Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Why I Love Mormonism": A Response

I write today in response to an article that ran last Sunday in the New York Times, "Why I Love Mormonism," by Simon Critchley.

While I agree in principle with the author that while there is so much talk about "Mormonism," so few who are talking really understanding our doctrine.  This unfortunately includes the author of the story. Of his own admission, he hasn't read the Book of Mormon all the way through, let alone our two other unique books of scripture, the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Perhaps if he had given these a thorough read, he would have encountered the following subtleties that he missed:

1. We worship only one God, and thus can be joined with other religions who are monotheistic.  Yes, we believe that God has a father, and that that father has a father, etc., but we do not discuss these concepts nor are they part of our personal relationship with the God to whom we pray.  God our Heavenly Father is the only God with whom we deal.  As said by a missionary in the Book of Mormon when asked whether there is more than one God, the answer - as it relates to our personal salvation - is emphatically "no."

How is it, then, that our scriptures in the Pearl of Great Price speak of "gods" (plural) in council before the creation of the earth?  Who are these "gods"?

As a preface to the explanation, Critchley did reference one bit of doctrine correctly: we believe in a pre-earth life, wherein we were all spirits, begotten of our Heavenly Father.  Those who came to earth and received bodies all chose Jesus Christ's plan to have agency here and return to Heavenly Father of our own free will (this was also the Father's plan).  Those who did not make it to earth remained in their spiritual bodies and followed Satan.  Perhaps this pre-earth state deserves its own blog post, but we point to modern day-revelation explaining several otherwise opaque verses in the Bible referring to the war in heaven, Jeremiah's being told that God knew him before he was in his mother's womb, and the verse "How art thou fallen, oh Lucifer, thou son of the morning!" to refer to Lucifer, or Satan's fall from grace in this pre-earth state. This "war in heaven" can be viewed somewhat like that described by Milton in Paradise Lost.

In any event, if you look in Abraham 3:22 in our Pearl of Great Price, Abraham (the Biblical one) is told in vision that he was one of the "noble and great" "intelligences" (that substance we believe that we were before we were Spirits).  After describing Jesus Christ as an intelligence that was "like unto God," God then says, "Let us go down" to form and organize the earth to this distinguished host of spirits, defining them as "Gods."  Thus the "noble and great" intelligences-become-spirits were dignified by the appellation of "gods."

Such doctrine is consistent and helps to explain (as much modern-day revelation does) the verses in the Bible wherein Christ quotes the verse from Psalms, "ye are gods" and the otherwise unexplainable verse in Genesis chapter one wherein God says, "Let *us* make man in our image."   

2.  In LDS theology, women are not excluded from becoming goddesses.  In fact, men cannot make it without us.  See Doctrine and Covenants 131 and the compelling bit in Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling on the revelation of the doctrine of celestial marriage and how it put the family front and center within the faith.  Even today, righteous living is equated with wholesome family living, as that is what we ultimate understand God to be doing - fostering a growing family--us.  In parallel to this doctrine is the practice within the church of men not being able to become a bishop or hold any higher ecclesiastical office *without* being married.  This indeed sets us apart from our Christian brothers and sisters in that holding certain ecclesiastical offices actually requires marriage (and complete fidelity to it) rather than celibacy.

3. We cannot exalt ourselves.  Critchley, taking a bit of complex doctrine, has again missed its nuances here.  My husband and my jointly becoming "gods" will take a very, very, very long time.  The process of such perfection is *not* accomplished by our hard work, but by us relying alone on the merits, mercy, and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith.  As I have written in a forthcoming book published by Deseret Book next spring in digital format (and I will self-publish in hard copy format through forthcoming), our continual striving does *not* save us, but, rather, puts us in a position to realize our reliance upon the Savior and to ask for His saving help.

4. We do, indeed, have a unique Christian version of the Creation, but, interestingly, one that is reconcilable with Newton's laws.  In fact, our understanding of creative "periods" rather than days can even be reconciled with certain versions of evolution.  This doctrinal understanding allows for wide differences of opinion among members of my faith on scientific topics, even at the very top.  This allowance is something that I love within my faith.
5. Harold Bloom does *not* speak for Mormonism.  If you want to know official policy about polygamy, review the revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants, including that given in 1890 regarding not practicing it any more, and our Article of Faith #12 about obeying the law of the land.

6.  Regarding Israel, Mr. Critchley has unfortunately not studied our doctrine regarding the Article of Faith (#10) he references with respect to the American continent being the locale of Jerusalem.  If he will look at that Article closely, he will notice "new"modifying "Jerusalem."  We believe that, in the millennium, there will be two Jerusalems - the old Jerusalem, which will play a very special part in the grand drama, and the new Jerusalem, which yes, will be built upon the American Continent.  (Two Jerusalems, or a Zion that is separate from the old city, is consistent with a close reading of Revelations.) As I explained last year at a Penn Law "Who are the Mormons" forum, you will not meet a more semitophiliac people than the Latter-day Saints.  As case in point, the high holy days of the Jewish calendar celebrated at this time of year were discussed at length in my own Sacrament Meeting today in my Manhattan church.  We believe that the Jews are yet a chosen people (we believe the same of us).

7.  Finally, it is definitely not true that "any male saint" can add to revelation.  Here the principle of stewardship is applicable.  Yes, all worthy males receive the priesthood, as my husband does.  And yes, all baptized members receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which makes revelation possible.  This means that any member can receive inspiration and revelation for their own life.  My husband and I can equally receive revelation for our family.  Likewise, the two of us can receive shared inspiration for the six and seven-year-olds that we teach in church.  Our bishop, the leader of our congregation, can receive revelation for our congregation, and so on up the line.  We believe strongly with the prophet Amos, however, that "surely the Lord will do nothing, except he revealeth his secret unto his servants, the prophets." Priesthood and other leaders within the church (and outside - I don't think inspiration is exclusive to my faith) are entitled to receive revelation for all within their stewardship, and there is only ever one prophet at a time to receive revelation for the entire world.


  1. Thank goodness there are people with your abilities to respond to articles like Mr. Critchley's. I have been reading you for sometime now and find you are very gifted with abilities to write and think clearly. You also seem to have a good sense of humor, the dress posts.
    I read the original post of Mr. Crtichley and thought "a little information can be a deadly thing to have". Thank you for your wonderful "rebuttal".

    Kathleen Rose

  2. Great! What a topic to take on and to address so succinctly!

    Keep it coming.

  3. Nice blog work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the Nav Bar located at the top of my site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

  4. @ Kathleen - you are very kind to say so, and I absolutely agree re: Mr. Critchley, well intentioned though he may be. I also thought the title of his article misplaced, no?

    @ John - thanks!

    @ Inspector - ditto! Do you keep a blog as well?