What Mormons believe about God and man

M. Mason writes:

All right, by continuing to spotlight Romney at your blog and soliciting comments about him, you asked for it. ;)

This is long because I’ve condensed a great deal of relevant information down to a few paragraphs, along with my own observations.

I concur with the points that Mr. Warshawsky raised about the Romney speech, and also agree with Mr. Morris’s assessment that “a person’s worldview informs his politics, and [his] worldview is shaped primarily by his religion.” Because of that conviction, I believe it’s time now to stop lightly tiptoeing around the subject of Romney and his Mormonism and plainly state here what it is that observant Mormons like him actually believe, the better to ascertain his fitness to hold the office of President of the United States.

I would cordially ask Mr. Auster and his readers, whether they be Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Independent Baptist or others who hold to the basic, non-negotiable, creedal formulations of the Church to do an internet search on the particulars of Mormon beliefs and practices. Don’t just go to shallow, liberal ecumenical sites that tend to gloss over and/or downplay the importance of crucial doctrinal issues; get the real story. You can go as deeply into this as you care to, but if you do some digging it will not be long before you begin to realize why orthodox Christians who have done extensive research into Mormonism have come to regard this aberrant religious group as nothing less than cultic.

In the strange, twisted world of Mormon theology as promulgated by official LDS apostles and prophets, their “God” (a.k.a. “Elohim”) was once a mortal man on another planet who became a deity by proving himself worthy to attain to that exalted status. He was appointed by a counsel of gods in the heavens to his high position as god of planet Earth. He took another, female deity as a wife (probably many of them), and began to procreate literally billions of spirit-offspring in heaven. Included in these offspring were not only all of mankind (as pre-mortal beings), but Lucifer and every demon as well—all are spirit brothers and sisters according to LDS belief, all born in the spirit world as spirit babies to their man-god “Heavenly Father” and his “goddess” wives.

And though some modern-day Mormon apologists desperately try to downplay it by calling the doctrine mere 19th century “speculation,” official LDS teaching is still that their god Elohim in a physical body begat, literally, the body of Jesus Christ here on earth with Mary (his own spirit daughter). As far as I am aware, that has been taught consistently by every single General Authority of the LDS Church who has addressed this topic up to the present day. The fact is (if you’ve read very much of the theological controversy about the subject) Mormonism continues to show a great deal of shame for its own roots and its own history, resulting in a lot of dishonest, modern-day public relations rewriting and white-washing of that history.

From an orthodox Christian perspective, that much of this freakish religious concoction is certainly bad enough. But Mormonism’s clear corollary teaching is that man and god are of the same species. The only difference between them is a matter of spiritual exaltation and its progression over aeons of time. After all, their “God” Elohim was once a mortal man, just as we. He lived on another planet in a mode of existence very similar to ours, and gained exaltation by the same process that is taught to Latter-Day Saints today. So, a Mormon man who is sealed for time and eternity to his wife in the LDS temple “celestial marriage” ceremony and who continues faithful to the end in obedience to Mormon ordinances and is found worthy believes that he also will, in due time, be exalted to the status of a God. He will have “eternal increase,” beget his own spirit-children, and be worshipped as the God and creator of other worlds. In those worlds he will raise up those spirit-children so that they, too, might become exalted, and thus the cycle will continue. This is the “eternal law of progression” in LDS teaching—the concept of exaltation to godhood. This is the false “gospel” of Mormonism—it humanizes God and deifies man.

Now VFR readers can draw their own conclusions, but speaking for myself, whatever other admirable qualifications a man may have to be President, I don’t want to see anyone who believes in such dangerous, blasphemous lunacy to be anywhere near the Oval Office, period. That Romney is being touted as “a good Mormon” is beside the point. What does being a good Mormon really mean in the context of being President of the United States? Is someone who is so gullible as to embrace Mormonism really fit to hold the highest office in the land? I would no more vote for Romney than I would vote for an Aztec or a Scientologist or member of a “new age” UFO cult to be President. His bizarre religious beliefs aren’t the only determinative reason why I wouldn’t vote for him, but even taken alone, to me that factor is disqualifying enough. The debate has never been about whether Mormons are good Americans or would make good neighbors; the notion that “values-oriented” Christians have some moral imperative to vote for Romney is itself morally clouded. Even for purely pragmatic reasons, why should I feel duty-bound to vote for a candidate with his political track record? In no sense do I believe that I need to support even a conservative Mormon, let alone a pandering liberal Mormon like Romney.

LA replies:

Very interesting. I thank Mr. Mason for giving us this summary. My first thought is as follows. When I was reading some of the Book of Mormon a couple of years ago, I felt I got an understanding of the appeal of Mormonism to its followers: it’s that it brings back an Old Testament sense of patriarchy and family. But with Mr. Mason’s summary of the Mormon beliefs I now see that this patriarchal idea expands into their theology: while each Mormon starts out as the patriarch of his own family, he ultimately becomes the god and patriarch of his own planet, with the whole universe continually expanding along the lines of this human-divine propagation.

I say this by way of explaining to myself how this odd religion appeals to people, notwithstanding its fifth-rate scripture, its wacky idea of Joseph Smith discovering gold plates written by an angel in Elmira, NY, and its story about a family of Hebrews sailing from Arabia to America in 600 B.C.

But let’s say that Romney believes this theology. He was governor of Massachusetts for four years. Did he use his office to advance Mormonism in any way? Apparently not. He kept his religion entirely private. So why should it be any different if Romney became president? There have been presidents with all kinds of beliefs that were not strictly orthodox Christian, and, for the most part, nobody ever heard them, because the American way is for presidents to speak of God in a general not doctrinal terms.

I am not at all saying that I’ve decided to vote for Romney if he is the nominee. But if he seemed otherwise acceptable, I can’t see not voting for him solely on the basis of his being a Mormon, especially considering his likely opponents. Yes, the whole thing is a bit odd and uncomfortable. But how bad is that, compared to a president who will seek to turn America into an EU-type administered state?

Those are my thoughts. However, I could also understand it if people felt that someone with beliefs so at variance with the Bible and basic Christianity simply should not be president.

Also, if Mornonism is as radically different from biblical religion as Mr. Mason’s summary suggests, then is the main thesis of Romney’s religion speech, which I highly praised, valid after all? His idea was that, just as the various denominations of early America found common ground on the basis of their common morality notwithstanding their differences in theology and worship, Mormonism can also be considered a part of this common American religious substance. But when the theology gets as far out as Mormonism is, can we still say that? To ask a different but related question, can Mormonism be considered a part of the tripartite American common culture that Will Herberg wrote of in the 1950s in his important book Protestant-Catholic-Jew?

These are troubling questions. I feel like going back to Harold Bloom’s book The American Religion, where he discusses such home-grown American religions as Christian Science and Mormonism, treating them both as wacky and as somehow quintessentially American. Of course Bloom is a non-believing Jewish post-modernist and no friend of traditional culture, but some of his insights were nevertheless interesting.

Bill Carpenter writes:

I am not concerned about the wacky elements on Mormonism. Your reference to Bloom is on the money. Americans have been seekers of all kinds, and if the Mormons bring a heretical fantasy life reminiscent of Swedenborg, Blake, and Ignatius Donnelly along with their 19th century moral solidity, so be it.

LA asks Mr. Mason:

How do people have the time to evolve into gods? Obviously this can’t be done in a human life-span. Do Mormons believe in re-incarnation?

Mr. Mason replies:

No, they don’t believe in the Eastern Hindu concept of the transmigration of souls from one material body to another through repeated births and deaths. The Book of Mormon teaches that man only dies once. Rather than my trying to explain their complicated and unbiblical concepts of the afterlife and exaltation to godhood in detail, however, I’ll direct you to this LDS webpage that summarizes them:

Terry Morris writes:

Thanks to Mr. Mason for reminding me of some of the unorthodox oddities of the Mormon belief system. I’d forgotten some of this until I read this entry. I knew there was some reason that Hank Hannegraff’s book, Christianity in Crisis, kept coming to mind everytime Romney’s faith came into question. If you haven’t read the book, it does not deal with Mormonism specifically, but how that some of these theological fairy tales (God is a physical being, a man, about six feet tall with normal human features and this and that) have crept into evangelical Christianity. It’s crazy.

I need to go back and refresh my memory on Mormonism, no doubt.

LA asks:

How does this statement in Romney’s speech fit with the Mormon theology? “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.”

M. Mason replies:

In LDS theology the central deity is the Earth-god Elohim (who, we must remember, was himself once a man) whom Mormons call “God the Father.” But they also accept other deities including Jesus and the Holy Ghost, along with endless other gods who were once men and have now evolved into godhood. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus Christ (whom he also referred to as “Jehovah” and a spirit-brother of Lucifer) was a prior created being, one of the spirit-children of Elohim (in other words, he is not the eternally preexistent second Person of the Trinity according to orthodox Christian teaching). This is how Romney can state that he believes “Jesus Christ is the son of God.”

As I understand it, the Mormon Church teaches two kinds of salvation. One of them is an unconditional or general salvation which comes by grace alone without any obedience to “gospel law” (as they call it) and consists in the mere fact of being resurrected after death. The second kind of salvation taught is a conditional or individual salvation. This salvation also comes by “grace,” and the atonement of Christ was essential for it but this was not sufficient by itself to secure it. It is only in this limited, modified sense that Romney can claim that Jesus Christ is the “savior of mankind.” The second salvation requires obedience and works for one to become worthy to attain the more exalted realms of heaven, the highest being the Celestial Kingdom. The first group spends eternity in a lower level of heaven, while the second progresses to the highest level and to godhood. Oh, and did I mention that Mormonism considers itself to be not merely another Christian denomination, but “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrines and Covenants 1:30), the only organization authorized by the Almighty to preach his gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation, the only Church which has power to save” (Mormon Doctrine; 1977 ed.)?

James S. writes:

Isn’t M. Mason’s description of Mormonism that of a heresy, not a cult? Or does “cultic” have a religion-specific definition? Mormons are definitely not a cult in the popular imagination sense of a cult I don’t think. At the same time I do find Mormons, or at least the ones who are serious about Mormonism, to be a bit brainwashed, and I think they are unusual in the way they enforce group membership.

Also there’s their temple in San Diego.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 10, 2007 08:11 PM | Send

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