Part two on questions from a non-memberBy: Stephen Marsh
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.
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:
- Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
- Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?
- Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
- 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?
- Do you live the law of chastity?
- Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
- 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?
- 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?
- Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
- Are you a full-tithe payer?
- Do your keep the Word of Wisdom?
- Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
- 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?
- Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?
- 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: http://www.lds.net/forums/lds-gospel-discussion/32507-what-procedure-used-determine-temple-recommend-questions.html
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.
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:
You don’t need to read the books, just look at them.