Friday, 19 February 2010

Sensational Dispensationalism

Last time we began to look at Mormonism and Judgement. Having seen what the Bible has to say on judgement and compared it with Mormonism we now look at why Mormons take such a peculiar and unbiblical view of judgement. Mormons believe that God is an exalted man and that he became God by obeying his God. They also believe that men can become gods. In other words, to a Christian God is sublimely different, “other” than us, whose ways are as different to and higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8), different in quality.

To a Mormon God differs from us only in that he has grown so much further than we have, and is different only in quantity. In the same way, while Christians regard Christ as God the Son, this sublime and supreme creator-God come in the flesh, Mormons use similar phrases to describe an entirely different Jesus who is, again, different only in that he has “progressed” further than us. God is a man and Joseph is a man. The only difference between the two is that of magnitude and sphere of existence (note that word sphere. We are about to come across it again).

God’s Plan of Happiness

To a Mormon God has a “great plan of happiness” and Jesus has a role in that plan just as Joseph has a role in that plan. Mormonism isn’t about God but about the plan. Everyone is subservient to the plan, even God himself. For it is by keeping to the plan that God became God. The Mormon priesthood is executive power to administer and carry through the plan, and each dispensation, or ecclesiastical age of the world is administered by those holding this priesthood. Even God himself is subservient to the priesthood, for it is by the priesthood that he had “authority” to create the world.

Christ carried out his office by the power of the priesthood and could not be our Saviour without it. In this scheme - where God and his Christ are only greater than us in development, and priesthood and the plan are greater than all - it seems natural to say in one breath that Joseph is acting under the authority of Christ, and in the next to say that we must have Joseph’s permission to enter heaven. He is at the head of the dispensation in which we live and holds the executive power for it.

Justified by Joseph

Because Mormons understand the judgement by the saints to mean juridical jurisdiction they have no problem ascribing to Joseph the role of judge as they do. Look again at the quote from Brigham Young:

”If I can pass brother Joseph, I shall stand a good chance for passing Peter, Jesus, the Prophets, Moses, Abraham, and all back to Father Adam, and be pretty sure of receiving his approbation.... If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here’; if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel.”

Keys, Passwords, Grips and Angels

There is a pyramidal structure here in which people must pass a series of dispensational key-holders to gain heaven. Joseph, Peter, Jesus, the prophets, Moses, Abraham, Adam. In the Mormon temple, prior to 1990, those attending learned a series of handgrips and passwords “to pass the angels who stand sentinel”. And, although God stands at the head of this structure he is by no means at the head of everything, for his God has progressed beyond him, as has his God in turn, and so on into infinity. No one that Mormons speak of is ever all in all, the prime mover, the uncreated creator of all things. They know no such being, and if they did he would be a man.

Brigham Young said,

If we can pass the sentinel Joseph the Prophet, we shall go into the celestial kingdom, and not a man can injure us. If he says, ‘God bless you, come along here’; if we will live so that Joseph will justify us, and say, ‘Here am I, brethren,’ we shall pass every sentinel.”

How can Joseph’s passport guarantee us entry? What of all the others mentioned in the list? The authority of every dispensation from Adam onwards is conferred upon Joseph Smith. This is what Joseph Fielding Smith had to say:

If all things are to be restored, and if the dispensation of the fulness of times is made up of, and is a uniting of, all dispensations, with their keys and powers, since the days of Adam, then those who held the keys of these various dispensations would have to confer them upon the head of one who stands at the head of the last dispensation, and the prophet Joseph Smith is that one. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol.3, p.97, emphasis in original)

men and gods

He then quotes Doctrine and Covenants 128:20-21which describes this happening. In this scheme the idea that men and gods are the same species gives a completely different view of things. It doesn’t seem so audacious for Mormons to make such incredible claims for Joseph. Indeed, they are not incredible at all if God is only a greater man than us, Christ is playing his, albeit greater role, and Joseph playing his, and all progressing to even greater glory. Again, read Brigham Young:

He (Joseph) holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation - the keys to rule in the spirit-world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. (That word “sphere” again).

Praise to the Man!

There is a hymn in the Mormon Church, sung to the tune of “Scotland the Brave”, in which Joseph is lauded for his achievements. I took the opportunity recently of asking two men for their thoughts on it. Both are Christians of long-standing, one an experienced chorister of many years, the other a pastor in a local Baptist Church, and neither knew much about Mormonism.

I interviewed them separately. Without comment or preamble, I simply handed them a copy of the Mormon Hymnbook. They leafed through the book, finding such familiar hymns as “Onward Christian Soldiers, The First Noel, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, Now Thank We All Our God”. I think they were impressed. Then I asked them to turn to hymn 27 where they found the following:

Praise to the Man who communed with Jehovah!

Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.

Blessed to open the last dispensation,

Kings shall extol him and nations revere.

Praise to his memory he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever-great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.

Ever and ever the keys he will hold.

Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,

Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;

Earth must atone for the blood of that man.

Wake up the world for conflict of justice.

Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.

Chorus:

Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven!

Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vein.

Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;

Death cannot conquer the hero again.

For both men silence ensued for what seemed an age. One was prompted to ask “Is this about Jesus?” The other, on coming across the fourth verse, expressed amazement that Mormons made so much of Joseph of Egypt. It just didn’t sink in until I told them who Joseph was. Nothing more, I simply said, “This is Joseph Smith.” Another silence followed. Then the comments came. Responding to the chorus, one said, “But there is only one who plans for us, that is Jesus.”

The same man drew a parallel between this element and the Catholic view of Mary as co-redemptrix. The pastor wanted to know where Jesus was in all this.

“They are worshipping Joseph”, he said.

I objected that all faiths have their heroes, Christians have their “Saints”, Peter, Augustine, etc. He didn’t see it that way.

“We don’t ‘praise’ them, we don’t ‘hail them’ like this”, he said.

“Whose blood are we talking about here?” one asked.

“Joseph’s”, I replied. The word “Blasphemy” came out.

“This is shocking”, said the pastor, “I knew they weren’t right about some things but I had no idea they were this wrong.”

I asked the chorister whether he, in his many years of singing hymns and worship songs, had come across anything like it in Christian hymnology. He spoke of hymns that praised God for certain men, prayed to God for people, even told, in song, stories from the Bible (the breadth of his knowledge impressed me), but nothing that praised, extolled, revered a man.

I think that Mormons, who are so inured to this way of thinking, have no idea how shocking it is to people who know only the orthodox, traditional Christianity. These men were “seasoned” and experienced Christians, not new to the faith, not ivory tower dwellers. They were stunned.

What Man is This?

If you were to ask a Christian who it was that fitted the main elements of this song,

  • Someone to be praised and honoured and whose name is “ever-great”;
  • Who is to be extolled and revered by kings and nations;
  • Whose blood pleads to heaven;
  • Whose priesthood is endless;
  • Who will enter into and be crowned in his kingdom;
  • Whose death must be answered for by the world;
  • Who has ascended to heaven;
  • Whom death cannot conquer;
  • And who plans for his brethren

What name do you think they would come up with?

 

Previously: Mormonism and Judgement

2 comments:

  1. The last bit on Praise to the Man is just horrendous ... I just don't understand how they don't see it. It has to be willful, you can't just skim over such a glaringly obvious equation of Joseph to Jesus.

    I was raised and still am Catholic, but there are songs about Mary that make me really uncomfortable - though to be fair it's really only a small number of Catholics who consider her co-redemptrix. It is however doctrine that she was born without sin and was assumed into heaven (like Elijah) at the end of her life. Anything that takes your focus from Jesus and points towards man is blasphemy.

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  2. Yes Carla, although it took leaving and coming to Christ to help me see it. I have, in my Christian life, been encouraged to think deeply about my religion and this is something Mormons don't do.

    If you put six quotes from six different Christian commentators before a Mormon and ask them if they find any of them compelling they will always choose, if they choose anything, the one that appears to agree with their Mormonism.

    They will not ponder, consider and reconsider but look for anything that "agrees" with them. This is how a lot of people think and it doesn't lead to spiritual growth but stagnation.

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