What if Thomas Monson, Pope Benedict XVI, and John Piper began teaching that the practice of homosexuality was morally praiseworthy?

I pick John Piper to make it personal for me and some other evangelicals. He is not by any stretch of the imagination the pope of Protestantism, but he is my living hero. I even named my only begotten son after him. If he were to begin teaching that the practice of homosexuality was morally praiseworthy I would be crushed. But I have the freedom as a Christian to swiftly discard any wrong teachings of his in a heartbeat.

This is why I disagree that an attack on institutional Mormonism for any modern or historic problem can conceivably apply to Protestantism in the same way: we have vastly different views of church government, leadership, and authority. I do not believe that I have an inspired apolostic leadership, nor do I have a hierarchy to which I am bound. We evangelicals are more decentralized, and have no system of inspired (and I use that word in the strong sense) leadership-succession.

An ideological attack on the past actions and words of Roman popes matters more than attacks on any Protestant figure. I can discard the teaching of a Protestant on a whim. But Catholics in principle have more invested in the historic reliability of their succession of authority figures. So a Protestant preacher and Catholic pope could make the same exact theological error, but it should in principle have more impact on the system of Romanism than on Protestantism. This is even more the case when it comes to a Mormon president, because Mormonism says that its president is a bona fide prophet in the thickest sense.

Wanting modern prophets and apostles or Popes with inherent authority but without any increased standard of accountability and responsibility is downright shallow. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

For all the smack-talk about Protestants being in a denominational anarchy and disorganized mess, we have the benefit of not having to account for any historic leadership to which we do not put ourselves under. So while you could conceivably hold me accountable for sticking around my local church while my local pastor was doing or saying horrible things, or you could accuse a Presbyterian sticking around too long under a bad presbytery, etc., you can’t accuse me of being immoral for refusing to take responsibility for a Protestant like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Ted Haggard, etc., let alone any dead guy.

The best real example I can think of is historic racism. I was previously accused of ideologically attacking the Mormon Church for not making an institutional apology for the kind of theology that undergirded the pre-1978 priesthood ban. After all, wasn’t Mormonism’s racism largely a continuation of what was Protestant racism? I responded:

There is no question in my mind over whether the seeds of Mormonism’s institutional racism were planted by Protestants. Racism is only the beginning of the list of the embarrassing sins of my religious ancestors. There are worse skeletons than racism in our closet. Furthermore, you and I both come from the same rotten mom and dad, Adam and Eve. The nice thing about sola scriptura (a belief some Mormons seem to retreat to when forced to deal with things like Adam-God) is that I can discard the teachings of historic Jews and Christians when they don’t reflect (explicitly or by inference) a historical-grammatical reading of the Old or New Testament. My leaders have no more access to God than I do, and I am not bound to any one religious hierarchy. God has promised that his people are securely in his hand, but he has not promised that religious leaders who are professing Christians will never lead people astray.

Mormons, on the other hand, have been given the promise that their leaders will never lead others astray. When Mormonism touts what it calls “continuing revelation”, living prophets, living apostles, and a modern stream of prophetic counsel, it ups the ante. I can, and I do right now, unequivocally denounce and condemn what Luther said about the Jews. But Mormonism’s leaders haven’t demonstrated a willingness to stand up and unequivocally and explicitly denounce and condemn what it (”it” being the institution with various institutional channels of communication and control) has promoted, perpetuated, enforced, and acquiesced to.

Just in case this isn’t clear, let me make it crystal clear. If John Piper taught tomorrow that Jesus was the spirit-brother of Satan, that we had to merit eternal life, and that one should have no certain position on whether God the Father was once a foul sinner in a past mortal probation, I would probably cry but then pronounce that he is anathema/accursed/hell-bound. As Paul said,

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

So even if Thomas Monson, or John Piper, or Pope Benedict XVI teaches a false gospel, let him go to hell. Turn your back on him and go where the Spirit is. And of this you can be sure: where the true gospel is not believed, the Spirit is not indwelling.

See also

Addendum

A classic example of false teaching by a Mormon prophet is Adam-God. On this one Mormon writes:

“It’s now standard practice to teach that Adam and Heavenly Father are separate beings, but there was a time when that assertion contradicted what the President of the Church was teaching. Brigham Young taught that acceptance or rejection of the Adam-God doctrine ‘will either seal the damnation or salvation of [men]’ (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, April 9, 1852). Men like Orson Pratt were vocal in their opposition to the doctrine, and Brigham Young responded that it would “destroy him if he does not repent & turn from his evil ways” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, March 11, 1856). Yet, in a matter of decades, the Church had abandoned the doctrine… So what are we to do if we find our conscience in opposition to what the present authorities are teaching about some issue? Force ourselves to accept something with which we disagree? I don’t think that’s the way to go. I mean, can we safely assume that, in another 25, 50, or 100 years, General Authorities will still be teaching the same thing? If Church history is any indication, then the answer is no. Today’s heresies might be tomorrow’s doctrines. As for myself, I’ll stick with my own intuition, spiritual experiences, and conscience.” (>>)

If you want to engage in constructive conversation on this whole issue, folks, don’t resort to the red herring of “prophets aren’t perfect, they’re human”, etc. That’s an inadequate way of approaching the problem. Some helpful questions to answer would be:

  • Do you believe your inspired leadership is expected to be more doctrinally reliable than the common laymen? How should they be held accountable to this?
  • How bad can the false doctrine of an inspired leader get before he is objectively disqualified from being a true prophet or apostle? Some Mormons seem to believe there are no limits.

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104 Responses to What if Thomas Monson, Pope Benedict XVI, and John Piper began teaching that the practice of homosexuality was morally praiseworthy?

  1. David says:

    MDavis,

    Brigham Young also taught that all his sermons were scripture and that he was never wrong. Again, I have never stated that Adam-God was, or was not, binding on your members. My area of concern is B. Young’s beliefs, be they personal or not. The very fact that B. Young aired his beliefs at General Conference tells one that they were more than “mere” opinion. Your three assertions demonstrate a pre-commitment to your church that I do not share.

    I have played the telephone game and the thing is sometimes the message does make it to the end. Also, this is not the telephone game! This stuff is written down and is not merely oral, which is the problem the telephone game is supposed to demonstrate. I submit that if Young’s statements regarding Adam-God cannot be understood then 95%, or better, of the teaching that has come down through the GA’s cannot be understood. Also, most if not all of the people that frequent this blog know that many beliefs (both past and present) of Mormons are not required to have a “thus sayeth the Lord” for them to be widely held at the least, and binding at the most.

    I believe the first of your conditions were/are definitely met, the second is debatable. There is no doubt in my mind that Young believed Adam-God (traditional understanding) and that he even taught it. My question to you concerning the matter, did not address whether the teaching was “binding” or not. I just asked if Young believed and taught it (which he did).

    It terms of prophets making mistakes . . . when they do so concerning religious beliefs that is heresy. I guess I can infer from your response that anyone of your top guys could personally affirm, and even teach, the worst of doctrines (like Satan-God) and not be a heretic and even still maintain his status as a prophet. If a prophet makes a mistake in terms of a prophecy then that is a false prophecy. I do not believe there are false prophecies in the Bible, I am guessing you do.

    As far as homosexuality is concerned, where is that revelation and binding? Also I believe the issue of polygamy is a great example of how Mormons deal with what is binding and what is not. Polygamy was officially denounced in 1835 yet we know it was being practiced at the highest levels. We know that the D&C, for a time, condemned it, yet it was integral to LDS belief. We also know that polygamy (at least in the 19th century) was binding at least for the highest level of exaltation. So in terms of sexuality, I would categorize your church’s position as “fluid”.

    Again, you hide under the whole “binding or not binding” thing and that is not an issue that I have pursued. The real issue is a prophet who held to a heresy that you would not ever personally sustain. Young held a heretical belief. He was strong enough in this belief to have taught it to others. Other Mormons did believe it, even GA’s So, why would you side with the anti-AG GA’s and not the pro-AG GA’s? Just as McConkie said that the issue is which B. Young to believe, I maintain the issue is which GA’s to believe on this issue and which to reject (and why).

    Furthermore, this issue is not one that your church allows personal discretion for. It is not a matter of personal opinion. People have been disciplined over Adam-God. One could take the red-herring of saying that they were only disciplined for teaching it. But keep in mind that Young taught as such, and members are not disciplined for teaching that which is “true”. So, your church has taken an Anti-AG stance (which is hard to do if the doctrine is not even understood).

    Again, for those reading this, I would like to contrast the LDS style of dealing with doctrine with that of genuine Christianity. We have used words like “anathema” and “heretic” for those who have held to false doctrines. It was/is not necessary for it to have some “binding” status. For a religious idea to be false and affirmed is enough. Pope Honorius affirmed the heresy of monothelytism. His affirmation and dissemination of it was used by its adherents as a proof of its legitimacy. Thus, posthumously, he was struck with an anathema so as to squelch any further teaching of it.

    Adam-God fits this ‘affirmed and false” criteria. It is definitely a false doctrine and Young affirmed it. Thus the quorum of me, myself, and I proclaim Brigham Young a heretic.

  2. DOF,

    What are you saying here? That we can’t trust the Bible? Is this one of those instances where the Bible has been radically bastardized?

  3. BWS71 said “I say we don’t know because we have no scriptural insight or precedent comparable to what modern media and the information age has presented.”

    Actually, we have several scriptural insights. I’ll grant that they don’t come under the “modern media” category, but we still have a wealth of detail available. One example that springs to mind is Paul rebuking Peter for tacitly capitulating to the Judaizers (Gal 2:11-16).

    “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain [men] came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

    We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Parenthesis mine).

    I’ve posted the passage in full for two reaons;

    1 Paul did not opt for a “diplomatic” approach but waltzed to the front and publicly rebuked Peter in no uncertain terms. From other NT sources, we can see that Peter repented and retained his apostleship.

    2 What motivated Paul to this outrageous action was that Peter’s actions threatened the Gospel of Grace. By separating himself with the circumcised faction, Peter was affirming the idea that a person had to be made worthy before he or she could be accepted by God.

    The two things for LDS to consider here are this;

    1 The leadership must be held publicly accountable for its actions and teachings, even at the highest level. When a leader or prophet is in error, the publicity of the rebuke should be proportional to the profile of the leader; the ‘higher’ the leader, the stronger and more public the rebuke.

    2 Peter’s actions were a subtle, yet profound, attack on the Gospel of salvation by Grace alone. His actions affirmed the notion that the Gentiles had to do something (the “works of the law”) in order to earn acceptance in the Christian community before God. We’ve been over this before, but the stance of the LDS movement is that we must do certain duties and rites before we can enter the temple (metaphorically and literally).

    In this sense, then, the LDS movement stands with Peter with the Judaisers, and it deserves the full wrath of Paul in a public and unequivocal rebuke.

  4. gideon20 says:

    I do not know what garbage people have been digging through about Brigham Young said that Adam was God because that was never said in one of our books that we study and read. Must have bought that trash from an against the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints religion bookstore because it would never be taught inside our churches, our religious material, or in our homes. God is God – The Eternal Father, Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ – the son of God and Adam is Adam -which was on Earth made by God and if Adam was God then how could he talk to God in while he was in front of him (Adam) and in front of his Wife Eve.

    So if Adam and Can be God and Adam at the same time then you have read the wrong material whether or not you believe that Brigham Young said it because that was a lie and I do not listen to garbage from someone that does not understand or know a religion that they belong to or not. As for your other comments that say what the church we belong to believes and do not believe our garbage too because you do not know our religion other than what you get out of a tabloid or whatever junk you read this so called facts.

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