What has happened to the simple principle of telling the truth? That question should be posed to the Mormon community. I’m not an expert on anything—but I do know a little bit about Mormonism—or, as they prefer to be called, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). My father was a Mormon for several years and many of his family were Mormons. I have also spent a considerable amount of time reading LDS literature. Again, that doesn’t make me an expert, but at least educated.
I have observed a notable change in the way the LDS Church presents itself to the general public, an effort that began sometime around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Prior to that, there was not a readily-apparent effort by Mormons to identify themselves as a form of Christianity. Joseph Smith believed that the Angel Moroni appeared to him because all of American Christianity had become apostate. He was the one true prophet and the religion he would establish would be the only true church. That’s boiler plate LDS 101. I remember a time when it was common for Mormons to be offended if you called them Christian. That was then.
Sometime around 2002 a very noticeable shift occurred. Suddenly they wanted to be accepted as a part of mainstream Christianity—you know, there are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Mormons. During this time of “repackaging” a document was released titled, “The Living Christ, The Testimony of The Apostles” [available here]. It was a slick document stating what Mormons believed about Jesus. Why slick? To read it, you would think you were reading the doctrinal statement of an Evangelical Church. Now, even a peripheral study of Mormonism will reveal that the Jesus of Mormonism isn’t even in the same universe (literally) as the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. The Jesus of Mormonism is the “spirit child” of his “heavenly parents.” He is in no way part of a triune Godhead.
The wording of “The Living Christ” represents some of the best marketing I have ever seen. It takes Mormon doctrine and makes it sound like standard Christian doctrine. At the same time, the official LDS Web site was totally overhauled and some of the more bizarre doctrines held by the Church were carefully hidden deep within the site—doctrines such as “the Fall” actually being a good thing, not bad; the pre-existence of all humans in heaven with Jesus simply being our “elder brother;” the ability to actually become a God and have your own planet to rule over. Another bizarre doctrine of Joseph Smith was that Jesus and Lucifer (yes, Satan) were actually brothers. The LDS Web site prior to the Utah Olympics said this:
We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, ‘Here am I, send me’ (Abraham 3:27).
Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, ‘Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it.’ (Moses 4:1).
Now, here is where my plea for Mormons to simply tell the truth comes in. This is America. You can believe anything you want. If you want to believe that God was once a human being, that Jesus was his physical son, that you can become a God yourself, that Jesus and Satan were brothers, you can certainly do so. But tell the truth! If you believe it, be proud of it—don’t try to hide it.
An interesting illustration of this has been playing itself out in current political news. In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was questioned about his views of the Mormonism of fellow candidate Mitt Romney. Huckabee said he knew little about Mormonism and wondered out loud to the veteran religion reporter Zev Chafets: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Well, that’s exactly what they believe! Several news outlets immediately accused Huckabee of attacking Romney’s religion. Blogs went berserk!
How did candidate Romney respond to someone revealing what his church actually believes? He said, “But I think attacking someone’s religion is really going too far. It’s just not the American way, and I think people will reject that,” Romney told NBC’s “Today” show.
How did the LDS Church respond? The Associated Press quoted an official spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that Huckabee’s question is usually raised “by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.” She went on to say, “We believe, as other Christians believe and Paul wrote, that God is the father of all … That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”
She doesn’t deny anything Huckabee said, she is just very deft at using the language of and the association with mainstream Christianity to wrap their unorthodox doctrine in credibility.
Does this have anything to do with Mitt Romney and his qualifications to be president? Everyone will have to decide that in his or her own heart. I just wish the Mormons, including Mitt Romney, would simply be more candid and tell us the straight truth about their religion. Is that too much to ask?