Mormon Folk Beliefs!

On March 27 (3-5 p.m.) at the University of Utah, I am giving a presentation at the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology, entitled “Toward a Latter-day Saint Theology of Possibilities.” Information about the conference can be found here.

In this presentation I will talk about how “folk beliefs” are unavoidable among Latter-day Saints. Because we do not have an exhaustive theological system or creed, we out of necessity maintain certain beliefs and possibilities that are not the Church’s official position (this is not to say, of course, that they might not be true). I do not see this is a bad thing at all; however, a problem occurs when we see our folk beliefs as “closed” or definitive (meaning all good Latter-day Saints must believe them) rather than “open” (it is possible for a good Latter-day Saint to believe otherwise). There is a problem in the Church, in the sense that many folk beliefs masquerade around as definitive Church doctrines (I hear at least one every Sunday School class). The purpose of my presentation is not to give a list of closed or open folk beliefs; however, I thought it would be fun to do so in this post, focusing on what I consider to be the most pervasive and destructive closed folk beliefs (that is, they are destructive when they are seen to be closed and definitive).

I am speaking here simply as a member of the Church; I do not pretend to be a definitive authority. I think I could, however, defend all of these beliefs to be simply folk beliefs, at least without further clarification or revelation on behalf of the First Presidency. However, I am limiting this to a mere list, along with some links, without giving much of a rationale for why they are folk beliefs. I could write an entire treatise on any one of them, and I might do so here and there in the future. I really encourage some of the other blog authors to consider doing so as well, if you’re looking for ideas. I also encourage anyone and everyone to comment on your thoughts about these folk beliefs, as well as offer any others that come to mind.

Again, remember some of these beliefs might be true, it simply is not correct to say that it is the official position of the Church and that all Latter-day Saints in good standing must or should believe them.

Category 1: God and Godhood

  1. God is bound to follow “absolute laws.” (More here from this blog.)
  2. God has exhaustive definitive foreknowledge of individual actions. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism entries from James Faulconer and David Paulsen.)
  3. God knows things “absolutely” (in a way that is non-perspectival). (More here from this blog.)
  4. God was a human being in the exact same way we are, who worshiped a God (his Father) in the same way that we now worship Him (our Father). (I understand this is commonly believed in the Church, but it is not official Church doctrine, nor does it make a lot of sense to even talk about, in my opinion. Failure to understand this has led to criticisms of President Hinckley’s appropriate reluctance to take a clear doctrinal stand on the matter — as well as reactionary defenses of the doctrine by Church members who apparently mistake this folk theology as a closed, definitive one. There is a fairly good conversation about this belief, however, at the By Common Consent blog. Also, see Comment 73 on this Times and Season post.)
  5. Pretty much anything (specific) about Heavenly Mother(s), especially regarding any kind of worshipful relationship with mortals.

Category 2: Pre-mortal Existence (AKA the Saturday’s Warrior category)

  1. Individuals choose their families (spouses, children, parents) before coming to Earth.
  2. Individuals make specific pre-mortal covenants or promises with other individuals (other than God).
  3. Spirits enter their mother’s wombs at x point (conception, third trimester, birth, etc). (There is an interesting post on Segullah about this, which is an excellent example of an open folk theology, rather than a closed one.)
  4. In the pre-mortal existence each of us looked the way we look now, as far as individual resemblances are concerned.
  5. There is a direct correspondence between a person’s pre-mortal righteousness and their race, socioeconomic status, nationality, Church membership status, etc.
  6. Today’s Church members were “generals in the war in heaven.” (More here.)

Category 3: Creation, the Earth, and the Fall

  1. The creation is incompatible with evolution.
  2. The creation is compatible with evolution.
  3. God used the principles of physics, chemistry, etc. to create the world. (Funny post here about this, on this blog.)
  4. Adam and Eve’s bodies were created from x (insert whatever process or materials you want here).
  5. Animals, plants, and the earth have neither spirits nor agency.
  6. There was no other way for Adam and Eve to progress in the Garden of Eden without heeding Satan’s temptation. (More here from Times and Seasons).
  7. Eve heeded to the temptation because of her innate female and motherly attributes (and she should be praised for this). (More here; see Comment 21)
  8. Information obtained from science will always be compatible with revealed truth — if not now, in the future.
  9. The (insert specific contemporary “natural disaster” here) occurred because of the wickedness of (insert specific group of people here).

Category 4: Gender

  1. Women are inherently more spiritual than men.
  2. Women don’t need to hold the priesthood because they are already (inherently) more spiritual than men.
  3. Polygamy will be the standard (or a requirement) in the Celestial Kingdom (perhaps because there will be so many more women — they are more spiritual, after all).
  4. Women are inherently more nurturing / relational / emotional than men (“inherently” being the operative word).
  5. Same-gender attraction is a choice unrelated to biological or environmental influences.
  6. Same-gender attraction is biologically determined.
  7. Men are inherently more lustful, competitive, or abstract reasoners than women (again, “inherently” is the key term here).
  8. Women should dressing modestly because otherwise men can’t control themselves.

Category 5: The Mortal Christ

  1. Jesus was omniscient throughout His mortal life (even as a young boy).
  2. Jesus married in mortality and had children.
  3. Jesus looks like the figure in Del Parson’s painting. (More here.)
  4. Jesus did not drink alcohol (it was grape juice!), or if he did, he was never the tiniest bit “drunken.”
  5. Jesus did not really have the choice to commit sin (he was completely shielded from even the possibility because of his righteous character).
  6. The reason Christ sacrificed Himself was to ensure His own salvation.

Category 6: The Gospel of Jesus Christ

  1. Mormons don’t believe in “being saved.”
  2. Only after we have done all that we can do (chronologically speaking) , Christ steps in and saves us.
  3. Repentance always occurs in a sequential step-by-step process (e.g., recognition, remorse, confession, restitution, and abstinence).
  4. Christ cannot intercede for us until after we have completed the repentance process.
  5. In terms of forgiveness, Christ might be able to remove the nails we pound in, but the holes always remain.
  6. Sin consists of the violation of timeless, universal laws (see this BYU Studies article from Brent Slife which talks about this problem).

Category 7: Priesthood Authority

  1. Anything a general authority (past or present) says is official Church doctrine (and so, therefore, all I need to do to debunk anything in this post is to dig up a “general authority quote”).
  2. General authorities (past and present) always agree on doctrinal matters. (See this Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry on Church doctrine).
  3. General authorities are the most righteous men on Earth (and next are regional authorities, stake authorities, bishops, etc.).
  4. The President of the Church’s pre-presidential statements receive proto-presidential status (as in Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation and Spencer W. Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness, each written when the author was an apostle).
  5. An apostle’s pre-apostolic statements receive proto-apostolic status (as in Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, written when McConkie was an assistant to the Twelve).
  6. There is a fundamental difference between the way prophets and apostles receive revelation and the way other Church members receive revelation.
  7. The apostolic “special witness” consists of physically seeing the Savior.
  8. Even if a priesthood authority is wrong, a person will be always be blessed by being obedient to him.
  9. If you don’t sustain a certain person in their calling (or directly oppose), or if you turn down a calling, it is because of a lack of faith in the presiding authorities. (More here from Times and Seasons)
  10. Any statement that rests on the authority of a general authority, mission president, stake president, patriarch, etc., at a regional, local, or private meeting or setting.

Category 8: Self and Others

  1. In order to love others, you need to first love yourself.
  2. In order to thrive spiritually or help others, individuals first need to have their physical needs met (a sort of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs perspective).
  3. There is nothing that a person can do, ultimately, that will make a difference in terms of another person’s salvation and exaltation (therefore our choices only affect ourselves, ultimately).
  4. The primary reason for you to serve others is for you to become more Christlike.

Category 9: Eternal Progression

  1. Upon entry to the Celestial Kingdom, individuals will be individually “perfect.”
  2. The Celestial Kingdom will be a blissful state where we will never have any sorrow because of others’ choices.
  3. It is possible for humans to become Gods (capital G), in the same way that God is a God (including giving spiritual birth to a Redeemer).
  4. There is no possible progression between kingdoms of glory.
  5. Those in the Telestial and Terrestial Kingdoms will be in a constant state of agonizing torment.
  6. There is no possible way that a fallen angel could be forgiven.

Category 10: Bible and Book of Mormon

  1. The Bible does not contain the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible essentially consists of making changes that correspond with actual early Biblical manuscripts.
  3. The Lamanites in the Book of Mormon are the principal ancestors of today’s Native Americans (the Church recently clarified this issue).
  4. Any specific statement regarding the correspondence of Book of Mormon events and today’s geography.

Category 11: Word of Wisdom / Health

  1. No caffeinated sodas.
  2. Coffee and tea are prohibited because of their caffeine (or due to any other specific chemical reason).
  3. Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited because of x (any specific chemical reason).
  4. It is fundamentally wrong for anyone, past or present, to drink alcohol, coffee, tea, etc.
  5. Food (even junk food) needs to be blessed in order to “nourish and strengthen” one’s body. (More here, from Mormon Matters.)
  6. Physical scars that are intentionally afflicted (e.g., tattoos and piercings) will remain with the person in the resurrection, at least at first.
  7. No birth control.
  8. Mental illness is a biological/brain disorder.
  9. Mental illness is not at all related to one’s biology or circumstances. (If a person is depressed, it is because they are in sin.)

Category 12: Arts and Entertainment

  1. No R-rated movies. (A nice post from Orson Scott Card about this.)
  2. Violent entertainment is more acceptable than sexual or vulgar entertainment.
  3. Appropriate family entertainment is defined simply as the absence of violence, sexuality, and vulgar language (Disney is the best!), as opposed to the lack of broader corrosive messages, however subtle, the entertainment might convey (such as liberal individualism, consumerism, and racial/gender stereotypes).
  4. Any nude art is pornographic (or none is).
  5. No playing with face cards — they are Satanic.

Category 13: Serious Sins

  1. Murder is (always) unpardonable.
  2. Murder and sexual sin are the worst sins because you can’t give back what was taken away.
  3. Same-gender sexual sin is worse than other-gender sexual sin.
  4. You can count the number of sons of perdition on one hand.

Category 14: Political

  1. You can’t be a Democrat (or vote for one, especially if he/she is pro-choice). (Nice place for me to plug my post on why Mormons should consider backing Barack Obama.)
  2. Death penalties are fundamentally acceptable (especially in the U.S.).
  3. Overall, political conservativism (or liberalism or moderation) is most compatible with LDS doctrine.
  4. Latter-day Saints should support other Latter-day Saint candidates for political office (even if the Church tells you this is not the case, wink wink).
  5. It is fundamental to LDS doctrine to obey the “laws of the land” — in all circumstances. (More here, from this blog)
  6. Undocumented (“illegal”) immigrants are necessarily disobeying a commandment of God (and should not be baptized, given temple recommends, given leadership callings, etc.). (More here, from this blog.)

Category 15: Economics

  1. By paying tithing, you will have more money than you would have had otherwise (so it’s really simply a matter of being a wise investor and having faith in the economy of God).
  2. There is a correlation between wealth (or poverty) and righteousness.
  3. Other than the law of consecration, capitalism is the best earthly economic system.
  4. Outside of fast offerings and other donations to the Church, Latter-day Saints don’t have a responsibility towards the poor, hungry, imprisoned, etc.

Category 16: Common Statements with Problematic Rhetoric

  1. We need to “take advantage” of the Atonement (or anything else that portrays the Atonement in depersonalized, mechanistic terms).
  2. It’s all about the “Sunday School answers”: read your scriptures, say your prayers, and go to Church.
  3. The answers to all of life’s problems are found in the scriptures.
  4. You can “choose” to be “happy” if you really want to.
  5. The primary purpose of life is to “be happy.” (See this BYU Studies article from Brent Slife that talks about the problem with “hedonism” being the bottom line of religious believers.)
  6. We need to “save ourselves.”
  7. People who are selfish are poor economists — if only they recognized that it is in their best interest to be unselfish.
  8. Paying your tithing is an important “fire insurance.”

Also, see here for a list of Mormon “urban legends,” concerning commonly distributed stories that have been repudiated or cannot be substantiated in any way.

One final note. I recognize that there is a major problem with thinking of LDS doctrine as consisting as a bunch of propositional statements. Therefore, I am not suggesting that a proper approach to knowing the truth consists of having all the right propositional statements. In fact, that is one of the fundamental problems with thinking that an LDS theology or doctrinal system can even be set down in statements. Such is inconsistent with the fundamental relational being of man, as well as contextual situatedness and continuing revelation.

Update: Also, if anyone knows of any good blog posts about any of these topics, let me know, and I will add links. Also, I will be continually updating this list because I want it to be as exhaustive and polished as I can get it.

Email a friend

39 Responses

  1. I appreciate your list Dennis. I’m assuming that you omitted some of the opposite propositions (something like “no nude art is pornographic”) for the sake of saving time.

    I thought of a few more:

    If you pay your tithing, you will always have enough money to pay rent or buy food, etc.

    The general idea that if you pay your tithing at the beginning of a given month, temporal (physical, monetary) blessings will inexplicably come to you before the end of that same month.

    The belief that there is an orthodox set of beliefs requisite for salvation.

    The belief that information gained via science will always be compatible with revealed truth (if not currently, then at some point)

    Tolerance is necessarily a virtue (this one may be controversial–it was in my psych 111 class)

    Differences and diversity are necessarily a good thing.

    Related to the previous two, the idea that there is something amazing about our culture (United States of America) that makes it superior to other cultures.

    The idea that there is nothing superior about our culture that makes it superior to other cultures

    The idea that the U.S. is God’s favorite country

    I know I’m paraphrasing a lot of these and I’m probably not coming off as even-handed as you did, Dennis.

    Thanks again for the list. I had a few realizations, a few worries, and a lot of laughs.

  2. a few more–

    (insert earthquake, flood, drought) was because God wanted to punish (people or group of people, or a specific action)

    These ones make me cringe–

    The reason that so many Mormons are wealthy is that (fill in the blank with something about righteousness)

    We can make comparisons between church members based on the callings they currently have or have had in the past. The mother who’s son is a bishop has greater cause to rejoice than the mother who’s son works in the nursery.

    I don’t know whether this one is ever stated propositionally, but when church members are encouraged to give service and reminded of the blessings/benefits they will personally receive for doing so.

  3. This was a fun read for me. I think most of these I eventually figured out on my own. I liked your gender section especially. Since the church does believe in eternal gender (Proclamation to the Family), it’s easy to start making assumptions about sexuality. Also, thanks for the Orson Scott Card link about rate-R movies. I’ve always been curious where that “rule” came from.

  4. It’s interesting to note how often the scriptures directly challenge many of these closed folk theologies. Even to the extent that some of these folk beliefs are frankly irreconcilable with the scriptures. And Further more, some of these can be seen as the teachings of a antichrist as they have the practical affect of turning people away from the hope of Christ.

  5. I would like to contribute a few of what I believe to be folk beliefs.

    1. Dinosaur fossils and other ancient geological records came from the remnants of other worlds or past creations.

    2. Dinosaurs were originally created on Mars or in another dimension. They were later moved by God to the Earth, so we could have oil today.

    3. The Universe is an infinite static body, without boundaries, having neither beginning nor end.

    4. You can’t play rated “M” games, just like you can’t watch “R” rated movies.

    These may not be as wide spread throughout the church, or nearly as dangerous as some, still annoy me when I hear them.

  6. I consider the following to be a folk belief: “There will be polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom.” or “You must practice polygamy to gain exaltation.” See Eugene England’s “On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage” in Dialogue, which has helped me take a step back from that gloomy prospect.

  7. I enjoyed this post VERY much.

    Funniest “folk beliefs”:

    -Today’s Church members were “generals in the war in heaven.” (When will people stop repeating that one, and especially claiming that they knew someone who had heard it firsthand.)

    -Jesus looks like the figure in Del Parson’s painting. (Here is an interesting article from Popular Mechanics talking about what Jesus may have looked like:)
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/1282186.html

    -Jesus did not drink alcohol (it was grape juice!), or if he did, he was never the tiniest bit “drunken.” (This is among the ones that I’ve never actually heard before, but if I heard someone say it, I would definitely have a hard time not laughing.)

    -Food (even junk food) needs to be blessed in order to “nourish and strengthen” one’s body. (OK, AI’ll admit that I’m guilty of doing this out of force of habit.)

    -The primary reason for you to serve others is for you to become more Christlike. (Serving others for a selfish reason, which happens to be becoming like an altruistic person. A paradox, no?)

    -Physical scars that are intentionally afflicted (e.g., tattoos and piercings) will remain with the person in the resurrection, at least at first. (Ha ha, that would stink for this guy:)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40865443@N00/499142480/

    -Appropriate family entertainment is defined simply as the absence of violence, sexuality, and vulgar language (Disney is the best!), as opposed to the lack of broader corrosive messages, however subtle, the entertainment might convey (such as liberal individualism, consumerism, and racial/gender stereotypes).

    -No playing with face cards — they are Satanic.

    Most dangerous “folk beliefs” (at least in my personal experience.):

    -The (insert specific contemporary “natural disaster” here) occurred because of the wickedness of (insert specific group of people here).

    -Women should dressing modestly because otherwise men can’t control themselves.

    -There is a direct correspondence between a person’s pre-mortal righteousness and their race, socioeconomic status, nationality, Church membership status, etc.

    -Anything a general authority (past or present) says is official Church doctrine (and so, therefore, all I need to do to debunk anything in this post is to dig up a “general authority quote”).

    -Even if a priesthood authority is wrong, a person will be always be blessed by being obedient to him.

    -Mental illness is not at all related to one’s biology or circumstances. (If a person is depressed, it is because they are in sin.)

    -Undocumented (“illegal”) immigrants are necessarily disobeying a commandment of God (and should not be baptized, given temple recommends, given leadership callings, etc.).

    -Same-gender sexual sin is worse than other-gender sexual sin.

    -There is a correlation between wealth (or poverty) and righteousness.

    -You can “choose” to be “happy” if you really want to.

    I actually had a lesson in relief society a few weeks ago about the folk belief listed here as: “even if a priesthood authority is wrong, a person will be always be blessed by being obedient to him.” A woman told a story about her sister’s bishop as an example of a good way to handle such a situation. The bishop of her sister’s ward was requiring all female members to wear nylons and no open toed shoes to church services. The woman said that her sister reluctantly decided to go buy nylons and closed toed dress shoes, simply because she knew she would be blessed for obeying a priesthood authority even when she didn’t understand his rules. (Ooh, Ooh, pick me, pick me! I’m guessing her bishop was raised during a certain recent era where bare legs and opened toed shoes were fashion faux pas.) During the lesson my mind was racing, but I couldn’t think of just what to say at the time without sounding like the devil’s advocate, or without going to the other extreme and advocating criticism of all priesthood leaders. Of course, I thought of a million great things I could have said after I got home. Doh!

    I second the adding of the “folk belief that “dinosaur bones are from another planet” to the list. That’s what my father/ward bishop told me after coming home from learning about fossils at school, that the bones were from the remnants of another planet.

    Another one to add, also thanks to my father, is “darker skinned people can become white if they are righteous enough in this life.” If I remember correctly I think at least one of the past general authorities said something about Native American’s skin lightening after being in LDS homes, or something along those lines?

    One more to add, random people claiming to have had marvelous revelations about (insert event such as the second coming here.) The latest one I heard about was where a group of neighbors in my parent’s ward were having a meeting at a neighbor’s house to prepare in lieu og a “revelation” a local woman had had regarding food storage. The “revelation” was that the actual idea behind food storage was a test of obedience. Those who had accumulated at least one year’s worth of food storage would be translated, and those who hadn’t would be left to burn during the second coming, which was coming during springtime according to the “revelation.” There was also something about someone having called Pres. Hinckley’s office to confirm this “revelation” and he supposedly neither confirmed nor denied it. This was supposed to be taken as a *wink wink*, so to speak, because supposedly he would normally flat out reject other revelations that were called into his office. (The whole story is ridiculous, but the last part had me imagining this red “Batphone-esque phone” in Pres. Hinckley’s office as his “Secret revelation authenticator hotline”, ha ha ha!)
    Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop short of blogging on your blog.

  8. Oh yeah, can I add that my has father repeated his belief that “darker skinned people can become white if they are righteous enough in this life” to my Mexican husband’s face? Oh, the joys.

  9. Sorry, I had a quote to add that I think sums up another reason why repeating these folk beliefs as definitive doctrine is a bad idea:

    “There are few ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won’t hold water. Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents and teachers were more careful to distinguish between what they know to be true and what they think may be true. Impetuous youth, upon finding the authority it trusts crumbling, even on unimportant details, is apt to lump everything together and throw the baby out with the bath.”
    -Henry Eyring

  10. Meisha,

    Thanks for sharing your opinions. I like the Eyring quote–do you happen to know when, where he said it?

    Dan

  11. Dan,
    The quote comes from a speech he gave called: “What Are the Things That Really Matter?”. I am unsure of when and where the speech was given as I quoted the quote as it was quoted in the new book “Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring.” (Ha ha, that last sentence reads like a migraine headache.)

  12. I myself am not a Mormon but enjoy reading this blog a great deal. I thought this post was interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    Christine

  13. i feel like i’m jumping in a little late, but you requested links to related blog posts. category 2 reminded me of a recent post over at segullah about spirits entering (or leaving) their bodies. it’s food for thought, at any rate, and something i hadn’t considered before. obviously it falls under this same “folk belief” umbrella, but it’s nice to consider other ideas than those that are easy to accept and made readily available in sunday school.

    http://segullah.org/cjane-speaks/the-hourglass-theory/

  14. Lanada,

    Thanks for this post. Very interesting.

    I like especially how the author leaves room for multiple interpretations. Each mother (and father) needs to make sense of this issue in the best way that makes sense to them.

  15. Here’s another one I’ve heard more than a few times: “Performing service for others cures depression.” or even “if you feel unhappy or struggle with depression you must not have a strong enough testimony of Jesus Christ.”

  16. Good points, Meisha. In some ways, we could even see the need to cure depression (as a religious need) as a folk belief. At least as a blanket policy.

    Of course, performing service for others really does help me feel better nine times out of ten. Then again, I don’t think I have any kind of “clinical” depression.

  17. […] but as a viable, possible alternative to them. (In other words, I’m striving to maintain an open folk belief […]

  18. An excellent list, Dennis! Here are a few more:

    Diversity is of the devil.

    People of differing views (economic, theological, esp. political) ought not be allowed to interact with good, LDS children. (Because diversity is of the devil.) (This one is more strongly felt in predominantly LDS communities.)

    “Righteous saints” of “this dispensation” will garner more praise in the next existence than any other righteous person of the past – including the ancient prophets. (This is referring to a ’90s fwd spam stating that members of the LDS church would be “enthralled” by all the prior generations.)

    Children are only wicked when their parents aren’t sufficiently righteous.

    The LDS faith “the true church” and no other churches contain “truth,” and if they contain any truth (i.e. correlation to LDS beliefs) its obviously a “remnant” from when that faith had the “fullness.”

  19. I had two more related ideas.

    If it is published in “Mormon Doctrine,” it must be doctrine. (Similar to the Apostle Trump Card.)

    If it is in the Bible Dictionary it must be doctrine.

  20. I agree that many of these are “folk doctrines” and many probably aren’t true.

    However, two points in this post makes me a *little* nervous…

    To be specific, these are the ones on this list that I think should be considered:

    “Even if a priesthood authority is wrong, a person will be always be blessed by being obedient to him.”

    “Anything a general authority (past or present) says is official Church doctrine (and so, therefore, all I need to do to debunk anything in this post is to dig up a “general authority quote”).”

    On the face of it, I agree with you. However, there is a little more subtly here. As members, we ought to be careful about decided what counsels from priesthood leaders to ignore merely because it isn’t “church doctrine.” These men have authority to bring us counsel from God, even if such counsel isn’t official doctrine, and we are wise to follow their counsel, even if we don’t understand. I am ONLY referring to present prophets and apostles here, or those whose counsel has been repeated by present authorities in General Conference. When a present prophet or apostle gives us counsel, and we ignore it because we feel they are in error, I believe we risk separating ourselves from from one of the most reliable sources of divine guidance. So, at least in this sense, we will always be blessed when we follow their counsel because we will always err on the side of faithfulness rather than arrogance.

    For example, I believe that even if a prophet or an apostle is mistaken, we will be blessed for following their counsel (one of the “myths” quoted above). I do not believe it is wise for members of the church to disregard any current counsel from the prophets and apostles simply because they feel it to be in error. The issue is not whether the counsel is true or false, but whether the person speaking has authority to represent God on the issue.

    Ezra Taft Benson said, “The prophet and the presidency–the living prophet and the first presidency–follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

    True, the fact that a GA said something doesn’t make it true. However, if someone were to bring up a number of quotes from Prophets and Apostles that contradict something you have said, those quotes ought not to be dismissed merely because they “aren’t doctrine.” I’m not saying they should be used as “trump cards”, only that there is wisdom in giving due weight to prophetic counsel, especially in things that matter.

    I suppose the myth is that this applies to sunday school presidents too.

  21. Jeff,

    I think you have some good points here.

    The first one, about priesthood authority, I am probably thinking more in a local sense, but certainly it applies to general authorities as well — even apostles (think of the early days of the Church). In my mind, this folk belief is aimed at people who will say, “Even if your bishop tells you to do something wrong, you will be blessed for doing it.” This might be correct in some cases, especially when the person is ignorant that what is being asked is wrong. But if your bishop preaches from the pulpit that blacks are an inferior race, it is not only wrong to believe him, but it might also be wrong to not take action (e.g., talking to the stake presidency). (This is a true story, by the way.) Or, to use a more action-oriented example, if the bishop commands you to vote for a certain political candidate, you won’t necessarily be blessed for doing so. To the contrary, you will likely be blessed for saying, “It is outside your priesthood authority to tell me to do this” and then to possibly talk to the stake president about it. I do think these issues are quite rare, but I worry that many Latter-day Saints don’t realize that it is possible for your bishop or even stake president to be wrong, and in some cases it might be wise for you to approach them about it and/or address higher authorities.

    Regarding the second point, your Ezra Taft Benson quote clarifies much of the issue: “the living prophet and the first presidency,” not dead ones. As far as I’m concerned, the (non-canonical) teachings of dead prophets are good counsel but usually not necessary and sometimes can be destructive (in isolation). It’s all about the proper context, and I grow weary of people who will base their beliefs on a complex array of dead general authority quotes. Speaking of the likelihood of error, this is how a person can get into trouble quickly, especially if they have certain doctrinal “hobbies.”

    There are still further distinctions to be made here, however. It really is important if something is church doctrine. Something can be wise counsel and crucial for me to believe but not church doctrine. It simply means that it is not binding on every Latter-day Saint to believe it. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the problem of undue focus on the branches rather than the trunk of the tree.

  22. Dennis: Something can be wise counsel and crucial for me to believe but not church doctrine.

    Precisely what I am trying to say… much counsel from church authorities may not be “official doctrine,” but nonetheless we would be foolish to ignore it based on that fact alone.

    Dennis: To the contrary, you will likely be blessed for saying, “It is outside your priesthood authority to tell me to do this” and then to possibly talk to the stake president about it.

    Precisely my point as well; if an Apostle, in isolation, were to contradict the revelations given by the First Presidency on racial differences, we would be able to tell them, “You don’t have the authority to say that.” On the flipside, if the First Presidency gives us counsel that contradicts previous church policy or present church doctrine, we could say, “They do have the authority to ask us to do this.” Also, if an apostle or seventy speaks in General Conference on a given topic, I generally assume that whatever counsel or doctrine they give in that meeting is authorized by the First Presidency (I could be wrong).

    In the end, the issue is not the truth or falsity of the counsel or statement, but the authority the person has to give it. Bishops can’t contradict Apostles, and Apostles can’t contradict the First Presidency, etc. If an Apostle gives us counsel that is false, but which counsel he nonetheless has authority to give, I believe we will blessed by following it.

  23. Jeff,

    It looks like we are in general agreement.

    If an Apostle gives us counsel that is false, but which counsel he nonetheless has authority to give, I believe we will blessed by following it.

    In almost all cases, I think you are right. Hypothetically, however, this might not always follow. Unless by “authority” you mean that it has to be correct, which of course would negate the claim.

    We could certainly receive counsel that rubs us the wrong way — and not just the natural man in us. We could seek for spiritual assurance regarding this counsel and hypothetically not receive it, and then decide not to follow that particular counsel. It is certainly conceivable that a person might be more blessed in such a scenario.

  24. In my philosophy of religion class at BYU almost five years ago we were privileged to receive a copy of a talk that Robert L. Millett gave to the religion faculty there. It was entitled, “What Is Our Doctrine?” and made an indelible impression on me. Hardly a week goes by when I do not think of a principle or anecdote from it. The talk speaks to the issue of determining the current doctrine of the Church, and would be of interest to everyone here. It has since been published in The Religious Educator and is available free to view on BYU’s site.

    Of course, Bro. Millett is not a General Authority, but I have a deep regard for his views. He seems right on the money in all respects here.

    To access the talk, go to The Religious Educator back issues page and click on “Volume 4 Number 3, 2003.” You’ll see the title of the talk at the top of the table of contents in the left frame of your browser. I wish there were a more convenient permalink to it, but there you go.

  25. I love the grape juice one. I honestly believed that one for many years. I even told my non-Mormon Christian friends about it back in high school. They must have thought I was nuts. Once I got older, I started to question it and searched high and low for proof and came up with absolutely nothing.

    I thought of another one that I don’t think was on your list. I remember when I was around 12, my Sunday School teacher telling us how dinosaurs roamed other planets and when God collected all the floating matter to create the earth, that’s how their bones ended up here.

    I think it was that same teacher who said that vegetarianism was a sin.

    As for there being more righteous women than men and therefore men will have to take additional wives in the Celestial kingdom, a member of the Church just repeated that one to me last week. It was his way of telling me not to give up despite the fact that I’m married to a non-member.

  26. I guess I’m a late-comer to this blog. But I’m glad that Jeff put forth things that make him a “little nervous.” Though I agree with most of the things that are posted, and have myself pointed out a few “apocryphal” beliefs to others before (it can be quite fun), there are some things that I believe have “snuck” onto the list. They mostly are in the “Godhood” and “Eternal Progression” categories. I don’t really want to debate these issues, as I have with people before, but I want to say a few things. First, to a certain extent, I believe that by branding something as a folk belief, you are taking a position that the opposite is true and are not really impartial. So by saying that “God knows things absolutely” and that God was once a man as we now are are folk beliefs, you must mean that those are false doctrines, and frankly I don’t believe that you are qualified to make such statements on the nature of God. Now, on some of the things, you say that one view is folk belief, and that the opposite is also folk belief, meaning that there isn’t a real solid answer, and that I can agree with on lots of things. But if you say that the belief that humans can literally become like God is folk doctrine, are you willing to say that the opposite is also folk doctrine? To me, calling this a folk belief is only your opinion and doesn’t belong on the list. What are your sources? The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, yourself, and other blogs. I don’t see scripture or authoritative sources–only challenges and opinion, which is just not very credible to me. Something incredible to me is that you missed the point of the FAIR response to President Hinckley’s Time interview. The article even said that he didn’t deny Snow’s famous couplet, but said that we don’t emphasize this teaching in our curriculum. In fact, your quoted article contradicts what you are saying.
    Now my opinion: when Jesus, Joseph Smith, and many others say that we will be gods and recieve glory and exaltation with my sealed wife, I take that literally. Why not? What’s God’s glory? To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. What does being a god mean to you? Was God once a man like us? Well, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Spencer Kimball, and Orsen Pratt thought so, to name a signficant few. I don’t believe that because I believe their words that I follow “folk beliefs.” I also don’t believe that it’s really as fuzzy as people make it out to be. It seems to be pretty clearly stated to me, and I see NOTHING as definitive and authoratative from our scriptures and Presidents that say otherwise.

  27. Pierce,

    I appreciate your concerns.

    I think in some places you are misunderstanding me and in other places we must simply disagree.

    Let me clarify a few things.

    First, to a certain extent, I believe that by branding something as a folk belief, you are taking a position that the opposite is true and are not really impartial. So by saying that “God knows things absolutely” and that God was once a man as we now are are folk beliefs, you must mean that those are false doctrines, and frankly I don’t believe that you are qualified to make such statements on the nature of God.

    I disagree with you here — my branding something as a folk belief is not at all to suggest it is not true, as I have made explicitly clear. Several of the folk beliefs I listed I believe are true, including at least one or two things you’ve taken issue with in your comment. But there is a difference in me believing it is true and it being an authoritative Mormon teaching. You are right, I am not qualified to make authoritative statements on the nature of God. That’s actually my point — we make a lot of statements we’re not qualified to make.

    But if you say that the belief that humans can literally become like God is folk doctrine, are you willing to say that the opposite is also folk doctrine?

    I need to say a couple things here. First, you’re caricaturing my position on a folk belief pertaining to humans becoming like God. In one way, no, this is not at all a folk belief. But I was identifying a peculiar way this belief is taken on, namely, “It is possible for humans to become Gods (capital G), in the same way that God is a God (including giving spiritual birth to a Redeemer).” Who knows, this could be true, but it is certainly a folk belief. Second, yes, I would say the opposite is a folk belief (I simply didn’t mention it because I don’t think it’s very common).

    To me, calling this a folk belief is only your opinion and doesn’t belong on the list. What are your sources? The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, yourself, and other blogs. I don’t see scripture or authoritative sources–only challenges and opinion, which is just not very credible to me.

    I’ve never claimed for anything to be other than my opinion. I will say, though, that none of the things I am identifying as folk beliefs are in the scriptures or official statements from the First Presidency. That’s my point. Please correct me if you can show me where I am in error here. Also, certainly we can agree that some things can be folk beliefs (e.g., Santa is one of the Three Nephites, to use a completely ridiculous example) even if not formally identified as such in the scriptures or other authoritative sources, right?

    Something incredible to me is that you missed the point of the FAIR response to President Hinckley’s Time interview. The article even said that he didn’t deny Snow’s famous couplet, but said that we don’t emphasize this teaching in our curriculum. In fact, your quoted article contradicts what you are saying.

    I don’t see the contradiction. All I said is that President Hinckley was “reluctant to take a clear doctrinal stand on the issue,” which from my viewing and reading is without question. No, he didn’t deny the teaching — I never said he did — but he did say that some people think they know a lot more about this teaching than they actually do. I would simply suggest that the FAIR statement was a little overzealous in trying to defend the teaching, rather than letting President Hinckley speak for himself.

    Now my opinion: when Jesus, Joseph Smith, and many others say that we will be gods and recieve glory and exaltation with my sealed wife, I take that literally. Why not? What’s God’s glory? To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. What does being a god mean to you?

    I agree with you, and I don’t see how I’ve suggested otherwise. I just don’t know if it means being God exactly as He is God, including giving spiritual birth to a Redeemer. (See above.)

    Was God once a man like us? Well, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Spencer Kimball, and Orsen Pratt thought so, to name a signficant few. I don’t believe that because I believe their words that I follow “folk beliefs.” I also don’t believe that it’s really as fuzzy as people make it out to be. It seems to be pretty clearly stated to me, and I see NOTHING as definitive and authoratative from our scriptures and Presidents that say otherwise.

    First, I do believe that God was once man. It simply is not Church doctrine — the King Follet discourse has not been canonized or ratified in any authoritative way whatsoever. Period. If and when God and the leaders of the Church want this to be the case, more power to them. Until then, I’m not going to argue with a fellow Latter-day Saint or investigator who wants to believe otherwise, and I’m willing to be open to their viewpoint. (I made this mistake once on my mission regarding evolution and I’ve regretted it ever since.)

    Second, just because the people you say said something doesn’t mean it is an authoritative teaching. Brigham Young taught the Adam-God theory, for example, and Bruce R. McConkie taught that blacks would not receive the Priesthood in this life. Prophets aren’t perfect and they sometimes express things that are simply their opinion. Now, I don’t say this to debate the point you’re bringing up, just to say that we have to be careful about evidence in terms of speaking of authoritative and binding teachings.

    Third, I don’t think the belief is as straightforward as you make it out to be. Unless you are certain that you or I can be the spiritual parent to a Redeemer even though you yourself are not one (because this would then be the case with God, if he were to be a man just like we are as opposed to a Savior like Christ is, as Truman Madsen has surmised as his interpretation of the King Follet discourse). Most people don’t think very deeply about the relationship between the Father and the Son (nor the Holy Ghost, but that is a can of worms that I can’t even fathom) when they think about God once being man or man becoming like God.

  28. Very good, I think that we do agree on more than I originally supposed. There are a couple of things I would like to discuss further.

    ” I will say, though, that none of the things I am identifying as folk beliefs are in the scriptures or official statements from the First Presidency.”

    This I think is where a great many people in the Church bump heads the most. The question of “what is true teaching, and what is not?” I think you and I really do agree about how to determine true doctrine, and what is binding and what isn’t. I even agree with you still on most things and laugh with you about the silly things. However, one thing I believe you should take into consideration is the law of witnesses. I think that part of the formula in determining doctrine is how many of the brethren or prophets taught a certain doctrine. For example, I believe that there is a significant difference in what Bruce McKonkie said about blacks and priesthood (his opinion) and the general teaching that God was once a man. It wasn’t just one man spouting something off. To my knowledge it wasn’t in the Ensign, church manuals, or Conference. Conversly, God being a man was a truth delivered by Joseph Smith. Christ said it when he said that he can only do what he sees the Father do (our manuals back that interpretation). It was repeated by many PRESIDENTS of the church. So to me, that works. It is enough. I don’t necessarily think it has to be somehow voted in. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” I think that this IS an authorotative way of ratifying something. I don’t believe that their statements leave any room for doubt. How can someone read what these many prophets and apostles have said and say “eh, maybe maybe not. You could be wrong about that.” I think it’s too far of a stretch to consider.
    I typed in a search on this particular subject on LDS.org, and came up with an article from The Ensign:
    I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I will emphasize the main points.
    ……………………………………….
    To my knowledge there has been no “official” pronouncement by the First Presidency declaring that President Snow’s couplet is to be accepted as doctrine. But that is not a valid criteria for determining whether or not it is doctrine.
    Generally, the First Presidency issues official doctrinal declarations when there is a general misunderstanding of the doctrine on the part of many people. Therefore, the Church teaches many principles which are accepted as doctrines but which the First Presidency has seen no need to declare in an official pronouncement. This particular doctrine has been taught not only by Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the Church, but also by others of the Brethren before and since that time.
    . . . Numerous sources could be cited, but one should suffice to show that this doctrine is accepted and taught by the Brethren.
    . . . It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=ec1faeca0ea6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

    ………………………………………………….
    That was in the Ensign. Is that authoritative? It was taught by many of the Brethren and still is. To me it’s a very important doctrine. By understanding that, we understand who we are and what we have the ability to become through the grace of Christ and endurance to the end. I don’t believe that we as a church can be divided on this, because this very doctrine is what truly divides us from the rest of the world because it ties into us being like God.
    Next, I agree withe brother Lund when he said that the Brethren won’t make a “declaration” unless there is a general misunderstanding. I think that this same principle applies to deification, or becoming like God. He will always be the big G. To him we would always be the little g. But I believe that he intends for us to be like him, literally, and that there isn’t any room for doubt. Do the Brethren have to release a statement with bullet points describing what receiving of the fulness of His glory means and being like him? I don’t believe they have to. It’s there, and it’s clear. It is faulty logic to declare a doctrine as taboo because one hasn’t received every detail about it yet.

    “As God now is man may be.”

    ““. . .they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19). In other words, if we are true and faithful in all things, we will be able to become like God our Father and live forever in the family unit, working as he does to bless and exalt our children.” (http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ed462ce2b446c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=a7837befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1)

    This goes on and on because it is central to our belief system. It is what we’re here for. It’s one thing to not completely understand everything a doctrine entails. But it’s true none the less. These are not folk doctrines, they are sacred and true.

  29. Pierce,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I do think we agree about much more than we disagree about.

    Concerning what you say about the law of witnesses, I agree that there is strength in numbers, especially concerning Church presidents across time. There are times when the authoritative level of teachings is somewhat gray, and I would argue this is the case with just about anything unique from the King Follet discourse. The discourse is not canonized so it cannot be properly called an official teaching. You might be right that the First Presidency often gives official statements only for matters of clarification — but the official doctrines are still articulated in the scriptures. In the case of the “God was once a man” teaching, Jesus’ statement about only doing what the Father can do is ambiguous on its own right. The fact that there has never been an official declaration of what this means is significant. If nothing else, it means the Church (and/or world) is not ready for this teaching.

    You might be right, though, that it’s not correct to call the “God was once man” belief pure folk belief. I think I’d call it quasi-authoritative belief. However, just about anything that anyone could say or think about this statement enters the realm of folk. To say that God was definitely a Redeemer is saying too much and to say that He was definitely a man in need of redemption is saying too much (though the former is much more plausible). To say that he worshiped a Father (though a logical likelihood) is also saying too much. Perhaps if Joseph lived longer and/or we lived in a Zion society we would have further revelation on these details. But we don’t and many have made all sorts of misleading claims about this belief, and have also inflated its importance. That is why we are wise to follow President Hinckley’s lead in downplaying the belief and suggesting that we really don’t know much about it. The way the leaders of the Church are talking about a particular belief TODAY is much more indicative of its authoritative status than anything that has happened in the past (especially for these quasi-authoritative areas). So when you say that it still is taught by the Brethren — can you show me a public statement by any one in the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve from the past 10 years that supports the teaching?

    I don’t believe that we as a church can be divided on this, because this very doctrine is what truly divides us from the rest of the world because it ties into us being like God.

    If you’re talking about a general sense of eternal progression, as indicated in the terminology of the Doctrine and Covenants, then you are correct. I’m not disputing that at all. But I definitely disagree that the Church can’t be divided as to believing that God was once a man or that man will be Gods exactly as He is. If not, then why don’t the Brethren set us in line? The answer, in my opinion, is not because it’s not necessary; rather, the answer is because they are spending their time focusing on the things that we really can’t be divided on: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. We differ from the rest of the world in these things (except faith and repentance) because of the priesthood authority and the ordinances. Fidelity and agreement in terms of this authority and ordinances is what is important — not agreement on a quasi-authoritative belief that is not central to the principles of the gospel. Otherwise, wouldn’t our missionaries be teaching it? Or wouldn’t be part of some kind of systematic teaching in the Church? I think you’re possibly inflating its importance and relevance to the Church today.

  30. Looking back, I probably did make a couple of overstatements. One is that the Brethren absolutely teach it today. The article from the Ensign stated that the Brethren don’t have to publish a declaration unless there is a general misunderstanding in the church. It’s a doctrine, my friend. The Church won’t make official announcements to satisfy the unfounded doubts of a few. Now I don’t believe that the Brethren teach details about this and we don’t discuss this as missionaries because it’s an end, rather than a means to an end (which is really all that we can focus on right now). You are right, we need to focus on the actual Gospel of faith and repentance. So that’s why I believe we don’t discuss it in detail–we don’t know much about it and it’s not what we should focus on in church and in PR interviews. But it’s still a doctrine, and deals with the ultimate destiny of our souls, and I don’t think that there is any reason to “deflate” that importance. I consider every revelation and doctrine of greatest importance.
    I think that its wrong to call it “quasi-authoritative” doctrine. My examples were as authoritative as it gets. I would like to hear you tell Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Spencer Kimball, and every other Church authority (and there are many) that what they say is “quasi-authoritatve.” This wasn’t only taught in the KIng Follet discourse, as I’ve said before. It’s been vindicated by years of rehearsings by Church presidents and Apostles. Something I was hoping you’d acknowledge is the article that was published in the Ensign concerning this very issue. You hold to your idea contrary to the teaching of Prophets and Apostles. I suppose there is nothing more to say. But to your readers, I suggest searching out what the prophets have said and you’ll quickly find authoritative teaching on this matter. In reality there is no “authoritative” reason to doubt it.

  31. I think that its wrong to call it “quasi-authoritative” doctrine. My examples were as authoritative as it gets. I would like to hear you tell Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, Spencer Kimball, and every other Church authority (and there are many) that what they say is “quasi-authoritatve.”

    I would be happy to tell these authorities that SOME of what they say is quasi-authoritative. They’d probably be the first to agree with me.

  32. I guess that explains everything, my learned friend. I’m going to resign from this site as there is nothing more for me to say.

  33. Thank you for the discussion

  34. Pierce,

    I’m sorry if I said something to turn you off. I should clarify, regarding my last comment, that I would only discuss (“tell” is too strong) these things with the authorities you mention if we had a personal relationship with each other. I’m afraid what I said before came across as rather arrogant and I didn’t mean it that way. My point was simply to say that general authorities, in my opinion, would be quick to agree that not everything they say is authoritative. In regards to today’s general authorities, I think they would agree about this regarding some of these very questions if pressed. But who knows, just my opinion.

    I did want to address a couple other things you brought up (though I’m not sure you’ll respond). I don’t think your logic follows when you say we don’t focus on this doctrine because it is an ends rather than a means. The fact is that we focus on many doctrines that are ends, such as doctrines regarding eternal progression generally, returning to the Celestial Kingdom, and so forth. Why do we focus on these ends, then, and not the end of Deification?

    Also, concerning the Ensign article, I will simply say that you run into trouble fast if the Ensign (and thus other official Church publications, such as the Times and Seasons, Evening and Morning Star, Improvement Era, Journal of Discourses, Deseret Book, etc.) becomes an authority. This is not to say that there are not authoritative things in the Ensign, it is simply to say that they are not authoritative by virtue of being in the Ensign. Just because Elder Morrison wrote an article, for example, about how mental illness is a brain disorder that usually requires medication, doesn’t mean that this is an official church teaching, nor does it mean I need to agree (and I suspect several general authorities disagree with him).

    In the case of the article you cite, we are talking about an article authored by a teacher support consultant for CES. Hardly authoritative. In fact, I think the Church has learned from having people like this write on doctrinal topics, as you almost never see a non-general authority discuss these things in the Ensign today. I would be much more convinced by an article like this written by a general authority in the past 10 years.

  35. Do we really focus on many doctrines about the ends in church and sermons? If that is true, then we shouldn’t really even be debating what we are, because Exaltation is a HUGE part of the Celestial Kingdom and “eternal progression.” I also think that we can substitute “deification” for “Exaltation” in our church. So I think the point is made whether it is or isn’t focused on. In my opinion we don’t focus on it, just mention it when talking about HOW to get there.

    Dennis, the reason why I am turned off from this discussion and site is because what this has come down to is you coninuing to question authoritative sources, and have no foundation or legitimate reason to do so. There really is nothing more for me to say. I shouldn’t feel like I should have to open up the scriptures and read them to you, who are intelligent enough to do that yourself. You are simply unwilling to accept what really is doctrine so you can hold to your original position. You refute everything that’s not in your quad, and even refute things that are in that.
    God was once a man. Why isn’t this repeated often in General Conference these days? Because there is nothing else to say about it. Nothing more has been revealed. It’s already accepted as doctrine. The Brethren haven’t mentioned polygamy in quite a while, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a doctrine. We have a Heavenly Mother–haven’t heard about that specifically in a while. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not doctrine. It’s absolute folly to say “I think the Brethren would be first to agree with me that not everything they say is authoritative,” and use that to question doctrine that is established. It’s a sandy foundation. And I don’t believe otherwise–I agree with that statement. But it’s not what this is about. I quoted the Ensign article not because it’s where this doctrine originated and not because it’s the final authority. But the Ensign is an official church publication and this article has been reprinted and can found on the official church website. It’s one more evidence that this doctrine is true. What evidence do you have? Nothing. All you have been able to do is quote your own unfounded doubt.
    As for man’s destiny to become like God–you know who wouldn’t agree with that also: mainstream Christianity. They’d go with what you’re saying. But that is established doctrine that is in your scriptures. It’s not hearsay or apocryphal. There are no loopholes nor is there anything ambiguous. I think that the statements are TOO clear for your liking. We haven’t talked about it in the past 10 years? Open up Preach My Gospel to Lesson 2 in the discussions. We teach this to investigators! The scriptures and lessons are so clear about Exaltation that it would be silly for me to quote everything. Man and woman can recieve all that the Father has, be joint heirs with Christ, and “BECOME LIKE HIM.” If this wasn’t the case, God would have told us differently. If God can’t be taken at face value, who can?
    If these weren’t clear doctrines, I wouldn’t accept them as such. I have folk lists of my own, so I’m not one to hold onto everything everyone says. I, like you, look at doctrine objectionally and put it through a test. But once it passes the test, it’s important to simply accept it unless we are directed to do otherwise or unless we receive a new revelation that trumps an old one. It takes faith, especially if your mind doesn’t readily agree with it. Otherwise, it is the spirit of rebellion that propogates the questioning, and that is a slippery slope. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but I speak plainly.

  36. Pierce,

    I have a strong testimony of the Restored Gospel and I take it very seriously. I believe strongly in the plan of salvation and virtually everything you are talking about. I certainly can be stubborn at times, but I don’t see myself as arguing just to keep an original position. In fact, in talking with you I acknowledged a subtle shift in my position as certain teachings as quasi-authoritative rather than pure folk. (I still need to fine tune this a little on the list.) I could imagine all sorts of conditions in which I would change my position on this issue.

    Now, you’ve made many accusations about my personal character that I do not think are justified at all. I perhaps can’t convince you otherwise, but I will simply resist the unfaithfulness club you are seemingly beating me with. If you actually knew me and we had a personal relationship with each other, then it could perhaps be possible for you to (lovingly) say some of the things you have said.

    As you seem to be confused with my position, let me clarify a few things:

    1. I in no way have challenged general notions of becoming like God or eternal progression. I believe that these notions are authoritative church teachings, as clearly discussed in the Doctrine and Covenants, Preach My Gospel, and elsewhere. It’s not helping our discussion by your continuing to go back to these things. These teachings are not the point.

    2. The point IS in regard to two particular teachings and I am not disputing whether these teachings are true. I am disputing that they are authoritative teachings that must be believed by faithful members of the Church. They are (a) that God once was a man (and we can take this further, that God has a Father and He either was a Redeemer or needed one) and (b) that man can become EXACTLY like God — I’m not speaking here in a general sense (a resurrected glorified being who eternally progresses in relation to a family) but specifically that man can become exactly as God now is, including spiritually begetting a Redeemer. Now, I actually believe the first of the these teachings and I am open to the possibility of the second (while positively believing in the general notion of eternal progression and becoming like God).

    3. If you’d like to discuss these things further, I think it will be most fruitful to hone in on the specific teachings I’ve mentioned. You have done this very little with the first teaching and not at all for the second. You have not addressed, for example, how there are major ambiguities in terms of what it could be meant for man to become like God (as is clearly implicated by the Redeemer question). Rather, what you’ve done in the last couple posts is create a straw man argument. You are setting me up as arguing against an indisputable argument (that the general notion of eternal progression is an authoritative teaching) when this is not at all what I’m doing. I think this is unfortunate because I see us as agreeing on much more than what we’re disagreeing about.

  37. I really like this post or yours. There are many things that we don’t know by definitive statement from our Church leaders — yet LDS tend to promulgate and accept as true.

    Your ideas have really made me think about holding on to what we know to be true and what we have inferred to be true.

    Thanks for this post.

  38. Pierce,

    I understand your concern. I am wary of anything that causes us to doubt the counsel of our leaders or to disobey. I don’t think that was what was intended but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a real result.

    I think there is danger in blogs like this and there is value.

    Value: we really do need to think more carefully about what we are saying and teaching. We need to examine our assumptions to see where we might be in error. We must stay humble and take great care to make sure we are actually on the path of truth.

    Danger: In doing so we may start to mock, which only furthers the adversary’s purposes. We may also start to become self-righteous in our own disdain of self-righteousness. This is a very real possibility.

    We must walk carefully.

    One example- “no playing with face cards- they are Satanic”.

    We should be careful not to mock because while we can certainly see that there are many innocent uses of face cards we also don’t see all the devil’s purposes. I thought it was kind of strange when I heard my Stake President had said we shouldn’t play with them. A friend told me that she was the only one in her family to support the him in this- because she believes in obedience. Her husband and children mocked and stated he had “no right” to give such direction.

    But then I happened to come across some teachings of Joseph F. Smith and it really opened my eyes to why they CAN be very dangerous. And quite ironically- the dad of this family is addicted to online gambling- poker, I think. It is often more important to him than things that are really important. Of all the members of the stake who could benefit the MOST from the counsel we received- he might be the first and foremost. Yet, he mocks and refuses to obey. At great cost.

    My point- we need to treat these things carefully. It’s very important to examine closely. But in the process of being critical we may be taking some of Heavenly Father’s children away from the true path rather than towards it.

    Yet, I think overall good will be accomplished. Or, at least, I hope it will. If the result of this blog is more love and more desire to know truth- than it’s for good. If the result is our own type of self-righteousness and mocking of things that certainly have some value- then it’s not.

    But, I feel it’s better to try than not to try. I believe Dennis is honest. I believe his purposes are true. I trust him and I am glad to be able to share my own thoughts.

  39. The dialogue here absolutely reinforces the original proposition — namely, that there are some thoughts that are held by some among us to be doctrinally true and mandatory for belief and acceptance by all other honorable (or worthy) Latter-day Saints, when in fact they aren’t. That God was once a man as we are now and that we will one day be as God now is is one of these folk beliefs. A poster here insists that this notion is true and absolute doctrine of the church. I’m a Latter-day Saint, in good standing any which way it might be measured, and I disagree that this is absolute doctrine of the church. Call me a sinner and heretic if you will, but this notion isn’t absolute doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It isn’t even a secret wink-wink doctrine. It isn’t church doctrine at all.

    This notion does exist as a thread in the tapestry of Mormon thought, I admit. And like a recently-dead president of the church, I have some understanding of the reasons behind the notion. But it isn’t absolute doctrine.

    Talks given by general authorities at funerals aren’t supposed to be recorded by others and shared later as definitive doctrine. The King Follett discourse was such a private teaching, wasn’t it? Some persons in attendance may have made some notes of what was said and may have published their notes many years later when the speaker was long dead and unable to further refine, clarify, or amplify his remarks, but these notes are not official church doctrine (even though some upstanding church members believe them to be true). And each version of these notes differs from every other version.

    Yes, there are folk beliefs all around us. And that’s okay with me. I would rather have folk beliefs than to have a doctrine and truth committee. But the danger with folk beliefs is that some of them will be seen as absolute church doctrine by some of us, rather than as notions that might be true and probably affect our thought processes but which aren’t known to be absolute truths and absolute church doctrine. When we become pharisitical about these sorts of matters, we risk offending the spirit and we risk offending non-members seekers after truth. At least, that’s how I see it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: