Are Mormons really honest when explaining their beliefs?
The FAIR JOURNAL - January 2008
The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research
* MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT. President Scott Gordon addresses the issue of whether Mormons are really
honest about explaining what they believe.
My comments will follow this article...
The Mormon Problem with Honesty
In the various articles, blogs, and comments related to Mitt Romney's Mormonism, the Mormon honesty
problem has come up. "Why didn't Mitt Romney talk about what Mormons really believe?" asked one
writer. "Mormons feel it is ok to lie about their beliefs," stated a radio caller.
So do Mormons lie about their beliefs? All practicing Mormons must answer the question, "Are you
honest in your dealings with your fellow man?" in the affirmative in order to be able to attend an
LDS temple, so they are often puzzled by these statements and questions. But Mormon answers
aren't really the problem. The honesty problem has more to do with what Evangelical Christians are
taught about Mormons than with Mormon belief itself.
In a survey done by FAIR, over 65% of responding pastors said
that they had sponsored classes at
their Church on Mormonism. Most people love their church and their pastors. They have seen their
pastor spend countless hours in helping people and doing their best to teach their congregations. But
in teaching about Mormonism, only 2% of those pastors actually invited Mormons to explain their
beliefs. The rest relied on anti-Mormon ministries and publications for theirinformation.
The goal of these professional anti-Mormon ministries is to keep
people away from Mormonism. They
want to protect the flock from any Mormon "sheep-stealing" missionaries. To accomplish their goal
they sensationalize, distort, misunderstand, misread, and misrepresent LDS doctrine and scripture.
It is from this group that we learn that Mormonism is a cult. It is this group that provides most of the
information on Mormonism on the Internet. So when Evangelicals start conversations with their
Mormon acquaintances, they already "know" Mormons belong to a cult, even if they can't remember
On the other side of this equation, we have the Mormons. Mormons
have a completely different way
of looking at doctrine. They tend to classify doctrine into that which is important and that which is
speculation. The important things are mostly reflected in the temple recommend questions and focus
on core doctrines such as Jesus is our Savior, God is our Father, keep the commandments, God
speaks to us today, and the Bible and The Book of Mormon are the word of God. Other important
beliefs are that we lived with God before this life and after this life we will all be resurrected and
enter one of the kingdoms of glory. These are all beliefs that define Mormonism.
Mormon speculation deals with doctrinal areas where there are
hints in scripture, but no explanations.
These areas are less sure, less defined, and frequently completely unknown. Questions in this area
would include: what was it like in the pre-existence? Where did God come from? What exactly will
it be like in the afterlife? Because these areas are unknown, a good practicing Mormon is free to
believe and say anything he or she wants about them. We have a long history of commenting on
these areas, yet most everyone understands that theseare areas of personal opinion and speculation.
The honesty problem comes up when the Evangelical world and the
Mormon world collide. The
questions posed to Mormons come from a basis in anti-Mormonism meant to expose how the
Mormons are weird and belong to a cult. Is Jesus Satan's brother? Is there a God before God?
Where does God live? Will you be creating your own planet? While you can find something written
by a Mormon somewhere on all these items, these questions fall into the speculative area and are
not core doctrines of Mormonism. This means if you ask several different Mormons, you will
likely get several different answers. And Mormons have no problem with that.
When the religious issue came up for Mitt Romney, Mormon honesty
became a factor. The real truth
is that most of the discussions on Mormonism haven't been about Mormonism at all, but a discussion
of speculation, anti-Mormon issues, and bigotry. That is where we need a little more honesty.
Let's examine 3 of these questions:
1. Is Jesus Satan's brother?
2. Is there a God before God?
3. Will you be creating your own planet?
To be honest with you, the answers to these questions can be regarded as the core
doctrines on which Mormonism is based - one of which is called Eternal Progression.
As for the doctrine of there being a Heavenly Mother and Father - this doctrine was
affirmed in plainness by the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R.
Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) when, in speaking of pre-existence and the origin of
man, they said that "man, as a spirit was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and
reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, and that man is the offspring
of celestial parentage" (Man: His Origin and Destiny, pages 348-355).
These fundamental Mormon principles (doctrines) are taught to missionaries in such
church publications as Gospel Principles, Gospel Fundamentals, Doctrines of the
Gospel Student Manual, Ensign (the official Church magazine) and in some places in
the accepted LDS revelation from God - the Doctrine and Covenants.
If you ask different Mormons these questions and you find yourself getting different
answers, blame it on their lack of knowledge of what their church teaches.
Should Mormons as a whole be concerned about giving different answers to the same
I would say yes.
Wouldn't they want to fall in line with their church leadership (believed to be the prophets
of God) or whomever is approving these instructional manuals? After all, you don't
want to deceive people with speculation, do you? Or is the average Mormon more
correct in their answers than the opposing answers that arise from their church leadership
and teaching manuals?
And lastly, please don't consider yourself an Anti-Mormon for asking these questions of
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