- Religion and Philosophy
Mormonism vs Christianity
I am not a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Members of said faith are often refered to as Mormons or LDS, I am not. These hubs include ideas, concepts, and precepts that I was taught that may or may not be official church doctrine (people like to teach what they feel, often times not in line with official doctrine).
If you try to strike up a debate in the comments section, I will likely allow it if you are not racist, sexist, or militantly vegan. No threats, though I find condemnation a little funny. "F-bombs" will not be tolerated, even though it is my favorite four-letter word. Keep in mind this is the internet and people will say what they want to say, to whom, and when they see fit. If you get your panties in a wad, start a hub and tell people about your feelings.
Compare and Contrast Mormonism
I was raised Mormon. I didn't know anything different until I went to school and heard people talk about other ideas, which I thought were crazy at the time. How could anyone think differently than Mormonism? I was taught that Mormonism had all the answers. The more I learned of these other religions, the more I figured out how different Mormonism is, but also how much Mormonism has assimilated other religions.
Without any further ado... Let's start with the concept of Heaven. Most western religions view heaven as a place of infinite comfort and pleasure and happiness. Choirs singing praise to God... that kind of thing. Heaven is for the faithful only. Mormons believe that there are "three degrees of glory" that are equated to the sun, moon, and stars in terms of how happy and comfortable they are. The sun equivalent is the Celestial Kingdom and fits most traditional views of Heaven. Only faithful Mormons can go there and if you haven't received the gospel in this life, you'll have a chance to accept the gospel after you die and are a spirit. The moon equivalent is the Terestrial Kingdom and is reserved for good people who never accepted the gospel. The stars equivalent is the Telestial Kingdom and is reserved for most bad guys that you can name. The Telestial Kingdom is where people who commit suicide go and if you saw in this mortal life how glorious the Telestial Kingdom is, you would promptly commit suicide just to get there. Now the opposite of Heaven is hell. Mormons refer to hell when trying to connect with outsiders and sometimes amongst themselves, but officially it's called "Outer Darkness". Only those who have seen the face of God and deny him (ultimate blasphemers) go to outer darkness. Those who rejected God in the pre-mortal life also reside in outer darkness. Outer darkness is described much like Dante's Inferno, if you need some reference. It's really not that different from mainstream Christian views of hell.
Mainstream views of God consist of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Many religions believe they are the same entity in different form. Mormons believe they are distinct individuals with a united purpose so are "one" in cause. What makes Mormons peculiar on the topic of God is his origin. Mormons believe that God used to be a man that was exhalted. He became God by being righteous and was given his power and authority as a reward for his righteousness. If we are good little Mormon boys and girls, we can become Gods ourselves one day. It begs the question... who gave God his power? Was there a grandpa-God? How about brother and sister Gods? Turns out Mormons believe there are infinite numbers of gods, yet our Heavenly Father is the only one we are allowed to worship because we are supposedly HIS creations. Sounds a bit possessive, eh? Anyway, most Mormons don't think about this multitude of other gods and will probably tell you that there is only one god because Mormons only focus on our supposed creator. Note that Mormons believe it necessary to have both genders to have the power to create - even in the afterlife and exhaltation. That implies we have a Heavenly Mother who gets exactly zero credit for her contribution to our existence.
Mormon scriptures consist of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). The Book of Mormon is their most heavily studied piece of scripture. Supposedly the angel Moroni delivered the Golden Plates to Joseph Smith, who translated them into the Book of Mormon. Mormon is an ancient prophet who compiled and abridged the works of dozens of other prophets into a single book on Golden Plates, others added onto it afterwards and it was buried by Moroni in the same place where fourteen hundred years later he delivered them to Joseph Smith. Whew. That crock of shit takes a mouthful. Anyway, it is said by Mormons that the LDS faith is the only true faith, the only complete faith, that others have a fraction of it but not the whole. Odd thing is, the beginning of the translation of the Golden Plates was lost and never recovered. Joseph Smith was "not allowed to re-translate it". Also, he was only allowed to translate a third of the rest of the Golden Plates. The Book of Mormon even references prophets and events that have not been recorded anywhere else in scripture. The result is that clearly there is more truth and knowledge out there that has yet to be translated and Mormons still claim to have the complete truth. Make sense? Nope! Further, Mormons have been criticized for having scripture in addition to the bible (King James, if you were curious). In Revelations, John the Revelator states that nothing shall be added to this account. Mormons claim that with "account" he was talking about the Book of Revelations. Turns out in the Book of Mormon, Nephi has a vision of the last days that he describes all sorts of crazy events at the destruction of the world. Nephi claims that another man, named John, would be given the same vision. Nephi added quite a few things to that account. Make sense? Nope. In addition to these other scriptures, the Pearl of Great Price is supposedly a translation of Moses' and Abraham's personal writings and religious ramblings. Nevermind that both prophets supposedly write with the same rythm, meter, word choice, sentence structure... The Pearl of Great Price has a facsimile of Ancient Egyptian writings - which have been re-interpreted by modern Egyptologists and has been proven beyond doubt to be completely false. Yet Mormons will claim that the Egyptologists have it wrong. I don't know what other extra-curricular reading other religions have, but few have as much crock as the Pearl of Great Price or the Book of Mormon.
I don't know what Jews call that little hat thingy they wear. If I'm not mistaken, it's symbolic of the hand of God. Mormons also have a symbolic cloth. They wear garments. Whenever someone finds out that I used to be Mormon, they ask me about the "magic underwear". I laugh and correct them. "They're garments." Anyway, garments are a token that one has been through the endowment ceremony at the temple. There is an unfounded and irrational belief that garments will protect you from danger. People who have lost limbs have lost them right at the point where the garments end. They see this as a sign that garments protected the rest of them and I scratch my head at the stupidity, yet all the other Mormons around show their support for this belief. Further, garments of married Mormons have stitches across the nipples, belly-button, and one on the right knee - stitches with different shapes for different symbolisms. Mormons are supposed to treat these garments special - wash them separately from other clothes, don't leave them in the dirty pile on the floor... stuff like that. I don't know many other Christian religions with quite this degree of superstitious apparel. I've seen necklaces, pendants, or special clothing for the clergy, but nothing quite like garments.
Believe it or not, there are some similarities between Mormons and mainstream Christians. They are politically active up to the point of funding anti-gay campaigning for proposition 8. They continuously lobby congress to deny gays the right to marry. Guess what? Lots of different religions pull that shit.
Mormons consider themselves Christians and defend that label agressively, even going so far as to enlarge the name Jesus Christ in their logo to emphasize their Christian label. They believe humans are not perfect and only through salvation through Jesus Christ can we get to Heaven.
Mormons pay tithes. Rather than passing a dish around, they fill out a donation record and put their tithes with it, dropping it in a box or handing it to a designated representative. Ten percent is expected from all members, even those that don't have the ability to pay. The logic is: the more desperate you are financially, the more blessings you will receive by keeping up on your tithes. I have heard stories of Mormons going to destitute nations like Haiti and trying to get their poor to pay tithes. WTF.
They participate in baptism, like many religions do. Anyone over 8 years old can be baptized and it is expected of you to get baptized if you have been raised in a Mormon household. They say you have a choice, but your only other option is to be treated like a leper in your own home. Mormons practice full-emersion baptism and the prayer that goes with the ceremony is one of the few recited prayers in Mormonism.
Speaking of prayer, the only recited prayers that I am aware of are the sacrament prayers, the baptism prayers, the "laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost", and a few higher-ceremony prayers at the temple. All other prayers are supposed to be unscripted but follow a certain format. Mormons don't pray to Jesus, they pray to God in the name of Jesus.
Sacrament is given as in many religions. Bread is used to symbolize the body of Christ (although in extreme circumstances something other than bread can be used). Water symbolizes his blood. Only worthy baptized members are to partake and only with their right hand. Priesthood holders of different levels of authority can participate in different levels of the ceremony. The highest-ranking priesthood holder gets served first, only then can the rest of the members be served. If a member is too ill or old to come to church, a few members of the priesthood will take the sacrament to that member after church services have concluded.
Seminary is offered to high school and college students. It is a one hour per day indoctrination that the student is supposed to sign up for. Even though it is optional, those that don't attend are often times seen as half-assed Mormons. Mormons do not have privatized high schools like other religions do, although private college-level schools do exist (BYU Idaho, BYU Provo, BYU Hawaii and a few smaller colleges around the Utah-Idaho area).
Service is emphasized to a limited degree. "Faith without works is dead" is a common logic that I actually kind of agree with. Mormons take very very good care of their poor when organized by the church itself. There is a secondary form of taking care of the poor where the members are supposed to look after each other. "Home Teachers" and "Visiting Teachers" are more individualized services that have very low participation rates. Service to God, service to their fellow man are taught at the pulpit. Yet they often times focus their service efforts only on other Mormons or people who are potential converts. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are the points of their welfare programs. Military service and community service outside church are neglected as most Mormons consider their duty fulfilled in their services to the church and members. As a soldier in Utah at the time, I was stunned that in a state that is 70% Mormon only 30% of my unit was Mormon. Mormons typically are not consciencious objectors and there are hundreds of thousands of Mormons who serve in militaries around the world.
Repentance and confession are expected. Certain infractions require a member to go through a rigorous and humiliating church court process where a member's status is temporarily or permanently revoked depending on the infraction and the member's level of remorse. A repentence process typically involves a confession and feeling sorry for one's failure. Confession does not obsolve all offenses. Sorrow for one's sins is highlighted so much and there are so many little nit-picky sins to feel sorrow for that people live in constant states of sorrow. Every once in a while I run into a happy Mormon and I'm a little stunned. There are plenty that appear outwardly happy but upon talking to them, I discover the happiness is a show and they are riddled with regrets and shame and guilt and self-loathing and and and and... You get the idea. Point is, confession is not repentence and doesn't wipe your slate clean.