|An Anonymous Post
||[Feb. 26th, 2006|07:56 pm]
Are Mormons Christians?
The essay below was written by a friend of mine who wanted me to post it here anonymously. None of these are my words, but I am very impressed by this. My friend wrote this essay after much careful thought, study and consideration. Feel free to comment.|
Which God Do We Worship?
Latter-day Saint theology offers a departure from what came before in the teachings of Christianity about the nature of God and man. It's illustrative to compare the two.
The God we knew before Joseph Smith was eternal and pre-existent. He was not composed of matter, but of spirit. In fact he pre-existed all matter and created the earth and the rest of the known universe out of nothing.
Joseph Smith taught that matter and spirits were eternal. God did not create the universe, but basically found himself as a spirit in the middle of it, a man, just as we are. Through his superior ability to progress he became exalted, a God. And he was not alone; there were others, although he was pre-eminent.
The process of creating the earth was not the supreme being creating it out of nothing. The gods met together in council, as did the pre-existent spirits. They had a meeting where different plans were presented, and Christ's plan was chosen over Lucifer's. Then God and Jesus Christ organized the universe together, separate beings. Sort of like a father and a son restoring an old car together.
The God of the rest of the Christian world is not like us. He is superior to us, and does not share our basic physical nature.
The God of Latter-day Saint theology is fundamentally like us in that he is a personage of flesh and bone. He was once a man like us and progressed. He was better than us, but we can aspire to be like him, to have the things he has and to be like him, to create and populate universes without end.
Which Jesus Do We Worship?
Protestants often say that as Latter-day Saints we worship a different Jesus, and after a lot of reflection, what they say is true.
The Jesus we worship as Latter-day Saints is the one we read about in the New Testament. This portion of his life overlaps what other Christian churches teach from the New Testament, which might lead the Latter-day Saint to conclude that we worship the same one.
Where they differ is in their origins and in their future.
The Jesus Christ that Latter-day Saints worship is a created being. He is the son of our Heavenly Father, just the same as we are. Where he differs from us is that he was the first born, and he was more obedient. in Moses 4 and Abraham 3 Jesus and Lucifer both presented competing plans for the salvation of man, and God chose between them. He asked for volunteers and picked the one he thought best. What does this say about Jesus' status in the Kingdom of Heaven? To me it implies that Jesus is generally first among equals. Why was his plan chosen? Not directly because of his nature and status as Son of God, but because he was more humble and obedient. Heavenly Father asked for input and made a choice. He could have made a different choice.
This says to me that Jesus' basic nature is not that different from our own. In fact we refer to him as our elder brother. The thing that separates us is his character and obedience rather than his basic physical nature. That tells me that I can grow to become like him. In fact a major part of our doctrine that's different from other churches is our ability to become gods, create our own worlds, and institute the plan of salvation again in those worlds, where we will have our own spirit children, populate those worlds, and perhaps annoint one of them as a savior, much as Jesus was annointed savior of this world.
We contrast that with the Jesus of the rest of the Christian world, who is considered fully God and fully human at the same time. He is one with God the Father. Ultimately they are the same entity, and we view them in different aspects and in different roles in a way that I'm not sure anybody really understands.
This Jesus does not share our nature. He is God, with all the powers and abilities. He created the universe and established the system of justice and mercy that we labor under, yet he humbled himself to come to earth in order to save us from our sins, rules he himself made.
This Jesus is infinitely powerful, and is not like us, and we cannot become like him. He is not a created being like the LDS Jesus, but is co-eternal with the Father, sharing everything about him. His nature, his power, his authority.
He did not come to earth out of obedience to another authority. The maker of the rules died to pay the price for our inability to follow those same rules. He is not subordinate to God; he is fully God. His mercy is not subordinate to the justice of a higher God. It is fully equal, because they are the same being.
Which Man Are We?
As there is a difference between the God and Jesus of the rest of the Christian world and the God and Jesus of the Latter-day Saint world, so is there a difference in the nature of man.
Man in the rest of the Christian world is a creation in both body and spirit, unlike the Latter-day Saint model, where our spirits are eternal and the material of our bodies is and was organized out of existing materials.
The created man is eternally subordinate to the Creator. He is a completely different nature and completely dependent for where he came from, what he is, and what he will become. He cannot bridge the gap between God and Man on his own because of the imperfections of his nature. He lacks the capacity to perfect himself and be like his Father in Heaven. In a very fundamental way he needs Jesus Christ to bridge that gap because of his lack of capacity and the difference in his basic nature.
The Latter-day Saint view is one of eternal progression. Our basic nature is not that different from our Father in Heaven or Jesus Christ. He was just more talented than we were and progressed before we did. Similarly, Jesus Christ is not that different either. Just the first born, receiving status through his birth position in the family and his obedience to the will of the Father.
As our basic natures are not that different, we are not as dependent on God or Christ. Rather than needing them to bridge a gap we could not bridge on our own, we need them to make up the difference after we have expended our own best efforts. Theoretically we could progress on our own just as they did, since we share their natures. We're just not as proficient. We're still dependent, just not as dependent. Since we have the capacity to be like them it's our responsibility to perfect ourselves to the best of our ability, being fully self-reliant, only relying on them for that amount we can't accomplish on our own. We're constrained by time and distance, also. If we had an infinite amount of time and the personal influence of our Father in Heaven, possibly we could make the transition on our own. After all, He did.
So, the choice is before us. Which God do we follow? Which Jesus do we believe? Which Jesus do we follow? Which one is speaking to us? Do we rely wholly on the merits of Christ for our salvation, and hence owe him our eternal gratitude? Or is his role more like a personal trainer, to show us the way to perfection and to help us through the last few exercises we need in order to achieve eternal life?
Is the end of our existence to live with God as an eternal child, or to prepare ourselves in every way to eventually rule our own worlds at his side?