My life among the Mormons

It turns out there are a lot of Mormons around here where I live.  All of my daughter’s close friends (the ones who visit our apartment for play dates) belong to Mormon families.  What’s more, I was actually relieved when I learned that they were LDS rather than, say, Catholic.  A Catholic I would assume regarded Jesus as, at most, a long-dead “great teacher” whose teachings are most fully embodied in the sexual revolution and the American Democratic Party, whereas there is a decent chance that a Mormon is on my side in the Culture War and acknowledges Jesus as his Savior in a more substantial sense.  True, this is a very low bar to clear.  In the last couple of months, I’ve had to admit to myself that Catholicism really is the sick man of Christendom, that there is no branch of Orthodoxy or Protestantism with as little vitality or as much contempt for its own spiritual foundations.  (Shopping at Wal-Mart has also forced me to admit the material superiority of communism.  Seriously, the free world can’t even make its own Elmo dolls?  That’s a lament for another day, though.)  However, as I’ve learned more about them, the Mormons have entirely lived up to my initial positive prejudices.

The LDS missionaries have made the rounds past my street a couple of times.  I always invite them in and let them deliver their spiel.  Their grasp of Church history is, shall we say, extremely shaky.  I find that I can’t probe them too far on their own theology, although they are quite honest in admitting the limits of their own knowledge.  Remember that these are very young men.  I hope for my part to disabuse them of some misconceptions they might have about Catholics by not disagreeing in exactly the way they expect.  Overall, I admire them very much for the courage it must take to go from door to door evangelizing strangers.  And all of their men have to do this!  In my Church, none of the priests even seem to have the courage to share the Gospel with their own flock, for fear of giving offense.

Being friends with some of them means we’ve been been invited to some Mormon activities.  We were even invited to one of their church services once, because my wife’s friend was going to deliver a presentation.  (At their services, it seems that it is not the pastor but a few of the laity who give the sermons.  I believe they cycle through their parishioners, letting each know when their turn comes up and what the general theme of the talk must be.)  My wife asked if we could go, and she was surprised when I agreed.  After all, I refuse to let any of my family go to the Catholic Church our home town, run by a priest who I always call “that sodomy-loving rat“.  The difference, I explained to my wife, is that the priest I hate is a formal heretic, whereas her friends are only material heretics.  They were born that way and can’t really help it.  So off we went.

About the service itself, I noted nothing remarkable except the fact that two of the speakers–my wife’s friend and her husband–really did deliver quite good talks.  They knew their book of Doctrine and Covanents well enough to quote usefully from it, and their devotion to Jesus Christ was evident and touching.  I shutter to think what would happen if Catholic laymen were to preach during Mass.  I’d have to hear calls for women priests and sodomy acceptance every week.

I disagree with my colleague Alan Roebuck’s claims about whether Mormons worship the real Christ as opposed to some sort of counterfeit, just as I disagreed with him earlier about whether Muslims worship the true God.  In both cases, the question is “How badly can one mischaracterize an entity before one is, in fact, not talking about that entity at all, but rather about a figment of one’s own imagination?”  Muslims acknowledge Allah as the source and plenitude of all being, and to my mind this mean they must be talking about God.  They make incorrect statements about God, but they do nevertheless succeed in making statements about Him.  I have no doubt that Islam is a kind of theism.  Similarly, the Mormons acknowledge as their Savior a Jew they call “Jesus” who lived in first century Palestine, was crucified as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity, and rose from the dead.  I don’t see how we can deny that they are talking about the Jesus Christ, even if they sometimes speak wrongly about him.  They are indeed Christians.

The validity of their doctrines and sacraments is, of course, another issue, but I doubt it can be addressed at the “mere Christian” level.  Each ecclesial body must decide according to its own particular dogmatic commitments.

96 thoughts on “My life among the Mormons

  1. there is no branch of Orthodoxy or Protestantism with as little vitality or as much contempt for its own spiritual foundations.

    That sure isn’t the way I see things around here. The local Protestant churches are all of the Unitarian universalist variety whose doctrines are indistinguishable from SWPL Leftism. (The Unitarian Church of Making Negroes and Sodomites Smile, yaaay!) This makes sense because most of the people around here are SWPL Leftists.

    I haven’t heard any pro-sodomy talk at our local Catholic Church. In fact the priest openly said that the Church would “never, never, never” accept gay marriage.

    I shutter to think what would happen if Catholic laymen were to preach during Mass.

    Our RCIA class had a number of laymen whose role was to lead small-group discussions – and, occasionally, to give presentations to the class. They seemed quite knowledgeable and devout to me. Some of them, at least, would do a creditable job if they had to preach during Mass.

    Perhaps my local RCC is exceptional in some way…

    • It almost certainly depends on your diocese and the quality of the bishop there. For instance, mine is still recovering from the long and disastrous reign of a JPII-appointed leftist bishop (identified by name as a “favorite” of Fr. Richard McBrien) with the predictable result that our parishes look like concrete tents whose only redeeming grace is that their incompetent design muffles the sound of the happy-clappy singalongs within. Just a few dioceses’ away, they’re hurriedly reinstalling altar rails. I think on average, though, Bonald’s experience is closer to the American average.

      As concerns RCIA, that depends entirely on the pastor, so it’s even less predictable. Bill and I have both been through it and didn’t think highly of it; lots of talk about our individual “faith journeys,” not so much talk about what the Church actually teaches or why. A few parishes down from me is graced with a relatively young, orthodox, intelligent priest and their RCIA program shows it.

  2. The American Catholic Church was at its peak ascendency in the 1950s, with so many entering religious life it began to concern authortities we would lose replacement numbers.

    This was tossed away like all the other gifts of the Greatest Generation on fads, fashion, and degeneracy.

    Truly the Boomers cannot leave the stage fast enough, it beckons a hastening.

      • This country is degenerating year by year. The direction will not change until a counter revolution finally takes shape. I think the awareness of the nature of this country and the destination it will inevitable find, has just recently begun to spread. My focus it to carefully turn the blindly patriotic conservatives by exposing the ways that this country is trying to despoil and disempower them.

  3. They are indeed Christians.

    No, they’re not, no more than Moslems are, who also speak of Jesus.

    Moreover, by the anathema of the Nicene Creed — But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.] — none of us have any excuse for not not recognizing that Mormons are not Christians.

    Moreover again, as their ‘Heavenly Father’ is a created being, and was once a man as we are, reason alone, never mind the historical Creeds, leaves none of us with any excuse for not not recognizing that Mormons are not Christians.

    • Just establishing that they hold incorrect beliefs isn’t enough to prove they aren’t Christian. The question is, do they hold the beliefs that define a person as a Christian? Holding to the entire Nicene Creed is too high a standard for this. Who, after all, doubts that Arius was a Christian heretic?

      • My understandig is that Arius was a Christian heretic because he was baptized into the Christian faith. I am not familiar with the Mormon baptismal rights.

      • Mormon baptisms are not considered valid by the Holy See, not least because, unlike the baptisms of all others who style themselves Christians (even Arians) they cannot be undertaken with the same intention as those of the Catholic Church – namely, to baptize in the Name of the Trinity. The Mormons use the same words – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in their baptismal rite, but mean by them something completely different than what all other Christians mean. Fr. Luis Ladaria, SJ, gave a concise summary of what the Mormons mean by those words in his Osservatore Romano article on the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to rule out Mormon baptisms:

        … the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not the three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity. One is different from the other, even though they exist in perfect harmony (Joseph F. Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [TPJSI, Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1976, p. 372). The very word divinity has only a functional, not a substantial content, because the divinity originates when the three gods decided to unite and form the divinity to bring about human salvation (Encyclopaedia of Mormonism [EM], New York: Macmillan, 1992, cf. Vol. 2, p. 552). This divinity and man share the same nature and they are substantially equal. God the Father is an exalted man, native of another planet, who has acquired his divine status through a death similar to that of human beings, the necessary way to divinization (cf. TPJS, pp. 345-346). God the Father has relatives and this is explained by the doctrine of infinite regression of the gods who initially were mortal (cf. TPJS, p. 373). God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he shares the responsibility of creation. They procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their firstborn is Jesus Christ, equal to all men, who has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence. Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents. The Son and the Holy Spirit were procreated after the beginning of the creation of the world known to us (cf. EM, Vol. 2, p. 961). Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom have established a covenant and thus form the divinity.

        It is evident from this description of Mormon theology (taken from Mormon sources) that Mormons worship, not God, but men; and that they consider the men whom they call the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to be, not God, but creatures. They worship a man they call the Son, and aver that this man was incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, who as ordained they call the Christ; but they do not consider him to be God. Thus they may be construed as Christians only by virtue of the fact that they worship someone they call Christ. But, evidently, they do not mean to indicate by “Christ” the same being whom Christians of all stripes (including Arians) indicate by that term – namely, God.

        None of this is to say that Mormons are not our allies, of course. They certainly are, as Arius, Pelagius and Nestorius would be, or for that matter Marcion, were they alive today. It is just to say that they aren’t Christians, properly speaking.

      • It is just to say that they aren’t Christians, properly speaking.

        But what does this matter, so long as they are really, really nice people who don’t contracept (too much)?

      • Kristor has it right. Mormons who actually follow official Mormon teaching are not Christians. Once you go over into outright polytheism, you’re no longer merely a heretic. I’d consider Muslims to be closer to orthodox Christianity than Mormons.

        Of course, there may be some genuine Christians among the Mormons. These would fall into two general categories: 1. Simple believers who read the Bible and tend to follow it more than official Mormon teaching. 2. A few Mormon theologians who reinterpret Mormonism so as to make it more compatible with orthodox Christianity. Since Mormonism is pretty loose organizationally at the lower levels (no clergy and such), I’d imagine the emphasis on the Bible vs. Mormon distinctives would vary from congregation to congregation, much like orthodox vs. liberal congregations in the Protestant mainline. But that last is pure speculation on my part.

    • In LDS theology nothing is made from nothing. We are all eternal beings. There was never a time when we were not. Jesus was once a man as we are and is also an eternal and divine being. There was never a time when he was not.

      Latter-day Saints most emphatically declare Jesus to be God; indeed, we identify him as Jehovah of the Old Testament. We do not accept the traditional definition of the Trinity. We believe the Saints of the New Testament would find the later creeds foreign to their understanding. Indeed, the creeds have created a church that by the standards of the Orthosphere is faltering yet it still repeats certain words. Only philosophical adepts now understand those words.

      • Christians, too, identify Jesus with YHWH.

        If the LDS hold that all beings are eternal, then there is no metaphysical room in their system either for creation or a Creator; no beginning, no end. This would make the being whom they indicate by “God” substantially equivalent to all others, and radically different from what all other religions have understood as the (sort of) being to whom they refer as “God.” There would then in Mormon theology be no categorically Supreme Being, no being “than whom no greater can be conceived.”

        I take it that by “eternal” you mean, not “supratemporal” or “timeless,” but “without beginning or end.” How does Mormon metaphysics get around the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

      • This seems to divinize everything, which means that everything is equal to Christ, at least potentially. Hardly an improvement, from a Christian perspective.

    • Ilion,

      You are confusing heresy with apostasy. The Mormons are heretics, not apostates. They don’t reject Christ or His divine nature, they are simply wrong about the facts. Being wrong doesn’t make you non-Christian.

      The LDS church, by this logic, is not a Christian institution, but this doesn’t extend to its members.

    • I of course agree that Mormon doctrines about God are wrong. However, I don’t think they are in fact an adequate expression of the Mormon faith. Being a Christian primarily means holding a particular view of one’s relationship to Christ. An inadequate theology, revealed or even natural, can certainly injure this understanding, which is why I think holding to the classical theist doctrines is actually important for one’s spiritual life. However, this is more true for intellectuals than for simple believers. The way I hear Mormons talk about their relationship to God and Jesus, it doesn’t sound compatible with Him being just some sort of powerful creature. For example, believing that Jesus takes away their sins, not just the consequences of sin but the mark on the soul itself. Who but God–*the* God–could do that?

      Not having studied their beliefs in any serious way, I also think either of the following is possible:

      1) Mormon theology is actually much closer to orthodox theism than a superficial look at their doctrines would tend to indicate.

      2) Mormon theology really is radically different, but it is more philosophically coherent and more compatible with a Christian spirituality than seems to be the case to critical outsiders who haven’t given it much study.

      Whenever I’m tempted to pass judgement on the Mormons, I think of what Catholic theology would sound like if related by a hostile and ignorant outsider (even one who sprinkled a few genuine papal pronouncements into his caricature). That’s basically all I’ve got to go on now, and it isn’t enough.

      • The obvious answer here is that Mormonism proper is not Christian but that many (maybe even most) individual Mormons are — i.e., that many/most Mormons are good Christians precisely because they are bad Mormons. Bonald seems to be saying the latter, commenters here the former, but the two don’t necessarily conflict. I doubt most people, Mormon or otherwise, give any serious consideration to the actual in-depth theology of their religion.

      • Proph said: “many (maybe even most) individual Mormons are — i.e., that many/most Mormons are good Christians precisely because they are bad Mormons. Bonald seems to be saying the latter, ”

        @Bonald – Proph is making a testable prediction here: he is predicting that the most Christian Mormons will be the least devout, e.g. the most Christian Mormons would be those with least knowledge and understanding and love of Mormon scriptures, those who do not attend the Temples (where the distinctive and esoteric aspects of Mormonism are most emphasized) and those whose marriages and families were not sealed for time and eternity.

        Is this the case, in your experience? – or is Proph’s prediction refuted?

        (My prediction would be exactly the opposite of Proph’s! I predict that the most Christian Mormons are the most devout/ knowledgeable/ ‘active’ Mormons.)

      • Depends what is meant by “good Christian.” A devout and knowledgeable Mormon cannot but understand the divergence of Mormon from Christian theology. He would then understand himself as a devout Mormon, rather than a devout Christian. He might *act* like a good Christian, thus *look* like one. But this would be due to his righteousness under Natural Law, Noachic Law, which shapes all traditions.

      • Unfortunately, I can’t do the comparison. I know some Mormons with moderate-to-high degree of devoutness, and I know non-religious Mormon apostates. I don’t know any generally religious Mormons with weak attachment to their Temple, and I don’t know enough Mormons total for my not knowing any such people to itself be significant.

      • I don’t mean “bad Mormon” in the sense of diverging from distinctively Mormon orthopraxis but from distinctively Mormon orthodoxy. They may go to temple, etc., but do they believe those things that make Mormon beliefs distinctive? Is what they, personally, actually believe in something like Mormonism, or is it maybe something closer to ordinary Protestantism?

      • most Christian

        Yes, everything depends on what is meant by “most Christian.” Dr. Charlton seems to be making virtuous behaviour and devoutness in one’s religion the standard for what makes one Christian. That, of course, is completely ridiculous. There are virtuous and devout Hindus, Muslims, etc. and they are not Christian. Same for Mormons.

      • There is no such thing as a “good Christian”. Well, except Him. We’re all bad Christians. Christ specifically demanded perfection. Anything less is not enough. Through grace we are Made good Christians, but (except for Mary) that only happens after you die and are judged.

        There’s nothing in Christian doctrine that requires that to be Christian you do anything other than believe in Christ. It would be pretty foolish to believe in Christ as the Son of the One God and persist in polytheism, but if you can wrap your head around that, you are Christian. You can be insane and be Christian. To be a member of Christ’s Church, you need to believe and do certain things, but to be excommunicated or absent from the Church doesn’t make you non-Christian. Otherwise Peter couldn’t have been Christian, since his Christianity preceded the foundation of the Church: he believed in Christ first, and then was chosen the Rock of the Church.

        Furthermore, there is nowhere any requirement that to be Christian your belief in Christ must take any particular form. Again, to be catholic, that is, to be a member of the Church, your credo of belief must follow a certain form, but to be outside the Church doesn’t make you a non-Christian.

        Basically, there are a lot of things you can do to be a bad, wrong-headed, ignorant, foolish, or insane Christian, but none of these excludes you from that basic Christianity. Are you more likely to stray, is your soul in greater danger (pace the predestination folks) if you persist in heretical beliefs? Yes. But to be a heretic does not make you un-Christian, it just makes you wrong.

  4. Nobody in Mormonism seems to truly give a damn about whatever is in the Book of Mormon.

    The big worry about the church is corruption. Joseph Smith used it to get money, power, and women. The current church elders likely use it for the same purpose (tithing is a big deal and the money is going somewhere). Continual revelation can easily just be opportunism.

    Currently, the church has adopted a “niche” strategy of appealing to people who want to live traditional Christian lives. However, it could easily adopt a “mass” strategy if it one day determines that is the best way to increase the church’s revenue base. One can already see signs of that shift. Catholicism went through the same thing.

    All that said, it doesn’t necessarily mean the church is bad. We shouldn’t write it off because of hypothetical futures or worrying trends, not when it is getting such results in the here and now.

    • I don’t think anyone is writing them off as “bad” per se, other than it is bad to not have and follow true Christian doctrine. It is just that Mormons are often presented as a Christian denomination, which does not appear accurate based upon Mormon doctrine. It is more a question of accuracy rather than “badness.”

  5. Is there some good in being able to identify Mormons as Christian that I am missing? Why not simply acknowledge the goodness that is very present among Mormons and leave it at that?

    As Kristor notes above, the Holy See does not recognize Mormonism as Christian. Not being an intellectual, but a simple believer myself, this causes me to understand Mormonism also as not Christian. Could it be that I am losing out on something good by holding this belief about the Mormons?

    • What is the definition of “Christian”? That’s the key question. It’s not enough to say that Mormons are wrong about things. One must show that they don’t hold the defining Christian belief. Alan basically identifies these defining beliefs in his own article against Mormonism as 1) belief that Jesus is the Son of God and 2) belief in the forgiveness of sins through his death and resurrection. No Mormon would deny these things.

      Yes, but they can’t mean the same thing as Christianity does by these things, because of their different understanding of the Deity. It may be true–it seems to be, but I don’t know enough about the issue to be sure–that their metaphysics really doesn’t have room for 1 and 2, because it reduces God to just a very splendid creature who can therefore have nothing essential to do with life’s meaning or any hope of moral redemption. Even so, it would not follow that this contradiction has resolved itself subjectively in the minds of actual Mormons (or even of Mormonism as a corporate body). People really do sincerely hold incompatible beliefs all the time.

      • To be a Christian you have to be a monotheist. That isn’t something you can be a little bit wrong about. It’s a very bright line. Mormons are not monotheists.

        (BTW I am aware of the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis and other similar teachings in other traditions, but there there is a careful distinction between the essence and the energies of God. We can become totally absorbed in the latter, but we never become part of the former.)

      • What is the definition of “Christian”?

        For starters, how about someone who believes in the tenets contained in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed?

        As another approach, one could frame the issue in terms of whether or not a denomination preaches that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. As written in the Bible, Jesus declared He was the last prophet. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and since this belief is unbiblical, therefore they are not Christians.

      • Well, the Creeds started out as baptismal vows – the vows by which we become members of the Body of Christ. In the liturgical churches the Baptismal vows are recapitulations of the Creeds to this day.

        And in the Mass we recapitulate the whole spiritual journey. That’s why we repeat our vows early in the service, by saying the Creed.

      • What is the definition of “Christian”?

        A person who has been validly baptized. The Holy See has judged the baptism administered by the Mormon Church as invalid, therefore I do not see how they can be a true expression of Christianity, producing Christians in the ordinary sense of the term. Might there be some true Christian believers present among the devout Mormon faithful? Not inasmuch as they have not been validly baptized as Christians, but in the sense that individual Mormons are doing all that they can possibly do the live according to the light of truth that they have been given, it is possible they can be saved. However, I don’t see how it aids in one’s thinking to consider even these to be “Christian.”

  6. My experience with Mormons is that the ones who are really interested in sound doctrine and Christian faith join actual Christian churches, generally very strict, Reformed/Calvinist Protestant ones with a focus on sola scriptura and sola gratia, but some do end up in the Catholic or Orthodox church as well.

    Even relatively faithful Mormons joke, more or less about how the immutable doctrine is what someone in authority told them last week. The retconning over and over of revelation is part and parcel of why Mormonism isn’t Christian.

  7. Replying to several comments above.

    Of course, Latter-day Saints believe in a creation and certainly in the creation in Genesis. To Latter-day Saints Genesis does not begin in a pure vacuum. See Genesis 1:2 and 1:26 and the scholarly work of Methodist and Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker for possible interpretations. See also Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil and McMurrin’s The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion. Best of all, get to know more Mormons face to face.

    Eternality is not the same as divinity. Christ’s work and glory consists not just in saving creatures otherwise only worthy of damnation, but in bringing them to their full divine potential as joints heirs (Romans 8:16-17).

    Latter-day Saints also believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one and properly called one God (see 2 Nephi 31:21 and Mormon 7:7 in the Book of Mormon), but not in the sense of the creeds, which we find, as did Sir Isaac Newton, incomprehensible. Milton was likewise unorthodox on the Trinity. But the doctrine of the Trinity is officially an incomprehensible mystery, so its rejection by such formidable thinkers is natural. And can your average parishioner explain it other than by repeating words that he doesn’t comprehend and which are officially deemed incomprehensible?

    Latter-day Saints agree that our doctrine is unorthodox by the lights of the Orthosphere. But one man’s heresy is another man’s orthodoxy, and vice versa. Catholics do not recognize LDS baptisms, and Latter-day Saints do not recognize Catholic baptisms. Yet we are both allies in many causes as noted on this thread.

    I reject the notion that to be a Christian you must accept an incomprehensible mystery that is not plainly taught in the New Testament. The Sermon on the Mount is primarily about behavior. The Nicene Creed is all about belief. Which is in the New Testament? Which represents the word and the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16)? Which is the standard by which Christians will be judged?

    • I reject the notion that to be a Christian you must accept an incomprehensible mystery that is not plainly taught in the New Testament

      You reject the notion that to be a Christian you have to be a monotheist.

    • Leo,

      As I’m sure you’ll agree, the Bible is a multilayered work. However, to reject something as fundamental as the Trinity suggests an incomplete understanding of the Bible.

      You are correct in saying that the Trinity is not “plainly taught in the New Testament.” That does not mean, however, that it is not there. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, and that they are three (tri-) yet one (unity) is something we get from not the surface level of the words, but the meaning of the whole. The Trinity is something that is revealed, but not explained, in the Bible. If we are to be Christians, we must accept this, and other, “incomprehensible myster[ies].” How can someone walk on water, or turn water in to wine? These are also incomprehensible, but if we are to accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then we must accept these and many other mysteries that come without explanations.

      I don’t have a problem with the Trinity simply because I accept that God is far, far more than I will ever be able to wrap my puny mind around.

      Yes, Mormons are my allies in the ongoing culture wars, more so than the majority of Catholics. It does not follow, however, that Mormon beliefs are therefore Christian.

    • Thanks, Leo, that’s a helpful response. I have some questions and clarifications.

      You write that LDS believe in the Creation. But if all the beings that were involved in the Creation are eternal, then at the moment of the Fiat Lux they already existed, and had done so forever. Thus nothing was brought into being at Day One. Day One might have been a reconfiguration of already existing beings, but that is nothing different than what we see going on around us all the time.

      Levenson and Barker both argue that a notion of Creation as an organization of chaotic prime matter was prevalent in the Ancient Near East (I have read a number of books by both of them, and admire them greatly) But that is quite a different thing than the Mormon doctrine you have been explaining, in which by Day One you and I had both existed forever. It goes without saying that you and I are not instances of chaotic prime matter! If we already existed at the beginning of Day One, as the Mormon doctrine as you describe it would seem to suggest, then God didn’t create us. We were just always there, and in fact are co-eternal with God. In no sense, then, is he our Creator. Why he should then lord it over us is a relevant question; the only answer would seem to lie in the contingent fact that he happens (so far) to be a lot more powerful than we are, a super-duper Machiavellian Prince.

      Now, interestingly, the Ancient Near Eastern doctrine that at Day One God ordered chaotic prime matter turns out to be in very good agreement with the orthodox doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, for chaotic prime matter is inactual. This is because the zero of order is the zero of actuality: to the extent that a thing actually exists, it has a definite form and order, unlike the tohu wabohu – “formless and void” – of the Beginning. So, “chaos” is just a different name for “nihil,” literally “no little thing.” A total absence of actual things to constitute a world can provide the raw ontological material – i.e., the potentiality – of something actual (after all, in such a state of affairs, literally anything might possibly happen); but prime matter, as wholly unordered, is not itself actual.

      Eternality is not the same thing as divinity, to be sure. But I return to my question: in what sense does LDS metaphysics suggest that all or many beings are eternal? Does it suggest that they are all supratemporal, as God is generally taken to be by orthodox theologians? Or does it suggest that they are all temporal beings but without either beginning or end? If the former, then in what sense are any of them prior to any others, and therefore supernal? If the latter, then how do LDS get around the Kalam argument? I.e., if my life stretches back infinitely far into the past, how have I managed to traverse that infinite temporal extent so as to arrive at this particular moment? Or any particular moment?

      You write:

      Christ’s work and glory consists not just in saving creatures otherwise only worthy of damnation, but in bringing them to their full divine potential as joints heirs (Romans 8:16-17).

      But theosis is orthodox Christian doctrine.

      As to the doctrine of the Trinity, we should hardly be surprised that it is difficult to comprehend. If quantum mechanics is difficult to comprehend, then obviously the fons et origo of quantum mechanics is going to be even more difficult to comprehend. How many Christians or Mormons can comprehend quantum mechanics?
      If they could comprehend God, would that God whose nature they had totally plumbed be really worthy of worship? Why?

      Never mind God: I can’t even comprehend my cat. I have no idea how almost any part of him works, and the more I learn about him, the more I realize I don’t understand about him. I’m talking just his body.

      In fact, look at anything, any common humdrum thing, and explain it comprehensively. Too hard, right? How much harder would it be to explain God?

      We can’t make the understanding of simple folk the standard of our theological doctrines, any more than we make it the standard of anything else (do we say that there should be no music that musical illiterates cannot understand?) If we do, then our notions of God will inspire no worship (in just the same way that if music were limited to nursery songs, it could not be sublime – how many people who are profoundly moved by Beethoven understand the technical language of his music?).

      The Trinity is not plainly taught in the New Testament – not in the same formulaic, technical language used in the Creeds, anyway. But it is indeed taught there. All the details of Patristic Trinitarian doctrine – i.e., of orthodox Trinitarian doctrine – are supported by Scripture. I don’t have time to cite chapter and verse right now, but if you pay attention when you read the NT, you’ll notice the pedagogical moments.

  8. @Bonald

    You are experiencing what I have found many times when writing about Mormons: that there is a negative prejudice against Mormonism among serious mainstream Christians.

    Neurality is not possible – of course – therefore when approaching the subject of Mormonism there will inevitably be prejudice: either positive or negative. What we observe here is that the prejudice is negative.

    Given this negative prejudice, and in relation to religious evaluations, it is likely that whatever evidence is examined, that prejudice will be confirmed. Mormons are assumed guilty until proven innocent, and – as usual in such situations – cannot prove themselves innocent. The prejudice frames the discourse, as prejudice does.

    *

    Now, what is interesting is why mainstream Christians should bring this prejudice to the table – why do Mormons attract this? Is there any sound reason? Any *good* reason? And I don’t mean the reasons for anti-Mormon prejudice which people use in public discourse and to excuse themselves – I mean the *real* reason.

    (There are some groups where there are sound and good reasons why – from common sense and common experience – in approaching them a negative (suspicious, judgemental) prejudice is appropriate – but not Mormons, surely? And if Mormons – by such criteria, who will be exempt from negative prejudice?)

    *

    Surely, on the surface and with common sense criteria and from hard facts widely known, Mormonism should be approached with a *positive* prejudice – on the assumption that it is likely to be good, to be wholesome, to be Christian – and that mainstream Christians (if they want to engage with Mormonism) should not be putting it on trial – but rather engaging in a conversation where the reasonable hope is to discover a friend and ally.

    This is what I did – since before I was a Christian convert I have regarded Mormonism as Christian, indeed one of the very best of Christian denominations, and I still do – although now I know a great deal about Mormonism from five years of reading, research and devotional study – but done with a positive prejudice, on the assumption that I was dealing with a friend and ally, until shown otherwise.

    Yet such is the anti-Mormon prejudice, that Mormons are regarded by many – probably most – serious mainstream Christians as covert demons or brainwashed dupes – as we see in many of these comments.

    *

    I personally find this very distressing and painful.

    Why? Most obviously it is distressing to see people I regard as exemplary Christians (in the primary sense of Christian, which is faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour, people who are exceptionally devout, and who display the Christian virtues to an admirable degree) continually (and indeed gleefully, aggressively) pilloried by other Christians.

    This is a horrible thing to behold, provoking pity, sadness, and horror.

    But secondly I fear that it imperils the souls of Christians who engage in it, and the denominations who encourage it. Not merely from the encouragement of resentment, pride, hatred etc – but even more from the distortions it introduces to mainstream Christianity, and the failure to learn theological, devotional and moral lessons that ONLY Mormonism can teach to the rest of Christendom.

    Failure to learn these lessons from Mormonism may be the death of Christianity in the West – since Mormonism is doing fine, doing more than fine – while the rest of Christendom is in serious travail.

    Maybe that is a root of the problem? Mormonism is doing too well – leading to resentment fuelled by envy? Whatever the reason for such widespread and entrenched anti-Mormon prejudice, I feel sure the *real* reason is a bad one, since it encourages, brings out and reinforces such bad qualities in those who display it.

    *

    In sum, I am seriously distressed by the prevailing anti-Mormon prejudice among serious mainstream Christians, and would love to see it replaced by pro-Mormon prejudice and an attitude of wanting to know more about what enables Mormonism to resist secular modernity so happily, and so effectively – especially in relation to those crucial domains of marriage and the family.

    Mormonism is, for me, a litmus test issue in terms of seriousness about the future of Christianity: but the test is for mainsteam Christians. If anybody is on trial here, it is not Mormonism but mainstream Christianity in the West.

    Sadly, perhaps tragically, Mormonism is a test which most serious mainstream Christians fail spectacularly.

    • Well, frankly, I am distressed that you seem to view monotheism as non-essential Christian doctrine, as something that can be fudged a bit.

      I am distressed that you happily toss heroes of the faith like Athanasius and the Cappadocians under the bus, so as to accomodate modern polytheists, and apparently identify more with the latter than the former.

      I am distressed by your wholesale rewriting of Christian theology to suit your own personal whims and by your corresponding total lack of humility when approaching Christian theology.

      I am distressed by your overemphasis on material measures of success, like fertility, as an indicator of religious truth.

      I am distressed by your application of modernist philosophies like William James’ pragmatism to Christianity.

      ———————————

      I should say that while I have learned a lot from you and consider you an “interesting madman” of a sort, I have never thought of you as a reactionary. You’ve only played one for a time. You’ve cycled through a huge range of religious, political, and social positions and it is quite apparent that you haven’t stopped cycling. Your only final measure of truth is Emerson’s: whim.

      You need to repent and, like a good reactionary, actually submit to Christian tradition.

    • Judging by Charlton’s statements above, he could use a dose of “positive prejudice” exercised towards those who do not consider Mormons to be a Christian denomination. While there may be some unnecessary snark involved in the exchanges here (myself, alas, included), I do not see anyone–least of all Kristor, who has contributed the most substance in this discussion contra Mormonism as Christian–failing to examine available facts in determining what in the end is an objective fact itself, i.e., the answer to the question of is the Mormon faith an expression of Christian faith?

      There is the danger of disintegration where there ought to be unity, but there is also the danger of inclusivity where there ought to be distinction. I do not see prejudice on display in this discussion, but rather an effort to recognize proper distinctions, distinctions which I see as necessary to keep from softening of the brain. I think what has generated the most (perhaps unnecessary) snark in the conversation is the reasonable observation that the consideration given to the Mormons is due to their good behavior, undeniably better than that of members of more established expressions of Christianity, but wholly inadequate as a means of determining the objective truth of whether Mormons are properly called Christian or not. With reservations, I recognize in many (most?) Mormons a closer ally in the culture war than most Catholics these days (the same can be said of many–but surely not most–atheists!), but that does not mean I am bigoted if I do not consider them properly called Christian.

      • I’m actually totally open to the notion that Mormons are Christians, and would feel a great sense of relief if I were able to conclude honestly that they are. I *like* Mormons, and respect them.

        I’m just not seeing it.

  9. Replying to several comments.

    Muslims hold Christians to be polytheists. They are by Muslim interpretation, but not by Christian interpretation.

    If I thought the Holy See was the accurate interpreter of Mormon Doctrine, I would be in agreement with the Catholic Church. But I do not so hold, so I respectfully disagree. I agree with Luther that Popes and Councils can and do err.

    Whatever philosophical spin one might put on it, the LDS view of deity is a unity of persons with a universe that is organized as a unity. We are honest enough to see that people can differ over what constitutes monotheism.

    I appreciate Bonald’s attempt to bridge divides of misunderstanding. I agree with Wm. Lewis that the Bible has passages that affirm the unity of God and passages that affirm distinct persons. I am saying that the creedal “solution” to the problem is not the only possible one and that it is a view that I reject. There is a difference between a mystery as a puzzle we have not yet solved because the answer hasn’t been discovered or revealed and a mystery as a puzzle that cannot be solved at all. Quantum mechanics is strange and counter intuitive, but it is in principle accessible to the human mind rather than incomprehensible. Fortunately, quantum mechanics works whether I believe in it or not.

    Kristor,

    We were there as described in Job 38:7, but we were not as God was, just as a child is not yet as his father is. If creation is all ex nihilo, then what was God doing before Day One? Who was he talking to (e.g. Gen 1:26)?

    I don’t have time for a lengthy reply. It is late, a bad time for typos, and I have my day job. Suffice it to say that the orthodox were willing to put non-Trinitarians to death over the assorted issues. Servetus comes to mind. If something is incomprehensible, it hardly seems fair to punish someone for not comprehending it or for misunderstanding it. What makes for an interesting speculative philosophical discussion was in days past a deadly affair.

    If salvation depends on being a theological adept, then little children cannot be saved. And if salvation depends on repeating the creeds, then the Nicene Creed and not the Sermon on the Mount represents the core of Christianity.

    • Leo, thanks again for your prompt reply. I’m afraid I still have questions, some of them the same! You write:

      If I thought the Holy See was the accurate interpreter of Mormon Doctrine, I would be in agreement with the Catholic Church. But I do not so hold, so I respectfully disagree.

      OK; but nothing you’ve said about Mormon theology contradicts what was said in the article I found from Osservatore Romano. What did they get wrong?

      You write:

      Whatever philosophical spin one might put on it, the LDS view of deity is a unity of persons with a universe that is organized as a unity.

      OK. Are they one being, or three? If three, how are they one in any stronger sense than say a soccer team, or a string quartet, are one?

      You write:

      There is a difference between a mystery as a puzzle we have not yet solved because the answer hasn’t been discovered or revealed and a mystery as a puzzle that cannot be solved at all. Quantum mechanics is strange and counter intuitive, but it is in principle accessible to the human mind …

      Who says the Trinity cannot ever be understood by the human mind? It’s just very hard, is all. How could God be easy to understand? If something were easy to understand, could it be God?

      You write:

      We were there as described in Job 38:7, but we were not as God was, just as a child is not yet as his father is.

      So we were there already at the creation, just as we were there already before this morning? There, just younger? Did we ever have a beginning? Was there ever a time when we were not there? If not, how have we completed the traversal of the infinite number of moments that preceded this one?

      You write:

      If creation is all ex nihilo, then what was God doing before Day One? Who was he talking to (e.g. Gen 1:26)?

      That creation is ex nihilo does not mean it all happened at the same time, nor does it mean that this world and its extensive continuum is the only one. Genesis doesn’t say that *all* worlds were formless and void at Day One, just ours.

      Gen 1:26 is generally taken by the Fathers to recount a perichoretic conversation among the Persons of the Trinity. Some commentators suggest that by then there was already a council of angels, and that it was to them that Elohim was speaking. As against this, angels are not themselves creators, but at most agents of creation, nor are they made in the image of God; so, when God says, “Let *us* make man in *our* image,” he is more probably conducting a perichoretic conversation.

      You write:

      If salvation depends on being a theological adept, then little children cannot be saved.

      It does not. But believing that Jesus is not God ruins belief in the efficacy of the Passion to redeem and save us. And believing that the Holy Spirit is not God ruins belief in our present support from God. So setting forth the correct doctrine and believing it is vital, even if we have trouble understanding it.

      You write:

      And if salvation depends on repeating the creeds, then the Nicene Creed and not the Sermon on the Mount represents the core of Christianity.

      It does not. But saying the Creeds as our baptismal vows is spiritually efficacious.

      The Sermon on the Mount is not especially the core if Christianity. Christ is. He is expressed throughout Scripture, not just in this or that popular passage. He is expressed also in the Church his body, and by her Fathers and Doctors. There is no limit to his expression.

      Please understand: I’m not trying to play “gotcha” here, I’m honestly inquiring.

  10. Kristor,

    Again only time for a quick reply.

    The Sermon on the Mount is not especially the core if Christianity. Christ is. He is expressed throughout Scripture, not just in this or that popular passage. He is expressed also in the Church his body. There is no limit to his expression.

    We are totally in agreement on that. However, I maintain that removing the creeds takes nothing away from what really Christ is, but removing the Sermon on the Mount would be the loss of something plain and precious that he actually taught. So there is a real difference between what is scriptural and what is not, what is part of Christ’s doctrine and what is not. We also differ on who constitutes his “Church” and what its true and savings doctrines are. To imply that Latter-day Saints do not believe in the divinity (functional or substantial) of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is both false and uncharitable.

    The orthosphere is wedded to a philosophical system that is foreign to the original Biblical idiom and foreign to the thinking of most parishioners. It is well suited to philosophical adepts, but increasingly foreign to moderns, assuming it was really understood in any age or by Palestinian farmers and fishermen. In the modern vernacular God is totally other, and hence totally foreign to us. We reject that vernacular, and we do not believe Hellenism produced the one true philosophical view whose categories and ways of thinking represent things as they really are. Once you realize that, you can not only understand Mormons better, but also understand why the mainline churches, which once held a virtual monopoly on thought, are in continuing decline.

    Bonald is on the right track by getting to know his neighbors better.

    • Leo, thanks once again for your patience and thoughtfulness in responding. Again, I have some reactions. You write:

      … removing the creeds takes nothing away from what really Christ is, but removing the Sermon on the Mount would be the loss of something plain and precious that he actually taught. So there is a real difference between what is scriptural and what is not, what is part of Christ’s doctrine and what is not.

      The creeds are certainly less authoritative than Scripture, but I’m not so sure that it follows straightforwardly that removing the creeds takes nothing away from the Body of Christ, as being not something that he actually taught. We have no justification for the assertion that Jesus did not teach the doctrines expressed in the creeds. It would be odd if he had not; it would be odd also if the early church had added to them any doctrines that were not taught by the Lord. I don’t mean to suggest, e.g., that Jesus taught the doctrine of homoousion using that term. But he might as well have done, for he did say that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). And he did say that he would send us the Paraclete who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26-27). Finally, in John 16:13-15, he taught the doctrine of homoousion, using different words:

      13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
      14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
      15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

      Hebrews 3:7-9 identifies the YHWH of Exodus – i.e., the Logos, Christ – with the Holy Spirit, thereby completing the doctrine of the Trinity:

      7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), Today if ye will hear his voice,
      8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
      9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

      So does Hebrews 10:15-16:

      15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
      16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

      I could go on and on.

      It should be clear from the foregoing that the Platonism which supplied to the Fathers the technical terms and concepts that enabled them in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds to express more explicitly and precisely the relations implicit in these passages, and in many others, was quite familiar to them, and agreed very well with the theology and metaphysics of the Hebrews. To take just one example, the Platonic Idea and Aristotelian Form are cognates of the Hebrew Type or Engraving, stamped upon prime matter. Indeed, Philo Judaeorum of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus, insisted that Plato and Pythagoras learnt their philosophy from the temples and schools of the prophets in Syria, where Pythagoras studied as a young man. When Philo wrote, the Jews of Egypt outnumbered those of Judah, and they had not spoken Hebrew for hundreds of years: they spoke Greek. That’s why the Septuagint was commissioned for them, so that they could read their scriptures in Greek.

      The Greeks and the Hebrews did not live far apart from each other, or know little about each other; on the contrary, by the time of Jesus, Israel and Judah had been Greco-Roman for more than 300 years. The Greeks and the Hebrews began living as next door neighbours in Palestine and Egypt when Aristotle was still teaching; they were conquered for the Hellenes by one of his pupils. Jesus and the Apostles almost certainly spoke fluent Greek, as it was the lingua franca of the whole Ancient Near East, especially in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” St. John Evangelist was clearly familiar with Greek philosophy, as the opening of his Gospel makes clear:

      1 In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.
      2 The same was in the beginning with God.
      3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

      This is not the language of an uneducated country bumpkin. Indeed, it is a reference to Plato’s notion in the Timaeus of the Demiurge. It turns out that the ordinary Judeans and Galileans of the first century were among the most educated men of the age, fluent and lettered in at least four languages. They were cosmopolitans used to business with interlocutors from all over the world, for Judah and Israel were at the hub of the largest trade network of the Old World, with goods and merchants passing through from as far away as Norway and China. When Paul says that in God we live, move and have our being (Acts 14:28), he is directly quoting Epimenides the Cretan (ca. 700 – 500 BC), a founder of Orphism. In Acts 9:5, Jesus quotes Aeschylus to Saul of Tarsus (“kick against the pricks”).

      God may or may not be totally foreign to mortals according to the modern vernacular, as you say. But what is that to us of the orthosphere, who reject modernity root and branch, as false and wicked? According to orthodox Christianity, whether of 40 or 2013, God is immanent in every creaturely circumstance. Is this orthodoxy foreign to the ears of most Christians? Certainly! That is why the liberal denominations and congregations, where orthodoxy is never praught and liturgically bowdlerized, are dwindling, while orthodox churches and parishes thrive. NB that this is true for *all religions.*

      Finally, I should like to respond to your statement that, “To imply that Latter-day Saints do not believe in the divinity … of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is both false and uncharitable.” I don’t mean to imply that LDS don’t believe in the divinity of the Three, for it is quite clear that they do. I just want to get clear on what LDS *mean* by “divine,” as applied to the Three. From everything I have read so far, they use “divine” to refer to that category, to which Christians refer using the term, “angelic.”

      To say this is not to want charity for Mormons. It is just to reach for clarity of terminology. Such clarity is important in determining whether or not Mormons are Christians. If Mormons mean the same thing by “divine” that Christians mean by “angelic,” then the Mormon religion is not Christian, because in that case the Mormons do not worship the God that Christians worship, but rather angels whom the Christian God created. But if you, or anyone else, can show that Mormons mean the same thing by “divine” that Christians do, why then maybe Mormons are Christians after all. I’m totally open to that idea.

      • Kristor,

        I appreciate the discussion, but alas have limited time to reply. Elsewhere on this blog the book How Wide the Divide? was referenced. I regret I lack the time for a book length discussion.

        You write

        “that Mormons mean the same thing by “divine” that Christians do”

        You are begging the question. Your wording automatically implies Mormons are not Christians.

        When you stick to the scriptures, we are often in agreement. I accept all the scriptures you quoted, including the ones that identify Jesus as the God of the Old Testament. I consider that proof of divinity and the definition of deity by example.

        Why appeal to Philo rather than the apostles? Why introduce “homoousion” and other Greek theological terms which Jesus never used and which the average parishioner has trouble explaining and which will evoke blank stares from the typical modern? Most of the articles in this blog quickly move towards a technical vocabulary foreign not just to the original Biblical thought but also from the thought of most people on the planet.

        When I used to speak to classes at Wheaton College, I asked the students if the Catholic philosophical treatment of transubstantiation was convincing. The answer was inevitably no. Philosophical categories and arguments and specialized terminology just won’t convince most people who don’t buy into the premises.

        It is true that Greeks and Hebrews were neighbors, but not always on the best of terms. Paul, who was indeed quite sophisticated, noted that the Gospel was foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23). See also 2 Peter 3:16 and 2 Tim 1:15 for problems in the early church. The attempt to meld the god of the philosophers to the God of revelation failed to produce proofs sufficient to convince most Jews including their many brilliant thinkers, failed to produce Christian unity via the creeds (e.g. the filioque), failed to stop the rise of Islam with its sophisticated thinkers, failed to stop the reformation, and fails today to win over modernity. I admire the effort and its subtleties honed over centuries, but it is merely one way of looking at things, not something that can be incontrovertibly proven. Like the sophistication of Hinduism, it holds no appeal to me. And the attempt is simply unnecessary, a heavy weight to impose on would-be Christians and on Christianity in general.

        And I do not reject modernism root and branch as the orthosphere does, though I am well aware of modernity’s failings and potential for collapse. But the past is too full of dirt, disease, ignorance, squalor, and misery, not to mention war, slavery, and tyranny to be mistaken for a lost ideal time. Sufficient unto the era the evil thereof.

      • Leo, I do apologize for my relentlessness. I got interested in the discussion, and when that happens, this is how I get. I’ll respond briefly to a few of the points you make – shouldn’t take me more than 10,000 words or so – and then wind up with a question that, answered with either a “yes” or a “no,” should settle the main question dispositively.

        • I didn’t appeal to Philo rather than the Apostles. I appealed to him in addition to the Apostles. Even then, I wasn’t appealing to him with regard to a point of Christian doctrine – he is a Jew, of a priestly family – but only to buttress the tangential point that Greek and Hebrew cultures were quite thoroughly familiar with each other in all the main first century stomping grounds of the Jews – and that Greek philosophy was not some foreign lingo that the Jews barely knew about, but rather a basic subject of study for all educated men of that day, that had evolved together with Hebrew thought, which in many ways formed and shaped Greek concepts. The other main influxes to Greek thought were from the Egyptians and the cultures of the Persian Empire, who for obvious reasons had strong influence also on Hebrew thinking, and vice versa. The whole civilized world was then, as now, a stew of different cults and doctrines. Even Buddhism was in the mix.
        • Why introduce Greek terms? Because I was arguing that they, and the concepts they signified, were in fact not foreign to the Hebrews, as you had argued; and because *the literature of the early Church was almost all written in Greek.* Much of it – not just the creeds, but John’s Gospel and great swathes of the Epistles – was written using Greek philosophical jargon. Tertullian was the first Father to write in Latin, as I recall; and to translate the Greek philosophical jargon of the Church’s first years of discourse into Latin, he had to invent more than 200 Latin words.
        • Why introduce terms that will evoke blank stares from uneducated people? Because that’s not who I’m talking to here. The question is not whether a given term is going to sell well, or succeeded in calling down the New Jerusalem, or in putting a chicken in every pot, or in preventing Islam or Henry VIII, or in proving incontrovertibly to all minds that Christianity is true, but whether a specific term – “God” – indicates the same sort of being to Mormons that it does to Christians. And to get at that answer, we need to be precise with language, so that we can be absolutely clear on such things as the difference between a Creator and a creature.
        • “Philosophical arguments won’t convince people who don’t buy into the premises.” Well, of course they won’t! That’s not the question, though. We are not trying to defend Anselm’s Ontological Argument here, we are simply trying to get clear on what we all mean by a term: “God.”

        Alright then; to the main question. You write that my raising the question whether Mormons mean the same thing by “divine” that Christians do begs the question, that it implies Mormons are not Christians in the first place. But this question of whether Mormons are Christians or not was raised early in this thread, and not by me. I got into the discussion by providing a report on the basis of the decision by the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith that Mormons don’t in fact mean the same thing by “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” that Christians do. No one in this thread has said anything about Mormon theology that contradicts the Congregation’s take on it. Most of what has been said buttresses their take. You have said that you don’t take their word as authoritative, which seems like a reasonable position for you to take; but you haven’t corrected what they said about Mormon theology.

        Far from begging the question, then, let me try to put it in the clearest possible terms. Is the God whom the Mormons worship the Creator of all that is, in this and every other world, the eternal source and ground of all being, and prior to each and every other existence whatsoever? If the answer is “yes,” then it seems quite possible to me that Mormons are Christians – or, at the least, monotheists. If the answer is anything other than “yes,” then not; for in that case, it will be crystal clear that Mormons and Christians worship radically different sorts of beings.

        I want to make clear that I will not take an answer other than “yes” as any sort of indication that Mormons are bad guys. No, indeed. They are good guys, and there is much to cherish and admire in Mormon culture and religion. Which is why I would be very glad to hear that the answer to the question is “yes.”

      • Pope Benedict was so right in his Regensburg speech. Dehellenization, by which I mean the West’s substitution of the ancient philosophical phronema for the modern, nominalist, materialist one (whether conscious or not), makes Christianity intellectually unintelligible. Hence, the pious must be pietists — or fundamentalists or Mormons or some such group that rejects reason’s role in understanding their faith.

        Leo, heresy makes theology necessary, just as sophistry makes philosophy necessary. When people live in the splendor of the resurrection, they need not Greek terms. They need not intellectually understand their faith at all. Yet, when the asp enters the camp and begins to poison minds, sow discord, and kill the soul, the shepherds of the flock must behead them — by refuting them. Such requires theology’s handmaiden — philosophy.

        Furthermore, I think that you shortchange the denizens of Christendom. The fourth century market riots in cities throughout the East included a fairly large number of people who understood the Arian controversy well. An average man from 8th century Constantinople could probably whip the _vast_ majority of theology professors today in an exposition of dogmatics. A townsman from 13th century France would hold his own in a logic contest with contemporary university students. Even Russian peasants before the Soviet times had a pretty good idea of higher Christian theology. The old women at church today — modern peasants, we might say — have a better grasp of the doctrinal and spiritual treasures of the faith than the “educated,” whose formation occurred in the godless, biblically ignorant contemporary world. Traditional Christianity, when it is allowed to form the soul, results in traditional Christians (fourth century terminology and all). We _have_ the recipe. It’s just that so many kitchens have been taken over by the enemy.

  11. If Mormons are Christians, then why must one be a Mormon Christian, and not just a Christian?

    Can I reject Joseph Smith as “a prophet of God“ and still be a Christian? Having heard the Mormon account?

    I suspect the answer is a big fat No.

    • The answer is a big fat Yes, but that’s because Mormons define Christian to mean something like ‘follower of Christ’ and don’t give the term any ecclesial significance.

      • The Mormon missionaries who talk to me even after I tell them I am a serious, devout Christian puzzle me. What are they trying to do with me?

        I’ve heard the spiel, and I was entirely unimpressed, it was quite preposterous in many points–from a Christian point of view. I was happy to soak up their time.

      • Convert you to Mormonism.

        If I told you that I was a serious devout Christian, should it stop you from trying to correct the errors you see in my belief and conduct and showing me a better path for the Christian than the one I’m on already? Nope. In fact, you pretty much have a duty to do it.

      • the highest level of heaven.

        I’m a simple man. I would be happy with a windowless basement room there.

        In fact, you pretty much have a duty to do it.

        I did. But Charlton thinks I’m the Big Negative.

      • So you’re faulting Mormons for doing something you yourself do because you think someone else faulted you for it? Golly.

        If not being whiny like a meeting of academics isn’t the eleventh commandment, it ought to be.

  12. Convert you to Mormonism.

    If I told you that I was a serious devout Christian, should it stop you from trying to correct the errors you see in my belief and conduct and showing me a better path for the Christian than the one I’m on already? Nope. In fact, you pretty much have a duty to do it.

  13. Replying to Kristor

    Cutting to the chase in the interests of time.

    Is the God whom the Mormons worship the Creator of all that is, in this and every other world?

    Yes.

    the eternal source and ground of all being, and prior to each and every other existence whatsoever?

    I am not sure what that question means or if it is a question that has a meaning in a scientific sense. It assumes we can understand anything prior to all existence and that there was a time when there was no existence and that there is something external to all existence. You are begging the question again about what defines Christianity and what answers make one a Christian or not.

    Replying to Joseph

    “Dehellenization…makes Christianity intellectually unintelligible.” Not to me. Wedding Christianity to Hellenism needlessly puts shackles on Christian thought and makes Christianity into a purely Western religion, and a narrow one at that. Everything can then be only viewed through one philosophical lens.

    One man’s heresy is another man’s orthodoxy and vice versa. The hunt for heretics has a sad history. At least moderns have generally stopped turning heretics over to the state to be burned.

    • “One man’s heresy is another man’s orthodoxy and vice versa.”

      One man’s arsenic in another man’s honey? One man’s Amanita is another man’s truffle? One man’s concentration camp is another man’s holiday resort?

      Even if one really thinks it’s honey, it’s not going to stop being arsenic. Cliches don’t clarify, they suppress genuine thought. It would be better to avoid them.

    • Wow, interesting. OK. But that seems to totally contradict the Holy See’s take on Mormon theology. So I guess the following description is all false, particularly the part about the Father acquiring his divine status – i.e., his status as the Creator of all worlds – within such a world:

      God the Father is an exalted man, native of another planet, who has acquired his divine status through a death similar to that of human beings, the necessary way to divinization (cf. TPJS, pp. 345-346). God the Father has relatives and this is explained by the doctrine of infinite regression of the gods who initially were mortal (cf. TPJS, p. 373). God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he shares the responsibility of creation. They procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their firstborn is Jesus Christ, equal to all men, who has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence. Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents. The Son and the Holy Spirit were procreated after the beginning of the creation of the world known to us (cf. EM, Vol. 2, p. 961). Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom have established a covenant and thus form the divinity.

      To clarify, “the eternal source and ground of all being … prior to each and every other existence whatsoever,” is just a more precise and expansive way of saying, “the Creator of all that is, in this and every other world.” When we say of a being that it is eternal, we don’t mean that it has an infinite temporal extent – for time is an aspect of a created causal order, a world – but rather that it is supratemporal, so that all times of all worlds are to that being as our now is to us. A supratemporal life is not composed of a series of moments strung together in a sequence of experiences, like ours. It has no temporal extent, for temporal extent – i.e., duration – is a notion that has no meaning except in the context of some causal order. The Creator of all that exists in any world has to be eternal; and as their Creator, he has to be their source and ground – that without which nothing can exist or come to pass.

      It doesn’t assume we can understand a thing that is prior to existence as such, because it argues that there can be nothing at all that can be prior to existence as such. Rather, the Creator (whatever else he may be) is existence as such, and since he is eternal, there is no such thing as “before” his existence.

      It doesn’t assume that there was a time before existence, because that notion, too, is incoherent. There is nothing prior to existence as such, including time. It argues that existence as such is eternal.

      Finally, it doesn’t assume that there is something external to all existence, for this notion, too, is obviously incoherent. No sort of thing can be prior to all existence. Rather, it argues that the Creator is prior to all other existences. Not in time, mind you; for absent those other existences and their causal relations, there can be no time.

      Given the foregoing, it should be obvious that the Creator has no beginning, and so cannot begin existence as a being that has a life such as ours, dies, and so forth.

      But I suppose it could be suggested that the Creator became Incarnate in a man on some other planet, and that man is the human aspect of the person whom Christians call the Father. Is that the gist of it?

      • As an aside, this is one reason why I’m not at all impressed by Mormon charges (echoed by Bruce Charlton) that classical theology is incoherent and cannot be understood intuitively. Lots of things that we know from science to be true (no time before the Big Bang, light being both a wave and a particle at the same time, various aspects of quantum mechanics) cannot be understood intuitively either. Yet they are true.

      • Dr. Charlton responds with the following:

        with theology we seek truth in the sense of ultimate reality.

        I must confess I’m flabbergasted. Trying, as limited beings, to comprehend ultimate reality is a fool’s errand, and it takes someone of spectacular arrogance to try. It borders on the blasphemous.

        Not understanding God is to be entirely expected. I guess nobody will ever go broke underestimating the egotism of Bruce Charlton. If he can’t understand it, it must be wrong.

      • It’s also highly likely that, from here on in, as we learn more and more about time and other basic physical aspects of the universe, and get further away from the kinds of things the human brain was designed to understand intuitively, the explanations are going to get more abstract and counter-intuitive, not less. This isn’t just a phase the science is going to. Science can and often does get more precise without becoming more intuitively comprehensible. Yet, we will be getting closer to the truth.

    • At least moderns have generally stopped turning heretics over to the state to be burned.

      Were the commies not moderns?

      • Modern heretics are not burned, but their lives are ruined. George Zimmerman & Paula Deen are two recent heretics who had to be destroyed.

      • More heat, less light.

        My experience with ex-Catholics, for example, is that they happen to know jack-all about Catholicism.

        But I suppose there could be something so extraordinary about Mormonism that even its naysayers are better than average.

      • Well, Mormonism is not just a religion, it is like Judaism, culture and religion, and many ex-Mormons are able to have nuanced discourse about the benefits of the culture even as they critique the religious failings. But of course, many ex-Mormons become very strict, sola scriptura Christians, although certainly there are plenty of Dawkins-style atheist ex-Mormons too. But the picture is complex because Mormonism so uniquely intersects culture and religion in a way most white Americans no longer are familiar with.

      • Nuance and ex-Mormons are two overrated tastes that never go together. Either you have a knack for finding rarities or you’re wrong. I plump for the latter.

    • Mormonism wasn’t the point of my post. Whether it’s a Christian heresy is a different subject. The point is your approach to discussion. This statement,

      “One man’s heresy is another man’s orthodoxy and vice versa.”

      is a cliche that inhibits thought. Is one man’s arsenic really another man’s honey? Whether Mormonism could be considered the honey or the arsenic is beside the point.

  14. As far as my reading has taken me, I have found Alvin Schmidt’s The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism (Concordia Publishing House, 2013) informative and alarming. The author has done extensive research in primary sources as well as standard secondary ones. (The book needs better copyediting, however.)

    Is it remotely credible that the true God would send, as His prophet to -restore- the Church, a man who said Mohammed was a good man and who likened himself to a second Mohammed (p. 42)? According to an affidavit filed in 1838, Smith said that, “like Mahomet, whose motton in treatingfor peace was ‘the Alcoran [Koran] or the Sword,’ so should it be eventually with us, ‘Joseph Smith or the Sword” (pp. 42-3).

    Is it believable that God would send a prophet who, having misled two men with a false revelation, would shrug it off: “Some revelations are of God; some revelations are of man; and some revelations are of the devil” (p. 74)?

    Would God inspire His prophet to ransack the rituals of Freemasonry in order to restore His church? (p. 89)

    Would a true prophet teach that the devil is Jesus’s “spirit brother” (pp. 105-6)?

    And so on.

      • Now why would Mr. E. single me out for his question? It would appear that I asked some embarrassing questions about Mormonism’s prophet, and the intention is to shift the focus to a new topic: I am to take the comment space at a blog to summarize, evaluate, and comment on 400 years of history! Nice try, gentleman. 🙂

        Actually, I think my questions about the much-married “second Mahomet” must be asked and answered.

      • Wurmbrand,

        If God chose to instantiate a new Christian tradition, I, as a non-Mormon Christian, have little trouble wrapping my head around the idea that He saw fit to allow polygamy for a generation or so to get the ball rolling and grow the flock. It would be a lot less “weird” than the early chapters of Genesis where it’s clear that for a time in early human history God sanctioned brothers and sisters and cousins to mate and produce children in order to grow the human race.

        And if Mormonism was designed to resist the unprecedented conditions of modernity and the unique evils about to be unleashed then I would expect some fire and brimstone from its founder. But the words and actions of Joseph Smith do not hold the same meaning or signficance to Mormonism as those of Muhammad do to Islam, as the frist two hundred years of each religion make abundantly clear by mere reference (hence my rhetorical question).

  15. If Mormonism is true, it is not “a” valid Christian tradition; it is almighty God’s restoration, through His prophet Joseph Smith, of His Church — the sole locus of salvation and the very criterion of Truth. If Joseph Smith is The prophet anointed and appointed by God, then all of us who are Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox, Roman Catholics, etc. must get ourselves out of our respective Babylons and into Smith’s fold as fast as we can. Prophets of God do not come to establish parallel, valid traditions to other valid, parallel traditions. If Smith is a prophet, his peers are Moses, Isaiah, and Peter. God’s messages are binding on the consciences of His faithful people. Conversely, God’s people are to take note of and avoid false prophets.

    • It would be much easier to believe Joseph Smith’s claims to prophethood if there were archeological evidence to support the fantastic claims made in the Book of Mormon.

      God is Truth. There is no possibility that He would tell one of his prophets any falsehoods; the Holy Spirit would guide the pen of a real prophet (or someone writing with God’s authority about him). There is independent confirmation of the Bible through archeological finds in the Holy Land, finds that are consonant with accounts in the Bible. However, there is no evidence whatsoever to support many of the claims about American prehistory made in the Book of Mormon.

      A short list of things the Book of Mormon claims to have existed in the Americas, things for which there is no evidence:

      *Barley
      *Cattle
      *Chariots
      *Donkeys
      *Elephants
      *Goats
      *Oxen
      *Pigs
      *Scimitars
      *Sheep (domesticated)
      *Silk
      *Steel
      *Swords
      *Wheat

      Furthermore, American Indians came not from the Near East but the Far East, via a land bridge in what is now the Bering Strait.

      Also, the linguistic claims made in the Book of Mormon about language and writing in the Americas have no support; what’s more, the “writing” in the Anthon Transcript is without linguistic content (the Anthon Transcript is a list of characters alleged to have been transcribed from the golden plates from which Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon).

      I do not deny that there is some truth in the Book of Mormon, but significant portions of it are demonstrably false. It does not stand on the same ground as the Bible, which is the inerrant word of God.

      With all the error in the Book of Mormon, I cannot agree with the assertion that Joseph Smith and his church are “the sole criterion of Truth.”

      • This is exactly the sort of argument an atheist would use against Christianity, only using the Bible. I suggest you find another reason to reject Mormonism.

      • No, Trevor, I don’t think so. While there are many parts of the Bible that have not been substantiated archeologically, none of it has been shown false through archeology. This is an important distinction.

        With the Bible, many parts have no archeological evidence one way or another, so a scientific claim of truth (or falsehood) cannot be made for such parts. However, other parts are substantiated by various disciplines, such as archeology (and its buttresses, such as chemistry and physics), agriculture, history, linguistics, and the like.

        With the Book of Mormon, numerous claims are falsified by the archeological record. For example, while unlikely, it is just possible that the steel implements allegedly used by the people written about in the Book of Mormon have either never been found or have deteriorated beyond recognition. That’s not the end of the problem, though. Beyond that, there is no evidence of mining, smelting, or the kind of manufactories associated with steel making. That is a lot of missing data.

        If it were just some missing data combined with some attestations, then the missing data can be assigned to the “well, historical data are always insufficient” category. The problem here is that in addition to no steel or any of its supporting infrastructure, there are plants and animals written about in the Book of Mormon that have also left no trace. That’s a lot of missing data, without enough attested data to make one comfortable about the huge gaps.

        Beyond that, there are the patently false claims about language (“Reformed Egyptian”) and population (American Indians are more closely related to people on the Asian mainland than they are to people of the Near and Middle East). In contrast, nothing in the Bible has been shown to be flat-out wrong.

        So maybe an atheist might try to make similar claims, but there is enough evidence for places and events written about in the Bible for us to challenge the atheist to explain those parts that are demonstrably true (as opposed to the parts that lack external support). So far as I know, there is no evidence to support any of the alleged ancient history written about in the Book of Mormon.

        Data of the type discussed here should not determine our beliefs, but I would rather follow a religion that is not contradicted by facts.

        Which is all a long-winded way of saying much the same thing that The Man Who Was said.

      • Wm. Lewis,

        To me, the historicity of the Book of Mormon is the strongest argument against Mormonism and requires a response. I’m very narrowly read in this area so my ignorance may blind me to the satisfactory rebuttals. The best — though, for me, still inadequate — counter that I’ve seen is Dr. Charlton’s argument that the Book of Mormon, regardless of its truth value, is clearly a work of literature of the first order and given that we know Joseph Smith wrote or dictated the entire work over 3 to 4 months means that either Joseph Smith was a monumental genius — very unlikely given what we know about his background and education — or that it’s reasonable to conclude that he was somehow receiving “help”. And the fruits of Mormonism’s first 200 years allow us to safely eliminate demonic inspiration as a possibility.

      • literature of the first order

        No, “chloroform in print” is closer to the truth, though, in fairness, the Book of Mormon is an early effort and Smith did improve considerably as a writer later on.

      • Your list of errors isn’t very accurate. The ones that are accurate aren’t demonstrably errors. That’s getting far afield but if someone is interested they can see some Mormon scholars take on these types of issues at farms.byu.edu, fair-lds.org, or http://www.mormondialogue.org

  16. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using the Bible as a history book, there does seem to be some actual relationship between history and the events recounted in the Bible. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, seems to be totally made up.

  17. Reply to both this article and Dr. Charlton’s “If Mormons are Christians, then why do they try to convert other Christians?”

    I personally have experience with non-Trinitarians who call themselves Christians in my life, and indeed they seem passionate about their beliefs. Many of them live less modern lives, and all of them simply show a more moral behaviour than ordinary secular people.

    But it is important to see that where such groups are a minority, it is normal that there are less people who adhere nominally. If a person is proselytized, surely if he converts, there will be passion in his faith that many cradle adherents may lack due to never having questioned anything religious/irreligious in their lives.

    In the case of Mormons in Utah, it is true that they are relatively more traditional than other communities. But even more so are Muslim theocracies. This is not a reason to feel theologically closer to them than before.

    On the level of whether they are Christians, there are two basic ways of answering this.

    – First, there is the nonsensical question whether we (say, Trinitarians, Mormons and Muslims) worship the same God.
    The NO part: I personally believe that Mormons and Muslims clearly lack the revealed and essential for both orthodoxy and orthopraxis (and personal faith) doctrine of the Trinity (and the eternal life and love of the three persons). This lack of the Trinity influences the way they will relate to the world and to people, the way they will worship and indeed organize their societies.

    The YES part: they, just like us, believe in the Father (both in distorted ways). So all worship coming from every person in the universe is seen by God and, if the person is in a right, humble and loving state of mind, God may just as well “receive” it, even if it’s improper worship.

    – Second, there is the historical Church. As far as I know, all Traditional Trinitarians profess the first four Holy Ecumenical councils. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox share three more of them. For all three, it is out of question that Mormons are catholic Christians – the authority of First Ecumenical council clearly states that only the Trinity is eternal; the Fifth ecumenical council, also, anathematizes Origen’s belief in the pre-existence of souls. If we ignore this, we may just as well include Docetists, Arians, Eutychians or even Muslims in the category of “Christians”. Calling Mormons Christians is going even further than classical Invisible Church doctrine or Branch Theory.

    All historical catholic Christians have believed in creation ex nihilo – and the authority of the Church of the Saints, the Fathers and the Councils should be enough for us to submit. The important is not to be rational or coherent – the important is to belong to the Una Sancta and to believe the faith once delivered unto the saints. If you can’t, why should you call yourself a Christian?

    I really can’t see how Dr. Charlton can claim that the Christian faith can be compatible with Mormon metaphysics.
    – Even if the Fathers used some Hellenic terms and philosophy, their theology is not dependent on it. They are NOT platonists – I don’t see an impersonal God, temporal cyclicism or a negative view of the body in their theology. They used vocabulary to express things that were already there, in the inspired culture of the Church. And it is the authority of this culture that should weight higher than “Greek wisdom”. As of conspiracy theories about how Christianity was corrupted by and after Saint Constantine the Great, spread by some commenters here – please, read Church-historians and research Church history yourselves, instead of reading mediocre pop novels or amateurs!

    – Also, how can Mormonism, which is not connected to any traditional form of Western Christianity, be true? Falsehood causes falsehood – and clearly, any lack of cultural environment built by traditional Christianity cannot cause a return to authentic Christianity. So much for Joseph Smith being a good philosopher/theologian.
    How about a prophet? This question is best answered by reading Church-history – his church cannot be that of the Apostles; the Holy Fathers’ Church, on the other hand, can!

    It is important to approach Christianity not as a correct system/ideology, but as a culture, with its own authorities (Scripture, Fathers, etc.) It is true not because it could be the most coherent or could make sense, but because it is inspired and guided by God.

    As a false religion, Mormonism can be appreciated – but in a similar way we can appreciate Islam. Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith are false prophets who claim to have restored what was lost – they should be seen as separate from Christian cultures.

  18. This thread has become both long and tangled. Let me add this comment to my Catholic friends. I am not the first person, nor will I be the last person to notice a tension between the god of the philosophers, who is totally other, a Platonic ideal without body, parts, or passions, decidedly remote, decidedly abstract, and quite possibly impersonal (cf. Buddhism), and, in contrast, the God of revelation.

    The god of the philosophers is not necessarily a bad god as gods go, nor are philosophers bad people. I am just not convinced that the god of the philosophers is actually real. That is to say it does not represent sound thinking about things as they actually are. Noted philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, steeped in that very tradition and trained as a Catholic priest, now defines himself as an agnostic. Faust regretted his study of theology. “I’ve studied now Philosophy And Jurisprudence, Medicine, And even, alas! Theology.”

    Equating the god of the philosophers and the God of revelation may solve some philosophical problems, but it raises others. Such is the stuff of classical theology. Catholicism is wedded to a particular philosophical system. Ignatius’ famous comment on black and white is fully and logically consistent with that system. Modernity, with all its faults, has correctly moved on.

    The god of the philosophers is established by argument, and faith is defined as intellectual assent, hence the critical importance of arguments such Anselm’s Ontological argument. If Anselm’s ontological argument is the gold standard, one wonders what was the gold standard before Anselm. Something that can be proven by argument can conceivably be disproved by another argument, hence the felt need to win all the arguments. This has often meant a desire to win by one means or another, e.g., by burning heretics. Fortunately, we have moved on from that tradition.

    The Nicene era religious riots are not an appealing episode of ecclesiastical history. How much intellectual sophistication does it take to riot? The Middle Ages had its pleasant aspects, but also its horrible ones. Freethinking and a copy of the scriptures in the vernacular could get you in serious trouble with the authorities back then. A return to those times? No, thank you. Thankfully, the world has moved on.

    The God of Revelation simply reveals Himself and people either accept Him or reject Him. No arguments are necessary, and to insist they are necessary detracts both from the Revelation and from God. My faith does not require me to win all the arguments or for believers to understand all the classical arguments.

    Mormonism accepts the notion of human progress and has no wish to return to an imagined happy bygone era of a Catholic monopoly on thought. Mormonism has canonized some of its beliefs but remains an unfinished work. Mormonism has an open canon and a firm belief that God will yet reveal many great and important things.

    Wurmband correctly understands the astonishing claim of Mormonism. It remains a stumbling block to sum and foolishness to others. Bonald has observed its fruits and contrasted them with his own co-religionists. I invite readers to actually meet their Mormon neighbors and get to know them better.

    • One way of responding to criticism is to repeat the same things over and over again in different language while ignoring any real questions. It’s certainly a great way to maintain peace of mind. Also, if argument can’t lead to the truth but only more argument (quite a postmodern position), why bother speaking at all? Unless all Mormons are in wordless mystical union with the divine, Mormon revelation is mediated by language. If you don’t want argument, don’t speak.

  19. I realize that this is an older post but as a former Mormon I want to throw in my two cents. A bit of background- I don’t hate the church, I don’t have an axe to grind, and I was a “good” Mormon- temple attending and everything. I actually really loved Mormon doctrine and still find it quite fascinating, my husband and I just felt there were things that didn’t add up and are now (very new) Catholics.

    Mormons aren’t Christian. They believe in Christ but a vision of Christ different enough to knock them outside of Christendom. Christianity is not just about faith in a Christ-like figure, though I understand what you were trying to say, Bonald; it has a specific definition of Christ. The Mormon view of Christ doesn’t fall within that. I came to this understanding while I was still actively LDS one day while watching an LDS friend and a Christian friend debate it. They were talking in circles just like many are here and I realized that they were essentially not even speaking the same language. It was then I realized that Mormons weren’t Christian and began to question why it mattered so much that we identified as such. Accepting this would save so much headache and wasted time for both the LDS and Christians. However it’s not enough. Not only are Mormons not Christian but they are really the 4th Abrahamic faith.

    In other words I agree with this guy: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/opinion/im-a-mormon-not-a-christian.html?_r=3&

    “Christianity, you’ll recall, had to fight the same battle. Many early Christians grew up reading the Torah, living the law, observing the Sabbath and thinking of themselves as Jews. They were aghast to find that traditional Judaism regarded them as something else entirely.

    In addition, these Christians had to defend their use of additional scripture and their unconventional conception of God and explain why they were following a bumpkin carpenter from some obscure backwater. Early Christianity’s relationship with non-Jews was even worse. Roman writers frequently alluded to rumors about the cannibalistic and hedonistic elements of early Christian rites. One after the other, Christians went to the lions because they found it impossible to defend themselves against such outrageous accusations. They did eat flesh and drink blood every Sunday, after all.

    Eventually, Christianity grew up and conceded that it wasn’t authentic Judaism. Lo and behold, once it had given up its claim to Judaism, it became a state religion — cannibalism notwithstanding — and spent the next 1,700 years getting back at all the bullies who had slighted it when it was a child.

    Eventually, Mormonism will grow up.”

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