Indecent Ignorance (Part 2)

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Fred Anson, LdS Temple Theology, Mormon Studies

(A response to “Mormons! The Least You Should Know” by By Gregory J. Krieg)
by Fred W. Anson 

Yes, the ABC News article (covered in Part 1 of this series) was bad, however, what followed was even worse: The comments were heavily moderated and skewed in the favor of those who are content to let this white washed and spin-doctored PR Department version Mormonism stand unchallenged.

I know this because it was only after I complained to the editors of the site that my comments and those of others (including several of my Mormon Studies colleagues) that contained countering evidence to the article’s factual inaccuracies weren’t posting that they got posted. After that small accommodation they reverted back to only posting comments that favored and supported the article. I know this because my responses to those who had taken issue with my aforementioned posts remain on the cutting room floor of ABC to this day – unseen and unheard.

So to even the score and bring some sense of balance and equity to the situation what follows is a point-by-point deconstruction of the article relative to Mormon Studies reality. And while some may be somewhat of a “rerun” of comments that managed to post I have added additional “bonus” material here that I hope will illuminate beyond anything that you may have already read on any given topic.

“Mike Huckabee was talking to a New York Times reporter for a magazine piece during that year’s primary season when, after conceding he didn’t know much about the religion, reportedly asked: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

The answer is no; Mormons do not believe that, nor does Mormonism teach it. There is no such thing written in any of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) doctrine. Huckabee would later apologize to Romney, insisting it was an honest question he never thought would be published.”

The cover of the official LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual, “Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327”

From the chapter entitled, “Moses 1:12 – 23 – Satan Commanded Moses to Worship Him” in the official LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual, “Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327” which is currently in use in the Mormon Church [bold underlining added for emphasis]:

“The importance of not accommodating temptation in the least degree is underlined by the Savior’s example. Did not he recognize the danger when he was on the mountain with his fallen brother, Lucifer, being sorely tempted by that master tempter? [see Matthew 4:1–11 .] He could have opened the door and flirted with danger by saying, ‘All right, Satan, I’ll listen to your proposition. I need not succumb, I need not yield, I need not accept—but I’ll listen.’”[1]

And as a commenter noted in his response to the ABC News article’s error:
“This official Mormon Church teaching manual clearly states that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers and equates Lucifer with Satan. It also quotes Matthew 4:1-11 which refers” the devil” four times. There is no wiggle room here and any Mormon who denies that Mormonism teaches that Jesus and the devil are brothers is either uninformed or is lying to you.”

And if further proof is needed, it’s readily available. For example Brigham Young taught that Lucifer is God the Father’s second son, to Christ his elder son in this discourse on the great spiritual war in heaven that was waged resulting in Lucifer’s fall:

“[God the Father speaking] ‘Who will redeem the earth, who will go forth and make the sacrifice for the earth and all things it contains?’ The Eldest Son [Jesus Christ] said: ‘Here am I’; and then he added, ‘Send me.’ But the second one, which was “Lucifer, Son of the Morning,” said, ‘Lord, here am I, send me, I will redeem every son and daughter of Adam and Eve that lives on the earth, or that ever goes on the earth.'[2]

And Mormon Prophets and leaders have echoed and reinforced that teaching throughout Mormon History:
Jesus is Gods firstborn son Lucifer is the second born on down to you and I and Jesus is our elder brother.”[3]

And, finally, regarding the Huckabee apology, it was clearly an act of political expediency not an admission of error. The body of evidence clearly demonstrates that Mr. Huckabee had the truth on his side, however, when it comes to politics very often truth is the first casualty. It seems odd that a professional journalist was unable to discern this!

According to LdS Doctrine these two are our pre-existent, spiritual brothers.
(“Jesus Tempted” by Carl Heinrich Bloch)

“Are Mormons Christians? Or put it this way: ”Do they worship Jesus Christ?” Answer: Yes. Mormon doctrine goes in lockstep with the Christian creation myth, including and especially Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent rising (it veers away later, in the Book of Mormon, where it is written that Jesus took a trip to America, post-Resurrection).”

This is a complex subject, one that I covered extensively in a prior article, and one that ink and pixels continue to be spilled over from all quarters. However, to me, the the late Catholic Scholar, Richard John Neuhaus‘ analysis cuts through the fog and brings clarity:

“…Mormonism is inexplicable apart from Christianity and the peculiar permutations of Protestant Christianity in nineteenth-century America. It may in this sense be viewed as a Christian derivative. It might be called a Christian heresy, except heresy is typically a deviation within the story of the Great Tradition that Mormonism rejects tout court.” 

Continuing, Neuhaus goes on to explain, “For missionary and public relations purposes, the LDS may present Mormonism as an ‘add-on,’ a kind of Christianity-plus, but that is not the official narrative and doctrine.

A closer parallel might be with Islam. Islam is a derivative of Judaism, and Christianity. Like Joseph Smith, Muhammad in the seventh century claimed new revelations and produced in the Quran a ‘corrected’ version of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, presumably by divine dictation. Few dispute that Islam is a new and another religion, and Muslims do not claim to be Christian, although they profess a deep devotion to Jesus. Like Joseph Smith and his followers, they do claim to be the true children of Abraham. Christians in dialogue with Islam understand it to be an interreligious, not an ecumenical, dialogue. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between Christians. Dialogue with Mormons who represent official LDS teaching is interreligious dialogue.”[4]

Richard John Neuhaus

So perhaps Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke well when he observed, “I think the fairest and most charitable way to define Mormonism would be to call it the fourth Abrahamic religion – Judaism being the first, Christianity being the second, Islam being the third, and Mormonism being the fourth. And Joseph Smith would play the same character in Mormonism that Muhammad plays in Islam.”[5]

All this merely punctuates a key point made by Religious Journalists, Richard and Joan Ostling in their watershed book “Mormon America“, “…it is surely wrong to see Mormonism as a Christian derivative in the way that Christianity is a Jewish derivative, because the LDS faith is in radical discontinuity with historic Christianity.”[6]

Further, the idea that, “Mormon doctrine goes in lockstep with the Christian creation myth,” comes unhinged in the light of the aforementioned fact that the Mormon Christ was God the Father’s procreated “spirit child” rather than God Eternal and the Creator as clearly stated in The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-3: “In the beginning was the Word [referring to Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” [7]

Further, the cruxification is de-emphasized in Mormonism with the atonement taking place in the Garden of Gethsename rather than on the cross. From 13th LdS President, Ezra Taft Benson:

“[It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ] suffered as only as God would suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied.

It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him”

A new Christian Church buidling in Beijing, China.
Please notice the prominent use of the cross in the exterior architecture. The cross is also featured prominently in the interior space of this church building.

Yet the emphasis on the cross in the New Testament and throughout Christian Church History is apparent as anyone who has been in, or even driven by a Christian Church building will tell you.

As one Mormon Researcher noted well, “Perhaps it is for these reasons [the de-emphasis of the cross and teaching that the atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane] that you will not find crosses on Mormon buildings. Certainly in the mind of the Latter-day Saint its significance is not equal to that of the Bible-believing Christian. We who hold the Bible dear have no choice but to concur with the Apostle Paul and declare without reservation, ‘That the preaching of the cross (not the garden) is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God'” (1 Corinthians 1:18)’ [9]

The final point that I make to those who insist that Mormonism is Christian is this: The most basic, fundamental tenet of Judeo-Christianity as well as Islam is monotheism – the belief in one, and only one, universal God.  Therefore, because Mormonism is henotheistic – believing that the god of this planet, while the only god of this planet, is still only one in a unknown hierarchy of gods, possibly even an infinite number of gods – it can be neither Jewish, Christian, or Islamic.

In summary and conclusion, Mormonism is it’s own, unique, one-of-a-kind, non-Jewish, non-Christian, non-Islamic religion.

A typical Mormon Chapel
Conspicuous in it’s absence, any sign of a cross. In fact, crosses are not used in any form or fashion in Mormon architecture or culture.

“Big Love” died in 1890. Polygamy was banned by then-church president Wilford Woodruff in his “Manifesto.” Any plural marriage that takes place now does so against the laws of the LDS Church.”

Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) is a collection of revelations given primarily to Joseph Smith with a few others sprinkled in. It is current, canonized Mormon scripture.

Section 132 of D&C is the revelation in which Joseph Smith claimed to receive from God on polygamy. It was canonized in 1876 and has remained in the LdS Church’s D&C continuously since even though other sections (including the original Section 101 – which condemned polygamy and which was removed to make way for Section 132)[10] have been decanonized and removed.

The Wilford Woodruff Manifesto that the author of the ABC News article refers to is also in D&C as “Official Declaration 1” (OD-1). And yes, OD-1 was indeed very publicly canonized in 1890 – and then promptly ignored in private. It wasn’t until the Reed Smoot hearings of 1904-1907 in which the public became aware that the LdS Church was still secretly engaging in polygamy that a full and final ban was put in place via a “Second Manifesto” which was issued by then LdS President, Joseph F. Smith in 1904.[11]

The 6th LdS Church President (1901-1917) and practicing polygamist Joseph F. Smith with his family and five of his six wives (one being deceased). Joseph F. Smith issued the “Second Manifesto” in 1904

Further, OD-1, which is directed outwardly to “To Whom It May Concern” rather than specifically inward to the LdS Church is clear that this ban is only temporary due to the new, prevailing laws against polygamy of the time (such as the Edmund-Tucker Act of 1887) which had recently been enacted:

“Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”[12]

In fact, the Mormon Church of 1890 had already established polygamous colonies in both Mexico and Canada and polygamy was openly practiced until the governments there cracked down on it as well. So OD-1 was (and is) intended to be a public relations gesture to get the United States Government (which was about to seize it’s assets due to it’s illegal activity) off the back of the LdS Church.[13]

Today, “Big Love” does in fact continue very quietly and very privately in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” manner – if you’re discovered, in accordance with the Second Manifesto, you’re excommunicated – period. However, at that point there are any number of polygamous LDS denominations that will happily accept you and your wives as members. It remains to be seen what the LdS Church will do if polygamy is ever decriminalized or legalized in the United States.

Further, because D&C 132 remains LdS Scripture it’s believed that a man widowed by women to whom he was sealed to in an LdS Temple who then remarries via a subsequent “Temple Sealing” is polygamously married to all these sealed women when he reaches the highest Mormon Heaven known as “The Celestial Kingdom” mentioned in D&C 132. This type of Celestial Marriage currently applies to three living LdS Apostles: Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson – all three men are widowers, and all three men have been “sealed” to a second wife – they are, therefore, known in some Mormon Studies circles as “Celestial Polygamists“.

The LdS “Quorum of Twelve Apostles”
The Celestial Polygamists: Dallin H. Oaks, front row, third from right; L. Tom Perry, front row, second from left; Russell M. Nelson, front row, third from left

Finally, care to guess what the infamous, “Families Are Forever” Mormon mantra and doctrine is based on?  If you guessed, D&C 132 you would be right.   So polygamy is still a vital part of Mormonism – albeit in a much different, less concrete form than how it was practiced prior to the Second Manifesto.

“Ah yes, The Magic Underwear, so easy to make fun of until you consider their actual meaning, which is really kind of boring. Little more than purposefully designed cotton shirts and knickers, they’re meant to be worn day and night (by those who choose to wear them) and symbolize a holy covenant with the church, along with protection from evil spirits. Most major religions have some form of equivalent dress; Mormons, in this case and with lots of other “weird” traditions, are only mocked because they started do it more recently.”

But, hey, don’t take my word for it, let’s go to the source for all things “Temple Garment”: The LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony!

What follows are excerpts from a transcript of the LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony.  Please note that the portions of the endowment that are immaterial and irrelevant relative to LdS Temple Garment have been omitted (if you would like to read the entire Endowment Ceremony just use the links in the “Notes” section below).

However, if you would prefer to simply watch a full re-enactment of the LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony you can do so here:

Video of an Ex-Mormon Re-enactment of the LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony

From the “Initatory” portion of the Endowment Ceremony [14]
[An officiator clothes the initiate in the garment. The officiator then pronounces the following words]

Brother/Sister _________, having authority, I place this garment upon you, which you must wear throughout your life. It represents the garment given to Adam when he was found naked in the garden of Eden and is called the garment of the holy priesthood.

Inasmuch as you do not defile it, but are true and faithful to your covenants, it will be a shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work on the earth.

With this garment, I give you a new name, which you should always remember and which you must keep sacred and never reveal, except at a certain place that will be shown you hereafter.

The name is _________.

Simulated LdS Temple scene inside the LdS Temple “Celestial Room”. This shot includes good front and back views of LdS Temple Garments.
(from the HBO television show “Big Love”)

From the “Endowment Proper” portion of the Endowment Ceremony [15]
[Initiates assemble in silence in the chapel. When all is ready, they are ushered into the Creation Room. Here and throughout the ceremony, men sit on one side of the room, women on the other.]

FIRST LECTURER: Brethren and sisters, we welcome you to the temple and hope you will find joy in serving in the house of the Lord this day.

Those of you who are here to receive your own endowment should have been washed, anointed, and clothed in the garment of the holy priesthood. The ordinances of washing, anointing, and clothing in the garment of the holy priesthood, together with the ordaining on behalf of deceased brethren, were performed previously for those deceased persons whom you are representing.

Each of you should have received a new name in connection with this company. If any of you have forgotten the new name or have not received these ordinances as explained, please stand.

[Pause. If someone has forgotten the new name, a temple worker draws the person aside briefly to repeat the portion of the intiatory in which the new name is bestowed]

You have had a garment placed upon you, which you were informed represents the garment given to Adam when he was found naked in the garden of Eden, and which is called the garment of the holy priesthood. This you were instructed to wear throughout your life. You were informed that it will be a shield and a protection to you if you are true and faithful to your covenants.

You have had a new name given unto you, which you were told never to divulge, nor forget. This new name is a keyword which you will be required to give at a certain place in the temple today.

The endowment is to prepare you for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. If you proceed and receive your full endowment, you will be required to take upon yourselves sacred obligations, the violation of which will bring upon you the judgments of God, for God will not be mocked.

Pen and Ink illustration of a Mormon male in LdS Temple Garments making the hand gestures that accompanied the blood oaths that were a part of the LdS Endowment Ceremony until 1990

From the “Veil” portion of the Endowment Ceremony [16]
[Temple Worker voicing SAINT] PETER: Brethren and sisters, I will now explain the marks on the veil.

These four marks are the marks of the holy priesthood, and corresponding marks are found in your individual garment.

This one on the right is the mark of the square. It is placed in the garment over the right breast, suggesting to the mind exactness and honor in keeping the covenants entered into this day.

This one on the left is the mark of the compass. It is placed in the garment over the left breast, suggesting to the mind an undeviating course leading to eternal life; a constant reminder that desires, appetites, and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set; and that all truth may be circumscribed into one great whole.

This is the navel mark. It is placed in the garment over the navel, suggesting to the mind the need of constant nourishment to body and spirit.

This is the knee mark. It is placed in the right leg of the garment so as to be over the kneecap, suggesting that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ.

These other three marks are for convenience in working at the veil. Through this one, the person representing the Lord puts forth his right hand to test our knowledge of the tokens of the holy priesthood. Through the one on our right, he asks us certain questions; through the one on the left, we give our answers.

The Evolution of LdS Temple Garments over the years
(notice the marks that are explained in the endowment ceremony)

Well that seems pretty interesting to me! In fact, it seems to that reading through (or watching) the Temple Endowment Ceremony may just be the single most enlightening thing that someone studying Mormonism can do since it’s there that some of the most poignant and vital aspects of Mormon Theology and the LdS Worldview are revealed. You may not agree with what goes inside Mormon Temples but understanding the LdS Temple Endowment Ceremony certainly helps you understand your Mormon friends and family members beliefs better!

Now for the author of the ABC News article’s claim that, “Most major religions have some form of equivalent dress” I can only ask, “Really? Who and what are you talking about?”   I don’t know of any and, frankly, I suspect that he doesn’t either. In fact, the only thing that I can think of that comes close are the Freemason initiatory garments from the Masonic Endowment Ceremonies that Joseph Smith plagiarized from in developing the Nauvoo Temple Endowments in 1842 – however those garments are removed at the end of the ceremony and not worn outside of Masonic ceremonies – they don’t have “magic underwear”. [17]

Pen and Ink illustration of a Freemason male with Masonic Apron making the hand gestures that accompany the blood oaths that are still a part of some Masonic Endowments

Finally, his statement that, ‘Mormons, in this case and with lots of other “weird” traditions, are only mocked because they started do it more recently.’ I would point to the fact that the LdS Temple Endowments date back to 1842 – that’s 170-years as of when this article was written.  One hundred and seventy years of rich history, tradition, and cultural distinctives is “recent”?  Over a century and a half and nearly two-centuries of history, trandition, and cultural development is “recent”? Really?  Frankly, I don’t think so and I don’t think that any reasonable person would.

So I hope by now the reader can see just how errant, misguided, inaccurate and superficial the ABC News article was.  Unfortunately, since we’re currently in a “Mormon Moment” due to the Presidential Campaign of Mormon Mitt Romney I suspect that we’re going to be flooded with many, many poorly researched and inaccurate articles on Mormonism in the coming months.  And while I certainly appreciate the attention that Mormon Studies is receiving at the moment I would hope that newcomers like the author of the ABC News article will do a better job of fact checking and source vetting going forward.

And if they don’t, I and other Mormon Studies scholars will be ready, willing, and able to set the record straight.  And that, really is, the least you should know!

[1] LdS Church Education System Seminaries and Institute of Religion manual, “Pearl of Great Price Student Manual – Religion 327” Chapter entitled, “Moses 1:12–23 Satan Commanded Moses to Worship Him”

[2The Discourses of Brigham Young; pp.53-54; The Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, p.282
(bolding and bracketing added for emphasis and clarity)

[3] Spencer W. Kimball, “The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball”; p.33
(note: Mr. Kimball was the 12th LdS Church President)

Also see, Bruce R. McConkie, “Mormon Doctrine“; pp.163
(note: Mr. McConkie was an LdS Apostle and the son-in-law of Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th President of the LdS Church)

(Bolding added to cited text for emphasis)

[4Richard John Neuhaus, “Is Mormonism Christian? A Respected Advocate for Interreligious Cooperation Responds”; “First Things”, March 2000

[5David Van Biema, “What Is Mormonism? A Baptist Answer”; Time Magazine, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007

[6Richard Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America”, p. 324

[7] The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verses 1-3; English Standard Version translation of the Bible;
(bolding and underlining added for emphasis)

[8] Ezra Taft Benson, “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, p.15 in paper edition; p. 18 in linked eBook edition
(Again, as noted in the body of the article, Mr. Benson was the 13th President of the LdS Church)

[9]  Mormon Research Ministry, “Calvary or Gethsemane? The Atonement According to Mormonism”

[10] “In 1876, Section 101 from the 1835 Edition (and subsequent printings) was removed. Section 101 was a Statement on Marriage as adopted by a conference of the church, and contained the following text:

‘Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”
(source )

[11] See B. Carmon Hardy, “Lying for the Lord: An Essay” Appendix I, “Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage” p. 363

[12] Doctrine & Covenants, Official Declaration-1

[13] An excellent overview and panel discussion of the history of Mormon Polygamy before, during, and after OD-1 was released can be found here:
Episode 118a: Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies Part 1
Episode 118b: Polygamy Manifesto for Dummies Part 2

[14] LDS Endowmenet: The Initatory

[15]  LDS Endowment: Endowment Proper

[16]  LDS Endowment: The Veil

[17] See Wikipedia, “Mormonism and Freemasonry”; also see An Introduction to Mormons and Freemasonry” by Nicholas S. Literski and MormonThink The Mormon Temple/Freemasonry

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