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The unique doctrines of the Mormons
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, usually draws interest from such things as; The fantastic claims of it’s founder, Joseph Smith and a history involving Polygamy. However the Mormon religious philosophy has some very unique characteristics. Whether mainstream Christianity is willing to accept it or not, these unique views have frequently set the agenda for serious discussion, unavoidably so given the aggressive missionary activities of the Mormons, causing church leaders at a local and national level to engage their ideas. Frequently those doctrines and philosophies have been found to have merit even within more orthodox circles. The unique, and therefore controversial, philosophies of the Mormon faith are as follows;
The Nature of God
The God of the Old Testament is viewed not as a being of Spirit but as a man of flesh and bone occupying a real point in space. He dwells on a planet where He oversees the working of the Universe. Though this particular place is unknown, one of their scriptures, the “Pearl of Great Price” states that it is near a planet called “Kolob”
The concept that causes even more discussion is the concept that God was once a mortal man and rose to Godhood.. The whole reason for the creation of the Earth and the human inhabitants was more than just a whim. The question “If God is complete to himself why were we created?” is answered in the Mormon doctrine that we are created to become Gods ourselves. Stated simply in Mormon parlance;
“As man is, so once was God. As God is, so man may become.”
To the Mormons, we are Gods in a chrysalis. Put through the fires of temptation and faced with a life of struggle over choices in order to distinguish which of us has the potential for perfection and so to join the perfect race of Gods.
Adam and Eve
The Biblical account of the first parents is often unsatisfactory as it is interpreted by orthodox Christianity. In it Eve is shown to be gullible and Adam is a wimp. Eve is easily convinced that the Heavenly Father she has been conversing with and has a personal connection to is deceiving her about the forbidden fruit. While Adam, when he is discovered, says in effect, “The woman made me do it.” Ladies will recognize this excuse as one that males have been using ever since to pass the blame for murder and wars and a host of minor sins onto “Female wiles.”
Mormon doctrine puts the whole tale in a very different light. Here Adam and Eve were fully aware of the choice they were making. In the garden, according to Mormon doctrine, there could be no child bearing. So the first parents made a conscious choice to leave the garden of Eden and accept mortality. Eve made the first decision, Adam was given a choice and he determined to follow her.
To the Mormons, Adam and Eve were noble beings who gave up their place in paradise so that the human race might come into existence. As the doctrine puts it;
“Adam fell that men might be. Men are that they might have joy.”
In the 4th century a British monk named Pelagius advocated a doctrine that was hotly opposed by the leading figures of Christianity at the time. At a Synod held circa 450 AD, known as the “Synod of victory” This doctrine was officially declared a heresy. Interestingly the Mormon Church has revived this doctrine.
Mormons agree with Pelagius that the simple act of calling out the name of the Lord and having faith in the saving Grace of his sacrifice is insufficient for the full blessings of Heaven. The actions taken after acceptance are of equal importance. St Augustine argued that this doctrine negated the gift of Grace. Mormons, like Pelagius, say that Grace must be maintained and daily life should be a constant striving for perfection to be worthy of such Grace. Orthodox Christianity agrees with this in part but ultimately rejects the concept of “Good works” as essential to salvation. The oft quoted “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” Would be countered by the Mormons as “Forgive me while I strive for perfection.”
The other aspect of the Pelagian heresy that Mormons adamantly espouse is the concept that children have no sin. It follows logically that to sin you must have knowledge of your wrongdoing. Orthodox Christianity states that we are all guilty of the sin of Adam. It falls on us all. This is the concept of Original Sin. Mormons reject this concept declaring that we can only be judged by our own actions. Little children, unaware of moral concepts, are automatically guaranteed a place in Heaven should they die before losing their innocence as one of the direct benefits of the Atonement. Mormons would agree with Pelagius that little children have no “Original Sin” but instead have “Original Blessings”
HEAVEN AND HELL
Hell, to the Mormons, is not a place of physical torment. There is no physical lake of fire and brimstone. When the devil was cast into outer darkness he was damned. To the Mormons, this is a literal Dam. All life, whether physical or spiritual, must progress. Hell is a place of no further progress. There is nowhere else to go.
Heaven does not exist in the orthodox sense either. Unlike orthodox Christianity, which has a somewhat amorphous view of Heaven as little more than dwelling in the presence of God, with few concepts of what that means in any real sense, the Mormons have a very clear idea of what is going on. There are a number of “Heavens” we will attain according to how we have behaved on Earth. For the murderers, adulterers and other ne’er do wells there is the “Terrestrial Kingdom” a place not unlike our present Earth. For the good and noble souls who nevertheless rejected the Mormon version of the Gospel, (We would probably include such persons as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa here) there is the “Telestial Kingdom” nicer than the first but not as exalted as the final. The “Celestial Kingdom” This is reserved for the most faithful of the Mormons and is the only heaven reserved exclusively for Mormons who have lived exemplary lives and are now ready to approach Godhood.
Interestingly, in order to be cast into the Hell that Satan occupies you must have reached a point on Earth where you are worthy of the Celestial Kingdom. If then, having a perfect knowledge of God and his plan for you, you reject it. That’s when you are cast into outer darkness. The only religion where you have to be worthy of Heaven before you are deserving of Hell.
These are just some of the more interesting of Mormon philosophies. There are other claims that may seem even more fantastic to the individual used to a more standardized view of religion and are generally rejected out of hand in theological circles. The above are only the ones that have aroused more serious debate. They will continue to do so as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expands its influence throughout the world.