Mormonism Unveiled

Fox News asked some questions of the Mormon Church and published the Q&A.  The questions are, as noted by the Church, somewhat obnoxious in some cases, but perhaps that comes from ignorance.  For the most part, I think the church did a very good job answering these questions.  In some cases, I would have said something different.  Here are the questions and answers, with my notes after each:

 Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?

A: 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.

 Note:  This is an excellent answer, but it does beg the question as to whether there are any organizations that Mormons would consider to be cults.  I think there probably are, but we are more sensitive about the use of that word since it has been applied to us.  If, however, your daughter has been brainwashed by the Moonies, even the most sensitive Mormon may decide to break out the c-word and call a deprogrammer. 

/**/ 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.

 Note:  This is perfect.

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.

Note: ditto, although something could have been added here about Christ being a member of the Godhead, the creator of the world, and a distinct being separate from the father, though one in purpose. 

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.

Note:  The question seems to refer to God, the Father, so repeating the part about Jesus seems a bit silly.  Something could also be added here about the first vision, where Joseph Smith saw both the Father and Jesus, and that they both had bodies, but that might have raised more questions than it answered.

Q: If so, does the Church believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob?

A: ‘Kolob’ is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.

Note:  I love this answer, primarily because of the last part.  Critics seem to focus on Kolob, because it’s easy to make it sound like a bad Star Trek episode.  The Church correctly stated that even Joseph never knew much about it and never assigned it nearly the level of importance that critics would like to ascribe to it.  It would also be good to remind people that any unfamiliar belief sounds crazy in isolation.  Another quibble is that Kolob, as discussed in the Book of Abraham, does not appear to be a planet at all, but rather a star.

Q: Where is the planet Kolob? What significance does the planet have to Mormons?

A: ‘Kolob’ is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.

Note:  Two questions about Kolob?  Give me a break.  The “Where is it” question, in particular, appears to be mocking.  What do they want, coordinates?  A map?  How would we know where it is?  Do they think we travel there in Mormon starships?  What is this, Battlestar Gallactica?

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?

A: The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.

Note:  This one is interesting, because critics bring it up all the time.  The reason for that is that some church leaders and seminary teachers have emphasized the physical sonship of Christ to the point where it makes you a bit uncomfortable.  We do believe that Christ is “the only begotten” of the Father in the flesh, meaning that he is not only God the Father’s spiritual child, as we are, but also his physical child, which we are not.  It’s true that the scriptures do not state how such a thing was accomplished, and I think that speculation on this point is a mistake, and seems inappropriate.  No recent church leaders have gone down that road, and we have always spoken of Mary as a virgin, in both our scriptures and addresses by leaders.  Given all that, I think this answer is correct, if a bit stingy.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other ‘sheep’ who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Note:  Perfect answer. 

Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other ‘sheep’ who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Note:  This question seems to be asking for more details of the visit of Christ to the Americas.  I think it’s a good idea to refer the questioner to the Book of Mormon, but it would also be helpful to give a refence, like 3d Nephi chapter 11

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become “gods and goddesses” after death?

A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

Note:  This is the answer I have the biggest problem with.  It seems to stop short of a belief in exaltation.  I agree with everything except the last sentence.  We do teach that men and women can be like God, though it will be a very, very long process to get there.  Eternal progression is one of the most beautiful and central teachings of the restored gospel, and we ought not to appear to be backing away from it.  This answer does seem to do that, and I think that’s a mistake.  One good answer wouild have been a simple “yes,” followed by the quotations from the New Testament.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women can only gain access to heaven with a special pass or codewords?

A: No.

Note:  This answer is correct, in my view, and the question is an attempt to distort and pervert the temple ceremony.  The fact is that we are all taught certain signs and words to be used at the veil, after death.  It’s not just women.  It’s also not clear (to me) whether this is just a ceremony or whether we must literally know these signs and words in order to pass through the veil.  But the idea that women are treated as second class citizens in this regard is simply not true.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women must serve men on both Earth and in heaven?

A: Absolutely not. Mormons believe that women and men are complete equals before God and in relation to the blessings available in the Church.

Note:  Where does this question come from?  Even asking this question is insulting.  It’s like asking, “When did you stop beating your wife?”  The fact that the question is asked will make some people believe it has some basis in fact.  Painting the Church as sexist is easy, because of the male priesthood and the history of and belief in polygamy, but eternal servility by women?  Ridiculous.

Q: Is there such a thing as Mormon “underwear”? if so, are all Mormons required to wear it? What does it symbolize?

A: Like members of many religious faiths, Latter-day Saints wear religious clothing. But members of other faiths — typically those involved in permanent pastoral ministries or religious services — usually wear religious garments as outer ceremonial vestments or symbols of recognition. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, garments are worn beneath street clothing as a personal and private reminder of commitments to God.

Garments are considered sacred by Church members and are not regarded as a topic for casual conversation.

Note:  Excellent.  Could have gone a little futher in describing the garment as simple and comfortable, rather than a hairshirt or Opus Dei type stuff, but this is fine.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will “rule” after their death and ascension?

A: No.

Note:  This is probably not enough of an answer.  It’s technically correct, and again, the question seems designed to confuse the issue or ridicule the belief, but the idea of eternal progression should again be affirmed here, with a simple explanation that we have no idea at this time about the details, and any discussion of such things is pure speculation. 

Q: What specifically does the Mormon Church say about African-Americans and Native Americans?

A: Mormons believe that all mankind are sons and daughters of God and should be loved and respected as such. The blessings of the gospel are available to all.

Note:  This is a stupid question because it is far too general.  The answer given is the only answer that can be given to this question, and it’s a good answer, because it is certainly true.  If the questioner wanted to know specific things about Native Americans as descendants of Book of Mormon groups, it should have asked specifically about that (you can read more about that in my earlier post here). 

The Church has no real doctrine concerning African Americans, but it does have a history of some leaders saying silly things to justify a ban instituted by Brigham Young on African Americans holding the priesthood.  The ban was rescinded in 1978, and was a mistake from the beginning, in my view: a result of widespread racism rather than revelation.  This is bourne out by the fact that Joseph Smith ordained African Americans to the priesthood before his death.  It’s probably best that the Church did not bring up all that in answer to this general question.

Q: What are or were the “Golden Plates”?

A: The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from records made on plates of gold, similar to metal plates that have been found in other ancient cultures. It contained a history of peoples in the Western Hemisphere including an appearance by the Savior to them. As such, the Book of Mormon is considered a second testimony of Jesus Christ.

Note:  This is a good answer.

Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Note:  The question’s distinction between “prohibited” and “discouraged” is odd.  The answer is a good one.

Q: Does the Church also ban the consumption of “hot drinks”? And does that apply specifically to caffeinated drinks?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Note:  Again, it sounds like the question is designed to stir up trouble.  The answer is correct.  It could have gone further to say that some members have interpreted the Word of Wisdom to apply to all caffeinated beverages, and that caffeinated beverages are not typically sold on church properties.

Q: Why do Mormons go from door to door?

A: Christ admonished his disciples to take the gospel to the world. The Church follows that admonition and sends missionaries throughout the world.

Note:  It sounds like this question is asking, not about missionary work per se, but about the methods used.  It may be trying to discover if there is something about knocking on doors that is doctrinal.  If so, the answer is no, and there are some mission where, because of the local culture, laws or other factors, missionaries do not go randomly to private residences knocking on doors without appointments.  Where such things are allowed and not inappropriate to the culture, we utilize them as one way to try to bring the message of the gospel to all.

Q: What do the Mormons believe about the family?

A: Mormons believe that the family is the foundation for this life and the life to come.

Note:  Again, the question is far too general.  The answer could be more detailed and developed, especially given the central role the family plays is in our doctrine.  The answer could have referred the questioner to the “Proclamation on the Family,” but since that document raises some questions that could lead to confusion, it might be better that the answert did not do that.  In any case, merely saying that the family is the “foundation for this life and the life to come” does not really do justice to the beliefs we hold about the family.

Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

A: God will not withhold blessings from any of his children who may not have the opportunity to marry in this life.

Note:  This is an odd question, because it’s not clear what the question means by “may never marry”or “eternal mariage.”  I’m guessing that the question is simply asking whether those who do not marry in this life will have the opportunity to do so later.  The answer to that question is yes.  If the question is asking something different, it needs top be phrased differently, but it’s also odd that marriage is singled out in this context.  We also believe other ceremonies can be performed after death and some are performed by proxy for those who have died.  However, since the question does not refer specifically to proxy ceremonies, it’s better not to confuse the issue.

Let me know what you think of the Church’s answers and if you have other things you think should have been mentioned (or left unmentioned) in these answers.  

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8 Responses

  1. Mormons repeatedly told me to read the scriptures. One of them is the Pearl of Great Price, in it is a book called the Book of Abraham. In that book we read about Kolob.

    We ask questions about Kolob. Mormons say we don’t know much about Kolob, and it’s not central to salvation anyway. Then why the heck is it even mentioned in the scriptures? Did God just waste his/her/its as well as our time getting a word in on Kolob? Is he/she/it teasing his believers? Joseph Smith approved a hymn that mentions Kolob. Why are Mormons ashamed to talk about it?

    Not central to salvation my foot. Mormons like to cherry pick their doctrines. What they can explain away, they pound into your head. The embarassing doctrines [ex. polygamy, men becoming gods] is given the duck and dodge.

  2. bp, that’s just idiotic. to say that Kolob is not important is not the same thing as saying it shouldn’t be mentioned in the scriptures. Prophets mention what they wish or what they think God wants them to mention. That’s not teasing, it’s reality. Whether we think it’s an important subject to discuss in a Q&A on basic doctrine is a whole separate question.

    No one in their right mind, including Joseph Smith, would argue that Kolob is central to salvation, nor is anyone pounding anything into your head, to my knowledge.

  3. I am asking everyone that has ever talked to Stephanie on mormonsrock site (http://mormonsrock.wordpress.com) to go there now and leave a special word for her on her latest post – you will know which one.
    She needs our kind words and prayers right about now – she has given us so much and she is feeling down and it is up to us to show her that we do care about her.
    Please spread the word – I would like her to see how many good things people will say about her instead of all of the negative things she has had to put up with – and don’t forget that her husband is in Iraq and she and him need our prayers.

  4. Happy to, Ron. Steff is one of the best out there. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. re: Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

    The Bible says:
    For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. Matthew 22:30 (KJV)

    How then can the answer to this question be yes without contradicting the Bible?

  6. Christopher, are you suggesting that verse means that no one is married in heaven, or just that they can’t get married if they weren’t married in mortality?

  7. The question that was asked about the location of the gloden plates was not answered. All it stated was that plates have been found in cultures in the western hemisphere. Where are the actual golden plates where Joseph Smith received gods word?

  8. Erica, the question does not ask where the plates are, just what they are (or were). The answer to your question, (where are the gold plates) is that we don’t know. Joseph was required to give them back to the angel Moroni after showing them to several witnesses. We do not know where they are now.

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