Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Should These Five Doctrinal Ideas Be Dropped From LDS Canon?

While visiting the Nine Moons blog, I discovered an interesting and thought-provoking post by Geoff Johnston. In this post, entitled "5 Popular Doctrinal Ideas That Probably Should Be Dumped", Johnston identifies and discusses five different ideas that he believes should not be promoted, and provides the justification for his objection. Since my response would be far too long for a typical comment, I decided to publish it here.

First, let's define "doctrine". I define doctrine as anything that can be supported scripturally by any of the LDS Church's four Standard Works. If scriptural support cannot be found, then the idea is better described as tradition, or even folklore, rather than doctrine.

Thus below, I present Johnston's ideas, his objections, and my responses:

-- Idea: God exhaustively knows the future.
-- Objection: Conflicts with the doctrine of free agency.
-- My Response: God may not know every jot and tittle of our future, but He does know the most likely possibilities, since He created us and has observed us over countless eons. This is reflected in the fact that he identified his "great and noble ones" before the foundation of the world, and arranged for many of them to be born at different times to ensure that the mortal world would never be totally left without the light of the Gospel, even in highly diluted form. Even so, we still have free agency in this life, and can choose to disobey.

-- Idea: Our spirits gestated in the womb of a resurrected celestial woman.
-- Objection: Joseph Smith once said that spirits have no beginning.
-- My Response: First, the canon did not close once again upon the death of Joseph Smith. This means anything said by Joseph Smith can be superseded by new wisdom and even revelation. Second, the newer wisdom, as expressed by Dr. Eric Skousen in "Earth In The Beginning", is that while we have always existed as entities, we once existed only as unorganized intelligences. We then encountered God, who offered us the opportunity to be organized, tested, and tabernacled. After being tested, we reached a point where we demonstrated no capacity to grow further, and were "locked in", being given a spirit tabernacle commensurate with our progress and capacities. Those of us making the greatest progress received spirit tabernacles in the very image of God Himself, for God identified us as having potential to begin progressing towards Godhood.

After eons of testing as spirits, we then reached our limits once again. The next step towards Godhood was to come down to a mortal planet and house our spirit tabernacles within an outer tabernacle of mortal flesh (similar in concept to fitting a hand into a glove). Two-thirds of us accepted the opportunity and came down at our appointed times.

In response to Johnston questioning how resurrected parents with physical bodies could bear children with no physical bodies, the answer is simple: If celestial parents tried to bring forth a mortal tabernacle in a celestial environment, the mortal tabernacle would be instantly destroyed. How many times do the scriptures state that no mortal man can behold the full glory of God, and afterwards remain in the flesh? Why did the Lord have Moses hide in the cleft of a rock up on Sinai? Because the Lord knew that if Moses beheld Him in full, his body would immediately be destroyed. Consequently, I suggest that mortal tabernacles can only be created in a mortal environment, thus celestial parents bear only spirit tabernacles in a celestial environment.

-- Idea: This life is our only chance to become at one with God and there is no progression between kingdoms.
-- Objection: Potentially conflicts with the doctrine of free agency.
-- My Response: The General Authorities sell this idea for a good reason; namely, they want us to make all the progress possible while on this earth. If people got the idea that there could be progression between the three kingdoms, or degrees of glory, in the next life, they might be tempted to pull their punches and settle only for terrestrial or telestial glory in advance.

The mission of the LDS Church is not merely to sell "heaven"; it is also to sell "celestial heaven", or the celestial kingdom. Because the LDS Church has the fulness of the Gospel, it is equipped to put people on the fast track to Godhood. Consequently, the General Authorities are going to sell "Godhood" rather than mere "angelhood". It's like if you're in the market for a truck, and you visit a Ford dealer. Is the Ford salesman going to tell you that it's O.K. to buy a Toyota? Of course not - he wants you to buy a Ford. Consequently, the president of the one church that has the fulness of the Gospel is not going to tell you that the telestial kingdom is O.K. when he has the authority to put you on the fast track to the celestial kingdom.

I suspect that there might be very limited progression between kingdoms in the next world, but it is much easier to qualify for the celestial kingdom while still on earth, because only a mortal planet offers the degree of temptation and privation necessary to make the fastest possible progress. The relationship between adversity and progress is directly proportional; the greater the adversity, the greater your opportunity to make progress. Until otherwise revealed through the official Priesthood channels, I will continue to assume there will be no post-mortal progression.

-- Idea: The world is coming to an end any day now.
-- Objection: Would encourage slothful stewardship.
-- My Response: Actually, I agree with the objection. Most objectionable is the Evangelical doctrine of pre-tribulation rapture, which encourages escapism. Latter-day Saints as a whole do NOT accept pre-tribulation rapture. But we do know that Jesus Christ will come sometime during the 21st century; however, His Second Coming is both chronologically-driven AND conditionally-driven. This means certain conditions must also be fulfilled. One of them is that the Gospel must be formally taken to all nations in advance. The Gospel has not been allowed to be preached in either the Middle East or China yet, so those areas need to be opened up before Christ can come again. In addition, the Bible states that no man knows the hour of Christ's coming, only the Father.

-- Idea: We really understand the atonement. Geoff Johnston claims we don't. I don't see why he makes an issue of this; it is commonly assumed that we don't understand the fulness of the Atonement. But we understand the basics of it, enough to set us on the road to salvation, so I see no reason to further belabor this issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you are aware of it, but I ran into a Google article titled "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" on the internet not long ago that can probably qualify as a sort of "bombshell"! Jim