Part two on questions from a non-member

by: Stephen Marsh

February 25, 2012

As I mentioned, part of the first set of questions was finding out what questions were the real questions to ask.  Which leads us to the second set of questions, which I thought would probably ask the questions necessary to have a context for “real” questions.  However, my questioner jumped in to some solid stage three questions immediately.

  • Are there absolute truths, not open to reinterpretation?
  • Are there liturgical seasons (like Lent, Advent, High Holidays? Ramadan? Eid?)
  • What about the non Christ centered religions? Will they obtain heaven?  What about Hell?
  • What is a temple recommend? Why is it important?
  • Sacraments? Ordination?
  • Must one believe to be saved ? What role of ethical good vs judicial good vs community good?
  • Are we bound to obey bad laws? Or bound to challenge and protest them? Human equality?
  • What is the role of forgiveness?

Ok, some of those are very meaty and foundational questions.  Lets hope my answers are even close to as good as the questions.

Segovia Cathedral, Segovia, Spain
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: Disney’s inspiration

Are there absolute truths, not open to reinterpretation?

Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.

Seems pretty much it.  Everything else seems a little soft or open to reinterpretation, at least a little.
Are there liturgical seasons (like Lent, Advent, High Holidays? Ramadan? Eid?)?

No.  The LDS in general have no liturgical seasons at all.

What about the non Christ centered religions? Will they obtain Heaven? What about Hell?

Ah, a core belief is that God extends the opportunity for salvation to all.  Hell is only obtained by understanding and embracing God completely and then willfully turning away.  Some debate about how many people have qualified for hell or outer darkness.  Some claim you could count them on one hand or so, some claim that is overly restrictive as to the number of people who qualify for hell.

The entire “baptism for the dead” issue that is in the news, along with the responsive “Gayness for the dead” response, is that while there is a belief that Christ meant it when he said all must be baptized, baptism can be performed vicariously.  Unlike the Gayness for the dead movement, Mormons believe that vicarious ordinances only give someone an option (kind of like being sent a credit card in the mail that you can choose to use or throw away).  The fact that the same person may end up with multiple times of someone performing vicarious ordinances for them is a tribute to the lack of good central control over the record keeping, etc. in the process.
What is a temple recommend? Why is it important?

The core Mormon/LDS sacraments of the faith (including marriage) are performed in temples.  To enter a temple you have to have a temple recommend, as the temples are holy places.

To obtain a recommend, you are asked the answers to the following questions:

  1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
  2. Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?
  3. Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
  4. Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
  5. Do you live the law of chastity?
  6. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
  7. Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
  8. Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
  9. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
  10. Are you a full-tithe payer?
  11. Do your keep the Word of Wisdom?
  12. Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
  13. If you have previously received your temple endowment: Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple?
    Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?
  14. Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?
  15. Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?

If the answers are yes, you are given a recommend.  Between these questions and the Articles of Faith (from the last post), you pretty much have a definition of what it means to be LDS or Mormon.  Everything else is culture.  For an interesting discussion on the questions:

Sacraments? Ordination?

If you ask a Mormon about “sacraments” they are going to think of “the sacrament” meaning the passing of bread and water (substituted for wine) on Sundays.  They also bless babies, have baptism by immersion, and marriage and the endowment which is how a Catholic would use the word “sacrament.”

They have formal ordination to the priesthood, both as a socialization exercise for young men starting when they are twelve, and for liturgical callings, such as bishops over local congregations, etc.
Must one believe to be saved ? What role of ethical good vs judicial good vs community good?

One must eventually believe to be saved.  In this world or the next.

Institutionally there is a belief that one should be obedient to the laws of the land (judicial good), though the actual doctrinal discussion is in terms of obeying civil magistrates.  Thomas Rogers play Huebener is about a young LDS man who was eventually beheaded by the Nazis for resistance.  I’ve listened (in my living room) to Rogers talk about the play, how it affected audiences and potential audiences and how that worked out (there was concern it would result in anti-communist activity before the fall of the iron curtain).

Community good and ethical good tend to be conflated.  There are some LDS law professor bloggers and some philosophy bloggers who get into Rawls and similar concepts, but  you will not find a good deal of higher order analysis from those in the hierarchy.

This is because the vast majority of the leadership in the Church is lay.  An LDS Bishop (who will have the charge of a single congregation, roughly in the scope of a Catholic Priest), for example, in not compensated and is a lay member (ordained, but with a day job).  The Stake President (who will be in charge of 7 to 14 units — LDS congregations are called wards or branches, an arch-diocese of them is called a stake from a biblical reference) is a lay member.  The area authority (roughly like an arch-bishop) will be a lay member.

Are we bound to obey bad laws? Or bound to challenge and protest them? Human equality?


That leads to a number of interesting issues.  An entire post of themselves.

Human equality?  My favorite is a Joseph Smith sermon on how the difference between a Black slave digging a ditch and a Philadelphia doctor in a coach is education and opportunity, nothing more.

Brigham Young, well hated by modern LDS feminists (over his devotion to polygamy), gave a number of very egalitarian sermons on the point that women are as fit as men for being shopkeepers, lawyers, doctors, artists, accountants, legislators and voters.  In reading history, women were given the vote in Utah well before the date in most books.  Congress took it away and then later restored it, which is the date you get if you look it up. The only thing Brigham felt woman were not well suited for was hard manual labor involving strong upper body effort, such as ditch digging.  He also developed into a very devoted racist by many people’s reading of his later sermons.  One of the more interesting thing about Brigham Young is that a number of times when questioned on beliefs of his he defended them not as inspired but as the product of pure logic or kenning, though he had beliefs he defended as inspired.

As to laws, conscience, doctrine and politicians, I’m very tempted to compare two politicians, both of whom got along just fine with the Church.

I just don’t want to derail the conversation with a discussion of the current Mitt Romney vs. the positions taken by Governor Romney (Mitt and his father) who were both very engaged in civil rights issues on the side of equality.

Segovia, Segovia, Spain
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: The Heart of Castilla

What is the role of forgiveness?

God will not forgive us if we will not forgive.

No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of heaven, yet we are all unclean.

Forgiveness is pretty essential.  I would suspect that most would acknowledge that you do not really have faith in Christ if you do not forgive.

I am a fan of both of the following books:

Product Details

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

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Bonds That Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves

You don’t need to read the books, just look at them.

9 Responses to Part two on questions from a non-member

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 25, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Let me know if you think my answers are wrong. Next up theosis, maybe more on Rawls.

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  2. Badger on February 25, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    The subject of “absolute truths” is complicated. My own perception is that commitment and loyalty to the church and its doctrines are of overriding importance, and this includes adherence to any beliefs that the church emphasizes sufficiently at the present time. By this standard, there would be a much longer list than the divinity of Christ.

    Over historical periods of time the church does vary the doctrines that it emphasizes as essential. It is controversial to take note of this, because a present-day doctrine of some importance is the unchanging nature of the gospel. There are many prima facie examples, such as the necessity of polygamy for salvation that I mentioned in a comment on your last post. I’m sure that Stephen’s very short list refers to this longer-term outlook.

    On the non-Christian religions, I would emphasize (as Stephen does in a later answer) that there is nothing to suggest salvation is available by any means other than the “plan of salvation” taught by the LDS church. Those who were not Christian in this life would effectively have to convert to the true church in the next life.

    About belief as a requirement for salvation: yes, but I think the essence of Mormonism is better conveyed by saying that obedience is first among the requirements for salvation. Belief in and of itself does not have the same primacy that it does in Protestant doctrine.

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  3. Chris on February 26, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    The Church’s understanding of Jesus Christ has evolved in time. From Brigham Young’s Adam/God theory, leaders now teach that Jesus is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

    I find it interesting that 1 Nephi 11:18, 21, 32 were all changed from describing Jesus as “God” to describing Him as the “son of God.”

    A fascinating article about the evolution of the Church’s teachings about Jesus in this Sunstone article

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  4. NewlyHousewife on February 26, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    If you read an article in the latest Ensign about “Gospel Culture”, there is apparently more than the AoF and the interview questions to being Mormon. Like not participating in the long traditions of bride price (seriously?).

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  5. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 27, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    That was interesting

    In contrast, some cultural traditions in parts of Africa are negative when measured against gospel culture and values. Several of these concern family relationships—what is done at birth, at marriage, and upon death. For example, some African husbands have the false idea that the husband rests while the wife does most of the work at home or that the wife and children are just servants of the husband. This is not pleasing to the Lord because it stands in the way of the kind of family relationships that must prevail in eternity and it inhibits the kind of growth that must occur here on earth if we are to qualify for the blessings of eternity. Study the scriptures and you will see that Adam and Eve, our first parents, the model for all of us, prayed together and worked together (see Moses 5:1, 4, 10–12, 16, 27). That should be our pattern for family life—respecting each other and working together in love.

    Another negative cultural tradition is the practice of lobola, or bride price, which seriously interferes with young men and women keeping the commandments of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. When a young returned missionary must purchase his bride from her father by a payment so large that it takes many years to accumulate, he is unable to marry or cannot do so until he is middle-aged. This conflicts with the gospel plan for sexual purity outside marriage, for marriage, and for child rearing. Priesthood leaders should teach parents to discontinue this practice, and young people should follow the Lord’s pattern of marriage in the holy temple without waiting for the payment of a bride price.

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  6. Badger on February 27, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    What a strange article. It’s full of statements like this one: Like the refugees on The African Queen, we are fleeing evil and disaster, that leave me wondering what he’s talking about. What is the invading army driving us from our homes? Obviously it’s a metaphor, but for what?

    The parallel with Packer’s unwritten order talk is noteworthy. “Gospel Culture”. Is it the gospel, or isn’t it? Given that he talks about breaking up couples that are, as he sees it, sort of married but not married enough, it deserves either a more serious treatment or a disclaimer that these are just ideas for further reflection and discussion.

    Why are the laws of often corrupt and short-lived official governments “formal” and in compliance with the Lord’s standard when traditional tribal marriages are unacceptable?

    I remember as a teenager watching a movie in which a man and woman who had been stranded together for years on an uninhabited island “accepted each other as man and wife”, as I recall the wording. As a good Mormon boy I found this disturbing. Clearly it was fornication, according to my gut, but there didn’t seem to be any possible rational argument to support that conclusion. If “the people” are sovereign, well then, they were as married as any two middle class Americans. And yet…

    It is mildly embarrassing to recall this, but I was young and no real people’s relationship was implicated. Yet I seem to have given the matter more thought than is apparent in the article’s description of what the “Gospel Culture” demands. Is it really obvious to everyone but me that tribal traditions throughout Africa are less legitimate and binding than “the government”, even in cases of failed states or civil war?

    Speaking of breakups, and I swear polygamy is not an obsession of mine, is it really necessary for the church to require converts in legally recognized polygamous marriages to divorce down to a single couple? The Catholic church accepts a very small number of married priests (e.g., ordained and married in an Orthodox church, then converted to Catholicism), and their world has not come to an end.

    Finally, I utterly reject the condemnation of bride prices as inconsistent with Johnny Lingo, which I consider canonical scripture.

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  7. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 28, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    Badger, aside from orthodox priests, they also accept married Anglicans and there is a Catholic group in the middle east that is also allowed married priests.

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  8. NewlyHousewife on February 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    “Finally, I utterly reject the condemnation of bride prices as inconsistent with Johnny Lingo, which I consider canonical scripture.”

    I’m putting this on my fridge.

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  9. Barb Bohan on March 3, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Thanks for the overview! I think that a lot of people who are not LDS will have more respect for our faith as they learn more.

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