Mormons are not Christians.
Let’s all get over that right now. Joseph Smith’s argument was that he was restoring the Church to the way it was supposed to have been all along. Joseph’s claim was that the Church was in total apostasy. Joseph Smith was claiming something unique in the two millennia of Church-State sponsored excommunicationing, confession-torturing, and public stake-burnings that was by then calling itself “Christianity.” Joseph Smith was claiming the whole tradition had departed from its founding principles. Mormons believe that the entire, combined history of today’s Christianity is doctrinally unsound and lacking in authority.
You wouldn’t think so by how hard Mormons now cling to the notion that they’re just another branch of the Christian religion. In their minds of course, they’re actually claiming to be the one, true Christian religion. But then, that’s what everyone else is claiming. We’re right and you guys are all wrong. We have authority and you don’t. I am the Rock, I am Peter. I was founded by Paul. I have 95 reasons why you’re all screwed up so I’m going to reform the Church. Divine Providence has guided us to just these right interpretations of just these right scriptures in just this right version of the Bible and led us to just this right land to prosper, and we’re the only ones who remained true to preserve the true faith.
The thing calling itself Christianity today is not the same as the thing being called Mormonism–even by Mormon standards. Serious problems arise when Mormons start teaching their version of the “gospel,” and lo and behold, the Christian investigator notices it departs wholesale from what they’ve been taught their whole life. Even without the predictable priming of the investigator by their professional Christian clergy or anti-Mormon propagandists, it is inevitable that anyone brought up to believe the conventional Christian storyline will conclude that Mormons are not Christians in the same way everyone else seems to be Christians–and that the Mormons are probably trying to pull a fast one on them. Or they surmise that Mormons are just stupid and don’t know the difference. Which is mostly true in either case.
Since Christians believe they all go to heaven and everyone else goes to hell, the schooled Christian will most of the time just stay safely on the historically Christian side of the debate. Why explore the “fullness” of the gospel, when the gospel you already have is sending you to heaven anyway? For this reason, the Mormon missionary program actually targets those without clear Christian or other religious backgrounds, gives a very broad, generic, rosy sales pitch, begs the hapless, ignorant, spiritually ambivalent investigator to pray about it, and while in some self-induced, emotional, cathartic, faux-religious conversion mode they are challenged, almost dared to jump immediately into the baptismal font. They are urged to just pick up the rest of what they’re going to have to believe after they’re already committed to being a Mormon in principle. It takes the discerning human being of any stripe about five minutes to figure out that this is a buy-now-pay-later religious special-of-the-week sort of marketing program. The investigator rabbits off to the safety of what they already know, or don’t know as the case may be. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The Mormons designing these recruitment drives and even all the instructional manuals, church magazines and those running the doctrinal curriculum of the Mormon church, don’t know a thing about Christianity, much less how a Christian thinks or feels. They don’t know much about how any normal human being feels, because they’re Mormons. Mormons aren’t only not Christians, they’re just not normal. They are a self-selecting, self-taught closed little sample of one particular (deliberately peculiar) type of human being they’ve self-defined to be God’s particular favorite type of human being. They’ve either been raised to be ignorant of the world at large, or are eagerly cultivated into their contrived peculiarity after being hand-picked by the Mormon recruiting system in which like begets like, ignorance cultures ignorance, and the cultureless beget a complete lack of culture. They become special because they are like everyone else in the club. They are unimpressive as individuals, but absolutely brilliant as herd animals.
Chairman Mao said that sooner or later every revolution goes conservative. He maintained that the communist revolution had to be constantly refreshed and purged of intellectuals and thinkers and anyone who might sit back on their laurels and start thinking about “What’s in if for me then?” Or worse yet, “Hey, isn’t this capitalist thing better than what we’ve got going here after all?” In the 1960’s Mao rallied all the communist youth to fink on their elders, raid and destroy anything not Chinese, anything not communist. Art, music, technology, philosophy, it was all burned if it wasn’t determined to be Chinese or communist enough. Anyone who had the brains or memory or experience to raise an intelligent argument in favor of preserving world knowledge and universal beauty, was sent to a re-education camp. All the intellectuals were sent to the rice paddies. The same sort of thing took place the moment all the bright and eargerly converted Mormon Swedes and Norwegians and English and Danish and Scottish pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. They stopped being Swedes and Norwegians and English and Danish or Scottish, Catholic, or Protestant, and Brigham Young re-educated them into becoming Mormons.
This is exactly what Lenin did to Marxism in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution. The movement began with the cream of the cream of the literati, the intellectuals, the academics, the artists and poets and was led by common, naturally chosen social visionaries. After the revolution however, these people with brains in their heads and ideas of their own just got in the way of the Party doing whatever it wanted to do. Which was take care of the Party. And after all, when you make Yuri the former nut-and-bolt fastener from the local tractor factory the new head of Central Planning Committee, he just doesn’t want to take a lot of crap from smart people and he doesn’t understand why they just don’t do what he says and shut up about it. Yuri got promoted simply because of his undying, if unintelligent loyalty to the Party. The same sort of process works the same way in the recruitment and selection of Mormon leadership as well as the membership in general. It’s not what you know, who you are, what you’re capable of, it’s all about loyalty to the Party. Consequently, anything not immediately relevant to rising in, or surviving under the Party has no place in the culture. All non-Mormon intelligence or ethnicity in Utah was effectively eradicated in one generation.
Before David O. McKay in 1952, the Mormon church was still essentially living out the prophet Joseph Smith’s original commission of bringing good Christians into the “fullness” of the gospel. They had lost any sense of what a Christian is or was by then, but they were still trying to relate to Christians as Mormons, not as fellow Christians. They at least knew the difference back then. Mormons actively sought Christians and started their various missionary efforts with what they already knew Christians found to be troublesome doctrines and principles. Back then Mormons spun off the missionary pitch not into a challenge to baptism, but into how modern revelation had fixed all those problems and restored the whole truth to Christianity. Baptism was a decision, not a bet.
In the early days of the LDS church, it was the primary perspective that every Christian had at one time wondered how it was that their third cousin Huckleberry back in Ohio was going to have to burn in hell when he never done nobody no harm and just never took no shine to the Holy Bible. Every good Christian wondered how the hell you could have a three-headed God that was one God but three different characters at the same time. Every Sunday School Christian had asked the preacher that one question or two that got the “It’s a mystery we accept on faith,” answer that really pissed them off and left them wondering their whole lives if this Christian thing wasn’t just a load of hooey. Well, Joseph Smith gave them better answers. Answers to questions they were already asking.
Today’s LDS recruitment program basically says you can just stuff your questions up your backside, get on your knees and ask in total ignorance if this or that is true. Is the Book of Mormon true? Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? Don’t make us explain any of it and don’t deviate from the discussion we’ve charted out for you. Go for that burning bosom–avoid any pondering or reasoning. As soon as you’re willing to concede that it might be true, throw yourself straight into that “come to Joseph” moment and it will all explain itself later. (And they wonder why convert retention rates are plummeting…)
Mormons don’t even have any idea how big a leap they’re asking the Christian to take. Christianity is actually fairly compatible with Mormonism just by accident, superficially speaking, looking strictly from the Mormon side of it. Mormons don’t believe Christians are going to be burning in hell for openers. Not officially. It’s a similarly “wholesome” lifestyle. They believe in Jesus Christ. Christians don’t have the whole truth, but they’re mostly harmless and sometimes even good. But most of that would apply to any major world religion from the Mormon perspective. Mormons believe that just about anyone not shedding innocent blood or deliberately and knowingly denying the Holy Ghost is going to a paradise exactly like the “heaven” all little Christian kids are told they’re going to fly up to when they die.
Mormon salvation on that level is free. It’s as free as any salvation you’ll get in any good old Christian tent revival. It’s even freer. All you have to do is accept Christ as your savior, and you don’t even have to do it before you die. If all else fails you can have somebody get baptized for you while you’re up there in a heavenly holding cell, waiting for all the paperwork to get signed and the permits issued. You can die a complete heathen and still be a candidate, yes, even for that highest of high Mormon heavens, the Celestial Kingdom.
The dirty, really really annoying little secret is that Mormons can’t even guarantee that their years of Mormonizing is going to insure them a spot in the highest of high levels in heaven. In the Celestial Kingdom they taunt, the righteous will live an afterlife where they hang out with deity and learn how to make planets, create life and really fun stuff like that. The “gentile” as they call them, the non-Mormon of any faith, will not participate in this higher glory. But obfuscated in a lot of 60’s era cleanup and correlation, is a little caveat about God judging and knowing your heart. All those requirements, those commandments you kept, really don’t weigh much in the Final Judgment or at least aren’t the deal maker or breaker in your ultimate fate.
Celestial glory might also just be the end destination of millions or billions of other former mortals who never had to bother with the whole Mormon experience. There’s still a good chance that Joe Christian or even Joe Jew, Joe Hindu or Joe Muslim will end up in the Celestial Kingdom along side of the most Mormony of Mormons, or above them, or even a kingdom or two above them. That’s pretty crappy doctrine for recruitment purposes, and certainly for maintaining that sense of superiority and high morale amongst the elect. You can see why historically, Christianity went another way with that.
The Mormon missionary program became a total victim of the Utah ethos in 1959 when president McKay, coming from a teaching background, quite correctly decided that all the reams of freelance apocrypha flying around the various LDS church organizations ought to be correlated into some sort of final orthodoxy. Prior to this movement, every scrap of lecture, every half-reliable journal entry, every rumored quote or sketchy teaching of every prophet, president or LDS leader of any import could ostensibly be preached as official “doctrine.” McKay first cleaned up the missionary training program into what he called a “systematic approach” to teaching the LDS gospel. Harold B. Lee who later also became president of the church was the central figure in this effort and initiated the “Correlation Committee” which since then has maintained absolute authority to sanction or censor any media or organizational program in the church. If it has come out of Correlation, it is “official” Mormon doctrine.
The result of Correlation has been mostly good from an internal standpoint. It purged a century and a half of gibberish and folklore from the burden of what had become an entirely undisciplined and unlimited canon that grew every time some General Authority belched and some other LDS scribbler wrote it down. Externally, it was not so helpful.
Correlation really constitutes the final usurpation of Joseph Smith’s restored Church of Jesus Christ by the “Utah Experience.” Correlation cleaned out everything that Utah didn’t think was relevant—which is all of Christianity for one. Correlation just ignored answering all those difficult early-Mormon and past-prophet-type questions–like blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, or any number of Brigham Young’s musings on Adam being God, or what Brother Brigham had to do with Mountain Meadows. Now, that’s sort of a good thing, because by relegating the bulk of early Mormon zaniness to the purely historical archives, President McKay was trying to sort out what was relevant to the 1950’s Latter-day Saint in a world that kept poking its nose into their happy little valley. At least, he thought, let’s all start singing off the same page instead of defending a pastiche of random thoughts gleaned from a myriad of church leaders over the last century-and-a half.
What Correlation didn’t do, is stop every Tom, Dick, and Bruce R. McConkie from continuing to publish their own versions of Mormonism outside the “official” stream. What Correlation didn’t do, is anything to harmonize, negate or explain 150 or more years of sometimes radically contradictory, and sometimes just radically odd statements and dissertations alleged to have been uttered by major church authorities it was now choosing to ignore. Correlation Movement proponents apparently believed the whole history of frontier Mormon weirdness would erase itself in a generation. Well, it did erase itself, but only from the “official” church structure. Generations of self-illuminated Mormons on the other hand, just kept reading and believing literally anything they latched onto with some Mormon bigwig’s name on it from any era of the church past or present.
Correlation left generations of young and now older Mormons officially ignorant of their own history except for all the happy, logical, inspiring stuff. Generations of Mormons are now entirely unprepared to deal with Christians and other normal human beings, who frankly, are only interested in getting some sort of answer to the juicy, weird stuff first. When an investigator hears that you claim to be a Mormon but you can’t spit something half-intelligent out about polygamy, they just don’t care to be “challenged” to baptism. They think you’re a sham, or an imbecile. Or, more pointedly, you’ve been brainwashed and kept from the “secret truths” of Mormonism. They don’t trust you and don’t care to listen to you any farther.
Correlation did to Mormon historical and doctrinal truth the same thing Prohibition did for alcohol; it just made all those “unofficial” sources all that much more appealing. When the good stuff right from the Maker dried up, even the faithful went rushing straight to the bootleg Mormon gospel writers, as those historically troubling Mormonological questions just kept rising to the surface generation by generation.
Correlation unfortunately also dragged the meaning of seeking “guidance by the Spirit” down to the level of merely reading something the Committee wrote in a manual somewhere and making you pray hard enough till you believe it’s true. The only input the Spirit gets in all this “guidance” is to swoop down at the end of the lesson and put His stamp of approval on the Correlation Committee’s work. That’s “official” Mormonism today. McKay’s systematic missionary program called it the “Commitment Pattern.” Read a blurb carefully crafted by ad men at church headquarters, challenge the investigator to pray and confirm, then elicit an immediate commitment to live it. The whole pondering and studying thing is obsolete. You want your prospect or “mark” to go with his gut impulse on first blush while he’s emotionally receptive. Never give a mark the option of thinking it over calmly. This tactic is not surprising, since Harold B. Lee was an advertising man and chaired the whole Correlation movement when all these new PR and educational programs were first developed.
The first version of Correlation’s missionary program used flip charts and a door-to-door marketing script along Madison Avenue lines. The present system, while claiming to be a reaction to people eventually getting wise to the canned, fake, hard-sell McKay/Lee era system, is actually just the old system without the locked script. The new missionary approach uses exactly the same formula, and only pretends to fulfill the “teaching by the Spirit” scriptural requirement of the LDS missionary commission. It breaks the discussions into particular concepts, drills the missionary till he can “ad-lib” a lesson that teaches exactly the concept charted out for him or her in his or her “own words.” Then you still dare them to get dunked. No variation, no answers to hard questions. If they’re ready, they’ll go into the font anyway, if not, move forward into the next pitch in the program till you close the sale.
From the Mormon perspective then, one Christian church is about as good as any other. It’s not worth studying. They aren’t trying to convert . Conversion is a long-lost concept. Mormon missionary efforts are based entirely upon trying to hunt and coax out people who are already “prepared” to believe the Mormon narrative regardless of logic, reason, history, tradition or culture. They’ve got a program, a method. It works for them a lot of the time. It’s an almost entirely emotional appeal which you can choose to call “spiritual” if you want to. I suppose if the prospect stays in the church after baptism, it was spiritual. If they wake up a month later and can’t believe what they got themselves into, it was mostly emotional.
The Mormon missionary who tangles with an actual thinker might just as well hoof it to the next door. That chump had their chance. They’ll just have to make do with unimaginable glory, instead of really, really, really unimaginable glory. There is no inescapable suffering in Mormon theology when a missionary fails to score a baptism, not in the long run. (Except for the mission statistics and the missionary’s performance rating, which may be a pretty central issue to most missionaries and mission presidents.)
But Christians will never concede that Mormons are going anywhere but hell. Trying to steal the Christian label from them is going to be fighting words until Jesus returns to pick a side in the debate Himself. And even then they’re going to demand He prove with miracles and firey chariots that He’s really Jesus. The whole Christian belief system collapses if Mormons don’t burn in hell. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is two-thousand years too late to try to claim the Christian brand from them. They have it patented, registered, and trademarked and they will fiercely protect it. And every Christian tradition from the Holy Roman Empire to some little evangelical offshoot on your cable TV public access channel has a belief system that on one level or another, sends everyone, even other Christians, to hell or puts them in danger of hell because they’ve got it all wrong. Or even just this one little part of it wrong. Two thousand years of ecumenical conferences and attempts to nail down general agreements on who really is a true Christian or not, and they’ve only agreed to disagree. They do however agree unanimously that Mormons are not part of the debate. Mormons have crossed the line. And why not? That’s exactly what Joseph Smith said about them.
I even wonder sometimes why the Christian brand name is so worth fighting for. It’s just a passing title use once in one minor scripture. And what they’ve done with it over the last two-thousand years isn’t always a thing to praise and respect.
To be correct, I’d also have to say that a lot of Mormons aren’t really even Latter-day Saints. A lot of Mormons believe in UFOs. Some of them will insist it’s in the four standard works if you know where to look. By the book, their book, a lot of apocryphal, anecdotal, pioneer, journal-of-rumors nonsense should have long ago been cleanly parsed out of the main LDS devotional collection of half-baked fables. Because of their ongoing reluctance to rate or denounce one-another, LDS leaders have allowed so much prophetic political leeway that virtually anything said or written by anyone of any authority or position in the Mormon church over the last two hundred years could be credibly argued to be the word of the Lord. For the last fifty years or so all the really goofy Mormon doctrines may have been cleaned out of the official, Correlated belief system—yet they really haven’t been cleaned out of the chain of theoretical authority. These quacky old doctrines have yet to be justified or denied by current leadership. You can take it out of the Sunday School lesson in 1952, but Pastor Bob, the rabid Anti-Mormon of today still has a copy of it and your old Mormon granny still believes in it because that’s what she was taught in Sunday School in 1951. Granny and those zany old codgers in high priest groups down in Payson still pass it all on to their descendants as God’s own truth because the current prophet and the current prophet after that continue to fail to proclaim clearly and authoritatively what Mormon’s don’t believe in.
Unlike Mormonism, Christian sects have only ever had but a handful of convoluted little central doctrines to debate in total. They still killed and excommunicated each other over them for thousands of years, but compared to the volumes of half-thought-out Mormon doctrinal speculations available to the Mormon, Christians have a very simple gospel to bicker about. Mormonism has had to date, less than two centuries to narrow down what it’s going to be all about. It lost its defining prophet very early on in the process, got chased into the wilderness, and has spent most of its time struggling with inbred family feuding, caretaking and nation-building. The Mormon church is full of “authorities.” They all write, and they all have opinions on everything. Mormons simply haven’t had the time, insight or interest to go through the bulk of every little note ever scribbled down and attributed to some prophet or apostle or the other and clean out all the rubbish. It hasn’t been a problem in the Valley till now.
Mormons are extremely ignorant in religious matters overall. Even their own. Make that ignorant in most things cultural, religious, or intellectual. Have I driven that point home yet? Mormons are not chosen because they have unique talents and wisdom. They’re chosen because they agree to get baptized.
Mormons know Mormonism and that’s it. That’s it. That’s what Mormons do: be Mormons. All they know is that hiding out for two centuries in a dusty valley in Utah is the most important human experience in the history of mankind. They claim to have a “Style all our Own” as they were fond of boasting in brow-flogging lectures to their youth, haranguing long hair and beards in the late 60’s and 70’s. But it isn’t a style so much as a lack of style. Mormons have a lack of style all their own. They are overtly attempting to make themselves a peculiar people, but not always in a good way. The style-less, the boring, the intellectually and artistically complacent, the anti-intellectual, they all make great Mormons. They are good, honest, God-fearing folk. They’re just unremarkable as hell. And they have a way of taking a great, even inspired religion and boring it to death. Like begets like and in the closed Mormon system, the pig-ignorant are teaching the pig-ignorant how to find and sign up more of the pig-ignorant. Even if we concede that God provides the Mormon church president with a brilliant idea, the Correlation Movement for example, it’s still going to be executed by a bunch of uncommonly dull and unusually sheltered Utah Mormons.
In a famous interview with the New Yorker January 2002, church president Gordon B. Hinckley speaks to Lawrence Wright:
“I’m the third generation in this Church,” he told me. “My grandfather joined the Church in his late teens in Nauvoo.” Nauvoo, Illinois, was a refuge that the Mormons created in 1839, following an order by the governor of Missouri to run them out of the state. But Illinois soon proved to be worse than Missouri. In 1844, after an anti-Mormon mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, the Mormons headed west. Hinckley’s grandfather Ira was among them. Thousands died on the trek across the Great Plains, including Ira’s wife and his stepbrother, Joel, who both died of cholera on the same day in 1850.
Hinckley showed me a small bronze figure of a pioneer standing beside a grave. “Here’s a little statue somebody made of that event, portraying my grandfather’s burial of his wife in a coffin he made somewhere, we know not where. And afterward he picked up his eleven-month-old daughter and carried her to this valley.” Hinckley’s voice grew thick. “Now, that’s my background in this Church, and it’s real, and it’s pragmatic, and it’s Mormonism.”
In the Mormon scheme, every person is a potential divinity. The adage “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be” expresses the Mormon belief that God was once a human being, with a wife and children. But Hinckley did not seem interested in discussing matters of theology. When I asked him to characterize God’s connubial relationship, he replied, “We don’t speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don’t know what he meant by that.” Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, he said, “There he is, right there. I’m not going to worry about what he said about those things.”
I asked whether Mormon theology was a form of polytheism.
”I don’t have the remotest idea what you mean,” he said impatiently.
”More than one god.”
”Yes, but that’s a very loose term,” he replied. “We believe in eternal progression.” By that he meant that human beings can evolve toward godhood by following the Mormon path. “You want to be a reporter always?” he said. “You want to be a scrub forever, through all eternity? We believe that life, eternal life, is real, that it’s purposeful, that it has meaning, that it can be realized. I wouldn’t describe us as polytheistic.”
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/01/21/020121fa_FACT1?currentPage=3#ixzz0Y2nzgJ07
– Hinckley Interview in “Lives of the Saint”, New Yorker, January 2002
What’s telling about this interview, is that it was President Hinckley’s idea. It was one of the main showcases of Mormonism in his movement to bring the church out of the Wasatch Front and into the position of a respected, major world religion. His several interviews and media appearances were greeted by the faithful as warm and charming and wonderful for the church. Yes, he came off as a harmless, kindly old grandfather who would never slit your throat in your sleep and probably wasn’t a polygamist pedophile—a nice well-meaning old guy who apparently doesn’t really worship the devil after all. If that’s all the church was hoping for: mission accomplished—till the next outbreak of crazed polygamy in Texas.
At some point, certainly after that interview, somebody in the Mormon establishment might have thought to coach him on how to answer very basic questions he knew were going to keep coming up. The question of monotheism and polytheism relative to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was fought out for the first three or four centuries of the Christian Church. It’s Christianity 101, a freshman question. It’s not an elite question to be asking a man who claims to be the sole representative of all three here on earth. The only two answers to basic questions like these that President Hinckley ever developed during the whole campaign were, “That was then, this is now,” and “We’re beyond that now.” What does that mean? Does that mean, yes, our prophets have been hoodwinking you up to now but it won’t happen again? Those are just lame non-answers a nice old duffer gets away with because nobody wants to be seen as beating him up.
Yeah, in Mormon church president Hinckley’s 2002 media blitz the world saw perhaps the church as a whole to be harmless and perfectly willing to forget all about troubling questions of the past. Even if the past was only 1978. But the world gave President Hinckley and his church a pass only in the context of chuckling along with a simple, provincial old Utah hick who knew nothing about Christianity and even less about the church he claimed to be the prophet, seer and revelator of.
Any Mormon prophet with millions of church members around the world believing him to have a direct pipeline to God could not at some point avoid asking for a bit of advice on the whole Adam-God issue from the Divine Creator he claims to be chief witness of. Yes or no. It’s a simple question. Was Brigham Young misquoted or wrong, or is Adam in fact God? Yes or no. To say it doesn’t matter is disingenuous. It matters to every member of the church what every prophet says. The Brethren keep telling them every prophet speaks in “modern scripture.” The whole point of modern prophecy is to get answers. The true nature of God matters. Joseph Smith wrote whole books on answers to questions just like that. So did Joseph F. Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith and others before the Correlation era.
Anyone claiming to be spokesman for Jesus Christ ought to be able to say definitively whether or not he’s really speaking for Adam instead. Couldn’t any LDS church president easily call a big council on the matter and finally come out and say, for instance, that no, we carefully studied the subject and decided that Adam is not God and we don’t care what Brigham Young may or may not have meant about it? It is oxymoronic for a prophet seer and revelator to say, “I don’t know” on any matter of church doctrine.
That’s his whole job—to get answers. That’s the whole Mormon church. Getting answers from God through a living prophet.
So either this prophet, seer and revelator thing today works rather differently than the way Mormons imagine it to work, or the whole thing’s a bluff. The Mormon prophet either sits down with Jesus every morning and can ask anything about anything and answer any question with absolute, perfect knowledge and authority, or if not, the Mormon prophet and church president at least most of the time, is subject to the normal standards of personal revelation like everyone else. The problem with answering this question officially, is that it would have to come from the very prophets, seers, and revelators it applies to. They would either be ranking previous prophets as errant, or admitting they aren’t inspired enough to know what the heck their predecessors were rambling on about. They would be self-diminishing their own omniscience and that of every LDS General Authority before them and forever after. An LDS prophet would become a far less infallible leader in the eyes of the faithful masses. It’s sort of like expecting Congress to vote for their own pay cut.
Does the Mormon prophet talk directly, regularly, face-to-face with Jesus Christ as it is widely held? The Brethren have coyly allowed this assumption to go unchallenged. Until recently it was quite popular for General Authorities to make frequent, vague, public allusions supporting this notion. Or does the reigning Mormon prophet have to make do for the most part with listening for quiet promptings from that still, small voice, after a lot of study, prayer, and pondering? Does it then really just come down to being informed, educated, and discerning enough to know what questions to ask–or at least know that questions need to be asked?
It’s one thing to say: I’m a simple representative of the third-generation of a young church and my entire world view, my entire religious experience is of my family and people getting kicked around and hiding in a dustbowl. Consequently, I see Mormonism as a very common, unsophisticated and pragmatic religion. But it’s stretching that excuse beyond all sense and reason to call yourself a “prophet” and then admit you really don’t know much about your own doctrines past or present when you’re the guy directly in charge of defining present doctrine and interpreting past doctrine.
For the highest Mormon leadership to dismiss early Christian history as unimportant is perhaps forgivable. It is myopic but perhaps it’s just laziness or a shortcut to getting their point across, which is, Christian history is all wrong anyway. For Mormon church leadership to pretend however that they can’t say for sure what present Mormonism is all about is just silly. If you’re the prophet, the president of the church, it’s about whatever you say it’s about.
Mormons are not Christians. But the sad truth is, today’s Mormons are also no longer Mormons in the same sense that Joseph Smith was a Mormon—or even in the same sense that the pioneers who followed Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley were Mormons. They are not led by prophets who function in the same capacity or at least to the forthcoming degree that Joseph Smith functioned as a prophet. Joseph Smith’s Mormonism was a young, innovative, radically liberal frontier rebellion from the well-understood world-Christian status quo. Contemporary Mormonism by contrast is a collection of committees populated with elderly Utahans who grew up isolated in a comfortably settled, exclusively Mormon paradise along the Wasatch Front courtesy of Brigham Young and company. The modern Mormon church is now apparently longing to simply fit back into the world Christian tradition somehow. Lacking any major personal vision, bereft of any personal history of life-and-death physical and spiritual heroism, they have fallen into a worship of the ancestors who provided them with their comfortable little society through bygone years of work, study, hardship, suffering, and an undying faith in God. But they can only emulate them in a romanticised, revisionsist glory, because it is no longer within their realm of understanding to know what made them tick deep inside.
Joseph Smith brought Mormonism into the world kicking butt and taking names. Now Mormonism just wants to be accepted. Now Mormonism just wants a hug. Joseph Smith rejected all of orthodox Christianity almost two-hundred years ago as of this writing. His followers have been licking wounds, quarreling with the Christian dominated US government and chasing their own theological tails pointlessly around in circles in a big dirty rift out in Utah ever since he was murdered.
Today, Joseph Smith’s legacy just wants a comfy chair, some peace and quiet, and a nice long nap. They’re not looking for the best and the brightest. They’re not looking for an improved understanding of God and His wonderous universe. They don’t want pioneers or religious revolutionaries. They’re just looking for people who do what they’re told, don’t dress scruffily, don’t smoke, drink, take coffee or tea, play nicely with others, and won’t make trouble. That’s Mormonism to them now.
I guess Mao was right.