Back when I first started studying Mormonism I encountered a lot of believingMormons. Men and women who actually believed Joseph Smith was a prophet–a real prophet, and that the Book of Mormon was really true, and that the LDS Church had something called Latter-day Revelation which was, well, actually revelation. Evidently, those Mormons are now long gone, at least as far has holding positions of authority in Salt Lake City. I truly wonder where all the Mormons I used to debate in the “Mormon Echo” on the FidoNet BBS system (did I just date myself terribly?) are these days? Because if I were those folks, I would be utterly ashamed of the leadership of my church.
   Evidently, Fox News submitted a list of questions to the Mormon Church, asking for clarification, confirmation, or denial, about the very issues that have been filling the blogosphere for a while now, prompted by the Romney candidacy. What an absolutely golden opportunity for the Mormon Church to stand tall, speak the truth as they see it, speak it plainly, and get free publicity in the process! I would love for Fox News to ask me similar questions, even tough ones like, “Do you believe God chooses who will be saved and who will not” or some ringer like that. What a great opportunity to get to proclaim the truth in a context where it is rarely heard!
   But, as anyone can see by looking at the result, the Mormon Church did the proverbial face-plant, to my amazement, and surely to the chagrin of any believing Mormon. No wonder their numbers are flat! They have completely lost their direction and their guts at the highest levels! Instead of giving bold, clear answers, the resultant replies were spineless attempts at spin, all posted on the front page of FoxNews.com. Truly amazing!
   So I would like to contrast New Mormonism with Old Mormonism, and in the process, hopefully, clarify the issues about which so much unneeded confusion exists. In some instances I will provide direct citations in contrast with the answers provided by New Mormonism. Others involved just silly questions to begin with.

Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?
New Mormonism: 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.

Old Mormonism:

“And any person who shall be so wicked as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent of the unholy and impious act.” (Orson Pratt, OP-WA, “The Kingdom of God,” no.2, p.6)
“…all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who recieves baptism or the Lord’s supper from their hands will highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt people.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 255)
“…the great apostate church as the anti-christ…This great antichrist…is the church of the devil.” (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine p.40)
“Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the “whore of Babylon” whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.” (Pratt, The Seer, p.255)
“Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth.” (Brigham Young, JD 6:176)
“Evil spirits control much of the so-called religious worship in the world; for instance, the great creeds of Christendom were formulated so as to conform to their whispered promptings.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.246)
“After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common orgin. They belong to Babylon.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p.324)

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
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.

Old Mormonism:
   Marion G. Romney: Now who is Jesus Christ, and how could he bring about the resurrection when no other man nor all men put together could do so? The Scriptures respond to these questions. They make it clear that the spirit person Jesus Christ-as are the spirits of all men-is the Son of God, our Eternal Father. In this respect he is like all other men. He differs from all other men, however, by reason of the fact that men’s bodies are begotten of mortal men and are, therefore, subject to death, being descendants and inheritors from Adam, while Christ’s physical body was begotten of God, our Heavenly Father-an immortal being not subject to death. Christ, therefore, inherited from his Father the faculty to live on indefinitely. CR1975Apr:123-24
   Apostle Melvin Ballard: One of the great questions that I have referred to that the world is concerned about, and is in confusion over, is as to whether or not his was a virgin birth, a birth wherein divine power interceded. Joseph Smith made it perfectly clear that Jesus Christ told the absolute truth, as did those who testify concerning him, the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, wherein he is declared to be the very Son of God. And if God the Eternal Father is not the real Father of Jesus Christ, then are we in confusion; then is he not in reality the Son of God. But we declare that he is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.
   Mary told the story most beautifully when she said that an angel of the Lord came to her and told her that she had found favor in the sight of God, and had come to be worthy of the fulfilment of the promises heretofore made, to become the virgin mother of the Redeemer of the world. She afterwards, referring to the event, said: “God hath done wonderful things unto me.” “And the Holy Ghost came upon her,” is the story, “and she came into the presence of the highest.” No man or woman can live in mortality and survive the presence of the Highest except by the sustaining power of the Holy Ghost. So it came upon her to prepare her for admittance into the divine presence, and the power of the Highest, who is the Father, was present, and overshadowed her, and the holy Child that was born of her was called the Son of God.
   Men who deny this, or who think that it degrades our Father, have no true conception of the sacredness of the most marvelous power with which God has endowed mortal men-the power of creation. Even though that power may be abused and may become a mere harp of pleasure to the wicked, nevertheless it is the most sacred and holy and divine function with which God has endowed man. Made holy, it is retained by the Father of us all, and in his exercise of that great and marvelous creative power and function, he did not debase himself, degrade himself, nor debauch his daughter. Thus Christ became the literal Son of a divine Father, and no one else was worthy to be his father. (Cited in Rulon T. Burton, We Believe: Doctrines and Principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake City: Tabernacle Books, 1994), “God,” LDSCL.)
   CHRIST NOT BEGOTTEN OF HOLY GHOST. I believe firmly that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He taught this doctrine to his disciples. He did not teach them that He was the Son of the Holy Ghost, but the Son of the Father. . . . Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God! (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Bruce R. McConkie, ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956), 1:18, LDSCL)
   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the son of the Eternal Father! (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p.7.)
   The great God, the Eternal Elohim, the Father of us all, . . . in his love, mercy, and grace condescended to step down from his Almighty throne, to step down to a lesser and benighted state, as it were, and become the Father of a Son “after the manner of the flesh.” . . . This then is the condescension of God-that a God should beget a man; that an Immortal Parent should father a mortal Son; that the Creator of all things from the beginning should step down from his high state of exaltation and be, for a moment, like one of the creatures of his creating. . . .We have spoken plainly of our Lord’s conception in the womb of Mary; in reality the plain assertions are found in the revealed word, and we have but certified that the words mean what they say and cannot be spiritualized away. And as it is with reference to our Lord’s mother, so it is as pertaining to his Father. The scriptures say that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son. The problem is that the intellectually led ministry and laity of the day assume, as Satan leads them to do, that a name-title of this sort is simply figurative and does not have the same literal meaning as when the words are spoken in ordinary conversation. Perhaps again the best service we can render, on the issue here involved, is somehow to get the message across that words mean what they say, and that if Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father, it means just that.
   Some words scarcely need definition. They are on every tongue and are spoken by every voice. The very existence of intelligent beings presupposes and requires their constant use. Two such words are father and son. Their meaning is known to all, and to define them is but to repeat them. Thus: A son is a son is a son, and a father is a father is a father. I am the son of my father and the father of my sons. They are my sons because they were begotten by me, were conceived by their mother, and came forth from her womb to breathe the breath of mortal life, to dwell for a time and a season among other mortal men.
   And so it is with the Eternal Father and the mortal birth of the Eternal Son. The Father is a Father is a Father; he is not a spirit essence or nothingness to which the name Father is figuratively applied. And the Son is a Son is a Son; he is not some transient emanation from a divine essence, but a literal, living offspring of an actual Father. God is the Father; Christ is the Son. The one begat the other. Mary provided the womb from which the Spirit Jehovah came forth, tabernacles in clay, as all men are, to dwell among his fellow spirits whose births were brought to pass in like manner. There is no need to spiritualize away the plain meaning of the scriptures. There is nothing figurative or hidden or beyond comprehension in our Lord’s coming into mortality. He is the Son of God in the same sense and way that we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple. Christ was born of Mary. He is the Son of God-the Only begotten of the Father. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), pp. 467-469, LDSCL)

Q: Does the Church believe in the divinity of Jesus?
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.

   It is hard to figure out how anyone in Salt Lake thinks that repeating the same statement, without explanation, three times (see the question below which begs for elaboration and explanation) is going to satisfy the curiosity of those who may well want to honestly know what the Mormon Church officially teaches. Obviously, the question is being asked from a Christian perspective, and if what Christians believe truly is wrong, and an “abomination” in God’s sight, as Joseph Smith taught, and as Old Mormonism proclaimed, what better opportunity would they have than this to proclaim the “true” divinity of Jesus, i.e., that He is the first- begotten spirit child of Elohim? Sure they are using “code,” words that have one meaning for Mormons, and another for the rest of us, but why not come out and tell us all what these words mean? He’s literally the Son of God—spiritually, in the pre-existance, and physically as well! He has an immortal body because the Mormon Jesus had an immortal Father, Elohim, who, as they say, has an “immortal body.” Why not lay this out with clarity, if it is, in fact, the truth? Why leave it shrouded in ambiguity?

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.

   God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in formlike yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.
   These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
   Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me.

   These famous words from Joseph Smith’s King Follet Funeral Discourse lay out the foundation of the LDS doctrine of God, and establish the basis of a much more recent statement from LDS theologian Stephen Robinson:

“The important points of the doctrine for Latter-day Saints are that Gods and humans are the same species of being, but at different stages of development in the divine continuum, and that the heavenly Father and Mother are the heavenly pattern . . . of what mortals can become through obedience to the gospel.” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pp. 548-549)

   Here would be the ideal point in time for the Mormon Church to proclaim to all the world that the central affirmation of its faith is that God is an exalted man, not the eternal God of the Greeks adopted by the Christians (as Old Mormonism proclaimed with regularity and vigor). But instead, Salt Lake chooses to mumble something in Mormo-speak, passing up the opportunity to re-affirm its past teachings. Is this because Salt Lake is really changing? Or is Salt Lake just that confused? One is left to wonder.
(continued)

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