Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2

July 16, 2009 | 51 comments
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(See my disclaimer in Part 1 concerning the title)

So, let’s discuss some of the less-acknowledged ways Mormons and evangelicals are alike. First we’ll start with things in evangelical thought which bear an unexpected resemblance to LDS thought.

The trappings of celestial sex

It’s pretty common in evangelical circles to attack the Mormon view of the afterlife on three points pertaining to human sexuality:

  • A belief in marriage in the next life. This is seen as contradicting Matthew 22:29-30.
  • A belief in the continuance of literal, physical sexual intercourse in the next life, or at least a belief that it will still be possible but maybe not necessary. This shows… I don’t know. That Mormons are perverts, I guess.
  • A belief in procreation in the next life, which is taken to mean that women will be literally pregnant again and again for eternity. This shows that Mormons are inconsiderate of women.

Mormons offer miscellaneous apologetics to these attacks,1 but I wanted to probe the objections from a different angle. Let’s go back to the creation account of Adam and Eve. What would evangelicals say the world would be like had there never been a Fall? Seems to me that you can make a case that humanity would have had:

  • Eternal marriage. Adam and Eve were husband and wife, and if they had never died, their marriage would have lasted for eternity.
  • Eternal sex. They were married, and they were ordered to procreate (Genesis 1:28), so why not? Some would object that since they did not know they were naked, they couldn’t have known how to have sex, but I think this objection is overruled by what we see in nature. Animals don’t know that they’re naked and they seem perfectly capable of sex, so why not Adam and Eve?
  • Endless, pain-free childbirth. Again, they’d been ordered to procreate, and after the Fall, God tells the woman that He will multiply her pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16), a pronouncement that makes little sense if there hadn’t already been a system of painless childbirth in place before that.2 Since Eve and her descendants were going to live forever, I can only assume that the pregnancies were going to be fairly continuous.

When evangelicals criticize Mormons on these points, they’re really only criticizing Mormons for believing that humanity will one day return to the system that was apparently in place in the Garden of Eden. I’m especially opposed to the trend I see of evangelicals belittling Mormons for these beliefs as being too sensational and silly. We can argue over Matthew 22:29-30 as much as we like, but we should not try to dismiss these ideas by appealing to ridicule.

Deification

If the Mormon doctrine of “becoming gods” means that Mormons will one day be to other people what God is to us now—a chain of Gods ruling over their own universes and worlds—then there is nothing in evangelical thought which resembles that. However, some Mormons have told me that they don’t believe exaltation will involve becoming God to other spirits. Some have told me that they’re either unsure on this point or they definitely don’t think they’ll ever be what God is now.

Some evangelicals are advocating a return to an evangelical understanding of deification. Back in March I did a lengthy post at LDS & Evangelical Conversations on the subject—and you’ll notice that the first person to comment on the post was Aaron Shafovaloff from Mormonism Research Ministry, and he agreed with me. Jessica, an evangelical who runs a blog called I Love Mormons and takes a more evangelistic approach to Mormonism than I do, called my post “very good, sound, Biblical teaching on this subject,” so plenty of evangelicals who don’t share in my “liberal” approach to Mormonism were able to agree with me on this. See also this article by Robert V. Rakestraw, “Becoming Like God: An Evangelical Doctrine of Theosis.”

Point being, there is some room for the two camps to move closer together on this issue. It is not as simple as condemning Mormons for believing they will “become gods.”

Rewards in heaven, degrees of punishment in hell?

It’s commonly thought that evangelicals believe in one heaven and one hell, therefore, the man who confesses Christ at age 95 on his death bed will get the same reward in heaven as the believer who accepted Christ at age 5 and labored for the Lord throughout her entire life. Likewise, the unbeliever who slouched through life committing some of the more common sins but nothing really unusual will get the same punishment in hell as Adolf Hitler. Some evangelicals definitely believe that.

However, some of us believe that there will be different rewards in heaven that go above and beyond salvation in the kingdom of heaven, as well as degrees of anguish in hell. This certainly isn’t the same as the LDS view of the afterlife with its demi-universalism, but an agreement in the existence of degrees of rewards and punishments is a similar system of thought.

Apostolic succession

In June of last year, I began attending a local church which was affiliated with the NewFrontiers family of churches. I was somewhat surprised to see this article on my new church home’s web site:

1) Are apostles for today?

When Jesus ascended on high, He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers. Many evangelical teachers have supposed that some of the ministries listed in Ephesians 4 were temporary and existed only in the early church, while others were permanent. They usually continue their argument by saying that the Scriptures are now complete. Since we have an authoritative canon of Scripture, including the writings of the apostles, we no longer need further apostles. They are preoccupied with the establishment of the canon of scripture rather than the pragmatics of the apostolic work of church planting and world evangelisation.

Commentators from the reformation onwards have seen it as their responsibility to defend the scriptures from the Roman Catholic teaching of apostolic succession and ex-cathedra statements that claimed apostolic authority. They were not preoccupied with the ongoing missionary work of an apostle. The result was that local churches were seen as static and built on scripture, while isolated individuals could leave those churches and become “missionaries”. In contrast, our burning passion is to see apostolic churches focussed [sic] on world mission together. (emphasis mine)

I couldn’t help but smile when I read that. NewFrontiers isn’t ordaining men to an office labeled “apostle,” but they desire to raise up “apostolic churches.” They seem to want some kind of claim to apostle-ism without a direct line of succession to point to.

However, a belief in authoritative succession is more common in the traditional Christian world than some evangelicals and Latter-day Saints think. An LDS commentator at Tim’s blog once stated that, “Only two can claim legitimate authority passed from one man to another as it was done in Christ’s time. They are the LDS Church and the Catholics. All the rest can make no such claim.” As far as traditional Christianity goes, this line of thinking ignores the succession claims of the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, and some Lutherans, Methodists and Anabaptist groups.

I had intended this to be a two-part series, but I think it will be best if I break the remaining material into a final post. So this Saturday I’ll cover LDS doctrines which parallel Protestant thought in ways Latter-day Saints might not expect.

—————————————–

[1] For an LDS response on whether the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage contradicts Matthew 22:29-30, see this brochure by the late Marc Schindler at FAIR. For some LDS responses on whether or not women will be eternally pregnant, see for example:

A mental picture is thus drawn [by The God Makers film] which is supposed to be repugnant to today’s “liberated” women and somehow un-Christian.  In reality, God has not yet completely revealed the process by which spirit children are added to His eternal family (of which we are all a part).  But surely the process is more sophisticated than the nine-month gestation period and pregnancy through which mortal women suffer to give birth.  It was only after the Fall that God said to the woman Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.”  Therefore “pregnant” is a term which in all likelihood is applicable only to the post-Fall mortal condition.

See also the discussion by Geoff J. at New Cool Thang on whether or not there is such a thing as viviparous spirit birth.

[2] I’m aware that Latter-day Saints will disagree with this take on pre-Fall procreation due to Moses 5:11, but bear with me here. Remember that I’m not arguing here that the LDS doctrine of the Fall is wrong; I’m only attempting to show how similar ideas exist in traditional Christian thought.

51 Responses to Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2

  1. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    BTW, I apologize for taking longer than expected to continue this series. I had a lot of things come up with my family this last week.

    I shouldn’t have a problem posting part 3 by Saturday Sunday though, so look for it then.

  2. Kevin Barney on July 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    This is great stuff, Jack.

  3. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you so very much! I look forward to your next installment.

    You make a very good point about the other claims to apostolic succession. The fact that most Mormons have converted from Protestant and Catholic churches has limited our understanding of the competing claims of the eastern churches. In particular, few people (LDS and otherwise) are aware that the Orthodox churches have continued the early Christian belief in theosis, that salvation consists of becoming like Christ and God. My mother was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church in Japan (a long story behind that) and affirmed this was what she was taught.

    If Islam had not come in to dominate what had been the main seat of early Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean, the face of modern Christianity could be far more diverse.

  4. Aaron on July 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    However, some of us believe that there will be different rewards in heaven that go above and beyond salvation in the kingdom of heaven, as well as degrees of anguish in hell

    That seems to me to be a near-unanimous view of my fellow evangelicals, in my experience.

  5. Bryan H. on July 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I didn’t know that evangelicals believed that Adam and Eve could procreate in the Garden. In fact, I could’ve sworn that I’ve heard at least two pastors in the last 3 months say otherwise (I listen to a lot of Christian radio). But as I do a quick google search, I can’t find a single one that does. Is this a uniquely Mormon teaching?

  6. Hunter on July 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Care to make it a 4- or 5- or 6-part series? Yours is a unique and valued voice in these here parts. Thanks.

  7. Clean Cut on July 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Put me in the LDS camp who emphasizes the difference between “becoming a god” and “becoming God”. (The former I see in the teachings of Joseph Smith and the scriptures, thus I agree with it; the latter I see only in outdated Church manuals that never seemed to check all their sources in context and/or think through the implications, and I see no reason to believe it).

  8. Bull Moose on July 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Clean Cut, I’m having a difficult time with the difference you espouse. To me it is a distinction without a difference, unless you imply that “becoming God” means that we directly step into the role presently occupied by God the Father. I’m not aware that this is presently taught, but I’ll admit that as a convert I may not be aware of instances of it being taught in the past.

    I had a discussion with a friend who wasn’t convinced that our concept of deification is biblical and struggled with it. Having recently read Romans, I reminded him that Paul declares that as children of God we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ … that we may be also glorified together.” So, if Christ inherits all that the Father hath and an increase in glory, then so do we, through Christ’s mercy.

  9. Jessica on July 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Bryan H,

    I didn’t know that evangelicals believed that Adam and Eve could procreate in the Garden. In fact, I could’ve sworn that I’ve heard at least two pastors in the last 3 months say otherwise (I listen to a lot of Christian radio). But as I do a quick google search, I can’t find a single one that does. Is this a uniquely Mormon teaching?

    Actually, from the studies I’ve done, the account of the Fall in Mormonism is unique in a number of ways and differs significantly from the Biblical/traditional view. I wrote a series of posts on this topic here if you are interested.

  10. Clean Cut on July 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Bull Moose, I’m simply referring to the difference in being a God (with a capital G) versus a god (with a lowercase g). Sharing in all that God HAS is not the same thing to me as being exactly like God IS. We don’t have to re-create every single experience in order to share in all that He has. We try to grow up to become like Him, but I believe there will still be a distinction between exalted beings and the Exalted One we worship.

    I believe in deification and becoming a god; sharing in God’s divine nature is fully scriptural. But I do not believe in being an independent God (as if we’ll become our own Godhead to other planets), and I don’t find scriptural support for it nor any evidence for it in the teachings of Joseph Smith. However we end up sharing in God’s power, it will be an extension of His power–“joint heirs”–not our own.

    Joseph taught: “The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.” (King Follet Sermon)

    So, yes, God desires to give us everything he has and for us to advance. But who instituted the laws? God did. I didn’t institute the laws. And I don’t think that’s going to change. And I don’t feel like it has to change in order to feel good about myself.

  11. Clean Cut on July 16, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    In summary, I do not believe I will become a “worshiped” God. Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son.

  12. Bull Moose on July 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Clean Cut, thank you for your response. I’m trying to wrap my head around concepts I’ve been taught in institute classes and read about in other sources.

    It was my understanding that as the children of God advance, God himself advances, or has glory added upon him. We can never, therefore, supersede that being we know as God. However, we can become [a] God as he is now. But by so doing, he will be something greater, and will always excel in glory to us, no matter what glory we achieve.

    Joseph also taught that man is “[t]o 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.” (King Follet Sermon)

    President Hinkley stated in the October 1994 General Conference, “the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood.”

    I believe there the scriptures and the King Follet Sermon declare that God’s plan is for us to be “exactly like God is.” If we are to inherit God’s glory, we inherit his “[G]odhood.” As President Hinkley declared, “this lofty concept in no way diminishes God the Eternal Father. He is the Almighty. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe. He is the greatest of all and will always be so.”

  13. Kevin Barney on July 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I think the idea that Adam and Eve couldn’t have had sex in the garden is pretty distinctively Mormon. On this topic, see David P. Wright, “Sex and Death in the Garden of Eden.” Sunstone 12/2 (June 1998) 33-39. For a more academic version not focused on the Mormon angle, see his “Holiness, Sex, and Death in the Garden of Eden.” Biblica 77. (1996): 305-329. The Sunstone piece may be downloaded for free at sunstoneonline.com.

  14. Dan on July 16, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Jack,

    How do we get Evangelicals to acknowledge that we believe in Jesus Christ?

  15. Clean Cut on July 16, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I don’t believe Joseph was trying to erase all distinctions between us and God. There are various ways of interpreting becoming “as God is now”, just as there are various interpretations to how God was once “as we are now”.

    I recently made the case on my own blog that the fact that God was once mortal does not mean that He was necessarily a sinful man who progressed into becoming God, but that he simply had a mortal experience. Christ was also as we are now, but he was without sin and needed no Savior. (Taking the “merely a man” position for God the Father’s mortal experience begs the question of who was His Savior and by whose grace was He redeemed–and the scriptures and Joseph Smith (IMHO) do not give us any warrant to assume this).

    See “My Take on Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon”
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/07/my-take-on-joseph-smiths-king-follet.html

  16. Dan on July 16, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Kevin,

    #13,

    Also Lehi’s discourse in 2 Nephi 2

  17. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 16, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    #4 Aaron ~ I’ve met evangelicals from both camps. Generally, I find that the Christians who give more thought to the issue will believe the rewards in heaven/degrees of anguish in hell thing, while the folks who are more inclined toward accepting what I call “bumper sticker doctrine” just believe in one reward in heaven and one punishment in hell. As an example though, here’s one person arguing against rewards in heaven.

    BTW, I’m genuinely glad you and Jessica dropped by.

    Clean Cut ~ Do you think there’s a difference between becoming a god and becoming a God? I’m just trying to understand your view. In what ways do you think exalted humans will be different from God other than being behind him in progression?

    #14 Dan ~ What does that have to do with my post?

    I guess I’ll bite anyways. I know very few evangelicals who say Mormons don’t believe in Jesus at all; the usual charge is that Mormons believe in a “different Jesus,” which really just means that Mormons believe such different things about Jesus that it might as well be another person. I suppose there are a few evangelicals who would reason that since this “different Jesus” isn’t a real person, Mormons don’t believe in Jesus at all, but I think that’s a gross misrepresentation of the situation. I also think that any evangelical who takes things that far is not going to be reasoned with and corrected.

    We covered in the last thread that (1) a few LDS leaders have also made the different Jesus claim, and (2) I don’t agree with the “different Jesus” technique. And other evangelicals with a more evangelistic approach to Mormonism are catching on and abandoning the “different Jesus” rhetoric as well.

    The only sure way I know to get evangelicals to stop and accept that Mormons believe in the same Jesus would be for the LDS church to accept the Nicene Creed. Easy enough, right?

  18. Clean Cut on July 17, 2009 at 12:11 am

    “Do you think there’s a difference between becoming a god and becoming a God?”

    Yes.

    “In what ways do you think exalted humans will be different from God other than being behind him in progression?”

    Well, for starters, He’s the one who institutes the laws, Q.E.D. I don’t. I can’t go back and relive God’s history (which I believe included a sinless mortal existence as God, as was Jesus Christ’s mortality). Furthermore, He is the one source of all light, worship, and power in the universe–I’m not. In my exaltation as a god, or as a king or priest unto God, He’ll still be my God and my Father and I’ll still worship Him. That worship might take on increased significance through emulation, but the power I possess will be an extension of HIS power. He wants to share everything with us–and that’s truly charity and grace in my opinion–but he’s still “the” God.

    For what it’s worth, the Church put out this statement during an interview with Fox news in response to a question about godhood:

    “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

  19. Katie L. on July 17, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son.

    Clean Cut, I like where you’re going with your interpretation, but I have serious doubts that’s what JS and company really thought about the issue. It’s always been pretty clear to me that we teach that people can become gods-with-a-capital-G, worship-worthy and all that. JS taught that there are gods (Gods?) as high above the Father as the Father is above us. Isn’t that the essence of eternal progression?

    I personally find that doctrine difficult to swallow, so I appreciate your point of view on the subject. But my experience would say yours is definitely a minority position.

  20. Eric Nielson on July 17, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Clean Cut:

    For starters, I do not believe that God institutes the laws. These laws are eternal and must be obeyed, even by God.

    Further, some questions:

    What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?
    What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?
    Do you believe that exlted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ‘seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?

    If so, do you believe the relationship between such spirit children and spirit parents would be the same relationship between us and our spirit parents? And if so, what does this have to do with gods and Gods?

  21. Eric Nielson on July 17, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Oh, and I hope #20 is not a thread-Bridget-Jack.

  22. Bryan H. on July 17, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Kevin, thanks for the heads up. The direct link to the Sunstone article is here for anyone else interested.

  23. Rich Alger on July 17, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I appreciate this post. There is so much we have in common. It is so much more useful to understand each other trying to see from each other’s perspective. That said we cannot gloss over very real differences like you noted in your disclaimer.

  24. Gilgamesh on July 17, 2009 at 8:56 am

    “I think the idea that Adam and Eve couldn’t have had sex in the garden is pretty distinctively Mormon.”

    Kevin,

    I always believed that they couldn’t have children – not that they couldn’t have sex.

  25. Dan on July 17, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Could Adam and Eve have sex in the Garden of Eden if they didn’t “know”? They clearly did not have an understanding of their sexual organs from what we know in Mormon theology, until they ate of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. How could they know the purpose of their sexual organs before they ate of the fruit?

  26. Dan on July 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Jack,

    The only sure way I know to get evangelicals to stop and accept that Mormons believe in the same Jesus would be for the LDS church to accept the Nicene Creed. Easy enough, right?

    Or they could accept that they are not the ultimate arbiters of who believes in Jesus. It’s the arrogance of the position that Evangelicals know what it is to believe in Jesus, and if people don’t agree to a closely similar fashion, then they get to judge who are the real believers in Jesus. This is related to the post because you’re talking about ways to bridge the gap. This is the one thing I care about, concerning bridging gaps between Evangelicals and Mormons. Maybe it will never happen, but for anyone attempting to try to bridge this divide, this will be the very first question I will always ask.

  27. Ben on July 17, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Gilgamesh, it comes from 2Ne (IIRC), which states that if they had remained in the garden of eden, they would have had no children. It says nothing about why, but most read it as “could have had no children”, i.e. physical capabilty of some kind.

  28. Mark D. on July 17, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I maintain that “Gods” with an upper case “G” is a usage so self-contradictory that it is essentially a grammatical error. One of the reasons why is that even the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are considered to be “one God, infinite and eternal, without end” (D&C 20:28).

    God is the supreme and presiding power in the universe, who has the capacity to bring about all of His purposes, by definition. There cannot be more than one such entity, more than one head under which all divine power and glory flows. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine” etc.

    It is logically impossible for any two members of the Godhead to independently possess such power, influence, etc. Likewise it is logically impossible to become an (uppercase G) “God” who has such power, glory, influence etc. separately and independently from the one true God(head).

    We might well conclude then that “the one true God” in its most full and proper sense is a reference to the divine union or concert of all exalted beings, who act together with common purpose, spirituality, glory, and goodness to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all of their children. As Jesus said:

    “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22-23)

    To the degree that it is logically consistent, then, perhaps the concept of exaltation is not as foreign to evangelicalism as is commonly supposed.

  29. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Let me try to put this into perspective for you, Dan.

    What can I do to get your church to accept that my baptism was approved by God as a binding ordinance and I have the gift of the Holy Spirit?

  30. Katie L. on July 17, 2009 at 10:43 am

    It’s the arrogance of the position that Evangelicals know what it is to believe in Jesus,

    I’d also note that it is not just the Evangelical community that rejects us as being well beyond “acceptable” Christian orthodoxy, but pretty much the whole Christian community. Evs just seem to be more vocal about it.

    As Jack said, we reject their baptisms and their claim to act as God’s Authorized Agents(TM), so why should they say we’re in their club? They’re not in ours…

    Not saying there isn’t room to come together. Clearly, there’s misinformation on both sides that needs to be clarified. I am saying I don’t know why we teach what we teach about them and then get surprised when they teach similar things about us.

  31. Thomas Parkin on July 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Well said, Katie L. I don’t get that either. I don’t feel the least threatened or offended that we aren’t viewed as being part of the body of believers. It is a position that can be held in perfectly good faith and without malice.

    BJM – because I’m also married to a partner of a different religion, I’m interested in anything your might post about that from a practical perspective, without being more personal than you feel comfortable. Groovy. ~

  32. Dan on July 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Jack,

    But that is apples to oranges, and there is a comparable example already for that. Do non-Mormon Christians think our baptism is authorized?

    This discussion reminds me of an incident that had occurred in the New Testament. Luke 9:49-50

    49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
    50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

    I like what Jesus taught. :)

  33. Bookslinger on July 17, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    re: are Mormons in the Christian club? When trying to share the restored gospel with atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, it’s sometimes a good thing that mainstream Christians don’t consider Mormons in their club. Mainstream Christians have often given Christianity a bad rap; especially towards Jews, from ancient pogroms, the inquisition, to modern anti-semitism; but also a history of forced conversions on the local populace when colonization by Western Europeans took place. My family experienced open and unabashed anti-semitism up through the 1960’s.

    —————

    Try to share a Book of Mormon with a mainstream Christian, and sometimes you’ll get: “Sorry, I’m a Christian”.

    Try to share a Book of Mormon with a non-Christian, and when they see the sub-title, sometimes you’ll get: “Sorry, I don’t want anything to do with Christianity.”

    Jack: The bit about “Only two can claim legitimate authority passed from one man to another as it was done in Christ’s time. They are the LDS Church and the Catholics.” was previously written by Legrande Richards in “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder”. I don’t know if that’s original with him. If I remember correctly, he quoted a Catholic clergyman who said that to him. That book belongs on every LDS scholar’s bookshelf; a classic.

  34. Rich Alger on July 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Clean Cut commented

    “I believe in deification and becoming a god; sharing in God’s divine nature is fully scriptural. But I do not believe in being an independent God (as if we’ll become our own Godhead to other planets), and I don’t find scriptural support for it nor any evidence for it in the teachings of Joseph Smith. However we end up sharing in God’s power, it will be an extension of His power–’joint heirs’–not our own.”

    Until recently, I was not aware of this belief within orthodox LDS faith. It does not fit with what I see is taught in our scriptures.

    In the oath and covenant of the priesthood it says, “And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” (D&C 84:38) If I receive all that my Father has, wouldn’t that also include being able to create what he has created?

    D&C 132:20 says,

    Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

    To be from everlasting to everlasting seems the same as being Eternal like God is. To have all power seems pretty clear.

    Clear Cut summarized himself, “I do not believe I will become a “worshiped” God. Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son.”

    This reminds me of the time when Jesus was called Good Master and he replied, “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18) We will defer honor to God the same way Jesus did. Any honor or power the Lord gives to us will only be because of the grace of God, because of the atonement. Any worship we may receive eventually will only serve to increase the glory and honor of God.

    I have progressed spiritually very much in the last 14 years because I of my marriage to a kind, forgiving and persistent wife. She has helped me to repent and grow. I have thought about how is it that I can really become like Jesus is, to be perfect as He is. Perhaps our relationships with others who are also increasing in faith and honor of their covenants will help us to reach what God wants us to have. D&C 88:133 is a passage I have often been drawn to.

    Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.

    What if we actually kept a covenant like this? As we grow in our faith and obedience to the Lord we will be able to.

    Now I go on to my own thought. What if God’s power comes from a covenant He has with other perfect beings? He is perfectly supported by those around Him. He perfectly supports the others in the covenant. Maybe God is preparing us to become part of this covenant that is perfectly kept and allows those who have grown to be able and willing to also keep this covenant perfectly.

    Does this mean that all in this covenant are equal? I will always acknowledge where my strength comes from. It is only through His grace that I able to continue to work out my salvation. Any honor I receive will be given from Him and to His greater glory. Mathematics are different when you deal in the infinite. Even if the Lord gives us an infinite amount of power and authority and ability, it does not take away from His. Since anything we have we get from Him, it actually increases His dominion and power and glory.

    Posted also at http://richalger.blogspot.com/2009/07/exaltation.html

  35. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Thomas ~ Fascinating! What religion is your spouse? I’ve done a lengthy series on my interfaith marriage at my blog here. I also did a mediocre paper on the subject for one of my history classes at BYU here. I’ve written so much about it on my own blog, I hadn’t really intended on doing a post on it at T&S, but I’ll think about it.

    Dan ~ Telling me that I’m a follower of Christ but I haven’t truly been baptized into Christ with water or with the Spirit is a lot of patronizing nonsense in my book. One of the very first things I was told when I began studying the LDS church was, “You didn’t get baptized, you went swimming.” That line was repeated to me by other Mormons from different areas of the country, so I know it wasn’t just one isolated incident of jack-assery. And I don’t believe there is such a thing as a true follower of Christ who doesn’t seek baptism, so Mormons who think they have some kind of high ground because they accept that I’m a follower of Christ while they trample on my baptism really don’t understand what being a Christian means to me.

    Now I’m not actually offended by LDS denial of non-LDS Christian ordinances. You certainly think faith in Christ is important, but you believe saving ordinances are what really matter, so you set yourself up as the arbiters of what constitutes valid ordinances. We believe profession of Christ is what matters, so yes, we do set ourselves up as arbiters of what constitutes correct teaching on the person of Christ, and we do denounce groups who distort that. In other words, I think this is one divide that’s unbridgeable without a major theological shift from one group or the other. As things stand, the best either group can do is to acknowledge that the other group is sincere but sincerely wrong.

    The only non-LDS churches I know of which have specific policies ordering converts from Mormonism to be re-baptized are the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Roman Catholic Church. I know of no other denominations with policies on LDS baptisms. For all other denominations, the decision on whether or not a convert from Mormonism ought to be re-baptized would be between the Mormon, her pastor, and possibly the elders of the local church.

    Bookslinger ~ Thanks for the info. Will I get in trouble if I confess that I haven’t read some of the LDS “classics”? :P I will put it on my to-read list though.

  36. Rich Alger on July 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Mark D (#28) said

    “We might well conclude then that ‘the one true God’ in its most full and proper sense is a reference to the divine union or concert of all exalted beings, who act together with common purpose, spirituality, glory, and goodness to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all of their children.”

    I love the analogy of a concert of all exalted beings acting in perfect harmony.

  37. Dennis on July 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Re Bookslinger’s reference:

    In Marvelous Work, Richards quotes Orson F. Whitney, who originally published the story in a pamphlet under the heading “A Catholic Utterance.” (Interestingly, I don’t think there’s any record of the man’s name.):

    Here’s the passage:

    Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: “You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days.

  38. Dan on July 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Jack,

    You have a point. I had forgotten about that aspect regarding baptism.

  39. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    It always struck me as odd that those Evangelicals who believe that baptism is valid apart from any specific priesthood ordination of the person officiating could claim that a Mormon baptism is somehow invalid. As far as I could tell, it seemed to be based on the notion that if you don’t have the proper Nicene concept of God in your head at the time, your baptism doesn’t count.

    The other thing that I scratch my head over is the insistence by some Evangelicals that Mormons have to subscribe to the Nicene Creed to be saved by Christ. For the life of me, I can’t recall any altar call that I have watched on TV involving somebody stopping each person coming forward to make sure they can (a) recite a version of the Nicene Creed and (b) actually demonstrate some comprehension of it, before they were allowed to be baptized. Apparently knowing and believing in the Nicene Creed is something that you don’t have to believe individually, so long as the church you affiliate with claims to do it for you, a kind of vicarious salvation.

    For that matter, some of the popular statements I have read about the Nicene Creed by some Evangelical pastors have actually reflected classic heresies about Christ, such as the notion that God puts on the Christ persona as a kind of mask so that we can relate to him better.

    On the topic of the Nicene Creed, a misunderstanding is that EVERY statement in the typical versions of the creed are rejected by Mormons. In fact, everything in the Apostles Creed seems to be consistent with LDS doctrine. The main things in the Nicene Creed we don’t accept have to do with the Aristotelian concept of God as “without body, parts, or passions”. I have never understood how that is consistent with the insistence in the same creeds that God was incarnated as Christ, suffered, died and was resurrected. That seems to describe a God with a body with parts, and strong emotions. To the extent that the creeds insist that God is not only a unity but also three distinct persons, Mormons who reflect on it have to agree. There are even, as I understand it, some Evangelicals who subscribe to a “social Trinity”, a more common sense way that 3 can also be 1, and they are accepted as Christian. My understanding is that the original statement of being “of one substance” could have been understood as “of the same family” rather than some kind of single mystical body. But typical interpretations seem to emphasis the radical unity of God and almost discard the concept of 3 distiinct entities. Which again makes it hard to understand how the claim that “God has a physical body” is anathema when clearly Christ has such a body–he didn’t die again–and Christ is God.

    I think even some of the GAs in their Conference talks have missed the need to explain this distinction: That we disagree with certain aspects of the creeds, but most of the statements, those that summarize basic Biblical information about Christ’s mission, are also embraced in LDS teachings. Clearly, some people (e.g. Richard John Neuhaus) who think Mormons are not necessarily Christians have stated their understanding that Mormons rejected the statements in the Apostles’ Creed, which is not true. Indeed, I would suggest that Mormons are more emphatic about the reality of Christ as real Son of God and resurrected Redeemer than many people in mainline churches who are never told they are “not Christian”. So while Mormons don’t subscribe to the title “Nicene Creed”, they do uphold many, if not most, of the substance of the creed.

  40. Kevin Barney on July 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Dennis, the Catholic’s name was John M. Reiner. See here:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/01/16/a-footnote-to-the-strength-of-the-mormon-position/

  41. Perry Robinson on July 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Bridget #35,

    By way of information, the Orthodox also have a policy of necessarily rebaptizing non-Trinitarians, whether LDS, JW’s or some other association.

  42. Perry Robinson on July 18, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    To be fair, Evangelicals and their theological predecessors, the Reformed and Lutherans, do not fully subscribe to all tenants of the Nicene Creed. The Reformed reject the idea of the hypostasis of the Son as dependent and generation from the person of the Faither. Hence they deny that the alone Father is autotheos as articulated by the Creed. They also accept a modified form of the Creed in that they acept the Filioque, which was unilaterally added by the Pope, which is rather ironic.

    As for theosis, whatever the LDS doctrine is, the Orthodox doctrine is distinguished by the concept of divine energies and its relation to the virtues. Without grasping the patristic doctrine of divine energies one won’t grasp the Orthodox view of deification.

    As for who gets to define what constitutes Christian teaching, perhaps someone could explain the LDS view. Does the LDS Church get to define what is and is not LDS teaching, such that one who chooses to believe contrary is defined as outside LDS teaching? If so, then I am not sure why those churches like the Catholic or the Orthodox are not free in principle to do the same. But perhaps I am missing something and someone could clarify for me.

  43. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Perry ~ Don’t the Orthodox usually require re-baptism of all converts, including Protestants? I thought that was the case, so that’s why I didn’t list them, but I’m happy to add them to my list if I’m wrong.

    Incidentally, the LDS church has very specifically denied the term “Mormon” to members of other LDS traditions. Not very many LDS splinter group members have wanted to be known as “Mormons,” but polygamous LDS groups do, and the church actively tries to stop people from identifying them as such.

    It’s pure speculation, but if the LDS church were 812 million members strong and having to compete with a powerful, rapidly growing LDS splinter group who claim that the current LDS church is apostate and corrupt and brag about “baptizing an LDS ward every week,” I really, really don’t think the church would be rolling over and benignly acknowledging such a faction as their fellow Mormons and co-followers of Joseph Smith.

  44. Ben on July 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I’d be happy to have Ev’s describe Mormons as heretical Christians. It shows that Jesus is still part of our theology in contra distinction to actual non-Christian religions like Judaism, but also conveys that we’re not within the historical tradition.

  45. Perry Robinson on July 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Bridget,

    No, the Orthodox do not necessarily rebaptize all converts. Those received from a body which practices a Trinitarian baptism are or can be received by Chrismation, which renders their baptism “valid.” The baptisms of schismatics becomes “valid” upon reception and not before.

    As for LDS teaching authority and other groups related to Smith, that is what I thought. But they also go further than that via the first vision don’t they and label the existing Christian traditions as apostate and adhorrent to God? I am not sure why the Smith and the LDS get to exclude other bodies like that. Rhetoric is a two way street.

    It has been my experience, albeit anecdotal that the LDS do not extend the tittle Christian to say the JW’s, Two by Two’s or lots of other groups. So this is why perhaps that explains why historically pre-existing Christian bodies have been unmoved by that rhetoric. Word have a history after all.

  46. Clean Cut on July 18, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Eric (#20), I just got back from a family trip; sorry I didn’t respond sooner. It’s unclear whether you were disagreeing with me or with Joseph Smith in terms of having the power to create the laws by which we advance and become exalted. I was merely quoting Joseph Smith. I’m not sure he’s talking about all laws of science or what not, but he IS specifically talking about God creating the laws by which we become “gods”, and I still maintain a distinction between God and subordinate gods.

    I do believe that God intends Christ to be an example of what we can become through His atonement. Christ intends to make us what He is, if we will allow it. However, what does that really mean? What does it not mean? For one thing, I know it does NOT mean that we will somehow have to perform our own “atonement” and/or relive a mortality with 23 chromosomes from a mortal mother and 23 from an immortal Father. So whatever it means to become like Him and share in all he has, there will still be a distinction between us. Christ was the Savior; I was not. He was already God when he took upon himself flesh and became a mortal; I’m not God, and I need His grace to become divine and exalted.

    The Father and the Son invite us to be “one” with Them (see John 17), but we’re left to speculate on what that really means. I believe that it will be glorious and a relationship of unity based on love. But I don’t go so far to speculate that being one with Them will make us an independent God of our own world. That would be a contradiction! Yes, He will share with us all that he has. This may even include powers of creation and participation in creating other planets or what not, but like I said–it will be an extension of God’s power, not my own.

    As to your other questions:
    “What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?”

    Broad question here. Hmmm. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: To bring us joy and exaltation–the kind of quality of life God enjoys.

    “What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?”

    Beyond what the Proclamation on the Family says, I don’t really have any other views to add.

    “Do you believe that exalted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?”

    I’m not really sure how to interpret D&C 132:19 and the “continuation of the seeds”. You seem to interpret it to mean having spirit children after the resurrection. I’m not sure that we can definitively say we know what it means or how it will work. Heck, I’m not even sure precisely how we’re “spirit children” of God and how that actually works–especially when you remember that Joseph Smith taught that spirits are co-eternal with God and uncreated.

    I do know there’s more than one way to understand “Father” and even “Mother” (including in an adoptive sense, or simply nurturing an advancement of our intelligence, etc.), and the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how we became children of heavenly parents. I do know more, however, about how we are begotten children of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see, for example, Mosiah 5:7).

    I personally don’t believe in a viviparous “spirit birth”, especially when Joseph Smith said over and over again that spirits are uncreated and eternal. I know that a lot of people synthesize these conflicting ideas by believing in the Tripartite model of existence (from intelligence to spirit to mortality), but Joseph never made any distinctions between eternal intelligence and spirit, and there are other concerns with the Tripartite model.

    Whatever the “continuation of seeds” means, I don’t believe it involves a viviparous “spirit birth”. There are still too many unknowns, so I think I’ll simply decide to stop while I’m on firm doctrinal ground and not skate out on thin speculatory ice.

  47. Rich Alger on July 19, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Clean Cut (46),

    I agree that we can move out into speculatory thin ice. It is interesting to see your point of view.

    My ten year old son has for a while been trying to grasp an eternal regression of Gods, with quite a bit of emotional angst. He, and I, have a hard time getting our minds around it. I also remember mentally struggling with it. I have settled in myself that it is something that I will fully understand only after this life. It is enough to accept the love and help of my Father in practicing the life he would have me walk.

    Some say that the most important thing they learned in school was how to learn. The most important thing I can learn while in my school on earth is how to repent. I will exercise my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will be willing to accept the teachings I get from Him. I will practice what I learn to obtain attributes God has like patience, kindness, service, hard work and love. Everything else I will learn and obtain if I have learned to turn to God.

    Recorded also at http://richalger.blogspot.com/2009/07/exaltation.html

  48. Gundeck on July 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    #39

    You are misunderstanding the word “passion” as it is used in the creed and some confessions (WCF 2.1). This is understandable, to modern ears to be “without passions” is synonymous with “emotionless,”. The word “passions” is a derivative of the translation from Latin and its use in the theological language. To put it plainly the understanding of “passion” in this case stems from its “theological use” and not its common meaning.

    “without passions” is trying to convey that God cannot be acted upon by any force outside Himself and caused to react to it, not that He does not have emotions. For God to be moved by an outside force would imply that something outside of God can control Him and is superior to Him.

    You may still disagree that God is “without body, parts, and passions”, but I thought you should know that “passions” is not referring to emotions.

  49. Perry Robinson on July 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Gundeck is quite right. Impassability does not make God static. Even Thomas is quite clear. God is not unresponsive. Creel’s book as well as Gavrilyuk’s make this clear. Furthermore, the LDS should be wary of trying to piggy back on the criticisms made by Open Theists about impassibility for the simple reason that there was no uniform hellenistic from which the church could borrow from.

  50. Eric Nielson on July 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    cc(46)

    Your answers are somewhat evasive, which is fine and wise. I admit the which comes first, God or eternal law is a chicken and egg sort of thing.

    Whether you admit it or not, you are on as thin of ice as any of us. To deny spirit birth is just as speculative as to assert it. Section 131 and 132 do suggest this in a few spots, McKonkie was certainly convinced of it.

  51. Mark D. on July 27, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    48: Divine impassivity is fine if you believe that everything that happens – good, bad, and ugly – happens according to God’s Eternal Decree.

    However, it is incompatible with a robust sense of free will – i.e. where individuals originate and are ultimately responsible for their own actions, because it would be impossible for God to even become aware of actions that originate external to Himself without being logically affected by them.