In reply to the chapter, “The Pagan Connection”
Page 22, line 17
“To be eternally pregnant” in the next world is LDS doctrine.
I have never heard of any LDS Church pronouncement on how spirit children are created or whether the mortal method of procreation is God’s way of producing spirit offspring. Again no reference is used nor is the anonymous woman who related her feelings identified.
Page 24, line 18
“Mormonism declares that we are all uncreated ‘gods-in-embryo’ who have [progressed eternally] . . . . “
The authors correctly state this point of LDS doctrine, but then go on to belittle this idea. Since many Christians believe in the ex nihilo idea, that God created man and the earth out of nothing, the authors’ concern is understandable.
They should, however, have pointed out biblical scriptures that validate this doctrine as taught by the LDS Church: “I have said. Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6). Jesus referred to this scripture when he said, “Is it not written in your law, I said. Ye are Gods?” (John 10:34).
In the previous verse the Jews said to Christ that they were stoning him for blasphemy, “and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (vs. 33). Before escaping, Christ then pointed out it was ridiculous for them to charge him for claiming to be God when their own scripture said they were gods (vs. 34). In other words, Christ was validating a true Old Testament principle. Peter also taught for mortals to “be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).
In addition, some of the foremost Christian thinkers and leaders taught, or at least stated at one time or another, that they believed the idea of the deification of man was true.
C. S. Lewis, considered by many as the twentieth century’s foremost proponent of “orthodox” Christianity and quoted elsewhere by the authors, claimed, “There are no ordinary people. We live in a society of possible gods and goddesses” (Weight of Glory, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company [Grand Rapids, Michigan], pp. 1P15)…
The idea was also quite prevalent in Joseph Smith’s day and some critics say he borrowed the idea from his environment. Feuerbach said, “God is merely the image of what man can be.” Whitman stated, “Divine I am, inside and out.” Andrew Jackson also said, “Man can become more and more endowed with divinity.” William Ellory Channing insisted on man’s “likeness to God,” Emerson wrote almost the same. Similar ideas were expressed earlier. Meister Eckhart of the fourteenth century said, “The seed of God is within us.”
Thomas Aquinas, probably the most important theologian in Roman Catholicism, said, “God became man, that man might become God.” St. Augustine said the same and Maximus five hundred years earlier said, “He became what we are in order that we might be what He is,” which sounds a lot like the LDS teaching, “As man now is, God once was, and as God now is man may become.”
In the fourth century one of the Fathers, Gregory of Nazianus, taught, “I may become God to the same extent as He became man.” Basil of Caesarea taught, “The Holy Spirit aids man in being made like God and the highest of all, being made God.” Athanasius in the fourth century, who was foremost in defending the Nicean version of the Trinity, also said God assumed humanity that we might become God.
Earlier, some church leaders, not yet molded into the Trinitarian concept, sounded more like the scriptures quoted at the beginning of this section. Origen said, “Flee with all in your power from being man and make haste to become gods.”
Origen’s teacher. Clement of Alexandria, said, “The soul [which is kept pure], receiving the Lord’s power, studies to become a god.” (The foregoing quotations were excerpted from Philip Barlow, a doctoral candidate in American religious history at Harvard, “Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The Idea of Deification in Christian History,” Sunstone, Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 13-16.)
Some of the above statements may mean, “Man can be godlike,” instead of the LDS emphasis that man can become a god. However, we can see that Joseph Smith and “pagans” do not stand alone on describing man’s ultimate potential.
In an unpublished paper, Mark L. McConkie has said:
Let the honest in heart everywhere hear it, and ask themselves: Would I prefer to worship a God whose eternal destiny for me is that I remain, separated from my family, single and without spouse, no longer of the same family with my children, through- out the eternal aeons ahead, a servant at his feet? Or, would I not rather worship the God of the New Testament, who promises that if I am true and faithful, he will enable me, with my spouse and children, as an eternal and never ending family unit, always sharing in the sociality of loved ones, to inherit, receive, possess and enjoy the fulness of His joy, being equal to Him in all things? Which God most loves his children? Would I not prefer that God, so filled with love, that He gives me the riches of eternity—all that He has!—and exults in my triumph over evil? Is not such a God greater and more glorious than [a god] who would ever limit my potential, hold me prisoner of a lesser station, and shackle my growth so that my greatest hope is to enter into a condition wherein I can exercise but a fraction of the gifts and talents which He gave me? Am I not more fully compelled to worship Him who invited me, in full equality of Spirit, as a potential peer, as a son or daughter whose natural course it is to become like the Eternal Parent?
Page 24, line 22; page 25, line 38
“For some inexplicable reason we aren’t ‘Gods’ by birth.”
Although the book calls it inexplicable, experiences in life show that accomplishments, whether becoming a physician, athlete, musician, or any worthwhile attainment, are preceded by learning and experience.
The book makes light of the LDS idea that God can produce spirit children and have them housed in physical mortal bodies. The idea that man has a spirit is commonly accepted by most of Christianity and other religions. Christians generally believe this spirit lives after death. If a spirit continues after death, as Christians teach, why couldn’t man’s spirit have existed as a separate entity before mortal birth?
Elsewhere the authors emphasize the omnipotence and omniscience of God and yet here they deny God’s ability to produce spirit children. Paul taught, “We are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). (See page 25, line 26 for scriptural support of man’s pre-mortal existence.)
Page 25, line 26
All Mormons must believe “this fabled ‘preexistence,’ ” the authors state.
Although most of Christianity does not have a premortal existence as part of their doctrine, there is much support for this in the Bible: “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9). When His disciples asked Jesus, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?,” the idea of premortal existence is clear (John 9:2). To the prophet Jeremiah God said, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and . . . I sanctified thee and I ordained thee . . . .” (Jer. 1:5. See also Num. 16:22; 27:16.) The authors take no account of this biblical evidence.
Page 26, line 16
“The LDS Church teaches that it was in the preexistent world that Jesus and Lucifer [were] sexually begotten sons of God as we all are. “
There is no LDS doctrine that claims to know whether the mortal method of producing children is at all like God’s way of producing offspring.
Page 26, line 24
“Mormons believe this amazing tale [of Christ and Satan in a premortal existence] because . . . Joseph Smith was a true prophet inspired by visiting god-men.”
“God-men” is a term used by the authors but one that I have not found in LDS literature. Descriptions of God in Mormonism refer to Him as omnipotent, omniscient, glorified and exalted. However, one of the significant contributions of the LDS Church is that God is not so incomprehensible and indefinable that it is hard to believe in him. Latter-day Saints do believe God has a perfected body and literally accept the biblical scripture that the authors chose not to use. “And God said. Let us [plural] make man in our image, after our [plural] likeness,” is an example of a biblical scripture supporting this LDS view (Gen. 1:26-27). Other scriptures are: Luke 24:39; Acts 7:55; John 17:21; see page 25, line 26.
Page 26, line 30
“Why is nothing of the preexistence remembered?”
One could just as well ask why we don’t remember our early life? The authors never mention that Latter-day Saints believe that this lack of remembrance was part of God’s plan so that no one would be at an advantage or disadvantage knowing his previous performance and thus being in a condition to be fairly tested and able to freely choose one’s course of action in this life. See comments on page 25, line 26.
Page 27, line 33
“Mormonism openly aligns itself with what its own leaders identify as ‘pagan rivals of Christianity. ‘ “
The authors quote one church leader, in this case Milton R. Hunter, who points out that the deification of man idea is found in some pagan religions.
One would expect religious truths to be scattered throughout various religions including non-Christian. All the earth’s inhabitants are God’s children including those called “pagans.” Since Adam and Eve were taught by God, as the Bible teaches, it would be strange not to find traces of these teachings throughout the world and down through the centuries. Milton R. Hunter was making this point and wanted to show that some things in Mormonism (that are not found in traditional Christianity) have been believed elsewhere. For the book to say that this means “Mormonism openly aligns itself” with these religions is grossly inaccurate. The book fails to mention that Elder Hunter also pointed out that the deification of man is found in early Christianity.
Page 28, line 11
Mormons are convinced “that the Mormon Church is the only true church; and that whatever its top leaders say must be accepted without question no matter how obviously wrong . . . .”
This charge is repeated often in the book. This is not what the LDS Church teaches. Mormons are taught to think for themselves, to study scriptures, to pray as well as heed the words of their prophet. See page 9, line 31 for previous comment on this point.
Page 28, line 25
“Like Mormonism, Hinduism embraces and unites numerous pagan traditions, teaching that humans are gods who have always existed and have ‘forgotten’ who they really are. “
The authors are correct in saying both Hinduism and Mormonism believe in more than one god. However, the book doesn’t point out that Hinduism’s concept of gods is completely different from the LDS concept. Those Hindu gods are sometimes considered evil; often they are animals. They are sometimes animistic and pantheistic. Mormonism’s gods are always in the image of God. The authors fail to point out that Hinduism believes in Brahman (not to be confused with Brahma or Brahmin[∗] ), which is the impersonal force that fills all space. Mormonism’s highest God (God the Father) has body, parts and passions. Hinduism teaches (and the authors ignore this) that man originally had no identity and was part of Brahman and will eventually merge with Brahman again. This idea is similar to Emerson’s transcendentalism. This is completely contrary to LDS doctrine, which teaches that both God and man had individual identities in our premortal existence and will always have individual identities in the eternities.
The Mormon concept of deity and man’s relationship to deity appears to be a unique idea. The connection the authors make to Hinduism is superficial, strained and inaccurate.
A case could be made that the traditional Trinitarian concept of “three Gods in one” is similar to Hinduism’s idea that the eventual goal is to cease to have identity and merge with Brahman.
Page 30, lines 9-13
The book, attempting to show that Latter-day Saints reject “the fall,” uses a Brigham Young quote, playing down the “sin of Adam and Eve. ”
Since the account is filled with ellipses, it is hard to know what Brigham Young really said. The reference is obviously an error because it refers to June 18, 1873, Church News, p. 308. There was no Church News in 1873 and the Church News (a supplement to the Salt Lake City daily newspaper the Deseret News) never has that many pages.
It is true that LDS doctrine teaches that “the Fall” was not a tragedy; nevertheless it was a transgression that brought physical and spiritual death to all mankind, making this choice necessary in order to make mortality and freedom something that was chosen and not thrust upon us. (See page 134, line 35, for further discussion.)
Page 31, line 2
“Mormon doctrine and practice is not based upon the Bible or even the Book of Mormon,” the authors state in criticizing the fact that Mormons do not consider “the fall” to have been a complete tragedy or Adam and Eve vile sinners.
The Book of Mormon does make this LDS doctrine clear: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25; see also 2 Nephi 2:5).
The authors claim familiarity with the Book of Mormon but chose to ignore these verses which are among the most quoted by LDS people. The Bible also teaches there was value in “the Fall” since it provided knowledge to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:7). The Fall also provided a reason for a Savior (Christ) to be sent into the world. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).
Page 31, line 12
“Mormonism has its own formula [to achieve ‘godhood’], but it is basically derived from ancient pagan traditions.”
This statement is absolutely wrong. In most pagan (and Christian) tradition the rituals have often become the means of reaching eternal goals. In LDS doctrine the rituals remind one of one’s duty. The ritual is not an end unto itself.
Page 31, line 17
“[No one knows what is involved going inside an LDS temple] until he has committed himself blindly to it.”
Several LDS books discuss the temple quite thoroughly. Anyone has the option to leave anytime. (See page 13, lines 16-18.)
Page 32, line 2
The authors refer to “the Mormon variation on Hinduism’s doctrines of karma and reincarnation,” suggesting a close similarity between the two religions.
Hindu and LDS thought have similarities yet are very different. Both Latter-day Saints and Hindus teach that man is eternal, that his existence did not begin with this life. (This is different from main- stream Christianity’s belief that man sprang into being from nothing.) The difference is that in Hindu thought men return again and again to this world until they qualify for moksha, which entitles them to merge with Brahman, the universal force or soul. Mormonism does not believe in reincarnation, but teaches that man has only one mortal life (see page 28, line 25 for previous discussion).
Page 32, lines 17-18
“There is a clear relationship between this Mormon doctrine of preexistence and the theory of evolution.”
The book contends that the LDS idea of man progressing is similar to the scientific theory of the origin of man. I have never heard a single scientist suggest evolution has anything to do with premortal existence. In equating LDS teachings with evolution the fact is ignored that evolution usually does not concern itself with any aspect of God at all. Official Latter-day Saint doctrine, which does not say how or when the earth and man were created, emphatically maintains that, whatever the method, God brought it about.
Page 32, lines 20-23
“When modern science in the early nineteenth century began seriously to seek fossil evidence to substantiate evolution, it was one of the first indications that science was at last returning full circle to its ancient occult roots.”
The authors not only criticize the LDS church, but now also attack science unfairly.