MATTERS OF FAITH

I spend my days at work looking through vast quantities of public opinion data. Nothing I see is surprising anymore, and most of it is, if not predictable, easily explainable. A throwaway poll from the South Carolina primary, however, left me scratching my head. Among voters who stated that religion matters "a great deal", 46% voted for thrice-married serial adulterer and pretend Catholic Newt Gingrich compared to only 10% for Mitt the Mormon.

Not being a practitioner of any organized religion, I understand the factionalism and various interdenominational rivalries adequately but not completely. I get it that evangelical Christians (let's safely assume they made up the vast majority of religiously inclined South Carolina GOP primary voters) have extremely negative views of Mormonism. It was clear that this would be an issue with his candidacy from the outset, but I never really processed it or attempted to understand it.

All religion is based on faith, and specifically the belief in miraculous events. Don't flip out here. What I mean is, Christians believe that Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead. As people cannot rise from the dead (or, in the case of lucky Lazarus, be risen) one can only base a belief that such things occurred on considerable faith in a higher power. I'm not making fun of anyone. This is simply the reality of believing in something that can't be empirically validated. As such every religion, logically speaking, is equally plausible. The only reason Mormonism gets more crap is because the miraculous events upon which it is based occurred more recently and thus are treated with a greater degree of skepticism. Mohammed and the Buddha and Jesus and the gang were lucky to exist before photography, the telegram, and newspapers. Not so for ol' Joseph Smith.

My point here is that while the core beliefs of Mormonism may appear silly to the non-religious or merely the non-Mormon, they're no sillier (or less plausible) than the stories of the Old Testament or the Bhagavad Gita. It all requires the willing suspension of the laws of physical reality and a belief in a supernatural power. Fine. So why do born-again Christians have such fanatical hostility toward Mormonism? While Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and other major religious groups in the U.S. may not be Bestest Buddies with the LDS church, they seem to be tolerant and not openly hostile.

Recently it hit me that the issue is not based in religious dogma (Mormons do not, as Evangelicals often claim, reject the divinity of Jesus) or in codes of conduct (Mormons reject most of the same behaviors rejected by Christians, including polygamy, gay marriage, and other hot-button political issues). It's about competition. The megachurch dwellers hate Mormons because Mormonsism is a proselytizing religion, one that has been phenomenally successful in the past few decades. When George Romney ran for president or governor in the 1950s and 1960s nobody cared that he was a Mormon because Mormons were as common as Zoroastrians. Now there are over 14 million Mormons and LDS missionaries (Sound familiar?) in 167 countries according to the church.

In competing for the same customer, if you will, Mormons have the distinct advantage of being almost absurdly friendly and outwardly tolerant of other belief systems, whereas the average ultraconservative Christian Bible-banger has a mouth like a puckered asshole and uses Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards as a blueprint for spreading the word. Mormonism has slick ad campaigns (they have billboards all over Atlanta, commercials on every TV network, and a sponsored YouTube channel that pops up at least once daily for yours truly) and they distance themselves from the anti-intellectualism of the Christian right. It's the kind of thing that middle class people – particularly Hispanics – appear to find appealing, based on the number of new recruits. And like other parts of the Republican base, the Christian right is terrified at the prospect of losing the Hispanics as a potential recruiting pool.

This isn't Ed's Ringing Endorsement of Mormonism. To me it is no better or worse than any other religion. The point is that the Pat Robertson crowd is scared shitless of the success and polished appeal of the LDS church, not any particular aspect of its dogma. Since so many religions differ wildly from evangelical Protestantism, I can't think of a more plausible explanation for why Mormonism is singled out for such intense hatred. Why not Gingrich's Catholicism, with its blasphemous Roman popery? Why not Judaism? Why not Islam? Oh wait, I guess they do hate that last one. Different reason, though.

I am not the world's most open minded person. I detest Scientologists, Juggalos, and the Irish. OK, just the first two. But my reasons are rooted in their beliefs and practices. I'm becoming convinced that the anti-Mormon sentiment on the right is based on something entirely different. Megachurches are in constant competition with each other and with other religions to put more butts in seats. And they're getting very worried that this new kid on the block, Mormonism, is to Evangelical Christianity what digital photography was to Kodak film.

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86 Responses to “MATTERS OF FAITH”

  1. Alan C Says:

    I think Ed is right about competition, but I'm sure it's especially galling to evangelicals to have to compete with a (in their eyes) counterfeit version of Christianity.

  2. Southern Beale Says:

    No, you're wrong, it's not about competition. It's doctrinal. On both sides. Evangelical Christianity is based on the idea of redemption from sin and salvation in Jesus Christ. Newt could have as many wives as he did as long as he told a somewhat believable tale of redemption. Every single fundiegelical has their "story" about how they were "saved," and this is Newt's. It's not a very good one — he certainly hasn't won over all evangelicals with it — but it was sufficient to pull the "values voters" to his side from Mitt the Mormon, a religion the church folks have always looked at as a cult.

    Evangelical protestants of the Southern Baptist variety which predominate in the South do not now nor have they ever believed that Mormonism is a Christian religion. They just don't. They are given that Kool-Aid from their earliest Bible study. Mormons have their own Bible, and you just don't DO that, if you beleive every single word of the Bible is the inerrant word of God then there's no "adding on" — not with a Catholic catechism and not with any of this Book of Mormon crap.

    And that's just the most obvious no-no. The Mormon faith is secretive and their rituals are based on things like Freemasonry, which strict religious folks have always viewed as Satan's work. Mormon temple rituals involve blood oaths, another huge no-no in Fundiegelical world. And then their whole theology denies the basic divinity of Jesus, it says Jesus was Adam's brother or some shit like that. Again, if you believe in Biblical inerrancy, than that is just way too much editing of the Word of God for these folks.

    You know, as I drove past the huge Southern Baptist church up the street from me this weekend I saw a giant "Divorce Care" billboard and I thought, "Baptists understand divorce. Their theology can embrace divorce: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, there is healing through Christ," blabbedy blah. But weird shit like the Melchizedek Priesthood? No way.

  3. Ed Says:

    Oh, it's doctrinal? So southern evangelical protestants know and understand the tenets of Mormonism?

    I find that highly, highly implausible.

  4. Major Kong Says:

    Southern evangelical protestants know that everyone else is wrong wrong wrong.

    After that it's only a matter of degree.

  5. Bernard Says:

    wonderful comments!!!

  6. Xynzee Says:

    @Southern, Ladies and Tom:
    Well said. Very well said.

    @Ed: reread Southern's post, as well as Tom's post. They're pretty much some up everything. Especially about the "secret" stuff. In your mainline orthodox christian churches they should be open to view, nothing hidden that your average visitor couldn't see on a given Sunday. The "hidden" stuff happens in the "spiritual realm". Eg. during the Eucharist to the Catholics and Orthodoxi (is that the correct plural?) the bread and wine *become* flesh and blood in the spiritual world. If you were to taste them, your observation would be closer to that of one of the Plinys, that they were just bread and wine. Whatever, these happen in the open though the Orthodox churches have the screen they go behind. The history of which was as a political (theological) solution, as ppl were wasting time arguing about how the priest broke the bread (people will argue over anything). Other than that the only hidden stuff in these churches is either political or financial.

    @Ladies and Ellie: the main reason the English Protestant churches dropped the non-canonicals was actually a pragmatic reason. High quality ultra thin Bible paper didn't exist. Printing cost a bomb and a half. To reduce size and cost something had to go. The catechism for the Anglican Communion references them for learning, but not for deriving doctrine. Therefore to an Elizabethan era theatre goer, Polonius' advice to Laertes would have been recognised as a direct quote from Sirach particularly to the Über rich of the day. I believe that the Continental churches dropped those books for the same reason, but Dutch, German and French reform history aside being very bloody isn't my strong suit.

  7. TomW Says:

    Ed writes:
    "Oh, it's doctrinal? So southern evangelical protestants know and understand the tenets of Mormonism?

    I find that highly, highly implausible."

    You are assuming that they need to think about this stuff in nuanced terms the way that you do. They don't NEED to understand any complex tenets of Mormonism to decide that Mormons are not Christians. A few basic bits of Mormonism are more than enough to label them not-Christians.

    They have a sacred book IN ADDITION to the Bible, they baptize the dead, they don't believe in the Trinity, they think Jesus visited the Native Americans. They are not Christians, they are a cult that pretends to be Christian. Case closed.

    Honestly, the mere existence of the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible is probably enough evidence for most evangelicals that they are definitely not-Christians. The rest of the screwy Mormon stuff is just icing on the cake.

  8. bb in GA Says:

    So…after all the opining here, the exit polls (if believable) say that Romney, the Mormon, got 38% of the evangelicals, Gingrich got 37%, Santorum got 18%, and Paul got 5% and apparently 2% of the evangelicals got lost :-)

    I didn't see an MOE attached to these data.

    How do we spin this?

    I guess we could opine that when you add Gingrich and Santorum together you get 55% out of 93% or about 60% of the evangelical vote among those three candidates was anti-Romney and perhaps anti-Mormon.

    60/40 is a pretty good whuppin' but I submit that it is anti-Mormon only at the margins.

    I think I could arm wave effectively that it easily an anti-Taxachussetts moderate vote (and "Oh BTW he's a damn Mormon too…") or I could break positive and say it was a 'pro' vote for the more conservative candidates.

    //bb

  9. Southern Beale Says:

    "How do we spin this?"

    Well, I also read that said Florida's turnout was something like 200,000 less than in 2008. I think it's safe to say Republicans are not excited about any of their options.

  10. Elle Says:

    @Ladies and Ellie: the main reason the English Protestant churches dropped the non-canonicals was actually a pragmatic reason. High quality ultra thin Bible paper didn't exist.

    Do you mean me? Or Ellie? (We are confusing with our nearly identical names, I know.)

    Yes, I was posting from the perspective of early teenage me. When I was in my late teens I read a huge amount about the history of the Bible. I'm not sure I would entirely agree that it was all about printing, but it's certainly part of the story of how the Protestant and Catholic canons came to be settled. I think Luther's Bible was the first to feature an inter-testamental apocrypha, and that was read as a commentary on its suitability for inclusion, rather than anything to do with manufacture.

    Be still my heart, on the link between Hamlet and the Bible. I wrote an (awful, no doubt) undergraduate essay on the influence of the language of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer on Shakespeare, with reference to King Lear.

  11. Elle Says:

    60/40 is a pretty good whuppin' but I submit that it is anti-Mormon only at the margins.

    How did everyone else (is there an everyone else?) indicate they'd voted.

    I'm extremely heartened by this. Does this mean it might one day be possible to get an atheist elected President? As long as they hate women and poor people enough?

  12. xynzee Says:

    @Elle: Sorry yes I did mean you. My understanding of the pragmatics comes from a fair minded – read liberal by relative comparison – Sydney Anglican minister – and as you seem to know your BCP you may know about how open minded Sydney can be. A connection between King Lear and the BCP? Really, tell me more…
    But yes, I'd heard that Shakespeare was apocryphally connected to the writing of the KJV, but didn't really believe it. However, after reading those passages in Sirach, it was I've read this before and lo and behold.

    @Ed: I think I've got another analogy for you. Imagine two types of ball games. Both involve someone throwing the ball, someone trying to bash it to the next post code, some running and people trying to catch the runner out.
    Now the older one for argument's sake we'll call cricket.
    The newer one we'll call baseball.
    Imagine if for some weird reason, the supporters of baseball wanted to call themselves cricket and wanted to be accepted by those into cricket. Now while baseball is younger and seems to be growing faster, cricket has a bigger following and greater acceptance.
    So no matter how hard you try to spin it. Baseball just isn't cricket, nor will it ever be. Anyone who tries to force the issue will be shot down immediately. So yes, without knowing too much about the rules of baseball, a cricket fan can tell you at a glance that it's not cricket and unless baseball makes huge changes to its structure in order to be considered even a form of cricket. This isn't comparing Test cricket to one day or Twenty-20. Baseball is to cricket what Mormonism is to Christianity. So are these games about market share? Find yourself an Indian, Pakistani, W. Indies, Pom, Aussie or S.Afer and ask them if they consider baseball just another form of cricket or mutually exchangeable activities.

    How to explain Test Cricket (a game that goes 5 days and can end in a draw) to you. Imagine a beautiful summer's day. You and a couple of mates take a slab (case) of beer to a local park and drink the lot. No harm in that, and perfectly acceptable behaviour right?
    Imagine doing that same act 5 days in a row. People would start to wonder about you.
    Now consider doing that same activity for 25 non-consecutive days. You'd lose your job, you'd most likely lose your job and your family.
    However, same activity while watching the cricket? Now it's perfectly acceptable behaviour.

  13. David R Says:

    TomW, LadiesBane, buckyblue and whomever else—-

    Mormons do believe in the trinity (but treat it differently than Christians do).
    Mormons do not do blood oaths.
    Mormonism has no connection to Freemasonry. (And Freemasonry is not Satanic.)
    Most Mormons do not claim to be Christian.
    Mitt Romney HAS claimed Jesus as his lord and savior, publicly and openly, and all other Mormons do the same.

    And no, I'm not Mormon, but I have attended a lot of Mormon services and ceremonies with Mormon friends. (Who let me into said events because THEY'RE NOT SECRET). I'm not Christian either, but was raised Evangelical. Thus, I ALSO know firsthand that your ignorance of Mormonism is rooted in hatred, fear, and rooted in fear and yes— jealousy. It must burn you up to see a faith that has all of your core moral values, less believable doctrine, and is somehow converting people at a massive rate that you can't reach.

    I felt the same hatred toward Mormons when I was an Evangelical. Then I grew up; no offense.

  14. Elle Says:

    (Who let me into said events because THEY'RE NOT SECRET).

    You can't go through the temple without a temple recommend. You can't attend a sealing, even if you are the mother of the bride, or the sister of the groom, without one.

    Most Mormons do not claim to be Christian.

    From Mormon,org, the website of the LDS Church, in answer to the question (first in the FAQ), "Are Mormons Christian?"

    Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1995-2008), said:

    “We are Christians in a very real sense and that is coming to be more and more widely recognized. Once upon a time people everywhere said we are not Christians. They have come to recognize that we are, and that we have a very vital and dynamic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. We, of course, accept Jesus Christ as our Leader, our King, our Savior…the dominant figure in the history of the world, the only perfect Man who ever walked the earth, the living Son of the living God. He is our Savior and our Redeemer through whose atoning sacrifice has come the opportunity of eternal life. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pray and worship in the name of Jesus Christ. He is the center of our faith and the head of our Church. The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ and witnesses of His divinity, His life, and His Atonement.”

    Mormons do not do blood oaths.
    Mormonism has no connection to Freemasonry. (And Freemasonry is not Satanic.)

    Both of these things are linked to the Nauvoo Endowment, as developed by Joseph Smith Jr in 1843. Specifically, the Endowment ritual bore some similarities to a particular set of Masonic rituals practiced at the time, and included a blood oath. As of 1990, reportedly, none of this symbolism remains.

  15. Xynzee Says:

    @David R: "Mormons do believe in the trinity (but treat it differently than Christians do)."

    Again, tell me *are* cricket and baseball the same sport yes/no?
    Are helium and argon the same yes/no?

    In orthodox Christianity there is no other treatment of christology and trinitarian theology than: (John 1: 1,14) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    In other words Jesus = God incarnate. Anything different is heresy.

  16. DavidR Says:

    "You can't go through the temple without a temple recommend. You can't attend a sealing, even if you are the mother of the bride, or the sister of the groom, without one. "

    Have you tried to do this? I've walked into both a temple and a wedding without getting a "recommend," and have never even heard the term "recommend" before.

    I guess the Mormons do officially claim to be Christian now though; my bad.

    @ Xynzee—- the passage quoted by Elle above seems to indicate that the Mormons to consider Jesus to be something amounting to God Incarnate. And cricket/baseball do both have a ball and a bat. Not disagreeing with you, as I don't consider Mormonism to be Christianity either. Just saying that if you're going to point out why that is, get at least one or two facts right.

  17. Mackeyser Says:

    And see, I brought up the Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos in a response post a few months back while attempting to be clever (i thought it worked… heh). Dare I dream that I had any influence on a rant?

    Dare to dream…

  18. ladiesbane Says:

    Oh, David R, I understand how you misconstrued my remarks, but I despise the LDS church for reasons that have nothing to do with my Evangelical roots or long standing apostasy. My mother, who had never been churchy, married a Mormon (sounds like a Wifetime Network movie, doesn't it?) and we dove headfirst into it to prove our (her) commitment. I was just explaining the low church bias against Mormonism, and why it has nothing, really, to do with competition. (Which may have been intended as a joke, anyway; I'm not sure.)

    Spending nights with Mormon friends as a kid was so much fun — lots of cheerful courtesy between siblings, board games and singalongs, and all that stuff I thought was poetic license on the part of Walt Disney. They made the Brady Bunch look like a bunch of vicious hooligans. Even chores were gladly undertaken. And it was all with good heart — none of this "would you like a candle? we make them right here at the compound" nonsense. Even chores were fun.

    But I was just old enough to notice that young mothers looked like old mothers, and a few kids later, looked like dishrags. Their work never ended…while dad sat and smoked a pipe and smiled genially on his wife, who was busting ass like a rented mule. Boys were always given preferential treatment and had more freedom, which pushed the Not Fair button in my head. Then my mother left the blandly obnoxious church, and her husband, and we had long talks over the Book of Mormon. If anything, I was biased in favor of Mormonism. So long as I could be a man.

    Years later, after we left the church, I found out that my former stepfather's dad had claimed my seven year old self as a bride in the afterlife. He wasn't pervy, just usurping the prerogative, like when the church baptized all those dead Jews. That sort of behavior really evokes a "Fuck Them" of absolute metaphysical perfection, which is the shortest prayer in the world, and as much religion as I have, these days.

    But again, it came years later. And it had nothing to do with my Evangelical roots.

  19. Xynzee Says:

  20. KW Says:

    David R
    "I have attended a lot of Mormon services and ceremonies"
    No… you haven't, not unless you somehow obtained a Temple Recommend from a Bishop.
    You may have participated in something at a Stake House or Ward but you will never be allowed into an active Temple. Not even as the Father or Mother of the Bride for a wedding.

  21. Elle Says:

    Have you tried to do this? I've walked into both a temple and a wedding without getting a "recommend," and have never even heard the term "recommend" before.

    You could have gone to an LDS meeting house / chapel, or a wedding that wasn't a temple sealing. There are a specific set of rituals, including endowments and sealings that happen in the temple. Everything else, like what (other) Christians would recognise as 'church' happens in a meeting house / chapel.

    You should google 'temple recommend'. It's pretty interesting.

  22. Elle Says:

    A connection between King Lear and the BCP? Really, tell me more…

    Not that interesting, really. The language of the BCP is just reflected in the language of Shakespeare, which makes sense as the BCP would have been familiar to him and all of his contemporaries. I think my (really bad) essay, which I cannot find, talked about its use and then set out all of the possible borrowings in King Lear.

    Heaven knows a certain desperation sets in to the undergraduate Shakespeare scholar when trying to choose essay titles. Everything possible has been written already.

  23. David R Says:

    @ Elle, others— I just googled "Temple recommend," and you're right— that IS interesting. Not willing to do all the things I officially need to do to "experience temple," but I may ask some Mormon clergy I know if they can get me into the temple via loophole.

    I'm skeptical that this indicates that the Mormon church is truly sinister, especially since Judaism, Catholicism, and some protestant denominations do things along those lines.

    @Ladiesbane— the cold patriarchy and "fuck them" undercurrent in Mormonism is the reason I have not— and will not— convert to it. I guess I just don't see how Mormon patriarchy and chauvinism is really any different— conceptually— than Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian sexism and arrogance. It all seems to be cut from the same cloth. As far as I can see, the only differences is that Mormons are much much nicer to outsiders and prosteletyze more poltiely.

  24. myconfidence Says:

    Am I the only one who could really get behind a grassroots movement to undermine the LDSes by consistently and constantly referring to their schtick as "More-man-ism"?

    Also, "A Study in Scarlet" as recommended by Tim H. as a reflection on historical views of those crazy kooks is seconded. Really a rather chilling–and yet oddly believable–portrayal by Conan Doyle of a cloistered, sinister group of men who liked to get their misogynist tendencies awn…and then some.

  25. ladiesbane Says:

    David R., I grant you that Fundie Evangelicals have a conceptually similar foundation of sexism, but it's not mandatory, enforced, or institutionalized the way it is within Mormonism. It's the practical reality that we live with. Which is not to laud the Evangelicals; I suspect that Mormonism becoming codified at the beginning of the communication age had a lot to do with that; it made change less likely.

    And who knows? A hundred years from now, even Mormonism could make some social progress. After all, they stopped excluding black men from the priesthood in 1978; God apparently changed his mind after the civil rights movement didn't turn out to be a passing fad. And yet somehow I doubt women and gay men will ever stop being second class citizens to them. We'll see.

    But why are the "cold patriarchy", etc., keeping you from converting to Mormonism? If you have a deeply held conviction that Mormonism is the true reality of God and God's will, denying that because it's socially unpalatable is putting God in second place to conventional wisdom. Of course, if you don't believe what they believe, I can't imagine why you'd consider conversion.

    Though I am agnostic by nature and atheist by choice, I don't deny that anyone can have sincerely felt supernatural experiences leading to faith. But it bothers me when people shop for religions to suit beliefs they already hold on various topics. People don't need external authority to be good, or follow any system of behavior; if anything, they look for godly justification to be bad. Having no faith and shopping for a religion to join anyway trumps my cynicism in spades. (Not to imply that you're doing that, but I've seen it many times. It's too cold for my blood.)

  26. Kaleberg Says:

    All seriously religious sorts hate the heretic more than the infidel. It's probably a result of the way humans handle in-group identity. A minor deviation is much more likely to be disconcerting than a serious difference. (Compare a photo of a human and a photo of a wolf as against of photo of a human doctored to have a wolf's eyes. The latter is much eerier.) In-group identity always trumps morality, as in our liberal fairness and harm minimizing liberal sense of the word, so conservative religious sorts are perfectly happy voting for an unfaithful womanizer despite their supposed concern for the sanctity of marriage. Read Lord Jim and try to understand the entire point of the novel, "He was one of us."

  27. Kaleberg Says:

    hazy davy: "yhvh" is just how a Hebrew speaker would write the name of the Roman god Jove (roughly two syllables, Joe-Veh). Hebrew uses a "y" for the "j" sound.

  28. DavidR Says:

    "If you have a deeply held conviction that Mormonism is the true reality of God and God's will, denying that because it's socially unpalatable is putting God in second place to conventional wisdom."

    @ Ladiesbane— I judge a religion by its outcomes rather than the beliefs that lead to the outcomes. If the patriarchy in Mormonism is wrong, then I assume the doctrine leading to that widespread behavior must be wrong. I don't need to even think about whether Jesus visited the Indians, or whether there really is an angel named Moroni, or whether alcohol and caffeine are truly bad. Even if all those things are true, the Mormons obviously got it wrong SOMEWHERE, as evidenced by their institutionalized sexism, homophobia, chauvinism, etc…. This reasoning, incidentally, is something I've explained to my Mormon friends, and they've been much better sports about it than any Evangelical that I've rebuffed.

    I'm not religious either, but if I ever encounter a religion that actually inspires its followers to behave consistently better than non-believers, I'll assume that religion to be true.

    So far, the only belief system I've come across that seems to inspire unusually good behavior in its adherents is agnosticism. So, even though I think there might indeed be a God, I live as an agnostic. If God is good, then surely God wants me to follow the belief system that brings out the best in people.

    In short, I'm not shopping for a religion per se, but if I ever come across one that truly impresses me as good and right, I'd be remiss not to join.

  29. marydem Says:

    as a resident of idaho, i have quite a bit of experience with the mormon religion. (growing up, i spent many a happy evening at Gold & Green Balls)

    it seems to me that while any religion may preach that another is heresy (and most do), it takes a personal, visceral reaction to sustain the bigotry i see exhibited towards mormons. i'd like to suggest that mormons hold that special place in the hearts of the religious fraternity because of their doctrine of superiority. and not just your average, everyday brand of religious superiority…listen up…it's really special.

    i think it was elle that suggested that evangelical believers recognize their place as sinners. mormons do not. from the time that young boys enter the Aaronic priesthood, the males are preparing to rule their own celestial kingdoms after death. it is in this highest order of heaven that these exemplar, temple-married mormons bring their wive(s) to perpetually bear spirit children that will be called to live with an earthly family someday (yes, they do believe in pre-existence…http://mormonbeliefs.org/mormon_beliefs/mormon-beliefs-the-plan-of-salvation/the-plan-of-salvation-the-pre-existence). as a matter of fact, robert, when you hear one of your mormon friends praying to their "heavenly father", they are beseeching who they believe is their actual spirit father who happens to be the God of the bible.

    what's more, they believe that they will rule over the rest of us that have attained differing levels of heaven (terrestial/telestial). remember all that baptising of the dead? this is where we get the chance to accept it or deny it. either way, we end up their servants (but we're happy about it, ok).

    i think it's this that the pious are so insulted by and would explain the animosity towards them. i mean, what pomposity.

    it's just all so silly yet, there it is.

  30. marydem Says:

    maybe i should bring this full-circle…i'm not sure if i explained it clearly enough.

    those spirit children mormons beget in the celestial kingdom…they, ultimately, would be praying to them as their very own "Heavenly Father".

    in other words, mormon men believe they can become gods themselves.

  31. Xynzee Says:

    @marydem: For serious?! I'd heard snippets along that line, but not the full extent. Certainly not the picture painted of Heaven as painted in Revelation, with God at the centre with the Lamb upon the Throne.

    @ladies: checked out the Temple Recommend, I'll stick with my Pauline theology as flawed as its interpretations are. At its core it's a doctrine of Grace. Something more Evangelicals should be focussing on more. Problem with Grace is that you can't put a wall around it, and I'll have to change myself. As Corrie Ten Boom found herself doing when she found herself face to face with the SS Officer who'd killed her sister.

    @kaleburg: that's the first I've ever heard that Yah-vey (The Lord) is a bastardisation of Jove—and I'm someone who nearly did a doctoral study in ancient near Eastern art and symbology— particularly as most of the proof texts are either Greek or Aramaic, and unless one is Catholic the Vulgate is treated as a less reliable source. I've had some very liberal minded instruction too, where I learned that the word for "day" in Gen 1 can either mean a 24hr period *or* and epoch ie a long time. Not saying it couldn't happen, it's news.

  32. marydem Says:

    zyn…but, god is at the center. the only difference is he just happens to be family, that's all.

  33. ladiesbane Says:

    @DavidR: if doing good is what's important to you, why must a supernatural agent be involved? Religions, whatever their other trappings, by definition involve belief, sans evidence, in a supernatural being or beings — i.e., faith. If you crave ethical religion, I'd strongly recommend Liberation Theology (assuming we have similar notions of doing good!) But if you don't have a native faith that god, in some form or other, actually exists, I'd recommend a philosophy instead of a religion.

    @Xynzee: I didn't mention the Temple Recommend, but when you say "doctrine of Grace", are we talking Calvinism? I want to be sure what you mean, but either way: would the (little-d) doctrine of Grace be called for without the presupposition of Original Sin? To me, the idea of the Crucifixion was the solution to a problem that didn't exist. My own study focused on the Tanakh and I never spent much time on Christianity much later than Montanism — 3rd C. or so.

    Personally, I think grace is a practical idea, needing no religious endorsement to make sense. I have high standards for myself, and apply grace to other people; this is similar to believing in karma as a way to be mindful of one's own actions, but not thinking for a minute that it means bad guys will be brought to justice by an unseen agent. I can't judge others, but I can apply wisdom and discernment in judging their deeds. Their souls are their problem.

    But the story of Corrie ten Boom's forgiveness of the SS guard has a key element often overlooked: it began with the guard asking for forgiveness. Asking forgiveness shows repentance, and without a request from the repentant, offering forgiveness is inappropriate. Actually forgiving the unrepentant condones their wrongdoing in a way unhealthy for both parties, giving the abuser license to continue, and cultivating in the victim a sense that he or she may be abused without consequence. Religious coercion to forgive the unforgivable I find appalling, personally. "Moving on" and "getting over it" are not with it means to forgive, and are not dependent on it. Forgiveness is taking the debt off the books, making like it never happened. Sometimes that's the wrong thing to do.

    As an aside: my recollection is that Betsie ten Boom died of her pernicious anemia, worsened by Concentration Camp conditions and prevention of care, rather than murder by a guard. Am I thinking of someone else?

  34. xynzee Says:

    @Ladies: Calvinism (shudders), not sure who has more to answer, for him or his adherents. A friend once noted that almost all of your great systematic theologians started out as lawyers. Explains a lot about him. Calvin may have made a few good points, many of which have influenced the theology that I have grown up with, I sure as heck do not follow his TULIP, nor do I ascribe to Luther's "we're but piles of dung covered in snow". These analogies do not add up, as to why God even bothers, let alone the Crucifixion. To God we are far closer to a porcelain doll that has fallen into disrepair and have been thrown on a trash heap. God picks us up and mends us, gives us new clothes, repairs the cracks and chips and new paint.

    Yes I do believe in the concept of Original Sin. Which is more akin to the story of an English Lord whose ancestor gambled away the family fortune and manse and now he has to toil in the gardens of the family estate as a gardener. He still retains the title, but that doesn't change the fact that he's now a labourer. My personal view is that there's something else going on in the background of what was going on in the Garden than most main line theology seems to acknowledge, for the all powerful, omniscient God to be blindsided by our eating the fruit causing the whole thing to go down the gurgle? Doesn't fall in line with the other items of that theology. So something else was at play. The real issue was that Adam didn't "man up" by either not putting a stop to Eve being deceived, saying "No" to Eve, or by trying to pass the blame on to Eve and God for his own failure. And men in general have proved themselves pretty much like that or worse. However the concept of Sin does explain a whole lot more about what's wrong with the human condition than anything else. Why didn't Adam, put a stop to it early on? Because ultimately, he *wanted* to do wrong.

    Are you talking about forgiveness or the restoration of relationship? One can forgive, as in release the toxic emotions that can consume a person (what Tolle would call "feeding the pain self"), without their asking for it. However, *unless* the person repents (acknowledges their wrong doing *and* changes behaviour), should a relationship be restored. This is more than true for abusive relationships. My current minister would not advise a woman to go back to an abusive relationship unless the husband showed real repentance demonstrated over time. He certainly would not advise a woman go back to husband where the abuse involved children at *any* stage. This is closer to the Biblical concept of forgiveness as demonstrated by Christ, ie God has forgiven, but it's not until someone repents can there be a relationship. Unfortunately, too many ministers are of the stripe that you've encountered.

    Your recollection of Betsie is probably closer to the mark.

    Montanism? Too many things to learn, not enough time :)

  35. ladiesbane Says:

    Ah, Xynzee, were there but worlds enough and time. :-) I appreciate your philosophic take on man's condition (applying to us women as well, of course) but I'm surprised you hold with Original Sin. Were Adam and Eve real people whose history we derive from Gen. 1 and Gen. 2? I don't know that I can go that far, since I hold that the older version is based on perceptions formed by the Enuma Elish, if not swiped outright.

    But if Adam and Eve were not real persons, we are simply making up a story to explain something about man's state of affairs. That does serve a purpose, and is very common in the Tanakh, but a made-up origin story cannot be relied upon as firm ground for logically (or metaphysically) sound extrapolation. If it's not history, it's what we decide we want to believe, no? "It would explain so much" doesn't make it true or factual. I can make up many other stories which would fit just as beautifully.

    As for forgiveness, it's difficult to go too far into the matter without dealing in anecdotes, case by case. So many factors are involved in judging healthy relationships. But while I agree with you (and your minister) on the abusive relationship front, I would say that release of toxic emotions is not forgiveness, it's just letting go and moving on. A victim can be free of grudges and not cling to pain without letting the wrongdoer off the hook for what was done, repentance or no repentance.

    And I just deleted a paragraph of boundary anecdotes. Sorry to continue; religion is a favorite topic of mine, and religious discussions don't get resolved, only interrupted. :-) But I do recommend taking a look at Montanism.