LDSFAQ: Answers to Facetious (?) Questions About Mormons, Part One.
This page deals with Mormon-related questions that tend to be a bit flippant, facetious or even annoying. Or maybe that describes my answers. This is part of the LDSFAQ (Mormon Answers) suite by Jeff Lindsay, my attempt to deal with questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My writings reflect my personal understanding and are not officially approved by the Church, by BYU, by Mitt Romney, or even by Harry Reid.
See Part Two for more unusual questions, mingled with some rather serious issues.
Sometimes the questions I get from critics of Latter-day Saints are downright silly. Other times the question is good but I'm not quite serious. In either case, the result is fodder for the Facetious Corner. In addition to some light-hearted responses, there are several serious topics explored on this page and on Part Two.
One of the best sources on the complex topic of Mormon polygamy is "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask)"
by Greg Smith. He treats many aspects of this complex issue, including polyandry and young wives. If you want to deal directly with the most troubling allegations about this most difficult aspect of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism, then you need to read "Joseph Smith's Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor's New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?" by Brian C. Hales.
Mormanity is my LDS blog, in operation since 2004. Numerous issues have been discussed there. Join the fray! Or visit the other blogs on my blogroll there. On the issue of polygamy, for example, see my Mormanity post, "Single Men: Let's Keep Polygamy Forbidden and Illegal."
Also consider my "Book of Mormon Evidences" page.
You can order a free copy of the Book of Mormon at Mormon.org.
This question really made my day, thanks! First, let me say that I and quite a lot of modern scientists find the gecko to be remarkably inspiring. Studying the gecko and its uncanny ability to walk up smooth walls, even glass, has resulted in significant gecko-inspired scientific revelations about nanotechnology with many promising and practical benefits, so I wouldn't say that turning to the incredibly engineered gecko for inspiration is weird at all.
Sadly, I don't think Joseph Smith ever encountered geckos, so gecko revelations had to wait for more modern times. But that's OK.
I bet your friends mistook silly rumors about Mormons and salamanders for silly rumors about Mormons and geckos. These kind of things can happen when dealing with amphibian- and reptile-based rumor-mongering. There was a clever plot a few years ago to embarrass the Church with a fraudulent document that suggested the origins of the Book of Mormon began with a mysterious salamander and folk magic. That document was soon proven to be fraudulent and the man behind it was caught using bombs to silence some Mormons who were on to him, resulting in the tragic murder of an acquaintance of my father. Details about the so-called Salamander Letter, forged by Mark Hoffman, are available in "The Alvin Smith Story: Fact and Fiction" by Richard Lloyd Anderson, The Ensign, Aug. 1987, which also treats some frequently shared rumors involving salamanders and Alvin Smith. See also Wikipedia's article on the Salamander Letter.
In spite of the complete discrediting of the Salamander Letter, some critics have speculated about other amphibians like toads playing a role in the Book of Mormon. This kind of unfounded animal speculation really gets my goat.
"I have traveled to Utah several times and heard the Suburban referred to as the "Mormon Cadillac". I was told this was due to the fact that a Mormon woman had to have thirteen kids to become a Saint in the Mormon religion. Is there any truth to this? Any insight as to why this reference exists?" Just curious. [Question received April 23, 2001]
Thirteen kids to be a Saint? My Mom told me it was six. Looks like she owes the Church seven more.
Actually, to become a saint, one must simply choose to follow Christ and enter into a covenant with Him by accepting baptism. That makes one a saint in the sense that the word is used in the Bible and in the Church, which simply means that one is a member of Christ's church, striving (always imperfectly) to follow Him.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally accept the Biblical view that "children are a heritage of the Lord," as mentioned in Psalms 127:3. Verses 4 and 5 of that Psalm go on to compare children to arrows in the hand of a mighty man. "Happy is the man that hath his quiver [arrow holder] full of them" (v.5). A more modern translation might say, "Happy is the woman who hath her minivan full of them." As for suburbans, I think they are way too expensive - and they certainly can't hold 13 kids. Not legally, anyway.
In the Church, we learn that being a father or a mother is one of the most glorious responsibilities that we have, one in which the Lord allows us to be, in essence, co-creators with Him. Rearing His sons and daughters in this mortal world is a precious responsibility and potentially a source of much joy (along with sorrows!). The family should be a happy place, and taking on the responsibility of raising a family is something we should prepare for and gladly accept, rather than avoiding it in the quest for selfish fulfillment. With this view, it is not surprising that Latter-day Saints tend to have more kids than average. And I think they have stronger, happier families than average - but every parent knows that it isn't easy and the ideal is rarely achieved.
Maybe it's due to tax considerations. They don't want to lose their non-prophet status.
Ouch. OK, look, there is precious little that is "obvious" about religion. I think there are answers to many of the objections that people offer to belief in God, to Christianity and to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but nothing is "obviously true." Everything in religion requires some degree of faith, coupled with study, struggling with alternatives, prayerful searching for truth, etc. Many people think our religion has a lot of merit without wanting to join. That's fine! Some see powerful evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but can't accept other claims of the Church.
Life is complex, religion isn't easy, and no one has a monopoly on truth. But we do have openings and would be happy to accept the sincere conversion of ministers and their congregations, at their convenience. I hope that helps.
No, it's the sushi that makes us hypocrites. But who can resist? We're only mortal--at least for now.
This question about chocolate is based on a misunderstanding of the remarkable and even prophetic LDS health code given by revelation in 1833, known as the Word of Wisdom. In addition to giving health principles much like the modern research-based "food pyramid" and prohibiting the use of tobacco and strong drink, the Word of Wisdom also prohibits tea and coffee (the "hot drinks" mentioned in the text itself). Some people assume that the prohibition was because of caffeine, a compound also found in chocolate and some soft drinks, but we don't know that. There are plenty of potentially harmful chemicals in both drinks, but the Lord did not see fit to provide a list of toxic chemicals when He gave the revelation in 1833. I anxiously await further information. Until then, we are to be wise and cautious in what we take into our bodies, but I am not aware of any religious reason to completely avoid chocolate. The Church does not prohibit it, but feel free to avoid it if you want to. (Ditto for sushi - but I only eat the decaffeinated kind.)
As a helpful resource, here is a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. by Edward Kimball, Bookcraft: Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 202):
I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, "But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug." With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude on this at but I personally do not put them in the class as with the tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks]. . . .
"I was just wondering why if the church tells you not to drink caffeine, why they own the Pepsi company. Please respond and tell me why you're not a hypocrite. "
I am a hypocrite - I'd be a liar to deny it (see my sushi confession above). But since when do we own Pepsi? The Church certainly does not, but it may be that some diverse stock holdings include a few Pepsi shares. But the Church does not officially tell us to not drink Pepsi or cola drinks. That's a private interpretation of some people, and may be good advice, but the Church is cautious on that point. Most active Latter-day Saints, including President Hinckley, do avoid caffeinated beverages, as far as I can tell, but those who sip Coke or Pepsi aren't branded as sinners.
This question is a classic. When it comes to rumors about the Church building a corporate empire, it seems like it's always Coca Cola that gets the attention. Why not corporations like Dairy Queen, Maytag, or Victoria's Secret? And what about Nike? After all, wasn't it President Spencer W. Kimball who first said, "Just do it?"
While it's possible that some diversified investments may include some shares of companies like Coca Cola, it's an easily verified fact that the Church does not control or own a significant part of the company. See, for example, the debunking of this myth at Snopes.com.
No. We'd be content if we could just take over New Jersey. Somebody needs to.
Sadly, a few people have made some extreme claims about LDS people conspiring to take over America and impose a totalitarian society. If only Mitt Romney would have won, we would have showed you that this wasn't close to the truth! Well, not extremely close, I hope. Maybe just a little close.
Some of our critics have suggested that our goal is to run a society that would be "just like" Utah was under Brigham Young. Apart from the ridiculous nature of such claims, let me note that Utah under Brigham Young was a place where non-LDS people were welcomed and treated with great respect. Religious freedom was vitally alive in Utah under Brigham Young and still is today.
Sure, why not? In fact, Pluto is up for grabs right now (mostly because it lost it's planet status). If a woman wants to rule a planet, it's O.K. with me, as long as she can get her own funding. I don't want it coming out of my taxes.
Seriously, it seems like everyone who has seen the outrageously deceptive movie, The God Makers, thinks LDS religion is all about "planets" and "extraterrestrials" and other New Age themes. What planet are these anti-Mormons from? You won't find that kind of talk in the primary sources of LDS doctrine. True LDS belief is focused not on planets and aliens but on Christ, heaven, and Christian principles for life on earth. For more information in response to the hysterical "Sci-Fi" scare tactics of some anti-Mormons, see my LDSFAQ page on Sci-Fi Questions.
If your question is based on an assumed inequality between men and women in the Church, then I'll refer you to the LDS Proclamation on the Family, which explains our view of the different roles of men and women, which roles are intended to be different but co-equal in marriage. As Peter put it (1 Peter 3:7), in heaven husband and wife will be "heirs together" of eternal life. OK, there are complex issues here worthy of debate (some will not be content with the LDS view that men and women have different roles, or with the notion that the Priesthood is open to men but not women).
Again, if you've seen anti-LDS literature which creates the impression that we're obsessed with sci-fi themes like "planets," let me assure you that such is not the case. The scriptures indicate that earth is not the only inhabited creation of God, but we have no information on other worlds and we don't waste much time speculating about them or talking about planets - current or future ones. So take a break from that anti-LDS Web stuff and visit someplace worthwhile. For starters, may I humbly recommend my home page, the Cracked Planet of Jeff Lindsay? Anyway, I've got to run to my Mormon Astronomy Club meeting. We're checking out Jupiter tonight. It's fun to watch the changing color schemes on that planet - could that be a woman's touch?
I've been collecting information on this issue for the past fifteen years, and am now prepared to share my findings. So far, nearly every person I've seen with an exposed midriff has had a belly button, and using deductive logic, one might conclude that Adam also had one. However, the average number of visible belly buttons per person (total belly buttons visible divided by the number of people seen) appears to increasing over time, according to my data - but only for females. So, given that the further back in time we go, the fewer belly buttons are visible, we can conclude that Eve's belly button must not have been visible. But since her midriff was quite visible while in the Garden of Eden, it must mean that she had NO belly button. Bottom line: if my calculations are correct, one could conclude that Adam probably had one, but Eve probably didn't. But all this has very little theological value. I suggest you consider a much more relevant question about Adam: what kind of six-pack did he have?
Abercrombie and Fitch, of course, were the two older brothers of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, older than Laman and Lemuel, the ones we often read about. Abercrombie (Hebrew for "less is more") and Fitch (Hebrew for "garment malfunction") were trendy moguls of fashion in Jerusalem and were the reason why the family had silver and gold. Unfortunately, they were not only rebellious, but utterly shocked their parents in the New World by introducing immodest styles for men such as their "Nothing But a Loincloth®" line that became an instant hit with many New World locals in the hot climate of Mesoamerica. (Scholars to this day fail to recognize that many ancient Mesoamerican carvings and figurines of mostly naked people were actually part of early advertising campaigns for Abercrombie and Fitch's fashion shop and the related businesses spawned by their breakthroughs in fashion.) Lehi was so disgusted that he burned their beautifully illustrated catalog, forcing Abercrombie and Fitch to start engraving their designs on metal plates which could not be so easily by fire. Yes, that's where the idea actually got started. Nephi tried to stop their repulsive business by stealing the plates and later realized he could use them for his own record, starting another enduring trend among his people. But Abercrombie and Fitch only escalated their business, drawing upon the shrewd business skills of their brother Laman who helped draw numerous locals and much of Lehi's family into the fold of their scantily-clad customers. Lehi disowned them and decreed that there should be no mention of those two sons in any family records. And as the current record indicates, tensions between Nephi's group and his more fashion-conscious siblings escalated, forcing Nephi to head north in hopes of living life in a more modest environment. But once a fashion trend starts, it's hard to stop, and soon the land was sprawling with "Lamanites" - Nephi's euphemism for those who dressed with appalling bad taste (staying true to Lehi's command to never mention Abercrombie and Fitch again).
That ancient business has been revived in our day. Some of us find it ironic that showing people without much clothing is how one sells clothing these days. In any case, it is my opinion that the marketing approach of that store verges on the pornographic and certainly appeals to prurient interests and the glorification of immorality to advance its bottom line. In fact, a recent catalog apparently even has full nudity, drawing serious complaints from the tiny minority of parents who pay attention to what their kids are being exposed to. While the Church has not made any statements on this business, the leaders of our Church stridently urge us to avoid immodesty, pornography, and unwholesome media. My personal advice is for parents to keep their kids out of that store, keep them off the catalog mailing list, and encourage them to avoid their products. It's very popular among teenagers, but their parents rarely know what kind of messages are being sent to the kids who shop there.
Ah, you've found the soft underbelly of Mormonism, the closest thing to solid evidence that maybe we are a cult after all. Yes, many North American Mormons, especially Utah Mormons, seem to have an unusually high dietary intake of jello. In fact, Utah is said to have the highest per capita consumption of jello of any state, and green jello appears to be the dominant variety. (But as for me and my house, we prefer strawberry jello with banana slices.) Is this the result of some kind of occult or New Age influence? Could it be mass dementia? Behind the mask of Mormonism, is there a face of jello?
The jello issue can really shake a person's faith - or at least jiggle it - and I've wrestled with it for quite some time myself. But after much study, I've concluded that easy-to-make jello recipes were innocently popularized several decades ago in homemaking activities for the women of the Church, successfully offering a safe, tasteful, and economical outlet for fleshly desires that helped jello became entrenched in Mormon culture. And thus, the jello mold was cast for future generations.
Now that the Church is becoming much more international, it's likely that jello culture will spread rapidly to many new parts of the world, including places where health standards are weak. (You know, places like West Jordan, Utah.) In such places, try to avoid getting amoebic dysentery from eating undercooked jello. Be sure to boil your jello for at least five minutes before eating it, or if you can't conveniently boil any jello you might be served (some hosts are easily offended!), try to discreetly mix in a few drops of concentrated Clorox bleach to kill any parasites. The bleach may remove most of the color in the jello and sometimes gives it an odd flavor, but that's a small price to pay to avoid debilitating parasite infestations in your digestive tract.
I fully agree! Yet millions of deceived people continue supporting professional wrestling year after year.
There is one aspect of Mormonism I have a lot of difficulty with is a doctrine or belief of what our ultimate role in the afterlife (heaven) is. I've heard and read something about men becoming gods themselves with a number of virgins at their side. I can't recall the specifics, but fail to see the purpose of such a belief because it's so unspiritual and carnal.
You may be importing some rumors from another religion into the LDS context - but we do believe that marriage can be eternal, and that family life can extend beyond the grave. I suggest being married in the next life is no more evil and unholy than being married in this life - and marriage, as we are taught in the Bible, is holy and is ordained by God. If the concept of eternal marriage seems unholy, you'll have to take your objections to the source, to that Being whose preferred title is not Bachelor but Father.
As for the other Biblical doctrine you mentioned, the idea that humans can become "gods," please see the discussion on my page about the divine potential of humans (theosis). In passages such as John 10:33-35, Psalms 82:6, 2 Peter 1:3-10, John 17, Romans 8, and Rev. 3:21, there are indications that those who follow Christ will become more like our Heavenly Father and will become "partakers of the divine nature," resulting in us becoming what the Bible calls "gods." That's not our innovation - it's an ancient Christian doctrine known as theosis widely taught by early Christians, but now rejected by most of our fellow mainstream Christians - one of many precious early doctrines lost from the original Church, but restored in the divine Restoration of the Gospel in these latter days, fulfilling Biblical prophecy.
I used to be surprised when strangers asked me about my underwear, but now I assume this is just out of healthy curiosity. It is healthy, right? Seriously, I know where you are coming from. Adult Latter-day Saints who have been to the temple make sacred covenants to follow Christ. There, they receive what is called a "garment" to wear as a personal, private reminder of those covenants. It's related to the Biblical concepts of priestly robes and vestments and "wearing the whole armor of God," with the garment itself representing the garments God gave Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There are also other outer articles of clothing worn only in the temple.
The temple garment is modest underclothing. It's not exactly Calvin Klein, but it's not necessarily funny looking, maybe just a little more modest than usual. Promoting modesty is one of the intentions, I think, in addition to remembering covenants of integrity and virtue. You may have seen LDS garments in locker rooms without realizing it. (Tip: next time you see someone in a locker room wearing slightly unusual underwear, be sure to introduce yourself before asking embarrassing questions. It's the polite way. And be prepared to answer all sorts of questions about your underwear in return - though I'll never ask.)
As one more example of the underlying threads of prejudice beneath the frequently voyeuristic inquiries we LDS types get, here's a genuine, unedited e-mail I received in January of 1999, with my virtually sincere response (well, I was weak in the flesh when I wrote my response - it's more abrasive than most, but we all have our limits!):
This was a poor attempted to defended the Mormon faith. Any one who half heartily studies Mormonism and Joseph Smith life will find more to it then what you are trying to hide. It's not that I blame you for trying, but like all Mormons that I have dealt with, you are blind to the truth because of family, friends, and fear of being wrong. If you would like to discuss this, please feel free to e-mail back.
P.S. Do you have your "G's" on?
My humble response:
Greetings, Billy. The snow is pretty deep here, so yes, I do have my Galoshes on. You?
Ah, but I really do know what you're asking about - it's my underwear, isn't it? Might I offer a friendly little tip? In most 20th century Western cultures, it's considered indiscreet to inquire about people's underwear, regardless of the brand or style. Asking someone else if they are wearing underwear is widely frowned upon, unless you know the person well, or unless you work in the White House.
I'm not sure what page of mine prompted your remarks. Not knowing that, it's hard to know what it is you think I'm trying to hide. (And yes! I fully agree: there is much more to the Church than what is hidden. Think about it.) But I'm amazed that you have so quickly concluded that I fit your stereotypical mold that applies to ALL Mormons you have dealt with. Are we ALL blind to the truth because of family, friends, and fear? (Since you must know my friends and their fearful influence, please say hi to Art - haven't seen him for a while.) Actually, maybe we ALL really do have one trait in common: we bristle when strangers show such interest in our private apparel.
Really, let's try to be a bit more discreet and open-minded here. Stereotyping people and being so judgmental is not only evil and demonic, it's a waste of bandwidth. And one other thing: like ALL writings of ALL anti-Mormons, yours had some errors that clouded or detracted from its meaning. (Relax: this errur is common to us all.) In any case, I hope that "Sin." is meant as an abbreviation for "Sincerely." If not, I have a counterproposal:
Don't sin. Jeff.
P.S. Have you flossed today? Or checked for navel lint? Hope you don't mind my asking. Guess I'm just curious about you "Gentiles."
More recently, in Jan. 2007, I received a fairly typical email attempting to shake my faith with deep anti-Mormon logic, including this zinger: "Why do Mormons wear special underpants?" Here's my reply:
I wear "special underpants" because it's more modest, more comfortable, and, frankly, safer than wearing nothing underneath. And if people are going to wear underpants, shouldn't they be special? I feel sorry for people who only have ordinary underpants.
I also have some special socks and shoes and even a couple of special ties, but I didn't want to make him feel bad by bragging about that in case his whole wardrobe was just ordinary stuff.
Not yet. But it's a goal I'm working on. (Please, I don't want any help on this - it's something I want to achieve very slowly.)
I had the good fortune of having LDS parents, but at age 14 I chose to not accept that simply because I was born into an LDS family. I resolved that I would not make the sacrifices that the Church requests of people (tithing, two-year mission) if the Church were not true, and decided that I needed to learn for myself whether the Book of Mormon were true. I began to read the book very quickly and then prayed to know if it were true, according to the famous promise given in the last chapter of the book (Moroni 10:3-5):
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things [i.e., the Book of Mormon], if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
After racing through the book, I got on my knees and prayed to know if it were true or not. I prayed, then waited. I had received answers to prayers before and had great faith in God, but no answer of any kind came. I was puzzled. I went back and read Moroni 10:3-5 and realized that I had failed to comply with the requirements for the promise, for I had not taken time to ponder what I had read, to consider its message carefully, and to think about the dealings of God with man. I realized my reading had been far too superficial. Thus I resolved to read it again, but more slowly, taking time to think and ponder as I read each page. That took me much longer, but now I felt like I was understanding much of the book. When I had completed reading, I looked forward in faith to receiving an answer from God about its truthfulness. I told the Lord that I had done according to the promise, that I had read carefully and had thought about Him and His dealings with man, and had pondered the message of the book and felt that it was inspired, but now wanted to know through the power of the Holy Ghost whether it was really true. As I so prayed, I had a marvelous and powerful personal experience in which I sincerely believe that the Holy Ghost enlightened my mind and touched my heart. The Spirit filled me with a sure knowledge that it was true and gave tremendous joy and peace in my heart and whole soul as well. The experience is difficult to describe, but it was much more real and lasting than mere emotion. For me it was only the beginning of my personal "testimony" that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. That testimony has been amplified in many ways since then, through both spiritual experiences and intellectual discovery (see my Book of Mormon Evidences page). I feel that I am a member of the Church not because my parents were, but because I have my own personal testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon and of the Restoration of the Gospel. That testimony grows stronger the more I strive to live the Gospel and the more I learn about the Church.
I'll admit that it is FUN to be a Latter-day Saint, and that the Church does have great programs for youth and others. I'll also grant that there are some members who have no serious religious beliefs - "cultural Mormons," as some call them, whose ties to the church are social or based on tradition. You'll find some of that in most churches. But many "real" Latter-day Saints strive to base their beliefs and their lives on the teachings of Christ, and seek to develop a personal relationship with Him. It's possible to do that and to still enjoy being "fellowcitizens with the saints" (Ephesians 2:19). Doing well with fellowship does not necessarily mean we do poorly in our personal worship. Anyway, I've got run now - it's bungee waterfall kayak quilting night at the church and I'm in charge of donuts.
If we are just pretending when we preach of Christ, rejoice in Christ, and worship Christ, it's a pretense that has been going on unabated since the Church was founded in 1830. Our core, foundational focus on Christ has been emphasized and preached and proclaimed loudly from the beginning, as one can learn with but a brief glance at the cover page or almost any chapter in the Book of Mormon, or a quick scan of our Articles of Faith as written by Joseph Smith, or a cursory study of other LDS canonical writings such as the New Testament (as the title indicates, it was one of those controversial books of new scripture that was widely rejected by mainstream theologians of the day who already had a Bible). The very name of the Church, which some of our critics are loathe to mention, ought to be a clue to our true nature: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every Sunday for the past 170 years, Latter-day Saints have partaken of the sacrament (the communion) in remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ. Every meeting includes prayers that are to the Father in the name of Christ. Baptism and all other ordinances are performed in the name of Christ. Latter-day Saints are Christians. That is not because of any recent change in doctrine or practice - that's what the Church has been about all along. As Joseph Smith explained,
"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121)
Next time you hear our critics saying that we worship a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible, look carefully at the book they've got in their hands. Is it some kind of a Bible by Mark Twain? Jean Paul Sartre? Immanuel Kant, perhaps? Maybe Michael Jackson or Britney Spears? I can't help but wonder if our critics are using a different Bible!
This whole argument was developed recently, after critics found they were unable to get very far with their lie that we don't worship Christ. That lie takes only a brief conversation with actual LDS people to refute, or only a brief reference to LDS scripture, to LDS writings, and to LDS services. Our religion is entirely focused on Christ, and even the best of propaganda has a hard time obscuring that fact. But the critics keep trying, now switching tactics by saying that the Jesus we worship is somehow another Jesus because we don't accept all the same doctrines as other Churches. We worship a different Jesus, they say, because our Jesus teaches that we must keep commandments (see Matt. 19 or John 14), allegedly in contrast to the Jesus of the Bible that taught faith without works. Or we worship a different Jesus, because our Jesus has a tangible resurrected body (see Luke 24), allegedly in contrast to the Jesus of the Bible. Or perhaps we worship a different Jesus, because our Jesus taught that baptism was essential (see John 3 and Matt. 3), allegedly in contrast to the Jesus of the Bible. Or they might even claim that worship a different Jesus, because our Jesus is not identical in substance to the Father (see John 20, Acts 7:55,56; John 14:28), allegedly in contrast to the Jesus of the Bible. In general, we are said to worship a different Jesus because we accept doctrine X (please see the Bible), while our critics accept doctrine Y. But this is silly. We worship the Jesus of the Bible, and accept Him as our personal Savior. To say that He is a completely different Being - a demon or a false God - because we have doctrinal differences with those who think that they alone worship the "real" Jesus is absurd.
Now think about this for a moment. Suppose the George Washington that a French scholar writes about seems to have a different personality and world view than the one that an American historian has come to know because of differing interpretations of events and documents. Can you imagine one scholar summarily and totally dismissing the views of the other by saying, "But he's not writing about the same man! His work is irrelevant for he's dealing with a different George Washington!" That statement might be reasonable if one were writing about George Washington, the First President of the United States and the other were writing about George M. Washington, the First President of the Auburn Society of Stamp Collectors. Otherwise, it's irresponsible hyperbole.
If our critics had a little more charity, they would accept that we sincerely look to Christ for salvation - not a demonic being who pretends to be Christ, but the Christ of the Bible, the Christ who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, the Son of God, who spoke and taught and healed in Jerusalem and Galilee, who was put to death by the hypocritical religious leaders of his day (leaders who used the scriptures as weapons, looking for any argument, any excuse to criticize and condemn the true Messiah and His Church), but who was then the Firstfruits of the Resurrection, who conquered death and sin and paid the price for all our sins that we might be saved if we will accept Him and follow Him.
I get this kind of comment all the time from those who have been carefully educated about our beliefs by hostile sources. They think they know more than I do about what I actually believe, and have no qualms in telling me what my beliefs actually are. They are usually quick to engage in sophisticated dialog like the following sadly typical e-mail, received March of 2001:
I would just like to tell you that your website is the biggest JOKE I have ever seen. I swear, you mormons are the most Manipulative people on earth. I can see how you all brain wash people into thinking you're actually Christian....well don't worry, I will pray for you that you actually see the true light...lol....hahaha...I'm sorry, you pretend to know so much about your religion, but in reality, you know very little, and the little you do know manipulates logical facts that in any other case would contradict everything you teach. Mormons are Christians, hahah, that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. Take a look at all the actual history of your religion, it's a made up fairy tale, and if you had any brains at all you would see that, and quit holding on to that Brainwashing Cult. Sorry if I ruined your day, sometimes the truth hurts...but, I'll pray for you...lol....take care...
Cut to the core with such logic, I am often too fearful to respond to such prayerful and compassionate fellow - uh - Christians(?). Rather, I retreat into my little brainwashed world and spend my limited e-mail time with people less likely to care about my salvation after spitting in my eye.
But I took the bait on this one and responded:
Thanks for helping see through the delusion propagated by the Church of Jesus Christ. Man, after all those years of being taught to seek salvation through Christ, to follow the example of Christ, to covenant to always remember Christ, to apply the infinite sacrifice of Christ in my life, to feast upon the word of Christ, to only pray in the name of Jesus Christ, to have perfect faith in Christ, and to seek eternally to be in the presence of Christ, I never realized that it was all just brainwashing and mental manipulation to make me think I actually believed in Christ. How stupid could I have been?! But since everything in the Church is cleverly crafted to be focused on Christ and to invite us to come unto Christ, I hope you'll understand that it's hard to see through such deceit.
It's amazing how often anti-Mormons beg people NOT to pray about the message of the restored Gospel and our other testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon. Here's one example from a typical Web page, brought to my attention recently by a sincere investigator who later joined the Church:
In these "latter days," there are few people who haven't been visited at least once by Mormon missionaries. At some point in your doorstep dialogue, these earnest young men will ask you to accept a copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and pray about it, asking the Lord to "send the Holy Ghost to witness that it is true." Then, very solemnly, they'll "testify" to you that they know the Book of Mormon is true, that it's God's inspired word, and that it contains the "fullness of the everlasting gospel."
They'll assure you that if you read their text in a spirit of prayerful inquiry, you, too, will receive the testimony of the Holy Ghost. That testimony supposedly will convince you beyond doubt that the Book of Mormon is exactly what they claim it to be.
Keep in mind that the missionaries want you to have a feeling about the Book of Mormon after reading it. They'll tell you that you'll receive the witness of the Holy Ghost in the form of a "burning in the bosom"--a warm, fuzzy feeling--after reading and praying about it. This feeling is the clincher for them. It's the real "proof" that the Book of Mormon is inspired Scripture, and everything else follows from that conclusion.
But think about it. How often have you felt strongly about something or someone, only to learn your feelings were misguided? Consider how often feelings change, even within the space of a single day, as they are affected by weather, lack of sleep, your surroundings, and a host of other factors. Feelings, although a part of our human makeup, can't be a yardstick in matters like this.
After all, some people might get a good feeling after reading Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto or the Yellow Pages. They could pray about such a feeling, and they could take the lingering of the feeling as some kind of divine approbation, but no such sensation will prove the inspiration of Hitler's, Marx's, or Ma Bell's writings. . . .
Tell the Mormon missionaries: "Look, it is foolish to pray about things you know are not God's will. It would be wrong of me to pray about whether adultery is right, when the Bible clearly says it is not. Similarly, it would be wrong of me to pray about the Book of Mormon when one can so easily show that it is not the word of God."
That Web page (http://www.catholic.com/library/Problems_with_the_Book_of_Mormon.asp) offers two sure-fire reasons to discard the Book of Mormon without any further study and certainly without any further prayer:
So what about the issue of prayer concerning the Book of Mormon? Do we trust our salvation to warm, fuzzy feelings while putting our mind into deep freeze? No! (See my page on testimony for a more complete discussion.) The Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5) doesn't simply say to pray about the Book, but to ponder it, to study it, and then with faith in Christ to seek divine understanding of it through the power of the Holy Ghost. It's sad to see fellow Christians demeaning the quest for revelation from God through the power of the Holy Ghost as a "warm fuzzy feeling" that can lead to great deception. How can anyone have a testimony of Christ as the Son of God unless the Father reveals it? (See Matthew 16:15-17; Rev. 19:10; 1 Cor. 2:10-11.) Such prayer and inquiry is part of what all Christians should do in their quest to understand the truth. Relying on human logic and reasoning alone is guaranteed to be fallible, for people get things completely wrong, like the multiple errors in the rather silly attack about honeybees in the Book of Mormon. Those who seek revelation from the Father, combining thought and study with faith in Christ and the influence of God's Spirit, will be able to know the divinity of Jesus Christ in spite of all the arguments against Him, and just might be able to withstand the many human arguments against the divinity of the Bible - and the Book of Mormon.
Do you remember what Christ said when he praised Peter for his testimony of the Savior? It's in Matthew 16: 15-17:
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Peter's knowledge of Christ as the Son of God was not based on a factual analysis of Old Testament scriptures; it was not based on archaeology or genetic science or the opinions of learned scholars of his day; he did not survey the rabbis to find of there was consensus among leading authority figures about the divine status of Christ; it was not based on impressive miracles or other tangible evidences. Flesh and blood had not revealed the divinity of Christ to Peter. Then where did Peter gain that testimony? Through REVELATION from God the Father.
The critics of Christ during His ministry demanded "flesh and blood" evidence, refusing to listen to he Spirit - and ultimately sought the very flesh and blood of Christ Himself. Today our critics ask their victims to rely only on flesh and blood and NOT to seek revelation from God the Father to know if the Book of Mormon is true. Whose voice are they echoing?
The Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ, filled with the Gospel of Christ. Praying about it is not like praying about whether to commit adultery. It claims to be from God, to teach of Christ, and offers powerful evidences for its divinity (many witness and much empirical evidence). It should be a subject of study and prayer - if it really contains the words of Christ, wouldn't you want to treasure them? The quest for truth is nothing like praying about whether or not to commit sin! But oh my, wouldn't the world be a better place if people contemplating sin would pray for guidance? Would that all adulterers would pray about what they are doing. Would that all people contemplating sin would stop and pray and give God a chance to reiterate His will and enlighten the darkened mind. There would be much less sin in the world! So, fellow sinners, take my advice: pray!
I recognize the Catholic.com page against the Book of Mormon is well-intentioned (though many thoughtful and tolerant Catholics I know would be disappointed in it!), but it does simply repeat the crafty arguments of critics who really know better. Do you wonder why those critics vehemently warn against praying about the message of Mormon missionaries? There is a being who teaches men not to pray, who will use every artifice of logic and intimidation to keep people from falling on their knees before the living God. That being who teaches people not to pray is not the Savior, not the Holy Ghost, not the Father. Satan will do almost anything to get people to not pray about the Gospel, about the words of Christ, about their sins or anything else. The Son of God, on the other hand, pleads with us to pray always, and tells us if any man lacks wisdom or understanding, to ask of God (James 1:5). The anti-Mormons as a group seem paralyzed with fear at the thought of someone praying about the Book of Mormon. What are they afraid of? And who gives them that fear?
Read the Book of Mormon, dig into it and use your mind. Consider the logic that humans offer, including arguments about honeybees and Bethlehem and coins and horses and plates too heavy to carry and on and on, if you will, but also consider what the text says and what spirit and power it has. Then, after thought and study, realize that human understanding is weak and fallible, so seek ultimate guidance from the Father. The anti-Mormons sometimes go so far in their efforts to stop prayer as to say that we open ourselves to demonic influence if we pray about the Book of Mormon. But Christ, who is faithful and true, tells us to "Ask and it shall be given," (Matt. 7:7) and assures us that since we, "being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt. 7:11). Please, have faith in God, not in the unreliable analysis of anti-Mormon critics, who would have you trust them more than the Father. When they tell you there is no need to pray because the Book of Mormon mentions honeybees, tell them to buzz off.
Storing food = a militia mentality? Hmmm - maybe those Mormons are preparing for the world's biggest food fight.
The Church does encourage people to be prepared for disaster, but it definitely does not encourage stockpiling of weapons or anything else akin to the militia movement. The physical preparations that are suggested include storing food, water, clothing, and saving money. This program has benefited thousands - not just Mormons - during times of unemployment or natural disaster. When southern Florida was devastated by a hurricane a couple years ago, the Church and its members were able to organize and deliver needed supplies before other governmental or private relief agencies could. Being prepared is not a sign of paranoia, but of wisdom. I know our critics have claimed the opposite, and I did see an outrageous Associated Press article right after the Oklahoma City bombing suggesting that Mormon culture breeds a militia mentality. In response, I wrote a letter-to-the-editor for our local paper, which was published after being shortened. Please read my comments on Mormons and the Militia at "http://www.jefflindsay.com/militias.shtml".
(Thanks to Bernadette Cutelli of New Zealand for help with the first part of my answer.)
Simple. Having multiple wives also means having multiple mothers-in-law. Simply not a sustainable practice.
OK, polygamy is a SERIOUS issue in Church history and a big problem for many people. It is a complex issue that deserves more thoughtful treatment than I can do on this somewhat facetious page, so let me refer you to my LDSFAQ page on polygamy (or plural marriage, as it is often called in Church historical materials). Let me quickly point out, though, that the messy and troubling nature of the way Joseph Smith introduced and practiced polygamy is mitigated when we recognize that some modern assumptions we make about it may be wrong in many cases. So if you want to understand what happened, dig into some of the materials I discuss and look at the issues case by case. Let me quickly mention here that reasonable response to some of the most painful arguments and assumptions is found in a "wiki" entry in the FAIR Wiki by FAIRLDS.org, "Joseph Smith's Marriages to Young Women." Another detailed resource is "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask)" by Greg Smith for the FAIRBlog. That link allows you to play an MP3 file to hear Greg Smith's hour-long talk on the topic. You can also read his words at FAIRLDS.org, complete with footnotes. He treats many aspects of this complex issue, including polyandry and young wives. Perhaps the best treatment on polyandry, where we may face the most troubling allegations about polygamy, which is the most difficult aspect of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism, is "Joseph Smith's Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor's New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?" by Brian C. Hales, presented at the 2012 FAIRLDS Conference. Yes, polygamy is weird by our modern standards and downright hard to figure out, but for those trying to live that law in Joseph's day, in spite of the complex situations involved, it represented a good-faith effort to live a challenging law without violating fundamental laws like "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Assumptions of sexuality behind every sealing are unwarranted, and interpretations of historical data that point to sexual polyandry are questionable. Yes, a challenging and odd practice, but not always in the ways that critics allege.
Amazing! Almost every handshake between men takes on homoerotic overtones in Quinn's deluded vision of the past. By a combination of outrageous allegations, severing of quotations from their context, and blind ignorance of reality, Quinn creates a nineteenth-century Mormon world that winked at or encouraged homosexuality - in stark contrast to the facts. A devastating review of Quinn's book exposes the learned fraud that Quinn has produced (see George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James, FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 140-261).
Quinn fans will be excited to learn of his next work, "Homoerotica in Purple: Same-sex Dynamics on the Barney Show." Quinn's pioneering work in homosociology re-examines the nation's fascination with the lovable, reptilian Barney character of children's TV, where homoerotic themes are evident in abundance. Ironically, homophobic right-wing Christian viewers somehow accept Barney as being "family oriented," almost as if they had never heard the words of the famous "coming-out chant" of the clearly gay Barney, where the very nature of the family is redefined along homosocial lines:
I love you. You love me.
We're a happy family.
With a great big hug
And a kiss from me to you
Won't you say you love me, too?
Quinn explores homosensuality in Barney's dance and song, his fascination with small boys, an exclusive anonymous interview with one of the gay actors who play Barney, and inside stories overheard at gay bars about backstage activities on the Barney show. Quinn also provides scientific evidence that, among conservative Christians, latent homosexuals or homosexuals in denial are most likely to be attracted to Barney, while genuine homophobes tend to become violent when repeatedly exposed to the show or its music. In a particularly forceful chapter, Quinn dissects Barney's antics on the infamous 1994 video, "Barney Live! In New York City," where numerous homoerotic themes are present, including cross-dressing and unusual emphasis on Barney's special "companion," B.J. Ironically, tens of thousands of Christian families own this video and have never questioned its themes or content.
Finally, Quinn clinches his argument by using image analysis and Pantone color tables to prove that Barney is not actually purple, but lavender. If Quinn convinces you that Mormons were secretly pro-homosexual, you'll be even more convinced that Barney is the media's loudest voice for the gay community.
This was actually a topic discussed in a blog post at Sofia's Primary Ideas, where it was noted that a popular song for LDS childrenn talks about their "wrongs" being washed away at baptism. So if little children have no sins, as Moroni teaches in the Book of Mormon, and we don't baptize before the age of 8, apparently because that's when children "officially" become accountable, should 7 year olds be singing about their sins or wrongs being washed away?
Look, I've seen plenty of sin among 7 year olds. Lying, fighting, stealing, shoving, cruelty to goldfish--you name it. Maybe I grew up in a rough neighborhood. The real issue, though, may be one of accountability. I'm not all that sure that we have to give a pass to misbehavior at age 7--some of those little devils seem pretty accountable to me, but the official standard of 8 years old is what we have. Presumably they aren't really fully accountable before that age, but accountable or not, what one seven-year-old did to our sofa was definitely a sin. (Sorry if I sound bitter.) More than just upholstery needed washing after that little incident. So I say keep those words in the song and don't let 7-year-olds or little devils of any age think that they can choose bad behavior and get a pass. Teach them to choose good and learn how to repent while young--they'll need that someday, perhaps sooner than you might think.
I believe you have two passages in mind:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
2 Cor. 11:14
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Paul warns against anyone accepting any other Gospel than what Christ and the Apostles preached, regardless of its apparent source, and I agree. Now consider this: what was early Christianity? What did Christ teach? What was His Church? Christ taught faith and repentance, followed by baptism by immersion for those who believe (Acts 2:37-38; John 3:3-5; Matt. 4:17; Mark 16:16; Romans 6; many others). Anything else - infant baptism, baptism by sprinkling, etc., is not the same Gospel. Christ instituted an unpaid ministry (Matt. 10:8; 1 Cor. 9:18; John 10:11-13; Acts 20:33-35; 2 Thess. 3:7-8) comprising apostles and prophets and other offices (Bishops, Seventies, etc.) which was lead by revelation from Him (Eph. 4:11-14). Any other form of organization must be questioned. Where do we find the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands as in the early Church? (Acts 8:17) Where do we find priesthood authority given by the laying on of hands, by revelation and by the laying on of hands, by those who have received it from God? (Heb. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6) For centuries these things were not to be found on the earth, but they have been restored now through the promised "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:19-21) which came after the prophesied time of apostasy (2 Thess. 2:1-3; Acts 20:29,30).
Does Paul say that we should not accept angels or their ministry? That's not at all what he warns against. He warns against being deceived. He warns that Satan can appear as an angel of light, which is a deception only because it sort of looks like the real - and holy - thing. Counterfeits don't work unless they imitate something real. Angels are real, and they look human and are bright, as we gather from several Biblical descriptions. Cornelius, for example, describes the angel who ministered to him as a man in bright clothing (Acts 10:30-32; see also Heb. 1:7). Two angels are described as men in white clothing in Acts 1:10-11. They announced the birth of Christ, they ministered to Christ (Luke 22:43), they rolled away the stone in front of his tomb and announced His Resurrection (Matt. 28); they were present after He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11),and they will yet come with Christ (Matt. 16:27). Angels have been sent by God to visit men long before Paul wrote anything, angels ministered to and delivered Paul himself (Acts 27:23), and angels ministered to others such as John (see the Book of Revelation) after Paul wrote Galatians and Corinthians. John even prophesied of angels ministering to men in the future (e.g., Rev. 14:6,7, where an angel proclaims the "everlasting Gospel" to the world - perhaps an allusion to the role of the Angel Moroni). Angels can be spirits (Ps. 104:4), including those of righteous men of God who lived before, such as Moses and Elias who appeared to Christ and some apostles in Matt. 17. Since the time of Christ, they may also be resurrected spirits, as may be the case for the former prophet who appeared as a glorious angel to John the Beloved (Rev. 22: 8,9), and was the case for the angel Moroni who appeared to Joseph Smith to help bring forth The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ, a record which confirms and verifies the Bible and convinces millions that Jesus is the Christ. Angels were a real part of the early Church. If there is no more ministering of angels in some quarters, perhaps its for the same reasons that we don't find apostles and prophets and modern revelation and other gifts of the Spirit. Where do we find the ministry of real angels today? In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
How can we tell a message from a false angel versus that from a real angel? The same as we can tell a false prophet from a real prophet: "by their fruits ye shall know them." The definitive fruit of Joseph Smith is the Book of Mormon, translated by the power of God from an ancient manuscript. That book begs to be examined and pondered carefully. It's power and Christ-centered message of truth have changed my life. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true and I have an intellectual knowledge as well that it could not have been fabricated and that it is clearly an ancient document, translated into a modern language (King James style English - and now many other languages as well).
Some modern Christians reject the idea that God would send an angel to testify of anything, forgetting the words of Christ ("I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things. . . ." in Rev. 22:16). Real angels from God have been sent in these days to testify, to instruct, and to return sacred authority and power and ordinances from God, bringing back the fullness of the Gospel of Christ, not some other Gospel of men. I hope you'll take some time to look into the Restored Gospel and hear its simple but beautiful message from authorized servants of God, the LDS missionaries. They have received Priesthood authority for their ministry in the true Biblical manner, by prophecy and by the laying on of hands from other authorized servants who in turn can trace their authority back to Christ, thanks to the ministry of angels - even Peter, James, and John - who Christ sent to Joseph Smith to restore the Priesthood power of God.
Continue to Part Two of Answers to Facetious Questions.