Mormonism Now and Then

There’s almost nothing in the news these days about Mormonism that isn’t primarily about Mitt Romney. But usually buried somewhere in these articles is at least a short statement about the religion Mr. Romney embraces. This week an article appeared on AmericanThinker.com, “Mitt Romney: A Leader for America” by Amy D. Goldstein. Consider her mention of Mormonism:

As for those who seek to harm Romney’s candidacy, by sowing discomfort with his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day [sic] Saints, they should learn more about this religion with American roots. Portraying Mormonism as the religion of the 1800’s is like evaluating Christianity without the Reformation or Judaism without the Talmud.

My question: How so? Unfortunately, Ms. Goldstein doesn’t give her readers any clues as to what she’s referring.

Mormonism is based — then and now — upon the premise that God speaks through a living prophet. The prophet’s words, spoken in an official capacity, are binding on LDS Church members unless and until a revelation is received that changes what was previously revealed.

According to an LDS Student Manual:

“When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim that any doctrine of the Church has been modified, changed, or abrogated, we may know he is not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ unless he is acting under the direct authority and direction of the President.” (Teachings of the Living Prophets, 13-14)

This teaching on the official procedure and source for doctrinal changes was reiterated in 2005 in an article explaining the purpose and authority of priesthood quorums in the LDS Church. The article states that the LDS Prophet is the only person who

“…has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church, or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church.” (Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, 9/2005, 17)

The abrogation of doctrine has occurred a few times in Mormonism, as in the cessation of the practice of polygamy, and the removal of the ban against Blacks holding the LDS priesthood. These were nineteenth and twentieth century doctrines of Mormonism, respectively; to portray them as current doctrines would definitely be in error.

However, most of the unique doctrines which defined Mormonism in the nineteenth century have never been rescinded; the religion today remains primarily the religion as it was in the 1800s, doctrinally speaking. As current LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has stated,

“Those who observe us say that we are moving into the mainstream of religion. We are not changing. The world’s perception of us is changing. We teach the same doctrine.” (“Living in the Fullness of Times,” Ensign (Conference Edition), 11/2001, 5).

The LDS Church has not changed its position on such things as:

  • The nature of man
  • The nature of God
  • The nature of scripture
  • Continuing revelation
  • The authority of living prophets
  • The power inherent in the LDS priesthood
  • The nature of authority within the Church, etc.

Modern LDS prophets may not talk a lot about some of the revelations and teachings of past LDS leaders, but they have never officially denounced or revoked these doctrinal positions, which leaves them intact and relevant for twenty-first century Mormonism.

I’d like to know what, exactly, Ms. Goldstein thinks comprises an unfair portrayal of today’s Mormonism. How is twenty-first century Mormonism substantially different from that religion as it was in the 1800s (beyond the obvious issues of polygamy and the ban on Blacks)? It’s easy to make a bald assertion such as Ms. Goldstein has, but backing it up with examples may prove to be a bit more difficult. As for me, I’d like to see a list.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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3 Responses to Mormonism Now and Then

  1. Aaron Shafovaloff says:

    I think I sometimes overemphasize how much Mormonism has changed. The basics of historic Mormonism do seem more or less in tact. Laymen, however, are much less willing to be forthright about things like the nature of God.

    There is a double standard: One standard says a doctrine has to be repudiated or replaced by a subsequent prophet. The other standard says that a current prophet has to re-emphasize it for it to remain doctrine (this is the kind of think Millet promotes). Otherwise it can no longer be called doctrine.

    The two standards are mutually exclusive, but are convenient for Mormons who don’t want to be held accountable for some doctrines, yet want to uphold the importance of what past prophets have said.

  2. Aaron Shafovaloff says:

    To make it clear, the second standard I was talking about is more specifically:

    A current prophet has to re-emphasize something for it to remain doctrine (or at least authoritative teaching), and he does not have to repudiate or replace it for it to cease to be doctrine.

  3. rick b says:

    The whole Idea of one prophet saying one thing, and another contrdicts him, like with Adam God or polgamy for example, poses problems when it comes to the FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET ideas.

    A few teach, the prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord. Or the Prophet does not need to say, thus saith the Lord to give us Scripture.

    I love that one. When the Prophet spoke about Adam God it should be Scripture, But no, Not according to the LDS, It is his mere opinion, or a mis understood doctrine. So this poses a big Problem in light of the FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET Speech, that the Prophet gave.

    Was it all lies, or his mere opinion? Rick b

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