The Fall of Man: The Doctrine

Related Posts: Adam-God Theory; Opposition in all things; The Fall of Man Part II; Adam-ondi-Ahman and Eden; Doctrine of Agency

According to Mormon beliefs the fall of man was a necessary part of God’s plan for the happiness of his children (Alma 42:8; Moses 6:48; 2 Nephi 2:23; 2:25; 1 Nephi 17:36). Understanding why the fall was necessary begins by understanding the premortal life. From there the necessity of the fall becomes apparent.

We believe that each person had a premortal existence; we lived before the creation of the earth (Ether 3:15; Abr. 3:22; Jer. 1:5; Eph. 1:4). During premortality we learned and progressed. But eventually we reached the limits of premortal development, so it became necessary for us to move to the next stage of existence, mortality. President Joseph F. Smith (d. 1918) explained it in this way:

Our spirits existed before they came to this world. They were in the councils of the heavens before the foundations of the earth were laid…We sang together with the heavenly hosts for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid, and when the plan of our existence upon this earth and redemption were mapped out…[It was there that] Satan rebelled against God, and sought to destroy the agency of man… (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 331)

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The Last Days

But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (HCSB, 2 Timothy 3:1-4)

It is prophesied that there will be difficult times just preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Though no one knows when the Second Coming will be, we can discern the signs of the times (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Matt. 16:2-3). There will be “wars and rumors of wars,” and “the whole earth shall be in commotion” (D&C 45:26); “men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth” (D&C 45:26). During those days “all things shall be in commotion” (D&C 88:91), “the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds” (D&C 88:90) and “a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth” (D&C 29:16).

It sounds really bad. The question is this: can a rough approximation be made as to when these terrible events will happen? Perhaps this is possible. There are several things that will place tremendous stress on the social and political fabric of the global community as we approach the middle of this century. They include demographic factors, oil depletion, wickedness, environmental factors relating to pollution and global warming, and political factors. I intend to briefly examine each of these. Continue reading

The Nature of Christ

Related Posts: The Trinity; Who is Jesus?-To a Mormon; Are Satan and Jesus Brothers?; Whom do we Worship?; Mormonism and the Creeds of Christendom; Godhead: God or Gods?

This post will compare the LDS understanding of the nature of Christ to that of normative Christianity. A good place to begin the comparison is with the creed of Chalcedon, which states that Christ has two natures, that he is both fully divine and fully human. Continue reading

Racism in the Book of Mormon: Part I

Related Posts: Blacks and the Priesthood; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part II; Was Mormonism ever pro-slavery?

There are four principle themes in the Book of Mormon: politics, religion, war, and “race.” This post will explore the last of the four. Though the Book of Mormon says, “[God] denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female,” and “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33), when it mentions people cursed with a “skin of blackness” it smacks of racism.

Even though I have titled this post “Race issues in the Book of Mormon,” the people involved are actually of the same family. Continue reading

Racism in the Book of Mormon: Part II

Related Posts: Blacks and the Priesthood; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part I; Was Mormonism ever pro-slavery?

Continued from Racism in the Book of Mormon: Part I

Criticisms

Interpreting the physical differences between Nephites and Lamanites as due to sun exposure is a recent development. In the recent past Mormons saw the difference in racial terms, visualizing the Lamanites as looking like Native Americans and the Nephites as Caucasian looking. So, abom 1ccording to that view the Native Americans still carry with them the mark of the curse, and the Native American way of life–once so detested among white Americans–is evidence they had not given up their wild ways. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith (d. 1972) wrote in Answers to Gospel Questions: “

 

The dark skin of those [Indians] who have come into the Church is no longer to be considered a sign of the curse. Many of these converts are delightsome and have the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps there are some Lamanites today who are losing the dark pigment. Many of the members of the Church among the Catawba Indians of the South could readily pass as of the white race; also in other parts of the South (p. 124; published 1957-1966).

Also, LDS art in the recent past tended to depict the Nephites as very European looking. More recent art tends to downplay the difference, but the Nephites are still depicted as being lighter complected than the Lamanites. (See here for some art samples from lds.org.) Continue reading

Was Mormonism Ever Pro-slavery?

Related Posts: Blacks and the Priesthood; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part I; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part II

Summary: On the McLaughlin Group Lawrence O’Donnell ranted against Mormonism. He said the LDS faith is racist and Joseph Smith was a criminal. He also accused the Church of being pro-slavery. His views are extremely biased–that will be obvious to anyone who watches the clip below.

So, was Mormonism ever pro-slavery?

The LDS faith was never pro-slavery. Neither were Joseph Smith and Brigham Young–the only LDS Presidents during the antebellum period. Joseph Smith wanted to free the slaves by purchasing their freedom. Brigham Young said, “I am neither an abolitionist nor a pro-slavery man.” He goes on to say if he had to choose he would be against the pro-slavery side.

Brigham Young wanted Utah to be a free state, but as a territory it permitted slavery. Though there were probably never more than 100 slaves in the entire territory.

Naturally, politics came into play. When the church was in Missouri it was accused of being abolitionist, which is something Joseph Smith had to deal with. Brigham Young was afraid if slavery were abolished polygamy would be next. So they both walked a political tightrope.

Their positions on slavery are not what we would like them to be. But I cannot conclude either of them were pro-slavery. Continue reading

The Mormon concept of Heaven(s)

Related Posts: What is Kolob?; Mormon Temple Worship

We believe that after the final judgment there are four places to which a person may be sent. They are the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, the telestial kingdom, and outer darkness. The first three are referred to as the three degrees of glory, often compared to the sun, the moon, and the stars (D&C 76:70, 78, 98).

Three Degrees of Glory (1,2,3)

A representation of the tree degrees of glory and outer darkness.

The celestial, terrestrial, and telestial are kingdoms of glory. Outer darkness is not a kingdom of glory. Any person who inherits one of the top three kingdoms is technically saved; and they are saved through the power of the Atonement of Christ.

In common usage, the word “saved” typically refers to going to the celestial kingdom and “heaven” refers to the celestial kingdom.

So, what are these three heavens? And who goes where? Continue reading

Blacks and the Priesthood

Related Posts: Was Mormonism ever pro-slavery?; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part I; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part II; The Premortal Life

See also The Untold Story of Black Mormons

There has been some recent talk about the Church’s former policy of not ordaining black men to the priesthood. I am republishing this post from my other blog (Response to Damon Linker).

An article written by Jason Riley in the Wall Street Journal brought up some good points (“The Mormons still haven’t settled their race problem“). The only issue I had with the article was the comment, “Ultimately, the ban was a manifestation of a central belief that blacks are unfit to be full members of the church on Earth, or to exist alongside whites in heaven.”

There was never a doctrine of separate heavens for blacks and whites. Mormons did, and some still do, see blackness as the mark of a divine curse. But there was never a teaching that blacks could not eventually receive all the blessings that whites may receive. I know that doesn’t change the past or make it less offensive, nor should it. But because Mormonism’s past is checkered with practices and doctrines that many consider racist or strange, assessments of our beliefs easily tend toward exaggeration and/or distortion–sometimes a lot, and sometimes a little

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Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon

Related Posts: Are Satan and Jesus Brothers?; Whom do we Worship?; The Trinity; The Nature of Christ; Godhead: God or Gods?; The Premortal Life

Today in an article written by Frank Pastore on Townhall.com the following allegations about Mormon beliefs were given.

Second, when [Mitt Romeny] said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he did not also include that, according to Mormon theology, there are an infinite number of “sons of Gods,” that Jesus is a Son of God along with his brother Lucifer, and that Jesus is only the savior of this world, since Mormon males can become the God, Creator, and Savior of their own planet one day. (“Christian Angst Over a Romney Presidency”)

I would like to write about who the Mormons believe Jesus is. Continue reading

Are Satan and Jesus Brothers?

Related Posts: Who is Jesus?–to a Mormon; The Premortal Life; Angels

A recent comment published in the New York Times by presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee brought up the issue, are Jesus and Satan brothers? The interviewer writes:

I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘I think it’s a religion,’ he said. ‘I really don’t know much about it.’ I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘Don’t Mormons,’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’ (“The Huckabee Factor“)

Huckabee’s not-so-innocent statement (not question) was intended to create animosity towards Mitt Romney’s religion—towards Mormonism. So what is the story behind the statement, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee is not the first to mention it. I came across it a few times while serving my two years as an LDS missionary. Continue reading