It’s sad when a religious representative answers questions like a politican. As I write this an article is featured on the front page of FoxNews.com, “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith”. The following is an analysis of the response they received to their questions.
“Many of these questions are typically found on anti-Mormon blogs or Web sites which aim to misrepresent or distort Mormon doctrines,” the Church said in a statement. “Several of these questions do not represent … any serious attempt to depict the core values and beliefs of its members.”
Notice how they want to prevent such future questions from being asked by questioning the integrity of the questioner and the questions.
The Mormon Church wants outsiders to avoid presenting any embarrassing things that aren’t deemed “core” by the institution. The difficulty, of course, is that outsiders want questions answered that they think are core or at least curiously interesting. In a more personal setting missionaries are taught by professors like Robert Millet, “Don’t answer the question they ask, answer the question they should have asked.” It’s a positive step that the Mormon Church even partially answered some of the following questions, but they have a long way to go to reach a state of absolute honesty and forthrightness.
Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?
A: For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion or other organization that is not well-known with an inflammatory term like ‘cult.’ Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said a cult means a church you don’t personally happen to like. We don’t believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.
The term “cult” indeed has its baggage, and no person or organization likes to be given a negative label. I would politely ask, What term should I then use to describe a religion that:
- Puts an excessive amount of focus on its charismatic leader
- Has missionary endeavors which are almost completely parasitic on already-established Christian missionary work and which thrive on drawing converts out of nominal Christianity.
- Perverts core tenets of traditional Christianity, but uses the same terms and phrases, often without much needed qualification.
- Teaches that their sect’s leaders have a direct, exclusive line to God.
- Won’t disclose major financial data that nearly every other religious organization will, effectively avoiding public financial accountability.
- Fosters an inordinate social and psychological dependency, making it often difficult for members to leave even when they find out the organization is fraudulent.
- Fosters among many of its members an inordinate paranoia over being exposed to literature opposed to Mormon truth-claims (a form of isolation).
- Fosters a deceitful rhetoric which avoids clear disclosure of fundamental Mormon beliefs.
- Fosters a persecution complex.
- Ostracizes, slanders, and cruelly stereotypes ex-members.
- Fosters a form of elitism with secretive ceremonies.
- Teaches its members to repeatedly say, “I know the Church is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God”, as a means of social reinforcement and psychological conditioning.
- Is very much a culture unto itself, tending to Americanize its converts.
It’s hard to believe that no group should be called a cult. Whatever Mormon representative answered this question needs to wake up and smell the coffee of the harsh reality of the existence of cults.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
Q: Does the Church believe in the divinity of Jesus?
Q: Does the Church believe that God is a physical being?
A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?
A: The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.
For Christians a main reason for calling Mary a virgin is that her son Jesus was not literally the son of God. In other words, the title is figurative, and Jesus did not get 23 chromosomes from a human Father (mortal or immortal) who has 46 chromosomes. He was not “literally” or “non-figuratively” begotten in person. In contrast, Mormonism has a long-standing unrepudiated teaching on the literal nature of Christ’s conception which redefines the term “virgin” to allow for having had sex with an immortal. I know Mormons who vehemently deny this was ever taught, others who don’t believe it but won’t renounce the teaching of it by past LDS leaders, and yet others who simply embrace it and assume it is a part of the Mormon worldview. I also know many Mormons in the middle who won’t commit to a position on the issue.
By saying that the Church “does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived” they gave an “out” for all the Mormons who redefine “virgin” as “not having had sex with a mortal man”, and by saying “the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary” they gave the impression to the masses that they positively affirm the traditional notion of “virgin”.
The LDS Church affirms the divinity of Christ, but redefines divinity altogether. In Mormonism you can be divine but not have literally created all things (like matter or “intelligences”). In the Mormon worldview, “divine” can speak of the status of God, a status reached through moral development and accomplishment and learning and growing, or it can speak of the nature we all share. Mormonism teaches that Gods, humans, demons, and angels all share the same fundamental divine nature. When one learns about all this, it really takes away the gusto behind the the superficial affirmation of the “divinity” of Christ.
Q: If so, does the Church believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob?
Q: Where is the planet Kolob? What significance does the planet have to Mormons?
A: ‘Kolob’ is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.
Some Mormons respond to this kind of question by answering, “Hey, it’s not a planet, it’s a star!” The truth is, Mormon leaders have wavered over whether over it is a star or a planet. The Church has traditionally taught, however, that God does live on a planet near a “celestial body” named Kolob. Some Mormons today allegorize this, but most laymen don’t.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?
Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?
A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other ‘sheep’ who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.
An honest answer about a real Mormon belief.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become “gods and goddesses” after death?
A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.
This probably should have been answered with a simple “yes”. An actively used, official Mormon manual clearly teaches that those exalted “will become gods” (>>). Notice how the answer is at some level self-contradicting. While Mormons would affirm that we can’t become “equal” with God in the sense of replacing him as a Father-figure, it affirms the potential of becoming equal with him in knowledge, dominion, power, etc.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women can only gain access to heaven with a special pass or codewords?
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women must serve men on both Earth and in heaven?
A: Absolutely not. Mormons believe that women and men are complete equals before God and in relation to the blessings available in the Church.
This is a very interesting answer, seemingly designed to be palatable to modern notions of authority, submission, serving, and leading. As a conservative evangelical I recognize that there is an eternal authority/submission relationship within the Trinity which doesn’t imply any inferiority. Likewise, I affirm that in marriage there are different roles of men and women, neither of which imply superiority or inferiority. As Paul said, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
For the Mormon representative to answer a question about serving with “absolutely not” and then affirm the equality of men and women seems to implicitly affirm the notion that serving implies inferiority. More striking, though, is the statement that women and men are equal before God in relation to blessings available to the Church. When one envisions a man with potentially dozens of wives (since the Church hasn’t repudiated the teaching of Mormon prophets that polygamy is necessary for exaltation) who are repeatedly pregnant throughout eternity with the spirit children of God the Father to populate planets with billions of spirit babies, some questions arise. In this world, the “Heavenly Mother(s)” is hardly even recognized or spoken of or personally known.
Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will “rule” after their death and ascension?
As a Mormon friend of mine said in response to this, “It’s hard to even imagine how to parse that question such that that answer is not a lie.” Perhaps the person who wrote the answer was thinking, “hey, we don’t believe in the existence of such planets, because they don’t exist yet.” He might have gotten by with a simple denial that the church actively, explicitly teaches on such things, but the simple “no” is an effective lie because the Mormon worldview so strongly supports the idea of gods ruling over planets.
Q: What specifically does the Mormon Church say about African-Americans and Native Americans?
A: Mormons believe that all mankind are sons and daughters of God and should be loved and respected as such. The blessings of the gospel are available to all.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why this questions was asked. Why not use this opportunity to, in a couple of lines, repudiate the historical reasoning behind the pre-1978 ban on blacks? To this day, Mormonism has not renounced the Curse of Cain doctrine behind the ban with the same degree of authoritativeness that it was endorsed before the ban was lifted. As others have pointed out, Mormonism wants many of its old, embarrassing doctrines to die via the process of quiet distancing and generational forgetfulness, lest they call attention to the fallibility of their own leaders and historic teachings by issuing an unequivocal public retraction. This is nothing less than immoral cowardice.
Shame on you, Mormon Church. The world was watching and listening for forthright answers to public questions, and you blew it. This, my friends, is how cults act.