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On 01/06/2013, I posted the following question to a Yahoo discussion group for Mormon-Evangelical discussion. This group, by the way, is moderated by Christian apologist, Rob Bowman. Though I’ve not yet had the opportunity to read any of Rob’s books (no book funds), I did take an online class from him at one point, and I’ve been favorably impressed with most of his answers (those that I’ve so far read) in this and another discussion group he moderates.
Hi all–new group member here (evangelical).
This debate about what is and isn’t official Mormon doctrine interests me. One thing I wonder about is which “not official” doctrines that “some LDS believe” are officially condemned by the church. Are any of them officially, publicly condemned (if so, which?), or does Mormon leadership simply refrain from actively teaching them? Is the official church stance that one is equally “a good Mormon” if one believes God was once a mortal man and if one believes He was not? If one were to maintain, for instance, that God the Father is “eternal” in the strict sense of having always existed (even “before” creating time itself) as God the Father, having never been any other sort or order of being than He is now, could one still be considered “a good Mormon”? If one were to maintain the same is true of God the Son, Jesus Christ, and of God the Holy Spirit–if one were in fact to endorse the whole evangelical understanding of the Trinity–could one still be considered a “good Mormon” in that case?
Thank you in advance for your responses.
David M. Hodges
At least two Mormon participants responded, one by direct email, another on the discussion board. Since 01/13/2013, when I read the response, I have been attempting to post the follow-up below. (The opening reference to “falling way behind” and “belated” are new, added when I made a new attempt to post earlier today. So far as I know, that attempt failed.) However, the Yahoo! Groups interface keeps truncating my posts when I click “preview” or informing me that the post or the group is “temporarilty unavailable” when I click “send.”
I’ve fallen way behind in my reading! Belated thanks for the response, Linda. Given what you say about the centrality of the Articles of Faith, it might make sense for the group to take up discussion of each of the thirteen points in the Articles, http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith, in separately-designated discussion threads. At least, this would seem sensible for any of the thirteen that have not yet been discussed to the point where all non-new group participants are tired of hearing the same arguments over and over. (As an evangelical, I find item three, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,” particularly troubling.)
In any case….I’m pleased that many of the more bizarre beliefs I’ve heard associated with Mormonism are not beliefs required of Mormons in good standing. (Another respondent to my question, who may have responded only by direct email and not posted here, even said that a “good Mormon” could be Trinitarian, provided he did not preach Trinitarianism from the pulpit.)
However, I’m not willing to let the LDS church entirely off the hook for beliefs it apparently chooses not to condemn, nor to judge wholly unfair critics of the LDS who think beliefs of past leaders and present members are fair game for critique so long as the LDS church fails to make clear that it does not approve and in fact condemns those teachings. The direct-email respondent I mentioned said that Spencer Kimball did officially condemn the “Adam = God” idea, but my impression at present is that the LDS church intentionally abstains from condemning many beliefs its leaders once promoted.
At the very least, this shows far too little concern for sound and consistent doctrinal beliefs among LDS members. It is also a bizarre approach for a church founded on the idea that all the other Christian churches had become so thoroughly corrupt in doctrine as to require a newly restored church to replace them. I mean, if all the other churches became progressively corrupted over time, wouldn’t it make sense for the restored church to be obsessive about sound, pure, consistent doctrine? But just the opposite seems to be the case: doctrines known to be “easy targets” for opponents of Mormonism are permitted to survive and thrive among LDS members, who retain “good Mormon” status as they believe and spread ideas many other members, like yourself, find disturbing.