Archive for August, 2019

banksy_2_EDITED

Banksy, “Sweeping it Under the Carpet”, Mural, Chalk Farm, London England

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the fourth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

 “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God.”
(Joseph Smith, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.345)

17) Adam-God Doctrine
I’m still stunned at the number of Ex-Mormons who have never heard that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God. But I’m not nearly as stunned as they are when they find out that he did. The following summary is from Wikipedia:

The Adam–God doctrine (or Adam–God theory) was a theological doctrine taught in mid-19th century Mormonism by church president Brigham Young, and accepted by later presidents John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, and by apostles who served under them in the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Although the doctrine is rejected by the LDS Church today, it is still an accepted part of the modern theology of some Mormon fundamentalists.

According to Young, he was taught by Joseph Smith that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.”

According to the doctrine, Adam was once a mortal man who became resurrected and exalted. From another planet, he then came as Michael to form Earth. Adam brought Eve, one of his wives, with him to Earth, where they became mortal by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. After bearing mortal children and establishing the human race, Adam and Eve returned to their heavenly thrones, where Adam serves as God and is the Heavenly Father of humankind. Later, Adam returned to the Earth to the ancient prophets and to become the literal father of Jesus.

During the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Adam–God doctrine was taught in some LDS Church meetings, sung in church hymns, and featured as part of the church’s endowment ceremony. However, the doctrine was startling to Mormons when it was introduced and remained controversial. Other Mormons and some breakoff groups, the most notable being apostle Orson Pratt, rejected the doctrine in favor of other theological ideas. Eventually, the Adam–God doctrine fell out of favor within the LDS Church and was replaced by a theology more similar to Pratt’s, as codified by turn-of-the-century Mormon theologians James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts, and John A. Widtsoe. In 1976, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball stated the LDS Church does not support the doctrine. Most Mormons accept Adam as “the Ancient of Days,” “father of all,” and “Michael the Archangel” but do not recognize him as being “God the Father.”
(“Adam-God Doctrine”, Wikipedia website)

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William Blake, “God Judging Adam” (1795)

18) The original (pre-Adam-God) Elohim/Jehovah/Adam naming distinctions
It surprises many Mormon to learn that in Early Mormonism, Elohim was identified as Jesus Christ and Jehovah as Heavenly Father – the exact opposite of today’s Mormon teachings. The following is from Boyd Kirkland’s, watershed, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine essay on this subject:

Today in Mormon theology, Jesus Christ is considered to be Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets.

Elohim is considered to be God the Father, the father of Jehovah (or Jesus Christ) and of the human race. The Church promotes this point of view in all of its current lesson manuals, periodicals and literature.1 While there is a natural tendency to assume that this current theology has been the position of Mormonism from 1830 to the present, actually several divergent views have been held…

Other Mormon writers during the 1830s followed this same pattern. They most often used Jehovah as the name of God the Father, and only occasionally used the name Elohim. They evidently also considered the Father to be the god who appeared in the Old Testament. For example, the following was published in the Times and Seasons as the Mormon belief in 1841: “We believe in God the Father, who is the Great Jehovah and head of all things, and that Christ is the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father.” [Times and Seasons 3 (15 November 1841): 578.]

During the Nauvoo period of Church history (1839-44), Joseph Smith’s theology of the Godhead once again changed dramatically. He began to denounce and reject the notion of the trinity. He emphasized that God the Father, as well as the Son, both had tangible bodies of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22). He also began to teach the plurality of gods and the related concept that men could become gods. God himself had a father upon whom he depended for his existence and authority. The Father had acted under the direction of a “head god” and a “council of gods in the creation of the worlds.” The plurality of creation gods is dramatically depicted in the Book of Abraham, chapters 2-5, which Joseph translated in 1842. All of these ideas were summed up by Joseph in April, 1844, in perhaps his most famous sermon: The King Follett Discourse.

In connection with these ideas, the Prophet began to use the title Elohim as the proper name for the head god who presided at the creation of the world. He also taught that Elohim in the creation accounts of Genesis should be understood in a plural sense as referring to the council of the gods, who, under the direction of the head god, organized the heaven and the earth. Once the earth had been organized, “the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us.” From the context of Joseph’s discussions of this head god, it is apparent that the Prophet considered this being to be a patriarchal superior to the father of Jesus.

The gods involved in the creation were designated in Joseph’s temple endowment ceremony as Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. Joseph had previously identified Michael as “Adam the ancient of days” (D&C 27:11). Whether he identified either this Elohim or Jehovah to be God the Father as he had previously used these titles is unclear. We have seen that he used the title Elohim in various modes, none of which included Jesus, and he also used the name Jehovah to refer to the Father. Given all of these possibilities, to Joseph’s endowment ceremony, then, did not seem to include Jesus among the creation gods. This is a curious situation, since many scriptural passages previously produced through Joseph, as well as the Bible, attribute a major role in the creation to Jesus. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith was killed before he was able to elaborate further on these newer, more esoteric ideas…

The theological problems concerning the Book of Mormon’s identification of Jesus as the Father, the identity of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the roles and identities of the temple creation gods as connected with the Adam-God doctrine were all finally “resolved” in a carefully worked out statement written by James E. Talmage. This statement was submitted to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve for their approval on 29 June 1916. It was corrected and then issued the following day as “A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the is Twelve” on “The Father and the Son.” This exposition minimized the sense in which Jesus is called the Father in the Book of Mormon through harmonizing techniques. These same techniques were used to support the position that Jesus Christ was Jehovah, the God of Israel, and that Elohim was his father. Little biblical support for these ideas could be given, as the exposition was mainly dealing with problems inherent in the early LDS scriptures and the theology of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Achieving harmony was the chief goal of the 1916 doctrinal exposition. It therefore contains no historical, critical analysis and understanding of the problems it addresses. Its definitions of Elohim and Jehovah still remain the official position of Mormonism.

Today, Mormons who are aware of the various teachings of LDS scriptures and prophets are faced with a number of doctrinal possibilities. They can choose to accept the Book of Mormon theology, which varies from biblical theology, as well as from Joseph Smith’s later plurality-of-gods theology. Adding to this confusion is Brigham Young’s Adam-God theology with its various divine gods using the names Elohim and Jehovah interchangeably. Finally, they are left to resolve the teachings of current General Authorities who identify Jesus as Jehovah with former-day General Authorities who spoke of Jehovah as the Father. While most are blithely unaware of the diversity that abounds in the history of Mormon doctrine, many Latter-day Saints since 1916 have, despite the risk of heresy, continued to believe privately or promote publicly many of the alternative Godhead theologies from Mormonism’s past.
(Boyd Kirkland, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine, Vol.9, No.2, Autumn 1984

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“Jesus Takes the Scroll”, an image from The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Online Library. Unlike Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is God – be it Jehovah, Elohim, or otherwise.

19) The First President’s 1916 doctrinal statement “The Father and The Son,” as authored and defined by James E. Talmage
Yes, the doctrinal content of this watershed statement is most certainly taught, but without ever referencing its origin – this doctrinal statement. Thus, Mormons wrongly assume that the teaching of that relationship is given by revelation, when it was, in fact, authored by Talmage, then approved by the First Presidency. This treatise had to be written to remediate the confusion and infighting that Brigham Young’s aforementioned disastrous Adam-God doctrine had wrought, as well as other problematic theologies that had crept into Mormonism over the years. This exposition was published as a “Gospel Classic” in the official LdS Church periodical Ensign in 2002. Here is the link.

The Father and the Son (Ensign, April 2002)

While this watershed doctrinal exposition itself is rarely discussed today, at the time it represented a seismic shift in Mormon Theology, this as one commentator on a Mormon Studies board explained, using the Third Century Council of Nicaea as a point of comparison:

One way the 1916 [vote to sustain the “The Father and the Son” as official LdS Church doctrine] event was all the more worse than the actual Council of Nicaea is that soon after it the Mormon Church removed a part of its own scripture, the Lectures on/of Faith.

So they reversed prior Mormon theology, they rejected the teaching of their founding prophet, they voted on their own Mormon theology, and then they subsequently removed some of their own Mormon scripture. And it wasn’t ~292 years after the death of Christ. It was 1,883+ years after the death of Christ. And members or representatives from wards or stakes didn’t even get to practically participate in any meaningful public debate with higher leaders at their Conference. Like other Conferences members voted to accept the statement largely out of submission to and trust of the leadership, not through any helpful, serious member-driven scrutiny or vetting.

All that within a theological framework that traditionally teaches we sinners can become Almighty Eternal Everlasting Most High Gods of our own 40 billion spirit children expecting our own prayer and worship.

That makes the Council of Nicaea look relatively angelic. Even more so once you learn that many of the LDS assumptions about Nicaea are false.
(Aaron Shafovaloff, “2009 Gospel Principles criticizes the “pagan beliefs” of those “called Christians” in “false Christianity”’, comments section February 15, 2019, Mormon Coffee, blog site)

1899 Edition of The Articles of Faith by Talmage_EDITED

An 1899 First Edition of Talmage’s, “The Articles of Faith”.

20)  The original 1899 version of James E. Talmage’s “The Articles of Faith”
The reach and scope of Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage’s book, “The Articles of Faith”, is hard to overstate. As the Encyclopedia of Mormon explains:

The canonization of the Wentworth Letter as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1880 reflected and assured its undisputed priority. And when James E. Talmage was asked by the First Presidency in 1891 to prepare a work on theology for use as a textbook in Church schools, it was to these Articles of Faith that he turned for the outline of his volume. First published in 1899 and still in use today, Talmage’s Articles of Faith greatly elaborate on the themes of Joseph Smith’s Wentworth list. In twenty-four chapters, Talmage provides extensive commentary and scriptural references regarding each of the concepts mentioned in the thirteen articles, plus sections on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and resurrection (as in Flanigan’s listing), and finally a section on practical religion (benevolence, tithes and offerings, consecration, social order within the Church, eternal marriage, sanctity of the body, and keeping the Sabbath day holy).
(David J. Whittaker, “Articles of Faith”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1992) 

But today if you went down to Deseret Book or onto the official LdS Church website and started reading Mormon Apostle, Jame E. Talmage’s classic book, “The Articles of Faith” you would no longer be reading the same book that Mr. Talmage wrote and published in 1899. The current edition was heavily edited and abridged by unknown parties (the correlation committee at work perhaps?) in 2009. And earlier editions were modified by Talmage during his lifetime and unknown parties afterward. Here is one of many examples that one with find if you take the time to look:

1899 Original Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1919 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1990 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for; though as to possible progress from one kingdom to another the scriptures make no positive affirmation. Eternal advancement along different lines is conceivable. We may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(p.371)

By the way, special thanks to Latter-day Saint Scholar, Scott Woodward, for the above example, which the reader can find here in its original form and format on Mr. Woodward’s website.  That said, please notice how not only have Talmage’s words changed here, the doctrine has changed too. We’ve gone from being able to progress within and between the three posthumous Mormon Kingdoms of Glory in the original edition, to only limited progression within the Kingdoms in later editions. No doubt, the 1919 change was done by Talmage himself for the 1919 edition as near the end of his life his position was aligned with that view:

The Lord has told us of places prepared for those entitled to salvation. He has told us that those who will keep all the laws and commandments of God can come where he is and shall be heirs of celestial glory and power. And he has told us of lesser degrees unto which others who have failed to rise to the occasion of laying hold on the blessing of eternal life, in its fulness, shall come; and concerning the last of these kingdoms of glories, known to us as the Telestial, the Lord has said that it excels all that the human mind can conceive in glory, and yet the one in the Telestial Kingdom is condemned so far as his actions have rendered him incapable of attaining to the higher glories and blessings which mean power and advancement.
(Elder James E. Talmage, “Conference Report, April 1930″, p.96, underlining added for emphasis)

However, the author of the change in the 1990 edition is unknown.

Now Talmage’s 1899 original is still available if you look for it, but the only one being published by the LdS Church today in paper and its website is the “annotated” version with the abridgments and changes. But not to worry, here’s a link to the eBook edition of the original 1899 edition back from the dustbin (click here). And here’s where you can buy a paper edition of the same (click here). And you really, really, really want to read the paper edition of the most current edited and abridged “annotated” version you can buy a copy here (click here).

And with that, Mr. Talmage’s classic is now dustbin fodder, along with all the other items listed in this article, the ones that preceded it, and the ones that will soon follow. Happy sweeping LdS Church – if you keep sweeping, we’ll just keep growing the list!

sweep

Yeah . . . it’s kinda like that, ain’t it?