Father was God while he had a mortal experience.

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Clean Cut

The Bible uses the word “save” in the sense of “to save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, make whole”. These all suggest lost, vulnerable, sick, decaying and incomplete.

Nowhere does the Bible refer to God’s having been saved whatever definition of the word you care to use and the suggestion that he can be added to, made more complete, preserved from destruction, healed or even brought to a greater degree of exaltation is philosophically nonsensical.

Perfection means that anything added by the very nature of things has the effect of detracting and making less perfect.

Your own beliefs appear somewhat removed from those prescribed by your founding prophet. Take this statement of yours for instance:

“There is still plenty that we do not know. Latter-day Saints have no definitive answers (although multiple interpretations/theories have been presented) about the “history” of God. And frankly, to me, none of that matters for now. I’m looking forward to learning many more of the mysteries of God once we cross over to the other side of the veil.”

This is in contrast to Joseph Smith’s own views expressed in the King Follett Discourse where he insisted the first duty of man is to become “fully acquainted with the mind, purposes and decrees of [God]”.

You may be comfortable “seeing through a glass darkly” but the claim of Joseph Smith was that "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves" and "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another".

The “history of God” is the very subject of the discourse. As he addresses the question “What kind of Being is God?” he declares:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”

Let’s see what we can extract from this statement:

1.God was not always God. This has enormous implications for the sinlessness of Jesus since the reason he was sinless was because he was God come to dwell (or tabernacle) with man. John makes clear that “the Word was God” and “was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn.1:1-14).

The word translated “dwelt” comes from the Greek to “tent or encamp” a reference to God’s making his tabernacle in Israel’s camp. A parallel is being drawn between God’s dwelling with Israel as they camped in the wilderness and Jesus’ making his dwelling among men.

Jesus was God who became man in order to save all who would put their trust in his atoning work on the cross and then took up “the glory I had with you in the beginning” (Jn.17:5). The reason he was sinless is because he was God to begin with not because he was achieving godhood.

2.God came to be God. If God was not always God then what was he? He was a man according to Joseph Smith. He only came to be God by a process by which we are all meant to become gods. He does not stand outside the process but is ultimately subject to it. Smith describes man’s inheritance thus:

“To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the Gospel, about which so much hath been said.”

Joseph Smith is describing here what I have already described, i.e. that men ascend to exaltation and in doing so add to the glory of God who is further exalted until men take the place of God while God moves on to yet greater exaltation.

Man’s destiny is “To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.”

Note these are Joseph Smith’s words of comfort to a grieving family assuring them of the resurrection and exaltation of men to ultimately achieve these things. He is not speaking of just Jesus, although he uses Jesus as an example.

You write of God as first cause but Joseph Smith describes God as “becoming God” which surely means that he must have had a beginning, even though as an “eternal spirit” and that there were gods before him.

Brigham Young declared that “God has once been a finite being” Deseret News, Nov. 16, 1859, p. 290).

Joseph Fielding Smith said "Our father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:47).

LDS President Joseph F. Smith taught, "I know that God is a being with body, parts and passions...Man was born of woman; Christ, the Savior, was born of woman; and God, the Father was born of woman" (Deseret News, Church News, Sept. 19, 1936, p. 2)

"We are precisely in the same condition and under the same circumstances that God our heavenly Father was when he was passing through this, or a similar ordeal" (Gospel Doctrine, p. 54).

LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught, "The Father is a glorified, perfected, resurrected, exalted man who worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given to us so that we may do the same" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 64)

But Jesus was never a man who became a God, but God who became man. He did not achieve Godhood, he is God. He did not grow according to some principles laid down in eternity but was God from eternity to eternity. Once you propose the idea that God became God and grows in his godhood you are talking about a different God; indeed, you are not talking about a God at all but a man who achieves a degree of godhood but whose god is progressing beyond him ad infinitum.

Clean Cut I respect that you have your own mind and are capable of independent thought but I always address these things asking a simple question. If I were an investigator inquiring after the beliefs of Mormons and the teachings of the Mormon Church would I look to some well meaning free thinkers on the internet or the apostles and prophets to whom the missionaries in my home pointed?

I find the company of the former much more engaging and interesting but it is the latter that speak for Mormonism and define “what Mormons believe”. I suggest that if you do not believe what these men teach you don’t believe what Mormons believe; you believe what you believe. Not a bad place to be so long as you are prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads you.

Clean Cut said...

Did my response not go through?

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Sorry Clean Cut

Have I missed one? I have looked through my inbox, deleted box and comments to be moderated and can't find anything outstanding. I would not have knowingly refused a comment from you. Did you keep a copy?

Clean Cut said...

You write: “Your own beliefs appear somewhat removed from those prescribed by your founding prophet. Take this statement of yours for instance:
'There is still plenty that we do not know. Latter-day Saints have no definitive answers (although multiple interpretations/theories have been presented) about the “history” of God. And frankly, to me, none of that matters for now. I’m looking forward to learning many more of the mysteries of God once we cross over to the other side of the veil.'
“This is in contrast to Joseph Smith’s own views expressed in the King Follett Discourse where he insisted the first duty of man is to become “fully acquainted with the mind, purposes and decrees of [God]”.


You are contrasting a) my view that there is more revelation to come and that we are not clear on some of the details of what Joseph Smith taught with b) Joseph Smith's certainty about his own revelations. Clearly Joseph Smith is confident about what he saw, I'm not disputing that at all. The fact remains that Latter-day Saints do not claim to know everything there is. Joseph Smith wrote that: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (9th Art Faith). Joseph said on another occasion: "Could you gaze in heaven 5 minutes you would know more than you possibly can know by read all that ever was written on the subject." (Smith Diary, October 9, 1843.) Joseph Smith never claimed that the Latter-day Saints should claim they know everything.


You write: “You may be comfortable “seeing through a glass darkly” but the claim of Joseph Smith was that "If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves" and "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another".”


What should men know? Men should know that we may converse with God [the Father] as one man converses with another. How is that possible if God the Father is immaterial as taught by the Christian world? Joseph Smith is going to explain this.


You write: “The “history of God” is the very subject of the discourse. As he addresses the question “What kind of Being is God?” he declares:”


Joseph tells us the subject he is talking on in the sermon and says he is speaking on the body of man and the subject of the dead. He covers many subjects but the one in question is the Embodiment of God the Father. This is something which was simply not taught by any of the Christian denominations at the time, even today it is not taught.


You quote: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.”


What is the great secret? The Great Secret isn't that God was not always God, but rather the Great Secret is the God [the Father] can be seen in the form of a man. What would happen if God would make himself visible? You would see him like a man in form. In the very form of a man. Again, that we can talk with God as a men talk and commune with each other. This is the great secret. The Great Secret is the God [the Father] is embodied. To say the secret is anything else is to miss read the sermon.


You quote: “In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”


How is it any consolation to those who mourn their friends for Joseph Smith to preach at a funeral that God wasn't always God? What Joseph Smith is trying to teach is that God knows what you are going through, because he went through it himself. In fact, God [the Father] had a mortal experience. What Joseph Smith is refuting is the idea that God the Father has never had a mortal experience.

Second, you are quoting from an amalgamation of the King Follett Discourse. The Bullock Report states as follows:

“God himself who sits enthroned in yonder Heavens is a man like unto one of yourselves who holds this world in its orbit & upholds all things by his power if you were to see him today you wod. see him a man for Adam was a man like in fashion & image like unto him Adam wakd talked & convd. with him as one man talks & com: with anor. in order to speak for the consoln. of those who mourn for the loss of their friend it is necy. to understand the char. & being of God for I am going to tell you what sort of a being of God. for he was God from the begin of all Eternity & if I do not refute it-- truth is the touchstone they are the simple and first princ: of truth to know for a certainty the char. of God that we may conv with him same as a man & God himself the father of us all dwelt on a Earth same as Js. himself did & I will shew it from the Bible”


Bullock does not report that Joseph is teaching that God was not always God. Second of all, Joseph Smith claims he will show this from the Bible. What verse of the bible shows that God wasn't always God?


You write: “Let’s see what we can extract from this statement:
1.God was not always God. This has enormous implications for the sinlessness of Jesus since the reason he was sinless was because he was God come to dwell (or tabernacle) with man. John makes clear that “the Word was God” and “was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn.1:1-14).”


You could extract that meaning but as you point out it doesn't make sense to do so. Why would Joseph Smith claim otherwise when he says he will prove what he is about to say from the Bible? Some Latter-day Saints have interpreted the KFD to mean that God was not always God but taking into account the revelations and writings given by Joseph Smith, such an interpretation is problematic. I don't accept that this is what Joseph Smith is teaching.

However, I agree that Christ was God and that he was made flesh and dwelt among us. In other words, the Word become embodied in the flesh. In other words, the Son of God had a mortal experience. But nothing requires you to believe the Son of God wasn’t God before his mortal experience.


You write: “The word translated “dwelt” comes from the Greek to “tent or encamp” a reference to God’s making his tabernacle in Israel’s camp. A parallel is being drawn between God’s dwelling with Israel as they camped in the wilderness and Jesus’ making his dwelling among men. Jesus was God who became man in order to save all who would put their trust in his atoning work on the cross and then took up “the glory I had with you in the beginning” (Jn.17:5). The reason he was sinless is because he was God to begin with not because he was achieving godhood.”


I agree that Jesus is God who became man, in addition, he is without sin.


You write: “2.God came to be God. If God was not always God then what was he? He was a man according to Joseph Smith. He only came to be God by a process by which we are all meant to become gods. He does not stand outside the process but is ultimately subject to it. Smith describes man’s inheritance thus:”


Jesus Christ was a man too. Just because Christ was a man doesn't mean he was not God before he was man. Remember, Joseph Smith is trying a comparison with the Son and the Father. Joseph taught (from the Bullock Report):

“God himself the father of us all dwelt on a Earth same as Js. himself did & I will shew it from the Bible--I wish I had the trump of an Arch An. I cod. tell the story in such a manner that pers: shod cease forever-- J. Sd as the Far. hath power in himself even so hath the Son power to do what the Far. did that ansr. is obvious in a manner to lay down his body & take it up--J--did as my Far. laid down his body & take it up agn. if you don't believe it you don't believe the Bile the Scrip says & I defy all hell all learng. wisdom & records of hell togr to refute it here then is Etl. life to know the only wise and true God”


Just as Jesus laid down his life and took it up again, so the Father too had a mortal experience, laid down his life and took it up again. Note too that the Father had power in himself to take up his body. If the Father was merely a man how could he have power in himself to take up his body? A general rule is that if you are mortal you can't resurrect yourself. Mortals tend not to be able to raise themselves from the dead. Christ had power to take up his body and according to Joseph Smith, the Father had power in himself to raise himself. That isn't merely a man or a non-divine being.

Joseph simply cannot be teaching that the Father was not God. Rather he is teaching the concept that the Father had a mortal experience and as a result is Embodied. Joseph Smith believes this is consistent with the Bible.


You quote: “To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the Gospel, about which so much hath been said.”

And you write: “Joseph Smith is describing here what I have already described, i.e. that men ascend to exaltation and in doing so add to the glory of God who is further exalted until men take the place of God while God moves on to yet greater exaltation. Man’s destiny is “To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.”


You are quoting from the Woodruff Report here and you aren't quoting all of it. Woodruff is the only one who says "until you arrive at the station of a God." Here is the Times and Seasons amalgamation report:

“How consoling to the mourner, when they are called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child or dear relative, to know, that although the earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved, that they shall rise in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? to inherit the same glory, the same power and the same exaltation, until you ascend the throne of eternal power the same as those who are gone before.”

Here is the Bullock Report:

“how consoling to the mourner when they are cald. to part with a wife, mother, father, dr. relative to know that all Earthly taber shall be dissolved that they shall be heirs of God & jt. hrs of J. C. to inherit the same power exaltn. until you ascd. the throne of Etl. power same as those who are gone bef.”

Joseph Smith is clearly referring to Romans 8:17: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Again, Joseph is claiming his teachings are biblical. There is no comfort in teaching that God is not God, rather the comfort is that the resurrection is true and while we suffer death now, as Paul teaches we will become joint-heirs with God, the same as all others have done before.

Not as God the Father or Christ have done before, but as all men have done before. It doesn't make any sense to claim that Joseph Smith is teaching that God the Father and Jesus Christ become joint-heirs with God the Father and Jesus Christ.


You write: “Note these are Joseph Smith’s words of comfort to a grieving family assuring them of the resurrection and exaltation of men to ultimately achieve these things. He is not speaking of just Jesus, although he uses Jesus as an example.”


I agree. So, why would it be comforting to teach God was not God to someone who just lost their family member?


You say: “You write of God as first cause but Joseph Smith describes God as “becoming God” which surely means that he must have had a beginning, even though as an “eternal spirit” and that there were gods before him.”


First of all, this is completely contradictory to Joseph Smith's teachings. He specifically taught:

“Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end--good logic-- illustrated by his ring. All the fools learned & wise men that comes and tells that man has a beginning proves that he must have an end and if that doctrine is true then the doctrine of annihilation is true. But if I am right then I might be bold to say that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself--Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle--is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it”

There is no creation about it. If Joseph is teaching this about the spirit of man, it doesn't make any sense to read the KFD to say that Joseph Smith believed God was created or that he had a beginning. According to Joseph Smith, if God had a beginning then then God will have an end. The very notion contradicts Joseph Smith's view on God. God is eternal. Joseph has said this countless times.


You write: “Brigham Young declared that “God has once been a finite being” Deseret News, Nov. 16, 1859, p. 290).”


Brigham Young seems to be saying nothing other than what he sees Joseph as teaching. Christ was once a finite being as a man. In Young's mind, if God the Father was once mortal as Joseph Smith taught, then at that time he was finite. Whether God is finite when in a tabernacle of flesh is a philosophical question but this is not saying God began as not God. Joseph Smith taught nothing of the sort.


You write: “Joseph Fielding Smith said "Our father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:47).”

Joseph Fielding Smith is refering not to the King Follet Discourse but rather to a statement by Joseph Smith in the Sermon on the Grove. This has lead some Latter-day Saints to adopt an infinite regression model of Gods. But this is not the only reading. Especially given Joseph Smith's other teachings that there is "head God" who brought forth the other gods, and in Abraham God says "I am more intelligent than they all."


You write: “LDS President Joseph F. Smith taught, "I know that God is a being with body, parts and passions...Man was born of woman; Christ, the Savior, was born of woman; and God, the Father was born of woman" (Deseret News, Church News, Sept. 19, 1936, p. 2)”


This shouldn't be offensive at all. If Joseph Smith is saying that he is doing what he saw his father do before him, and Joseph saw God the Father and knows he has a body and believes he has a body, then how would the Father take on flesh? Would it not be through being born on earth? Christ was born on earth and this didn't compromise his divinity? This simply is not saying God was once not God or he began as a man. Rather it is saying as Joseph Smith taught, the Father once experinenced mortality. Remember Christ had power to take up his life.


You quote: "We are precisely in the same condition and under the same circumstances that God our heavenly Father was when he was passing through this, or a similar ordeal" (Gospel Doctrine, p. 54).

The essence of this statement is just that we are experiencing mortality and the Father also experienced mortality as Joseph Smith taught. Whether we experience mortality in precisely the same condition as Christ did or as the Father did I think is saying more than we know. I may have chosen different words were I editor of this book.


You write: “LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught, "The Father is a glorified, perfected, resurrected, exalted man who worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given to us so that we may do the same" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 64)”

McConkie is probably quoting from that portion of the KFD (Times and Seasons Report):

“I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom I shall present it to my Father, so that he obtains kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt his glory”

But Joseph says the Father worked out his "kingdom" with fear and trembling, not "salvation." In fact, none of the reports say salvation, they all say kingdom. McConkie probably is refering to Philippians 2:12-13:

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”


This clearly refers to mankind but it is unclear whether Joseph intended to apply this to the Father and the Son. Joseph Smith in the KFD doesn't say the Father and the Son have to work out their "salvation." Joseph further taught in the KFD (From Times & Seasons Report):

“that God himself finds himself in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was greater, and because he saw proper to institute laws, whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself, that they might have one glory upon another, in all that knowledge, power, and glory, &c., in order to save the world of spirits.”

Note here that God starts off as God, he doesn't start off as not-God. According to Joseph Smith God instituted laws whereby the rest of the spirits could advance. I agree with McConkie's over all statement that God the Father had a mortal experience, and that God has instituted laws for us so that we might advance. That is what Joseph taught.


You write: “But Jesus was never a man who became a God, but God who became man. He did not achieve Godhood, he is God. He did not grow according to some principles laid down in eternity but was God from eternity to eternity. Once you propose the idea that God became God and grows in his godhood you are talking about a different God; indeed, you are not talking about a God at all but a man who achieves a degree of godhood but whose god is progressing beyond him ad infinitum.”


And if Joseph Smith is teaching that Jesus did nothing but what he saw the Father do, then why on earth should you interpret Joseph Smith as saying the Father went from mere man to God? God condescends and the Word becomes Flesh and there is the Incarnation, God becomes man. That is clear.

But it cannot be denied that Jesus had experiences as a mortal that he simply did not have before becoming mortal. That simply cannot be denied. The scriptures are clear on this. Look at Hebrews 5 for example:

7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Is the author of Hebrews a heretic because he claims the Son "learned obedience" by the things which he suffered and that he was "made perfect" and "became" the author of eternal salvation? Should we lynch the author of Hebrews because he didn't say Christ can't learn anything because God knows everything and can't be made perfect because he is perfect and can't become the author of eternal salvation because then it means he wasn't before?

Joseph taught that the mortal experience is important and vital. It means something to God. The Book of Mormon (Alma 7:13) teaches that:

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.”

There some value to mortal experience even for the Son of God. This is the message of Joseph Smith.

You write: “Clean Cut I respect that you have your own mind and are capable of independent thought but I always address these things asking a simple question. If I were an investigator inquiring after the beliefs of Mormons and the teachings of the Mormon Church would I look to some well meaning free thinkers on the internet or the apostles and prophets to whom the missionaries in my home pointed?”

If you want to know what Joseph Smith taught, look at what he taught.

“I find the company of the former much more engaging and interesting but it is the latter that speak for Mormonism and define “what Mormons believe”. I suggest that if you do not believe what these men teach you don’t believe what Mormons believe; you believe what you believe. Not a bad place to be so long as you are prepared to follow the evidence wherever it leads you.”

To the extent you can find Mormons who believe all sorts of things then that probably isn't the best question. The better question is what must a Mormon believe to be Mormon? I have my beliefs and I am Mormon. I'm an example of what a Mormon believes. Second, just because I take a different interpretation on a non-canonical writing or might choose to phrase something differently, doesn't mean I don't believe what other leaders in the church have said or that I reject them. It isn't an either or proposition. You haven't really demonstrated that my view is somehow at odds with what the church teaches. I think many people simply misunderstand what Joseph taught and what other leaders taught. In some cases, people did have differing views and that is to be expected. People are allowed, even in Mormonism, to have their own thoughts. But I don't think it is right to say that just because we might have a difference of opinion in some respects, that we disagree in all respects.

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Clean Cut

The general impression I get from your comments is one of increasing vagueness and a disapproval of Mormons of previous generations who believed they knew and understood their faith much better than this generation appears to.

It is, I suspect, something you have learned from your church leaders (see my upcoming post “Testing a Mormon prophet”); church leaders of my own generation were altogether more assured. I certainly don’t expect Mormons to know everything but I do expect them to know what they are meant to know.

Take your words, “we are not clear on some of the details of what Joseph Smith taught.” Why are you not clear? Why did JS teach it for future generations to become increasingly obscure about what he meant? What is the point of all those apostles and prophets if they are to scratch their heads and declare themselves puzzled?

You know, Mormons have spent years insisting that they are not so far from Evangelicals and we have objected. But you are not so far from us after all. We both work from a closed canon and we both speculate about what early church leaders might have meant, allowing such ad hoc councils to define our doctrine for us.

You have singularly failed to address the peculiar use of the word “saved” to mean “exalted”. I have been very clear about the way the Bible consistently uses the word.

Nowhere does the Bible refer to the exaltation of man to godhood, only his salvation and sanctification, which means rescue and consecration or dedication to the service of God and his exaltation is to sit with Christ because he is in Christ who alone is worthy of exaltation (Eph.2:6). This is all attained by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18) and not by works of the law (Ro.3:20-28; Eph.2:1-10)

For those who haven’t read it the King Follett Discourse may be read, with commentary, here http://www.mrm.org/topics/documents-speeches/king-follett-discourse.

You write that what I quote is an amalgamation but this only causes more problems since it is an amalgamation of the work of four scribes, all key Mormons, all of whom were there and wrote it as they heard it. Several problems present themselves:

1.If prophets lead the Mormon Church why are you depending on an academic deconstruction of the Discourse depending on Thomas Bullock above the other three, one of whom later became a prophet himself? If the Encyclopaedia of Mormonism declares that it, “may be one of the Prophet's greatest sermons because of its comprehensive doctrinal teachings" it seems singularly odd that modern Mormon understanding is so vague and expositions of it so contradictory.

2.Why are accounts of such a key speech so apparently contradictory at such key points? The founding apologetic for Mormonism is that the Christian Church is so apostate, contradictory and ambiguous as to warrant a restoration of clear teaching; that Christian Scripture is so corrupted in the course of transmission as to need correcting and clarifying. And yet here we are trying to fathom which report of a prophet’s key discourse is most trustworthy and which interpretation most authentic. Am I the only one to see the rich irony in this?

3.Since 1900 it has appeared in at least eleven different publications: the 'Improvement Era' in 1909, in a pamphlet published privately by Magazine Printing Company in 1913 and later editions, in two privately printed editions with no specific dates, in 'Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith' in 1938, in a German translation printed in Switzerland in 1943, in the 'Liahona' in 1945, in the 'Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith,' 'Messages of the First Presidency,' and the 'LDS Reference Encyclopedia' (all printed in 1965), and most recently in the 'Ensign,' April and May 1971" (BYU Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, p.191.)

Mormons have published this discourse in its familiar form from the beginning and the Mormon faithful have lived a faith believing it as given by the Mormon Church. Again I find myself unconvinced that the Mormon story, kept entirely in Mormon hands and endorsed by Mormon prophets should come to be so obscure and convoluted as to need untangling. Where is the prophetic ability to cut the Gordian knot so boasted of by Joseph Smith?

You seem determined, based on Thomas Bullock, to refute what Mormons have believed for generations and what Mormon prophets have always taught. That God was a man and that men may become gods. That is what the Mormon plan of salvation is about and I begin to wonder if you believe that this plan applies alone to us, the children of this God and not to previous or future generations of gods?

It seems to me as though this version of events suits the revisionist designs of the more thoughtful modern Mormon but all you are doing is exactly what you accuse the Christian Church of ding, i.e. picking and choosing from early documents to reconstruct your religion to suit your 21st century sensibilities.

Which is the “official” version of the KFD? The one published by the church down the years or the one now favoured by revisionists? And on what “official” basis are we to accept the now favoured account? And if the account you favor is now the official one will Mormon leaders apologise to millions of Mormons who down the years have trusted in and believed what has been the official account until recently? Don’t forget that I was there and taught Mormonism for many years.

In a major article addressing “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith” the authors address this very subject declaring with the same arguments I have made point-by-point:

“The truths about God that Joseph Smith restored are of paramount importance. In 1844, he taught that “it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another.”

Ten years earlier, the Lectures on Faith, which Joseph Smith directed and approved, taught that to acquire faith unto salvation one needs a correct idea of God’s character, perfections, and attributes, and that one needs to know that the course of life one is pursuing is according to God’s will. He also added, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”

The Prophet explained that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens”; that “he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did”; and that he “worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling.” Through the Prophet, we learn that we “are begotten sons and daughters unto God” and that Christ is the Firstborn. (D&C 76:24; see D&C 93:21–22; Heb. 12:7–9.) As God’s children, we may become gods ourselves through Christ’s atonement and the plan of salvation, being joint heirs of Christ of “all that [the] Father hath.” (D&C 84:38; see also Rom. 8:17; D&C 76:58–60; D&C 132:19–21.) Along with these concepts is the concept of divine parents, including an exalted Mother who stands beside God the Father.” (Ensign, Jan. 1989)

Truths “of paramount importance”, so important that “it is the first principle of the Gospel to know [them]”; yet here we are discussing which version of this increasingly obscure doctrine is to be trusted. If Mormons cannot agree on which version of key Mormon doctrines we are to trust I suggest they are not fitted to go into the world and correct what Christians have believed for two millennia.