Some of my comments to this thread, in case I want to use them later. They also discuss quite a few anti-Mormon claims you may have seen or heard in the wild:
1. In response to a comment listing a bunch of Mormon “beliefs’ and “facts,” including the abundance of Masonic symbols in this (or, presumably, any) temple:
Interesting claims. I’ve been in that specific temple a dozen times, and will be back there next Tuesday and Wednesday. Please inform me of the many Masonic images to be found there. There’s the compass and the square, but then what? Two hardly qualifies as “many.”
There are pictures of the instruction rooms that show everything there is to see in those rooms, other than the vail, available through the Church’s website. There are also pictures of every other room excepting the family waiting room, the offices, the dressing rooms, and the chapels, but I’m pretty certain they contain no Masonic images (pictures of Jesus and nature, mostly).
Those specific doctrines aren’t taught in the temple. Something kind of similar to one of those points sort of is, and something about as connected is mentioned in our regular material, but let me help you out by hearing it more the way it is actually taught:
1. Through our efforts to repent and grow and become like the Savior, and the power of his Atonement, if we make and keep covenants in the temple, we will become heirs of all the Father has. This does not bring him down to our level – it elevates him to somebody who loves us enough, and has enough power to bridge the gap between where we are and where he is. Anybody teaching details about what that means beyond some very general terms is going beyond what can be found in the scriptures and curriculum of the Church, and is speaking their own opinion. They might be right, and they might not, but to say that the Church teaches such things is a misstatement. Feel free to cite a quotation from current curriculum or scriptures that contradict what I just said if you want to bring evidence to the party.
2. Eternal marriage is a necessary step in the process I described in point 1 – necessary for both men and women. Making and keeping those covenants will bring the blessing they promise, and those blessings will not be lost if one’s spouse fails to keep the same covenants – that would be unjust. Those who would have made them if they had the opportunity, but did not, and who kept the spirit of them to the best of their ability during mortality will receive the blessings of them as the work is done by proxy in their names in the temples.
Plural marriage certainly is part of the history of the Church, although it has long since withdrawn official approval of the practice and, in fact, made it cause for excommunication. So what? The practice was clearly lived by patriarchs in the Bible, and is never taught against anywhere in the Bible, so there’s no doctrinal problem with the practice.
We live in a society without any formal restriction on potentially reproductive behavior of grown-ups, in or out of marriage. What, then, exactly, is wrong with adults (not to be confused with the FLDS) deciding to exercise these same potentially reproductive options, but who call their relationship a marriage (without asking for legal recognition of that marriage) and actually expecting mutual obligations on each other out of the deal?
And do you condemn Southern protestant churches for the rationalization they provided for supporting slavery openly? And those who practice potential reproduction with other-than-legal-spouses? Just curious.
Secrets? Not exactly. More a bureaucratic difficulty with facing some pieces of unpleasant history, and a sense of privacy.
2. In response to a question someone had about my comment above concerning those who haven’t had a chance to make temple covenants in this life getting that chance in the next life:
Quite a good question. The firm doctrine is that those who did not get the chance (however that is defined) to accept these ordinances and keep the covenants they entail in this life, but who would have if they could have, will, through proxy work, have the ordinances done on their behalf and receive the blessings promised in those covenants. I think it a straight-forward point from there to say that those who are not able to marry in this life, but who would have, and would have kept their covenants will receive the blessings that go with that, including a spouse.
Those who have received and kept all their covenants in the temple are promised the blessings, and those who have not kept them are not, so if one spouse lives their covenants and the other does not, the one who does will not be deprived of those blessings. I suspect there will be a great deal of sorting out going on during the Millenium to get all of that straightened out.
This is part of the universalist aspect of Mormonism – we believe that all who have received a body in this life will be resurrected and receive a glorified body. We don’t accept that God would intentionally send billions of people into this world with no chance to be baptized so he could shovel them off into Hell. That violates my “God is not a jerk” personal doctrine.
By the same token, if someone has had the “chance,” (which is not thoroughly defined), and has rejected it, and stuck with that rejection for the rest of their lives, then they have no claim on those blessings. God’s not going to give a whole bunch of commandments, and give the same blessings to those who disregard them as he does to those who follow them. That would violate my personal “God is not a sucker” doctrine, as well as the previously mentioned Jerk Rule.
3. In response to another short laundry list of claims about Mormon beliefs, including that Mormons are just a part of Masonry, that Mormons base the validity of the Book of Mormon on the Aztecs and Mayas, and that Mormons teach something other than the “real Jesus.”:
Mormons just part of the Masons. Good luck getting the Masons to agree to that (or Mormons, for that matter). They’ve been unlinked in any meaningful way for more than a century.
Now, some Mormons will try to support the Book of Mormon with discussions of Incas, Mayas and Toltecs (you forgot the Toltecs, btw). But not all do. The evidence to support the Book of Mormon is spiritual evidence found by prayerfully experiencing the book itself. Some of us have found that evidence, and it proves quite convincing. Some have told me they have followed the same process and got a different answer. I can’t explain or verify that, because it’s so outside my experience.
The real Jesus? How hard to find do you think he is? And how picky do you think he really is about the tedia of what we might think about him? I believe in the Jesus that appears in the Bible – the same one Paul taught, so Galatians 1:8 is no problem. That I don’t subscribe to non-bliblcal creeds and confessions doesn’t mean I’m worshipping the wrong Jesus – I see no reason soever to place an iota of faith in the councils of Nicea or Chalcedon, or any others, or anything they have produced. Those were political enterprises, creating permanent “solutions” to temporary problems, and the way they were enforced raises the question of why, if these doctrinal models were important enough to kill people over, Jesus didn’t teach any of them.
If you believe them, and find beauty in them that helps you be a better person, then rock on. But I continue to have a problem with people who proclaim themselves Christian using non-bliblical standards to exclude others from the Christian club, and for treating them quite contrary to the way Jesus taught people to treat even their enemies. Christian is as Christian does, and I’m going to find Christianity in those I see emulating Jesus more than those who say “Lord, Lord….” and put on the bumper sticker and the t-shirt.
4. In response to a comment about how good people Mormons are, but how ignorant they are about Mormon history which references Jon Krakauer ( who “wasn’t lying”) as a source of the “real story,” and repeats an idea often found in this thread that “if only those nice Mormons knew their history, they’d walk away from the Church.”
Krakauer wasn’t lying, but he certainly had a goal in mind, and wrote toward it. I would definitely encourage reading Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” for a fairly thorough and fairly balanced discussion of Joseph Smith and his life.
More Mormons would do well to dig further into their history than they have, especially looking at the difficult issues folks have brought up here. I think that’s coming. The internet has really done away with the idea that the Church can control access to these ideas from members, and I see Deseret Book publishing RSR as a sign that a more thorough approach to Church History is coming.
But let’s please stop with the arrogance that, if these stupid Mormons knew these things about their history, they’d leave, so the fact that they haven’t left means they just don’t know. No matter how many Mormons you’ve known, there are many millions more that you haven’t, and some of those millions include people who know as much as you do about these things or more, and who still believe. Assuming that those who disagree are stupid is intellectually arrogant and dishonest, and nobody who has been through a basic class in critical thinking should be trying to fly that idea.
Mormonism isn’t for everybody. It may not be for you. It is for me, and I’ve paid the price to say that. If you don’t like that, tough. Don’t expect that trashing things I value is going to persuade me that you’re right, and don’t be surprised if I doubt how Christian you are when you treat me in a way contrary to what Jesus taught. Joseph Smith said that people should be allowed to worship how, where or what they may. I have a right to be wrong, as do you. Perhaps I am, and perhaps you are – probably both of us, at least a little bit. Whatever way that works out, how about we try to not treat each other badly over something as simple as disagreement?
5. In response to a comment made by a minister of another faith which was packed with a lot of standard anti-Mormon claims, and was very disrespectful in how they were stated, wrapped in a sense of “I’m still loving Mormons by speaking the truth of what they believe.”:
Yeah, you’re falling into some standard anti-Mormon patterns of thinking here. You make some very good points about a pitfall that Mormons (and other Christians, frankly) can fall into – where they get caught up in good things that distract them from the very centrality of our dependence on Jesus and his sacrifice for us. Mormons tend to get caught up in doing good things, and in looking perfect, while other Christians can get caught up in putting on the trappings of Christian life (music, books, t-shirts, bumper-stickers, etc.) while missing out on Jesus clear teachings (Sermon on the Mount stuff – very basic, and very challenging) and feeling like they own Jesus (it’s the other way around). But the failings of Mormons is not a failing of Mormonism, any more than the failings of Christians are failings of Christianity, and there are no shortage of such failings, flaws, weaknesses and misunderstandings to be found anywhere. It’s a good thing God loves us, because we clearly aren’t worth a plugged nickel on our own strength.
But your summary of what Mormons believe is, at best, twisted, and based in limited understandings and imperfect communication. At worst, it’s based in the characterization of professional anti-Mormons, and to accept their characterizations without further investigation isn’t intellectually honest. You’re going to come closer to understanding what Mormons teach and believe from our little (2009 edition) “Gospel Principles” book that you could read in a couple of hours than what those folks have to say in all of their books.
And you could do with just a smidge of respect for Mormonism. You’ve done everything you can to cast every little tidbit of information you’ve got in a disrespectful and negative light. If I spoke of your side of our doctrinal differences with as much respect as you have shown, you would be right to be offended. Let me suggest you re-examine the Sermon on the Mount for how Jesus said to treat people you disagree with – it seems you have some more learning to do on that.
Let me tell you what I believe on the things you spoke about. And then you can tell me what you believe, instead of you guessing (wrongly) what I believe. Okay?
I believe that we are all spirit children of God – everybody who has come to this world or ever could have. That makes us all brothers and sisters. I believe that God wants us to receive everything he has, because he loves us that much, and that, if we follow his plan for us to the degree we can, and rely on his power and grace, his grace is sufficient for us. I don’t accept that he would teach us to call him “Father” if we never had a chance to become like him – that sounds cruel to me. Jesus said “Come, follow me,” and that he wanted us to be perfect, as his father is. I think he meant that, and I don’t see any stretch to think that we can follow him to where he is, due to his power and love for us.
I believe families can be forever. I have no idea what the details of an eternal family will be or how it will function, but I do challenge the notion that God would rip families and marriages apart and call that “Heaven.” Why give us families in this world if they are to have no eternal significance? Why not have us born from rocks and dirt, rather than from parents?
I just can’t bring myself to go forward with what you had to say. There’s just too much disrespect, and too little charity in how you’re mischaracterizing things I find important and sacred. I will talk about almost anything with those who are interested in understanding and respectful, but I’m not getting any of that from what you’ve said here. I wish you the best, but I’m done with this for now.
6. In response to a comment about how Mormons teach that you must be free of sin to be saved, based on a quote from Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness:
Miracle of Forgiveness is not an authoritative work that expresses only binding or official doctrine. It’s the best understanding of (then) Elder Kimball on the things he was writing about. I know people who just love the book and find it amazingly useful – I don’t. I recall hearing that Pres. Kimball said, in later years, that, if he had it to do again, he’d have said some things differently.
I don’t understand this sense of “gotcha!” in your comment. Like you’ve read this one book, and so you’ve got the inside track on what Mormonism’s all about. And it’s not at all unique to you – I see it from all kinds of folks who read the “witnessing to Mormons” books, among others. Whether the book is from Decker or Krakauer, or Brody, or Kimball or McConkie or Talmadge, you simply can’t condense all of Mormonism into a single book, and you can’t get the “inside scoop” in just a year or two of study. I’ve been learning about it for more than 40 years now, and have looked into things that many others in the Church haven’t, and there’s more to it than I really have a mastery of, so when I see somebody coming in with less time and less study thinking they’ve got the whole thing figured out, I’m not that impressed. They might bring something to the party that I didn’t already know, but even that’s pretty unusual these days.
I do appreciate the significant reduction in arrogance in what you’ve said and what the “witnessing” folks do – I find it highly offensive that somebody will tell me what I believe without bothering to ask me what I believe first, and to base those declarations of my belief on the Journal of Discourses is just ignorant in the first degree. Most Mormons have never even heard of the JoD, and almost none have read any of it – it hasn’t been taught out of officially in much of anybody’s memory. To claim that the statements there are what Mormons “really believe” is to show staggering ignorance of Mormonism. And my purpose here isn’t to slap at you for being arrogant at all – it’s to let you know that, having connected what you’ve shown here with the “witnessing” crowd, that I see a significant distinction between you and them.