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However, most of the unique doctrines which defined Mormonism in the nineteenth century have never been rescinded; the religion today remains primarily the religion as it was in the 1800s, doctrinally speaking.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.