Mormonism Q&A I: Race issues; Jesus/Satan issues; some sources

There have been some interesting discussions of Mormonism in the media lately. Commenters like Lawrence O’Donnell, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and others have made statements about the church in highly public places. What are we (or others) to make of these? In this post, I’ll try to address some of the questions that I’ve seen in various media contexts lately.

A few caveats upfront: I don’t claim either perfect information, or formal authority. I consider myself reasonably well-informed, but I’m not an expert on all these topics. And I’m an active member in my ward, but I’m not an official spokesperson or authority — I’m just a regular church member. Finally, I don’t claim that my answers are perfect. I’ve tried to come up with a potential question list, and answer it honestly. I may have missed relevant points; if I notice points I’ve missed, I’ll try to update this. Now, for some Q&A:

Do Mormons believe in Jesus?

Yes. The official name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. We talk about Jesus regularly, and take the Sacrament in remembrance of his Atonement. LDS scriptures and church leaders focus on the importance of Jesus in God’s plan.

Are there differences between LDS and traditional-Christian conceptions of Jesus?

Absolutely. For instance, LDS doctrine holds that God and Jesus are distinct beings, the Father and the Son. We are not trinitarians. In addition, Mormons believe that Jesus visited the Americas after his resurrection, and that He has communicated with latter day prophets including Joseph Smith.

Do Mormons teach that Jesus is Satan’s brother?

Not really. That’s not a doctrine I’ve ever heard discussed in Sunday school, for instance. However, that is a logical extension of LDS belief that God is our Father. So Jesus is a child of God the Father; I’m another child of God, and so are you. And so is Satan, who is also a (fallen) child of God.

It is correct that we are all God’s children. However, there are obvious differences between God’s children. I’m not personally like Jesus, and neither is Satan. And the logical link (Jesus as Satan’s brother) isn’t part of typical Mormon discussion — there’s no Sunday school lesson on “Jesus and Satan as brothers.” Because of that, the statement is not really recognizable as Mormon doctrine. It is a line typically used to attack the church.

Did Mormons allow Blacks to hold the priesthood, prior to 1978?

No, mostly.

A few early Black members, like Elijah Abel, held the priesthood. Our records on them are pretty fragmentary. Scholars like Margaret Young and Darius Gray have done some good work publishing the stories of those members. However, a general policy of non-ordination of Blacks was put into place, at least by the mid-19th-century. This policy lasted until 1978.

Why was the ban put into place?

We really don’t know. Various people have speculated about possible reasons for the ban. I’ve floated many possible reasons myself, in a prior post here. At present, we can’t say for sure.

However, the ban was instituted at a time when the entire country was relatively segregated. It is an unfortunate part of church history; but it was very much in line with general views on race, nationwide. Mormons certainly have no monopoly on racism. (For some comparative analysis on religious views of race during the 19th century, see this post.)

Have church leaders made negative statements about Blacks in the past?

Yes. In the 19th century, Brigham Young and other leaders spoke very negatively about interracial marriage. In the 20th century, some church leaders, including Bruce R. McConkie, suggested that Blacks were denied the Priesthood because they had been less valiant in the pre-existence.

Were the prior ideas changed or repudiated?

Yes, generally. In 1978, church leaders received a revelation, since canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, extending priesthood availability to all worthy males of age.

At the same time, Elder McConkie made a public repudiation of his own prior comments, and apparently others’ statements as well. He said:

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

Are prior negative statements about Blacks doctrinally binding or followed today?

Generally not. As I wrote on another blog, regarding the Brigham Young statements on interracial marriage:

The Brigham Young statement cited [by Lawrence O’Donnell] comes from the Journal of Discourses. The JD, as historians call it, is a 26-volume collection of 1,500 transcribed sermons given by dozens of different church leaders over a 30-year period. It’s kinda like the Congressional Record. If anyone said anything, it went into the JD. This is why it’s 26 volumes and thousands of pages.

There are huge problems with any suggestion that the JD has much salience today. First, the JD is not church doctrine, and has no binding weight as church doctrine. Church members read the scriptures regularly; many don’t even know that the JD exists.

Not only is it not doctrinal — the JD is also essentially unknown to most church members. I grew up as a church member, and my parents didn’t have a copy of the JD in their home. (Why would they? 26 volumes of old talks.) I don’t have one in my home now, and I’ve got well over a hundred church books on my shelves. I do keep thinking that I should get one, but that’s because I’ve been doing some historical reading, and it’s interesting as a an old historical relic. No one, except for a real history junkie, has a copy of the JD on their shelves.

The church publishes an official manual called the Teachings of Brigham Young. This is a book-sized official church publication, on every church member’s bookcase, and it’s one that church members are instructed to teach class out of, every Sunday, for a year. This is what Mormons today actually read, study, follow, out of Brigham Young’s teachings. And the line about race isn’t part of this collection. (Check for yourself — the entire manual is available online.)

I’ve been attending church regularly for over 30 years, and I have never once heard Brigham Young’s line about interracial marriage cited in a church setting. Ever.

And I personally know church members who are in interracial marriages — and no one gets killed or cast out. One member who I personally know, a Black man in an interracial marriage, was the bishop of a ward that I attended for four years.
. . .
Brigham Young said some problematic and racist statements. Yep. Those statements were unfortunately pretty consistent with elite white thinking at the time; those statements are essentially unknown to most Mormons today, because they’re not doctrinal and the only place anyone could find them is in a musty old collection that nobody reads; those statements set out certain rules (such as prohibiting interracial marriage) that are neither discussed, followed or enforced in the church today. Brigham Young’s statement is unfortunate; unsurprising, given the era; unread; unknown; and unenforced.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t still concerns. Elder McConkie’s repudiation, while welcome, was relatively non-specific. The doctrinal effects of a repudiation of prior statements made by different leaders is not really clear, though in general the repudiation is probably effective. The church has not formally apologized for past policy. And some church members today certainly own church-published material from pre-1978 that contains negative statements.

Is Mormon doctrine racist?

At the present time, Mormon doctrine is not officially racist. Members of all races can hold the Priesthood. I’ve personally known Black church leaders, including my old bishop. Another local leader (now a member of a stake presidency) is profiled at this website.

Are there racist Mormons, today?

Unfortunately, yes. There are racist Mormons, just like there are racists in most any large organization. I’ve heard some church members link present negative ideas on race to older statements made by church leaders, decades ago. Racism on an individual basis certainly exists in the church.

On the other hand, I think that racism in the church is declining. Church leaders have recently made several strong statements against racism. They make statements like, “God’s second commandment, love thy neighbor, clearly leaves no room for racism” and “I have learned to admire, respect, and love the good people from every race, culture, and nation that I have been privileged to visit. In my experience, no race or class seems superior to any other in spirituality and faithfulness.”

A lengthy recent statement from President Gordon B. Hinckley condemned racism in no uncertain terms:

Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.

Is Mitt Romney a racist?

I’ve seen no evidence that he is, but I can’t say for sure one way or the other. Why don’t you try asking him?

Should I read Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven?

Sure. It’s an entertaining and light read, and if you’ve read other materials, I see no reason not to read Krakauer.

Should I read Krakauer first, or as my only source about Mormonism?

Probably not. For one thing, the book really isn’t about the mainstream LDS church. It’s intended to focus on one fundamentalist offshoot, not on regular Mormons. For another, the book has been criticized for errors and superficiality in its presentation of shared history. Krakauer is a good writer, but not a historian or an expert on Mormon history. I’d say that he presents a number of correct facts, but sometimes jumps too quickly to conclusions.

What should I read, then?

A good place to start generally is Mormonism, The Story of a New Religious Tradition, by non-Mormon scholar Jan Shipps. A generally well-regarded Mormon history written by Mormon scholars is Arrington and Bitton’s The Mormon Experience. If you’re interested in Mormon views on Jesus, and how they compare to other Christian views, you should check out How Wide the Divide?, by Blomberg and Robinson (a Mormon and an Evangelical in conversation). And if you’re interested in the race issues, Armand Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children is a good place to start.


Thanks for reading. I hope this helps address a few questions that have been in the media lately. Please feel free to add your own comments or thoughts. I’ll try to address them if I can, and perhaps my co-bloggers or other readers will weigh in as well.

This post hasn’t addressed all possible topics. I’ll try to follow up with more installments. Up next: Women, priesthood, polygamy, and more.

105 comments for “Mormonism Q&A I: Race issues; Jesus/Satan issues; some sources

  1. CraigH
    December 18, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Nice job. I’d add about Krakauer that while not wholly wrong, his book is like saying that Islam always leads to Osama bin Laden. And your comments on the Journal of Discourses raise lots of questions, that someone might raise, such as: if they’re so outdated and irrelevant and obscure, what will that say about official pronouncements in any future period? Of course the emphasis in our church is on “living” revelation but wouldn’t you hope for some longer lasting thread in there, that transcends a particular time period? I’m sure the JD has them. Finally, your comments on racism are right on, it seems to me, thus that they were part of wider society—but that raises another question someone might ask: wouldn’t you want your revelation-receiving church to be a little ahead of the curve? But again, nice job!

  2. California Condor
    December 18, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Great job. I especially like the explanation of the Journal of Discourses. Nicely put. However, in the official name of the church, “day” starts with a lower-case day and it is hyphenated with “Latter,”, i. e. “Latter-day.”

    Also, we technically only used the Brigham Young sunday school manual in 1998 and 1999.

  3. Bob
    December 18, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Kaimi, I see two problems with your post:
    1) Way too much wiggle room in what you say Mormons of today believe (or don’t believe) Vs what they once believed.
    2) Romney, In effect, said ” I believe in the Faith of my Fathers, or (as is said by those on your list), ” Romney believes in what Mormons of the past believed.

  4. Mark B.
    December 18, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Well done, Kaimi. You may want to add a footnote to your reference to the “pre-existence,” since that may fly right by the unfamiliar reader.

  5. Cody C
    December 18, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Good job Kaimi. That was a very succinct and efficient analysis of some of the common questions encountered today. Unfortunately, I find that even when presented with the truth and the actual history surrounding the church, the critics don\’t listen. They choose to continue harping on the church with the same tired rhetoric, like the whole \”Mormons aren\’t Christians\” claim. They have an axe to grind, and nothing, not even the obvious truth, is going to sway them.
    In response to Craig, as far as being ahead of the curve with racism, I believe the church was. One of the main reasons why the early members faced so much opposition and hate in Missouri was because they didn\’t believe in slavery and that struck fear in the Missourians. They didn\’t want the Mormons to shift the political power to a free state.

  6. Bob
    December 18, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    #3 Should read: “I believe in the Faith of my Fathers.” Or, ( as is said by those on your list), Romney believes in what Mormons of the past believed.

  7. ed johnson
    December 18, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Nice, Kaimi.

    However, I’m not sure how you’ve managed to miss our teaching that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. For example, it’s right there on the first page of chapter 3 of the “Gospel Principles” manual (a.k.a. “The Real Mormon Doctrine.”):

    Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me”….Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).

  8. California Condor
    December 18, 2007 at 7:25 pm


    I think it was perfectly acceptable for Romney to make a sweeping statement about the “faith of his fathers” without being guilty of subscribing to any mistaken ideas his fathers had.

    I think Kaimi describes Jesus and Satan being brothers very well.

  9. Jacob M
    December 18, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    I, along with California Condor, think that Bob is a little off base with his faith of my fathers comment.

    ej johnson, whatever dude. Lucifer and Jesus being related is really not an important doctrine in our Sunday School lessons. You’re choosing one line out of an entire book that never mentions it again. I know you’re probably just playing a little devil’s advocate (pun not really intended, but hey, might as well use it), but Kaimi does a good enough job with his explanation for those who are just curious, not for those who’ve already made up their minds.

    I think a discussion about how we have diverse opinions about all sorts of different stuff (ie. not sheep), and also our relationship to our present prophet would merit some discussion, too.

  10. Bob
    December 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    #8: Romney did not make a ” sweeping statement about the faith of his fathers”, he made a pointed statement as to what he believed.
    The Mormon Church I grew up in very much taught they were brothers, much as is stated in #7.

  11. ronito
    December 18, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Overall pretty good. But like #7 I wonder what Sunday School you went to on the whole Satan being the brother of Jesus. It has been drilled into me since primary, through seminary, through preisthood and into the church Institute system. If you’d ask me the answer is pretty unequivocal.

  12. Jacob M
    December 18, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    What do you mean that Satan being Jesus’ brother being drilled into you since primary? It is a doctrine that logically flows from other doctrine, but the fact that they are brothers is only important in the sense that they are our brothers. Them emphasis has never been on Jesus and Lucifer’s relationship to each other, but on their relationship to us. I don’t know why you guys are suggesting such importance to this teaching.

  13. Adam Greenwood
    December 18, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Agreed with Jacob M. I just don’t see why it would be important.

  14. ed johnson
    December 18, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Jacob, I didn’t say it was important, I said that we teach it. Kaimi said we don’t “really” teach it. If you’re writing a FAQ for non-mormons, you shouldn’t say we “don’t really” teach something if we really do teach it, even if it’s not central…that just makes you look like you have something to hide. If we “don’t really teach it,” then what’s it doing right there in chapter 3 of the manual we use for new members?

  15. Gilgamesh
    December 18, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    I didn’t read Ed’s comment as an attack on Kaimi, just a notation that Kaimi’s point that we do not teach the doctrine is not correct – it is taught in Gospel Essential’s class. Whether that is important or not doesn’t matter, it is an editorial correction.

    Kaimi – nice work – it sums up a number of issues well.

    Craig Hin #1 – I think the whol JD discussion does, in fact, mean that proclamations made today by the church can, and will be seen as irrelevant and dated in the future. Unless it is canonized, church doctrines are pretty fluid and can change with the times. That is one thing I like about the church – modern prophets give modern prophecies.

  16. Bob
    December 18, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    #12 &#13: Are you saying Satan has no important role in Mormonism? That the War in Heaven between two brothers has no importance in Mormonism? Does not Satan, being the “Son of the Morning” have any importance?
    #12: This doctrine does not “flow” from others, it is taught by the Church.

  17. Kevin Barney
    December 18, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Nice post, Kaimi. Another resource folks might try is Mormonism for Dummies.

  18. Jacob M
    December 18, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Bob – parden my french, but where they hell did I say that Satan has no important role in Mormonism? That question came from left field. All I’m simply saying is that Satan being explicitly Jesus’ brother is not that important in our doctrine. It is not something that we emphasize in our Gospel Doctrine or Gospel Essentials classes. And it is important to note that even in the quote in #7, that the emphasis is that two of our brothers presented a plan, not that two brothers presented a plan. And I am not claiming that they aren’t brothers, either, just that it has little to no significance in our teachings.

  19. cj douglass
    December 18, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks Kaimi. I knew there was someone out there who could write this post better than me.

    I think you’ve hit on something that needs to be emphasized. For example, if Brigham Young said something we have no obligation to believe it or even entertain it. In fact, we’re not liable to believe everything Joseph Smith said as long we gain a testimony of his divine mission.

    It seems logical that if we believe JS to be a prophet and Pres. Hinckley a prophet that everyone in between would be called of God. But nowhere in a baptismal or recommend interview are we asked if we believe that Heber J Grant was a prophet etc..

    We’re not under any obligation to believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. We don’t have to believe that Jesus was/is Satan’s brother. To consider ourselves Mormons, there is actually very little that we have to subscribe to.

    God exists. Jesus is the divine Savior. Joseph Smith a prophet. Book of Mormon true. Christ leads the church today. I can doubt almost everything else and still call myself a Latter-day Saint.

  20. ronito
    December 18, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    True it’s not that important. HOWEVER, to say “Not really. That’s not a doctrine I’ve ever heard discussed in Sunday school, for instance.” when it is right there in our own scriptures, our manuals from which we teach, taught in our seminary and in the CES system is hardly correct importance or not. The question wasn’t “Is the teaching that Satan and Jesus are brothers important?” It was “Do Mormons teach that Satan and Jesus are brothers?”. Fairly simple yes or no would suffice and I don’t think you can realistically say No.

    If someone asks me “Do you believe the sky is blue.” I can’t say Not Really because I deem it unimportant. That’s what I’m and I feel Bob is trying to say.

  21. WillF
    December 18, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Bob, if you are going to interpret Romney’s statement, here is actually what he said, “My faith is the faith of my fathers.” You argue that he believes what Mormons of the past believe, but this is antithetical to the LDS belief in continuing revelation. Mormons are taught not to hold on to old beliefs that contradict new revelations.

  22. Last Lemming
    December 18, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Although the formulation of the Jesus-and-Satan-being-brothers question is designed to evoke offensive images in the minds of rank-and-file Christians, there is a legitimate question underneath. The creeds maintain that Jesus is “begotten, not made” with the implication that everything else (including us and Satan) is made or created. When we grant that Jesus and Satan can be viewed as spirit brothers, Christian theologians jump to the conclusion that we believe Jesus is a created being. This is incorrect. It would be more accurate to say that we believe all of us (again including Lucifer) are begotten,not made (although I don’t really understand what the creeds mean by “begotten”). If we are going to be accused of heresy, at least let it be the right heresy.

  23. December 18, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I agree with Ed. Jesus being Satan is in the lesson. How many times does it need to appear, Jacob, before you can say that the church teaches it? 3? 10?

    With that said, I don’t really see what the big deal is about it. I’m not judged by what my brother does. How does it diminish Jesus to say that Satan was his spiritual brother? And I agree it’s not a central doctrine, but part of the more important doctrine that we are all brothers and sisters spiritually.

    Also, regarding the article, you seem to be assuming the the motivation for denying blacks the priesthood was racism. That might be true, but there’s no consensus on that, so I don’t know if it belongs as the answer to a question in a FAQ. Particularly, I have a problem with that analysis in that it also implies that denying the priesthood to women is sexist. I think the more correct answer is, “we don’t know”.

  24. December 18, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Sorry, there was about 10 comments in the time it took me to post #23 (I have to learn to post faster), so my comment regarding what Ed and Jacob said was a bit late. It sounds to me that we can agree that the church teaches it, but it’s not an important doctrine. Jacob, I didn’t mean to attack if it felt like that. I see what you’re saying, but I can also see Jacob’s point of view that we do teach it. I think it depends on what you mean by “teach”.

  25. smb
    December 18, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    I think if you want a quick look at early Mormonism, you may as well start with the Penguin Lives Joseph Smith. It’s by the Andrew Jackson biographer, is quite readable, and while sympathetic overall isn’t an internal view (Remini isn’t Mormon, but he’s a polite outsider). It’s not all that scholarly, but it’s a good quick read.

  26. smb
    December 18, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    I think if you want a quick look at early Mormonism, you may as well start with the Penguin Lives Joseph Smith. It’s by the Andrew Jackson biographer, is quite readable, and while sympathetic overall isn’t an internal view (Remini isn’t Mormon, but he’s a polite outsider). It’s not all that scholarly, but it’s a good quick read.

  27. December 18, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Evangelicals who use the “Jesus and Satan are brothers” line to bash Mormons ought to try stating their own doctrine of Satan. Most rank-and-file Evangelicals believe in a powerful and evil Satan who exists as a person or spirit or being or whatever. But theologians recognize that admitting the existence of Satan compromises the creedal view of an all-powerful God. So the typical Evangelical view of Satan is as heretical (from the point of view of orthodox Christian theology) as the view they (falsely) attribute to Mormons! Just another example of Evangelical ignorance and hypocrisy.

  28. Adam Greenwood
    December 18, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Last Lemming:
    I maintain that the Incarnation requires the belief that Christ, who is uniquely both God and man, is both creator and created, and that even traditional Christians ought to believe this if they don’t want to make nonsense of the whole idea of the incarnation.

  29. Bob
    December 18, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    #22: “If we are going to be accused of heresy, at least let it be the right heresy.” This is my favorite line in the whole Post! I don’t know if anyone who has read up to this point, knows what Mormonism teaches, or if it matters.
    Should Romney have said ” My faith is the faith of my fathers.”. Or “To consider ourselves Mormons, there is actually very little that we have to subscribe to. Or, “if Brigham Young said something we have no obligation to believe it or even entertain it”. ” Or “….emphasis has never been on Jesus and Lucifer’s relationship to each other…”. ?

  30. C Jones
    December 19, 2007 at 12:38 am

    “My faith is the faith of my fathers.”

    I’m having trouble reading anything into this other than, ” My religion is the religion of my family.” I could easily say that myself without meaning that whatever anyone I am descended from ever believed in, (whether or not I have any personal knowledge of precisely how they interpreted every little point) is exactly what I bind myself to forever.

    Basing accusations about Romney on this one statement seems to me to be a huge stretch.

  31. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 1:38 am

    #30: I don’t think anyone on this blog made “accusations” against Mr. Romney other than he is a faithful Mormon. I believe the three pundits listed in the beginning of the Post may have felt his speech tied him to the past beliefs of Mormonism.(?)

  32. C Jones
    December 19, 2007 at 2:00 am

    #3 ” Romney, In effect, said ‘ I believe in the Faith of my Fathers, or (as is said by those on your list), ‘ Romney believes in what Mormons of the past believed.”

    Bob, Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you meant by this. I took it to mean that you agree with the three pundits.

  33. WillF
    December 19, 2007 at 2:50 am

    The Church’s more terse response to the question of sibling status of Jesus and Satan:

  34. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 3:10 am

    Once again, y’all are missing my point. The doctrine we teach is that we all, including Jesus and Lucifer, are spirit brothers and sisters. We do not teach that specifically Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. There isn’t a spot in our lessons, including the example listed above, that explicitly says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, but, the fact that they are is inferred from the fact that they are both our brothers. An “if a=b and b=c then a=c” sort of thing.

    Horbite, I appreciate what your trying to do, but you just outed us in 23. Our Jesus is Satan! (grin)

    And sorry if my words have been testy. I’ve been reading too much anti stuff over the last few days. Bob, I’m still not sure what your point is, so you might want to clarify

  35. Patrick Faulk
    December 19, 2007 at 3:37 am

    #22: “If we are going to be accused of heresy, at least let it be the right heresy.” This is really the crux of the Jesus/Lucifer/Brothers issue with the Evangelicals. We LDS find it a bit mystifying why anyone would get so riled up over the idea, mainly because we don’t really understand their beliefs concern the nature of Jesus and Lucifer. (Whether they actually understand it themselves is another question altogether.) As stated in the post, we are trying to answer the wrong question. We need to explain that we are not diminishing Christ, but instead are elevating everyone else!

  36. anon
    December 19, 2007 at 3:51 am

    Re #3–if this is supposed to imply that Romney is racist, I have to argue quite the opposite. Romney\’s father was certainly no racist, even when the church was. The elder Romney even famously defied the racist views of one apostle who urged him not to associate himself with the civil rights movement. You can see the apostle\’s letter to Romney Sr. here. After this letter, Romney dramatically escalated his rhetoric and support of the civil rights movement.

    In any case, I agree with other posters that this is a largely meaningless general statement. Basically it says \”I\’m Mormon (as opposed to something else) because I was raised that way.\”

  37. Dan
    December 19, 2007 at 5:32 am

    I just want to say something about Bruce R. McConkie’s “apology.” He stated:

    Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

    It frustrates me to no end that he said that, particularly the “we spoke with a limited understanding.” Because when he spoke with that “limited understanding” he came off authoritatively, as if his word was the standard. The same goes with all the rest. That kind of arrogance is really annoying. Why didn’t Elder McConkie say that we had a limited understanding when he was saying that Blacks were denied the priesthood because they were not valiant in the pre-mortal existence? Why did he not couch his statement with, “but because we have a limited understanding, this may not be correct.” or something to that effect.

    It really puts into question just how much of his words are based on “limited understanding” and how much is based on truly authoritative statements.

  38. lamonte
    December 19, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Kaimi – Thanks for this thoughtful and honest representation of Mormon doctrine and belief. On Sunday, our lesson (I guess everybody’s lesson) in Priesthood Meeting was about revelation. Our instructor focused on the revelation in 1978 making the priesthood available to all worthy males. As he read – or had someone else read – from a biographical record of President Kimball’s diligent efforts to resolve the issue, I was interested to learn that it was Elder McKonkie who was the first among the twelve to speak out in favor of lifting the ban saying essentially “I see no scriptural injunction against it.” I found that quite interesting since he must have known how much criticism he would receive because of his earlier writings.

  39. Dan Y.
    December 19, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Playing devil’s advocate, here are a couple of follow-on questions:

    1) Does the current church view the pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the priesthood as a mistake, as the will of God, or as something else?

    2) Assuming that Mitt is not personally racist and never has been, what is the best way to rationalize his active participation in the church during the pre-’78 period when the seemingly racist policy was still in place (recognizing that he was an adult for over a well over a decade during this period).

  40. December 19, 2007 at 9:36 am

    This Q&A is unnecessary since Maureen Dowd has Krakauer’s number and can call him for answers to all her Mormon questions.

  41. Joel
    December 19, 2007 at 10:23 am

    These are just my own thoughts on the priesthood ban. As far as I can tell, the ban was justified, by some leaders before 1978, using the idea that race was a premortal characteristic. This idea is obviously racist, but it fits perfectly in a 19th century conception of race as a state of being essential to the color of one’s skin. I think that Elder McConkie repudiated this opinion strongly, i.e. limited understanding, without light and knowledge. As for whether the ban was based on this incorrect doctrine or not, modern church leaders have never taken a stand–as compared to our conceptions of gender. (gender is an essential characteristic of individual, premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.) Thus, we don’t know with 100% certainty that the ban was based on a conception of premortal race identity or some other socio-historical factor.

    Also the idea of race as a premortal characteristic to me seems like a natural outgrowth of the curse of Ham doctrine created by protestants to justify slavery. Religions have a long history of formulating docrine to justify temporal practice. For more information on the historical roots of religious racism, see Braude, Benjamin. “The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods,” in The William and Mary Quarterly 54, no. 1 (Jan., 1997): 103-142. in JSTOR. You might also want to check out chaoters six and eight in this historical document written by George Fitzhugh, one of the South’s chief apologists for slavery,

  42. Mark B.
    December 19, 2007 at 10:49 am

    John Mansfield: Nice!

    We all know that the “Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers” crowd are mixing our doctrine with their creeds in an attempt to scare their co-religionists away from Mormonism. So, whether the matter is taught or not is irrelevant: what matters is that they’re using a statement that makes no sense in their theology to try to smear Mormonism.

    Who, after all, might they think of as Jesus’s brother?
    Certainly none of us. (They don’t sing that children’s Christmas song “Jesus our brother, kind and good” do they?)

    What about the other children of Mary and Joseph, named in the gospels? Not really–how can God, born of a virgin, really be the brother of those others, children of Mary and Joseph?

    Anybody else? Who else is there?

    So, what are they trying to do? Suggest that we don’t believe that Christ is co-eternal with the Father? If so, they’re wrong. D&C 93:21. (Of course, verse 29 takes that even further and will cause them other varieties of indigestion.)

    Or are they trying to suggest that we don’t believe that Christ was always God? If so, I think that they’re wrong on that one too. (Notwithstanding D&C 93:12-13. I read that as a description of the Savior in mortality, but not as a statement of the pre-mortal Christ. How else can one explain Jehovah?)

    I suspect they’re just trying to smear us with a “they are really devil worshippers” brush, and figure if they say it often enough it will make Steve Benson or Larry O’Donnell happy. For more on them, see here and here, respectively.

  43. CraigH
    December 19, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    #5, I guess the revised question would be, why didn’t the church stay ahead of the curve, with the anti-slavery movements? If that was the right direction, why not stay there?
    #15 and 37 should be considered together. Of course one may go along simply following the current policy on anything, it feels safe. And to some it’s sufficient. To others, it’s not satisfying. That approach seems to fall short when current policies prove to be not only current but flawed. If understanding was limited on such a fundamental topic as race, then why not on much else? And if true then, why not now? I think it’s good that BM made his admission of limited understanding, but yes why not earlier rather than the implication that it was beyond that. Wouldn’t it be better if just about every statement, even on the bloggernacle, were prefaced with the admission, explicit or implicit, that one’s understanding is limited? And that we’re simply trying to improve our understanding? Maybe some feel that such a stance was then and now already implicit. Great. But to make claims or suggestions that current understanding is absolutely inspired and lasting, and one is bound to it, and then it’s changed, I’d say that’s more faith-shattering than humbly moving forward with an admission of limited understanding. At least for some people. I’m sure there are others who are content with simply following what’s current, and not too troubled by it. but it’s good to realize there are others for whom the implications are troubling, not because they lack faith, but because their faith works differently.

  44. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    #42: Why is their “Smear Brush” worse than yours? These “Them’ you speak of are your brothers and sisters.
    #32: I don’t agree with their tone, and I think they should maybe have asked Romney meant his speech. To me, it is clear, that it is still unclear, as to what Romney believes. I am trying to understand his words. I am not trying to put words in his mouth.

  45. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    MarkB. I don’t know if they’re really smearing, so much as repeating a smear they heard somewhere sometime. I’ve faced the questions tons of times and I have found it’s always easiest to deal with it with honesty and I’ve never had a conversation about it where by the end of it they didn’t see where we as a church came from, and in fact most go away agreeing at least in principle. Here’s an example of a conversation I had a baptist not too long ago.

    “Do you guys really believe that Satan and Jesus are brothers?”
    “How can you believe that? It’s crazy.”
    “Let me put it his way. You agree that God created everything?”
    “He created the universe, the earth, me and you.”
    “Angels too?”
    “Jesus was the son of God right?”
    “Since we have the same creator we are in a sense brothers with Jesus then. You believe that?”
    “Satan must have come from somewhere. The bible states he’s a fallen angel. You believe that?”
    “Now who did you say created the angels?”
    “ooooh. I see.”

    Many people I find get all up in arms about this until you explain it to them. For many it’s an honest misunderstanding, while I don’t agree that it was so for Huckie. I’m just saying that for most people it’s not a smear, they’re just repeating what they hear.

    As for the whole “Faith of my Father’s” thing. I think Romney was just trying to evoke bible speak so as to impress upon the evangelicals “I’m one of you!”. I don’t think he meant anything convoluted by it or that we should reach to much into it. Just a politician possibly overreaching. Nothing new.

  46. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    #45: What happens if the questions were asked like this:
    Q: Do Mormons believe Jesus was a more important Son to God? A:……
    Q: Do Mormons believe Satan was a more important Son to God? A……

  47. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I’d say you’d have to ask God.

  48. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    #47: Nice Try: But he asked me. “Who shall I send?”

  49. Jason J
    December 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I’m pretty late on this thread, but I wanted to add one thought. I think that the Church teaches that all of us are in a sense brothers and sisters with both Christ and Satan. One nuance that has perhaps not been emphasized enough in this thread is Christ’s central role as God even before the world was created. In fact, though rank and file Mormons fondly refer to Christ as their “Elder Brother,” we have been counseled that this casual reference to the Savior has the potential of diminishing his Divine nature.

  50. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    48 – Ha! To which you responded?

  51. Adam Greenwood
    December 19, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    is’nt “whom shall I send’ more better grammer?

  52. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    #51: One should use “Whom”.

  53. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Then I’d I’d say it’s pretty obvious by which one he sent isn’t it?

    But I’d say there isn’t a mormon doctrine that says Satan is more important than Jesus. I couldn’t point you to where in a manual it says that. I can however point you to where it says they are brothers.

  54. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    #50: I am on Earth, how do you think I responded ?

  55. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    #53: “….it’s pretty obvious… “- Then why the question?

  56. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    what question? You’re the one that asked.

  57. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    #56: “Whom shall I send?”

  58. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    54 – With neutrality?

  59. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Then that’s a question for all of Judaism not just mormons.

  60. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    #58: Are we moving on to Race?
    #59: Why the limits?

  61. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Maybe I should have put a smiley next to my question. Just a joke, nothing more.

    Dan 37 – Two things. One, BRM frequently spoke that way, much to the ire of many. Two, apostles are appointed by the Brother of Satan to teach the truth, and so sometimes when apostles speak, they feel they are speaking according to the Brother of Satan’s words and teachings.

  62. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    #61: Mine to was a joke. (One must be careful).
    “The light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” (BRMc). What was that ‘Light and Understanding’? (Just lifting the Ban doesn’t count.)

  63. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    #62: Ok, Mine too, Adam.

  64. Jonovitch
    December 19, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Am I really the first person to be posting this? sent a whole list of questions to — get this — the Church (as in, of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to get some answers on what those Mormons believe. Some of them are similar to those posted here.

    Check it out:,2933,317272,00.html

    I was surprised to learn about some nuances of doctrine from the answers that I hadn’t previously considered. Not that it’s official and binding, but it did come from Church HQ (presumably an official media spokesperson), so it’s probably as close as you’re going to get.


  65. December 19, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Standard caveat, but on your differences between Jesus and the Father trinitarians also believe they are different persons but with one being. Calling them different beings is at best ambiguous (what do you mean by being?) and at worst highly misleading.

    As I’ve argued before, Mormons tend to see Trinitarians as modalists when they aren’t. (Heck, a lot of Trinitarians see themselves as modalists, so its any easy mistake to make) The big different between Mormons and most other Christians is over the denial of creation ex nihilo and whether the Father is embodied. It’s hard to point to deeper metaphysical issues since Mormonism hasn’t taken an ontological stance on the unity of the Godhead one way or an other. It’s a common Mormon belief to take it merely as a common purpose. But that isn’t doctrinal and (in my opinion) is problematic. One can see a big difference between how we view humans due to our rejection of creation ex nihlo and that may lead to implications with regards to the two natures of Christ. But that’s more subtle.

    Anyway, I’d delete your #2 as it is pretty misleading at best.

    On your #3 I think the belief is more common than you suggest. Certainly, as you note, it is a logical implication. One should note that the way Romney’s camp handled this wasn’t good. For most Protestants, for instance, there is a big ontological difference between Christ, Satan and humans whereas for us there isn’t.

  66. Jonovitch
    December 19, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    P.S. Having earned a degree in public relations, and considering returning to school for a law degree, it’s interesting to me to note what each of the Church’s responses carefully said and didn’t say.


  67. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    64 – I’ve read that, but I still think there is some sort of problem in that article. Why is it that for a few questions in a row the same exact answers are given? How did they ask the questions? Verbally or written? While no doubt our PR department had said those things, I just wonder if they are answering those exact questions, because it doesn’t seem like they’re doing that.

  68. California Condor
    December 19, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Jacob M (67)

    I think the church PR department was indeed answering those exact questions. I think they used duplicate answers on a few questions because elaborating on some topics could result in an unflattering quote.

  69. California Condor
    December 19, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Jacob M (67)

    I think the church PR department was indeed answering those exact questions. I think they used duplicate answers on a few questions because elaborating on some topics could result in an unflattering quote.

  70. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I sincerely hope that is not true, because it came across as really lame and robotic in the article. I’m seriously hoping that our PR does better than that. Of course, I think some of their explanations were pretty good, but to send in duplicate answers is just lame.

  71. Ken
    December 19, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    I don’t know if the Church Public Affairs office knew that the resulting piece was going to be formatted like that, but I see it as a huge PR screwup. The lead-in gives the impression that the Church refused to answer questions that struck them as leading or accusatory, but the resulting repetition makes the answers look robotic and canned, which will probably reinforce some people’s prejudices of the church as secret, cult-like, and information-controlling.

    Boy, nothing makes it sound like you have nothing to hide like repeating the same careful ten-word answer to three consecutive questions!

  72. Adam Greenwood
    December 19, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    That PR came across as pretty pissy.

  73. December 19, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Well, for crying out loud — what journalist ever posts his unedited notes and raw source materials? I don’t suppose the church PR man ever expected them to be published as a document — it’s clear to me that he was providing answers to questions that he expected a journalist, even an amateur journalist associated with a third-rate network like Fox, would write up as a story or use to inform himself for future stories. If the reporter was asking for a printable statement, he should have asked for one.

  74. Kaimi Wenger
    December 19, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for your comments so far, all. Sorry about the late reply.

    A few specific responses:

    Craig (1) — agreed, it would be better for us if the church was ahead of the curve. We can construct various theories of revelation that explain why the church was more or less in line with problematic attitudes of the time.

    Cody (5) — that’s generally believed among many church members, but it’s not really accurate. Joseph Smith varied between anti-abolitionism and a sort of weak abolitionism, late in his life. W.W. Phelps’ editorial about bringing free Blacks into Missouri (which did generate a hostile response from slaveholders) was immediately followed by an official retraction. And Brigham Young was opposed to abolition, and put into place Utah’s laws establishing slavery in the territory.

    That’s a better record than a lot of other churches. (See my discussion here for some comparative discussion: ). But it’s also substantially less admirable than some other churches, like the Quakers, who actually were significantly and relatively consistently ahead of the curve.

    Dan (37),

    You’re right to note that Elder McConkie’s retraction raises interesting questions of how much speaking is being done, across the board, with a limited understanding.

    Dan Y. (39),

    The current church position is, “we don’t know.” I floated a bunch of possibilities in a prior post at , and David Grua has some suggestions as well in his post up now. There’s no official word.

    As for Mitt Romney, there are several options he could take. He could point out, for instance, that an average 30-year-old doesn’t have much authority in the church, anyway.


    Good sources. I’ve looked at the book Noah’s Curse in a prior blog post here (cited above), which talks about religious justifications for slavery.


    Yeah, Fox copies my ideas.

    I had noticed that, but hadn’t yet linked it. Thanks for putting up the link.

    More comments later — I’m off to pick up kids from school.

  75. California Condor
    December 19, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Ardis, you don’t moonlight as a PR hack for the Church, do you? You sound a little defensive.

  76. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Ray theorized that maybe they didn’t come from a live representative, but from an automated response. It seems to have some merit, even though Ardis makes a good point, too.

  77. Bob
    December 19, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Used three times: ” those people in the Western Hemisphere.”? A little out of date?

  78. Jeremiah J.
    December 19, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    “I sincerely hope that is not true, because it came across as really lame and robotic in the article. I’m seriously hoping that our PR does better than that. Of course, I think some of their explanations were pretty good, but to send in duplicate answers is just lame.”

    It may sound canned, but I’m not sure what else the church is supposed to say about a string of speculative, fairly uninformed questions about Kolob. It’s clearly not an interview, it’s a questionaire. So the format is strange from the beginning. Would “Answered at question #4” sound less secretive?

    I’ve heard some people suggest that the kind of thing Fox is doing here (directly asking the church) is unheard of in the media, as if Maureen Dowd’s quasi-sane book report on Jon Krakauer is standard operating procedure. But it seems to be farily typical for people in the media (especially the better religion writers) to use church PR materials, or have discussions with PR people or other recognized, reliable authorities on the church when doing background for an article. What *is* unusual is for journalists to simply cut and paste their Q and A with PR people, as Fox did here. It’s good for the media to do background or primer pieces on a relevant subjects once in a while, but this is not the way to do it, especially when a good number of the questions are obviously about “the God Makers” film.

  79. Jacob M
    December 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    77 – No.

  80. C Jones
    December 19, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    “especially when a good number of the questions are obviously about “the God Makers” film.”

    Yeah, it looks like the anti-Mormons have largely succeeded in defining the terminology when it come to media discussion of Mormons.

  81. Last Lemming
    December 19, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    That PR came across as pretty pissy

    My reaction exactly. And by publishing them verbatim, Fox was pissing right back. You can’t win pissing matches with the media.

  82. Ardis Parshall
    December 19, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Jeremiah J. (78) is right. PR was answering a background questionnaire, not making a statement for publication. PR answered the questions in the format they were asked, which is not being pissy; it’s being methodical. Fox could have telephoned for a live interview, but as many organizations do they chose to submit written questions for written answers — ordinarily, a convenience to both parties. There’s no pissing match involved. It’s just Fox being unprofessional.

    And that shouldn’t sound defensive to you, Condor. It should sound annoyed. The Church treated Fox like a professional organization; Fox behaved amateurishly in return. If Fox had the professional sense to be defensive, they should be.

  83. Martin James
    December 19, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    I’m 43 years old and very sad that the church I grew up in where it was a given that our beliefs were not only peculiar but clearly superior to the beliefs of others is gone.

  84. Ardis Parshall
    December 19, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Oh, brother …

  85. California Condor
    December 19, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Ardis (82),

    I’m curious… why do you have so much detailed information about this questionnaire?

    Were you the one who filled it out? Do you work for the Church PR department? I want a yes or no answer.

  86. ronito
    December 19, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Well it’s not that important you see?

  87. Adam Greenwood
    December 19, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    Thanks, AEP. I figured there had to be some kind of explanation.

    Mr. James,
    the Church is what you make of it.

  88. Ardis Parshall
    December 19, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    CC, I want lots of things, too, starting with a little less hyperventilation from you.

  89. Martin James
    December 19, 2007 at 8:51 pm


    I’d be less sad if the answers to these questions was “Our beliefs are what we make of them.”

  90. Adam Greenwood
    December 19, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    That’s on you.

  91. Jonovitch
    December 20, 2007 at 1:01 am

    I didn’t think the Church’s answers to the questions were “pissy.” I simply think the question was already answered, so the best solution was to repeat the statement. FOX should have grouped the relevant questions together so that they were all answered at once, rather than showing a verbatim answer two or three times in a row, which in my mind sooner looks bad for than it does for the Church’s PR department. Without knowing anything about the situation, I would sooner assign laziness to than malignant intent.

    Of all the answers, I was most intrigued by this line: “The goal is not to equal [God the Father and Jesus Christ] or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.” That sure puts a damper on the fringe chatter of how cool it will be when we all get to create our own planets and stuff (the kind of things young Boy Scouts like to talk about at 2 a.m.). It was an unexpected, and oddly reassuring, perspective on one of the deepest (and least understood) of Church doctrines.

    Regarding the “Western Hemisphere” bit, I think it is the most accurate we can be. We have no idea where in the two vast American continents Lehi landed, or where Jesus Christ appeared, or even where the gold plates were buried (we know where Joseph Smith found them, but not necessarily where they were originally buried — another discussion altogether). My point is, I think too much emphasis is sometimes put on the U.S.A. and I liked how it avoided trying to pinpoint a location for the “other sheep.”

    When I read the answer about our magic underwear, I noticed how the use of the word “garments” makes them sound like a quasi-official name for them. I think the weirdness factor could be assuaged somewhat by treating the term as more of a common noun. For example, in the phrase “Garments are considered sacred by Church members…” the term seems to be a specific proper-noun reference to Mormon underwear. If written thus: “The garments are considered sacred…” it retains the generic “clothing” meaning.

    Some of this is achieved in this line: “members of other faiths … usually wear religious garments” but then is lost again completely in the next sentence: “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, garments are worn beneath street clothing….” If we simply change it to “In the Church, such garments are worn beneath street clothing…” it again retains the generic meaning of “(religious) clothing” and loses the weirdness. (As an aside, avoiding jargon, and speaking in more normal terms, goes a long way toward bridging gaps with friends of other faiths.)

    My gut feeling is that “garments” might have had a more generic meaning historically, and that it simply stuck around long enough in the Church to become transmogrified into a modern Mormonese term. Any insight on this, Ardis?


  92. Ken
    December 20, 2007 at 1:17 am

    #89: “Our beliefs are what we make of them”? So any attempt to explain Mormon theology to outsiders = assimilationism? I would have thought explaining Mormon theology = bearing testimony.

  93. Mark D.
    December 20, 2007 at 4:37 am

    I think the answer to this question is somewhat misleading, or rather non-responsive.

    Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will “rule” after their death and ascension?

    A: No.

    Of course the question is leading and ill formed. Churches do not believe things, churches teach things. And of course the question implies a sense of temporal exclusivity which is misleading as well.

    The unfortunate implication, however, that resurrected beings do not reside on “physical” planets or orbs or whatever is untenable. If you have a resurrected physical body, where else are you going to reside? Interstellar dust clouds? I wasn’t aware that D&C 130:4-9 had been repealed.

    One other thing – the terms “being” and “substance” mean something completely different in contemporary English than the original concept both terms were derived from. We use “being” as a practical synonym for “person”. We use “substance” as a near synonym for “material”, The original Greek concept (ousia) is more like the modern sense of “species”, or “Being” (in the philosophical sense).

    Of course one of the great ironies is one of the major reasons for the change in semantics seems to be the fact that the original sense of Being (in the original Greek universals-are-self-existent-realities sense) became philosophically obsolete about seven centuries ago. So “substance” is no longer the common essence (or form/pattern) of a material, it is the material itself. Likewise, “being” is no longer that which all members of a species have in common, it is merely the bare fact of an entities existence.

    So it seems that we are not quite as far from the original meaning of the Nicene creed as it appears on first glance, and likewise many Christians unwittingly depart from the same.

  94. Dan Y.
    December 20, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Kaimi (74),

    (The conversation seems to have moved in other directions, so this may be for the record as much as anything.) Thanks for addressing my comment. My questions were primarily rhetorical. I am aware of the current lack of consenus on reasons for the ban in the first place (but thanks for refreshing my memory of your earlier post). My point was that to the extent that part of the intent of your exercise might be to persuade open-minded non-believers that LDS views and positions are not unreasonable, some of the questions and answers lead naturally to further questions where even the best answers may be less satisfactory. The two I brought up in #39 are examples.

    For example, I can imagine something like the following conversation if Mitt Romney were to agree so submit to questions about the priesthood ban (admittedly, a very unlikely hypothetical):

    Q: How do you rationalize your active participation in the church during the pre-’78 period when the ban was still in effect?
    A: Look, I was only 30 at the time. There isn’t much a thirty-year old can do to change policy.

    Q: If you had sensed a problem, resigning your membership was an option. Short of that, you could at least have made your concerns public. Why did you keep your membership and (apparently) remain quiet?
    A. I kept my membership because I truly believed (and still believe) that my church possesses the keys to salvation and exhaltation and is directed by Jesus Christ. I didn’t make my concerns public because the church does not operate as a plebecite. Our policies come from the Lord through our appointed leaders. Public pressure is at best counter-productive.

    Q: Did you believe at the time that the ban was directed by the Lord?
    Q: Do you believe now that the ban was directed by the Lord?
    Q: Is there any policy that Church leaders could institute that would lead you to resign your membership?
    Q: If the ban was reinstituted tomorrow, would you keep your membership? Would you keep your membership, but renounce the decision?

    From my jaded perspective, none of these options lead to a good place.

  95. WillF
    December 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Would it have seemed less defensive if Church PR had instead responded like this, “see previous response” or “see response to question #2”? I think that is what was implied. Maybe there just weren’t question numbers to reference, so instead they repeated the statement.

  96. Adam Greenwood
    December 20, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    “The goal is not to equal [God the Father and Jesus Christ] or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

    This is very carefully phrased. I like it, a lot. Because while I think God does intend to raise us up to their level of power and authority, those who seek that are unlikely to find it.

    I’m still in the extreme minority who believs that in theory power and authority can be desirable goals in themselves. But the way mankind usually approaches power and authority is to lust for it. I like this statement a lot the more I think about it.

  97. bbell
    December 20, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I have tated my opinion pretty clearly on the ban over the past few years so I am not to interested in the topic anymore…..

    I am curious if and when there will be a great deal of attention paid to Obama’s own church congregation. I researched his pastor and looked at their website prior to obama’s run for the nomination.

    I was quite shocked. Obama belongs to a afro-centric church with clear racist leanings and tendencies. Eventually if Obama gets the nomination he will have to distance himself from the church and its pastor,2933,300135,00.html

  98. Martin James
    December 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm


    Its not the explaining that’s the assimilation, its the explaining in a way that doesn’t leave them with the impression that the LDS worldview is strikingly different from anything they have encountered before. I just don’t feel like the testimony-bearing coming through in the catechismic answers.

    On reflecting further its not the assimilation that bothers me, its the disenchantment and the lack of magic that goes along with it. To me you lose more than 2/13ths of your beliefs if you de-emphasize the 7th and 10th articles of faith.


    I’m not hip to your lingo but I assume that’s on me, too. Come on brother, can’t you assume my grief is in good faith and comfort me in the time of my affliction. Unlike Jonovitch, I’m not not comforted by the phrasing of “The goal is not to equal [God the Father and Jesus Christ] or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

    Although, I have some doubt that you can relate to my experience, in good faith I’ll put it forward. In the good ol’ days of the closeness of the second coming, global warming would have been one more sign of the times. Now, instead of current events being one faith promoting apocalypse after another everything seems so damage-control focused to me.

    I may be mistaken, are there ways that LDS faith, revelation and practice are becoming MORE unusual and distinctive than they were historically?

  99. Mark D.
    December 20, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    #94: Just to be pedantic, it is “exaltation”, not “exhaltation” [sic]. The latter sounds like an ancient creation myth, or maybe Rev 3:16.

  100. Adam Greenwood
    December 20, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Being unusual and distinctive is a fetish, just as much as assimilation for its own sake is.

  101. December 20, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    The question I keep getting from everyone is it okay for Mormons to drink decaf Coffee?

  102. December 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    The other question – is which teas are prohibited and which teas are allowed?
    Is Iced Tea okay to drink since it is “not hot drink”?

  103. Martin James
    December 20, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I’m astounded Adam.

    Well if believing in an unusual and distinctive chosen people is a fetish, color me in.

    Is it really so much to ask that when asked about church beliefs, the belief that there was an apostasy and angels appeared to men and restored a priesthood and keys that had been absent from the Earth would be an important thing to mention?

    Maybe this quote from the Prophet for example.

    “Can you imagine what a wonderful experience this restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood must have been for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when John the Baptist spoke to them? Here was a man who had lived upon the earth more than 1,800 years earlier. Now he was speaking in English to two young men while he held his hands upon their heads. His was a resurrected body. Theirs were mortal bodies. They felt his hands, the materiality of them, and understood the words that he spoke. This tells us that resurrected beings are tangible, that they can move and act, that they can speak and be understood.

    He told them, among other things, that, while the authority he gave them authorized them to baptize, it did not include the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost. He indicated that another order of the priesthood was necessary for this, and that it would subsequently be given to them by Peter, James, and John.”

    Well, at least you’ve changed my mood. I’m no longer sad that assimilation is coming; I’m scared its already happened.

  104. Jacob M
    December 20, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    bbell, while you are not interested in the topic, many outside of the church are just being introduced to it, hence the point of this post. Not that I’m trying to criticize you or anything, but I just wanted to point out that if you responded like that to sincere inquiry, it wouldn’t come off very well.

    in theory power and authority can be desireable goals in themselves.

    Adam, there you go, trying to rule all our lives! *grin*

    Martin James – I have no idea what lingo that you are referring to, but oh well. And your statement in 83 is just not true. Kolob still exists, even if we have no clue which star in the sky it is. The 10th article of faith is still in our articles of faith, and kids are still told to memorize it. The Book of Mormon is still the word of God, to us, even if we don’t know exactly where it all occurred. We do believe in our eventual eternal destiny, even if we don’t know all that it entails. And the fact that our church sends out missionaries to convince everyone to join our church implies that our beliefs, doctrines and practices are in a sense superior. And don’t get me started on global warming, but I still here all around me in the church how evil the world is getting and that armaggedon is coming soon to correct it.

  105. bbell
    December 20, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I put those comments up to point out that Romney is really not alone among major candidates that have religious racial skeletons in their closets. Romneys skeletons are in the past. Obama’s are not skeletons. They very much are alive for those who want to look.

    I agree that Romney would not do well to point this out. But it will become an issue at some point.

Comments are closed.