Saturday, November 03, 2007

What Mormons believe: Part 4

Now it's time to move past The Book of Mormon and look at some of the theological beliefs of Mormonism. There are a lot of people who claim a lot of things about Mormonism. Rather than reporting what people "say" about Mormonism, I want to quote some of their authoritative sources.

First, it's important to know that Mormons have more than just the Old and New Testaments as authorities for their faith and practice. They have what they call "Four Standard Works", which they consider authoritative. They do consider the Bible as "the Word of God" but only "as far as it is translated correctly.” They use the Joseph Smith Translation of the King James Version. They are highly skeptical of any other Bible in use.

Part of this skepticism comes from the fact that Joseph Smith has changed many verses in the KJV of the Bible. One example is that Smith changed no less than 45 verses in the book of Revelation. The other three "Standard Works" are: Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Book of Mormon.

Along with these authoritative texts, Mormons believe that there are "prophets" who speak and write the Word of God in present times. Joseph Smith was the first of these present day or “latter-day” prophets. After Smith was killed, the mantle was passed to Brigham Young who led as "President" and chief prophet of the church for 30 years. The speeches and writings of these two founders are held up as divine prophecy. Likewise, the teachings of each preceding "President" are considered authoritative.

One example is when in 1890 the President of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) church, Wilford Woodruff, announced a "word from the Lord" that their longstanding practice of polygamous marriages was no longer allowed. It was convenient that at the same time the U.S. government was threatening complete dissolution of the church as well as the confiscation of all Mormon property unless polygamy ceased in the LDS church.

Some fundamentalist sects of the Mormon Church still hold to the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the third prophet, John Taylor, who advocated polygamy. They reject the new teaching offered by the fourth prophet Woodruff and his "Manifesto" ending polygamy.

With these authoritative sources in mind, below is a sampling of quotations where these Mormon authorities made theological declarations:

- “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people in it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 349).

- “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345).

- “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s: the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit”(Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22)

- “Gods exist, and we had better strive to be prepared to be on with them” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 7:238).

- “As man is, God once was: as God is, man may become” (Prophet Lorenzo Snow, quoted in Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, 105-106).

- “Each of these Gods, including Jesus Christ and His Father, being in possession of not merely and organized spirit, but a glorious immortal body of flesh and bones” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, ed. 1978, 23).

- “And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (Abraham 4:1).

- “Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is” (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 1:123).

- “Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God – an exalted being – through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey” (Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, 104).

- “Christ was the God, the Father of all things….(Mosiah 7:27, Book of Mormon)

- “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son” (Ether 3:14, Book of Mormon)

- “When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organized this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! About whom holy men have written and spoken – He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” (Brigham Young, in the Journal of Discourses, 1:50).

- “Here then is eternal life, to know the only wise and true God. You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves; to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you – namely, by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as doth those who sit enthroned in everlasting power” (Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, 6:3-4).[from a sermon he delivered at the April conference of the Church in 1844]

- “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints proclaims against the incomprehensible God, devoid of “body, parts, or passions,” as a thing impossible of existence, and asserts its belief in and allegiance to the true and living God of scripture and revelation….Jesus Christ is the son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh…Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ the Son of Elohim, is called “the Father”…that Jesus Christ, who we also know as Jehovah, was the executive of the Father, Elohim, in the work of creation as set forth in the book Jesus the Christ, chapter IV” ([Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1952], 48, 466-67).

- “In the Heaven where our spirits were born, there are many Gods, each one of whom has his own wife or wives, which were given to him previous to his redemption, while yet in his mortal state” (Apostle Orson Pratt in a Mormon periodical, The Seer, p. 37)


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