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Mormonism can be generalized as teaching that God and humanity are of the same species. [1] God the Father is a resurrected human being, who at one time attained godhood and exaltation. Human beings are "god in embryo" who began as individual "intelligences", were begotten by our literal Heavenly Father and one of his wives as "spirit children", and then were sent here to earth as part of a plan to give us physical bodies in which we could exercise free agency and prove our own worthiness unto godhood. As part of one's worthiness, one must pass muster at temple worthiness interviews, participate in church activities, and keep all the commandments (which in Mormonism alternates between a variety of different meanings, ranging from "try hard" to "be perfect"). One of the chief appeals for succeeding in worthiness in Mormonism is the ability to be with one's family forever. Mormonism essentially teaches universalism, removing the fear of hell and teaching that most will end up in "heaven" since they will have another chance to accept the Mormon gospel in the afterlife. However, heaven in Mormonism is divided into three kingdoms, two of which are both simultaneously like hell and beyond all describable joyful glory. The third kingdom, the Celestial Kingdom, is the place where people may enjoy their worthy family, enjoy the presence of the Father, and become a god over "worlds without number." These teachings have both historical roots and, despite some diversity in Mormon academic circles, continued life within Mormonism today.


[edit] Difficulties in summarizing Mormon doctrine

The beliefs of Mormonism comprise a body of evolving doctrine, much of which is still historically rooted in the teachings of Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders. Mormonism claims to be the best source for doctrinal clarity and revelation, but ironically its doctrine is typically hard to "pin down" for various reasons. Some of this comes from internal disagreement[2], some of it comes from an unwillingness to be unequivocal about controversial doctrines, and some of it comes from change[3]--much of which stems from an eagerness to mainstream or abandon embarrassing historical roots. Change sometimes comes by formal "revelation", but most often it comes by the informal distancing from a teaching over time. Determining what the religion still teaches and believes can be difficult, as "the LDS Church is of often guilty of teaching two messages – one for the membership and one for the general public." [4] In the end, it is largely due to the fact that Mormonism is generally atheological. It is still possible and helpful to summarize and systemize much of what Mormons believe, and understand how it fits into their worldview.

See main article: Difficulties in summarizing Mormon doctrine

[edit] Basic Mormon beliefs

[edit] Burning in the bosom

A foundation of Mormon belief is that "the Church is true" and that one can know this with absolute certainty by seeking an inward, private, emotional epiphany from God. Mormons insist that a person seek the truth of this by praying for a private, special revelation from the Holy Spirit (Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4). Mormons frequently appeal to James 1:5 for this, especially given that their founder, Joseph Smith, claimed that this was the verse and method he used for finding the truth. This is often accompanied by the insistence that one suspend judgment of his or her religion (even in the face of its historical and theological problems) until he or she has read the Book of Mormon and received, by prayer, a special, private revelation from the Holy Spirit of its truthfulness.

It is absolutely presuppositional to Mormons that: 1. If God were to communicate to man, this is how he would do it. This is the ultimate test of religious knowledge, and there is no need, if the result of the test is positive, to corroborate it. To Mormons, there is no more reliable test, and there is no way to test the validity of the test itself. 2. Since "the Church is true" (a presupposition behind the test itself), God will grant a sincere person a "burning in the bosom" if they seek it. Any negative feelings or thoughts toward the Church are presupposed to indicate the insincerity of the person inquiring.

See main page: Burning in the bosom

[edit] Scripture

"Canon" describes what Mormons hold to be inspired and authoritative Scripture. Today, Mormons of the mainstream sect carry what is called a "quad", containing the Bible (KJV only), the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), and Pearl of Great Price. Before 1921, Mormons held the "Lectures on Faith", a series of early doctrinal teachings by Joseph Smith as scripture and canon but eventually removed them. It is taught that the Bible has been significantly corrupted, losing "plain and precious things", and that the current Mormon canon is far more complete and trustworthy. Significant changes have been made to the Book of Mormon and especially the D&C, which was formerly the Book of Commandments. Of further importance is that the Mormon canon is always open in that new revelation can always been received and considered inspired scripture.

See main page: Scripture

[edit] God

The Mormon view of God is in complete contrast the biblical understanding of God as an infinite, unchangeable, and eternal in his triune nature. Through the lens of historical Mormonism, God was once a man who obeyed laws and principles and eventually became the God of this earth. He progressed in knowledge and power, and some believe he is still progressing. Further, there is not one God, but three separate God-beings for this planet and infinitely more who reign elsewhere. This is a very different view not only from historic Christianity but from the Bible.

See main page: God

[edit] Creation

Mormons deny creation ex nihilo (that the universe was created from nothing). Instead, LDS theology teaches that matter is co-eternal with God. Thus, "creation" for Mormons involved the organizing of this matter by the gods (Heavenly father and his son Jesus). This adds many problems for LDS theology because God had to rely on this matter in order to create the universe. Further, he is not the only thing/being that is eternal and thus he is not unique or "other" from his creation and creatures.

See main page: Creation

[edit] Purpose of life

"The divine plan required the creation of the earth so that we could be granted the privilege of coming here to obtain a physical body and be able to prove ourselves worthy to return to God's presence." -Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers: Straightforward Answers To Tough Gospel Questions [1]

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See main page: Purpose of life

[edit] The Fall

Mormonism teaches that The Fall was a wonderful and fortunate event, empowering man with more liberty to choose (now "knowing good and evil"), with the ability to procreate, and with the opportunity to prove one's worthiness through a learning process unto personal exaltation and full potential (godhood). This is connected to other Mormon doctrines like the purpose of life, eternal progression, and Pelagianism. The curses that followed the fall of Adam and Eve are considered blessings, and the action that Adam and Even committed is considered righteous, intelligent, and worth imitating. To rationalize this, Mormons make a distinction between "transgression" and "sin", and argue from the premise that Adam and Eve could not have obeyed the command to "be fruitful and multiply" without first eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

See main page: The Fall

[edit] Humanity

"The [Mormon church] teaches that every person experiences a series of 'births'. All were born as spirit children of God in a premortal life (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1, "Agency"). The Mormon answer to "Where did I come from?" is that all of us pre-existed through a natural birth from heavenly father and heavenly mother. Because humanity was literally born from God, contrary to biblical teaching, man has the capacity and potential to become like his father in heaven, that is, become a god.

See main page: Humanity

[edit] Salvation

Salvation, in Mormonism, is synonymous with the terms "exaltation" and "eternal life". A Mormon hardly deals with the question, "Are you saved" or with the idea of what it means to be "saved". Instead, they think more commonly in terms of, "How can I attain exaltation?" Thus, the understand of exaltation and the beliefs that surround it are of importance to understand the LDS conception of salvation.

See main page: Exaltation

[edit] Priesthood authority

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See main page: Priesthood

[edit] Afterlife

It is difficult for Mormonism to assure that the work of sanctification will be completed upon death. The sinful dispositions, even of the best of Mormons, are believed to carry over into the next life. If a Mormon was asked, "Do you believe you will go to heaven?", they would very comfortably say, "yes." However, heaven in Mormon thought may involve regret, weeping and gnashing of teeth, the absence of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the absence of family members who are supposed to be in heaven. For a Mormon, "heaven" encompasses three kingdoms: the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial kingdom. As noted elsewhere, the main emphasis of Mormonism, regarding the afterlife, is the promise that one's earthly family will be maintained.

See main page: Afterlife

[edit] Disputed doctrines

The disputed doctrines within Mormonism are those set of beliefs that are not nailed down in Mormon theology. In other words, no official stance has been taken on these doctrines as they continue to be worked out. Taking a glance at the development of Mormon theology sheds light on the many debates that are often present in LDS theological talk. Although the LDS church has a modern day prophet, they seem to struggle on what is official doctrine. Although some things have been set in stone, other beliefs - fundamental ones at that - seem to be up for grabs. The list below should shed light on these disputed doctrines, coming oddly enough from a church whose members so often criticize Christians for the many denominations found within Protestantism.

See main page: Disputed doctrines

[edit] Deprecated doctrines

Throughout the study of Mormonism one may be confused by modern Mormons who deny some of their historic doctrines. Mormonism, as an evolving religion, has grown away from many doctrines which one will find in the original sources.

See main page: Deprecated doctrines

[edit] Compared to Christianity

Christianity is about having a lived-out relationship with Jesus Christ, who is God, and believing things that fundamentally affect that relationship, particularly things concerning the nature of God, the design of creation, the purpose of life, what makes sin so bad, the purpose and means of salvation (in the person and work of Christ), and the appeal of the afterlife. While Mormonism shares many customs, terms, conservative values, and even significant beliefs with Christianity, it not only differs with traditional, Biblical Christianity over fundamental worldview assumptions, but even denies that they have significance in one's lived-out relationship with Christ.

See main page: Comparison between Mormonism and Christianity

[edit] Notes

  1. "The difference between the human and the divine is a matter of education and development. Gods and men are of the same species, and it is just as reasonable that God's children should attain to the fullness of his spiritual stature, as that man's children should grow to the fullness of his physical stature. The son of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God." - Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols., 4
  2. "In Mormonism there has been such a wide range of (for lack for a better word) contradiction that it's easy sometimes for the Mormon apologist to pick a quote from something his leader has said that best fits the predicament he's in right now, even though it may conflict with something else this this guy has said himself." -Bill McKeever, "LDS Forgiveness: Now, Later, or Ever?". Available online (MP3).
  3. "What is authorized doctrine today may become folk doctrine tomorrow. This is no different than the shift away from teachings of our greatest heroes (e.g., Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc.) and will be no different for our children’ leaders." -J. Stapley, "Authorized Doctrine". September 13, 2006. Accessed 2006/11/16. URL:
  4. "Was Jesus Married?", by Bill McKeever. Accessed 8/27/2006. URL: Extended quote:
    "Are Latter-day Saints given the option to treat comments from general authorities as they would a restaurant salad bar, picking and choosing only what appeals to them? Well, according to one LDS Church manual, 'Prophets have the right to personal opinions. Not every word they speak should be thought of as an official interpretation or pronouncement. However, their discourses to the Saints, and their official writings should be considered products of their official prophetic calling and should be heeded' (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p.21. Emphasis mine). Are we to assume that the LDS leadership and its PR department don't read their church's manuals? Or are we to assume that they hope the membership doesn't? One thing is abundantly clear and that is the LDS Church is of often guilty of teaching two messages -- one for the membership and one for the general public. May our Lord expose this duplicity and in doing so cause Mormons everywhere to see that their church has no intention of being truthful when it comes to its teachings or history."

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

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