Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 12
Response to claims made in "Chapter 12: Heaven and Hell"
|Chapter 11: Grace and Works||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
|Chapter 13: Communion and Baptism|
- Response to claim: 171 - The authors state that the LDS believe that "a person is destined for one of six places after death"
- Response to claim: 172 - The key to understanding LDS soteriology is to "examine the biblical proof texts the Latter-day Saints use...to support their views"
- Response to claim: 172 - "many scholars believe that Paul was referring to heavenly bodies such as the moon, sun, and stars"
- Response to claim: 172 - The next "proof text" the authors consider is 2 Corinthians 12:2-4: "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago...such a one caught up to the third heaven..."
- Response to claim: 17-174 - The authors state that Outer Darkness is reserved for those who commit murder or apostasize until they are resurrected and judged, and that those who fail to enter the Telestial kingdom after judgment will "return again to outer darkness, this time for eternity"
- Response to claim: 174-175 - The authors claim that Mormons' understanding of the Telestial Kingdom "is completely foreign to the Bible"
- Response to claim: 175-176 - "For those whose 'righteousness' will enable them to escape both outer darkness and the telestial kingdom, the next level up is a terrestrial kingdom"
- Response to claim: 177 - The authors claim that "Mormon males become gods of their newly inherited worlds" in the Celestial Kingdom
- Response to claim: 178 - LDS theology teaches that people can become angels. According to the authors, the "Bible, however, does not teach that people become angels. Angels are a distinct creation of God"
- Response to claim: 179 - "Mormon males and their goddess wives will have the ability to populate the worlds they will inherit"
- Response to claim: 179-180 - "Mormonism's heaven revolves around personal adoration and eternal sexual relations"
- Response to claim: 181 - The authors note that any "earth that a faithful Mormon hopes to eventually inherit, is predestined to be infected with sin" and that the "Mormon as 'God' will be in charge of the mess"
- Response to claim: 182-183 - "Only a people ignorant of God's righteousness can think that they can establish their own righteousness and thereby meet the standard of God's absolute perfection"
- Response to claim: 184 - The authors claim that "those who believe that personal merit will vindicate them will be horribly disappointed"
Response to claim: 172 - The key to understanding LDS soteriology is to "examine the biblical proof texts the Latter-day Saints use...to support their views"
Response to claim: 172 - "many scholars believe that Paul was referring to heavenly bodies such as the moon, sun, and stars"
- For a detailed response, see: 1 Corinthians 15:40 as a "proof text?" and History of the belief in a three-part heaven
- For a detailed response, see: 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 as a "proof text?" and History of the belief in a three-part heaven
- For a detailed response, see: Fate of the "Sons of Perdition" and Will the "sons of Perdition" be resurrected?
Response to claim: 175-176 - "For those whose 'righteousness' will enable them to escape both outer darkness and the telestial kingdom, the next level up is a terrestrial kingdom"
- For a detailed response, see: Do Latter-day Saints believe that they can become gods and rule over their own planets? and Nature of God/Deification of man
- For a detailed response, see: Plan of salvation/Angels
Response to claim: 179 - "Mormon males and their goddess wives will have the ability to populate the worlds they will inherit"
Question: Do Mormon men believe that they will become "gods of their own planets" and rule over others?
Mormons believe in human deification, but what this doctrine means or entails is beyond human comprehension
It is claimed by some that Mormons believe that they can push themselves higher in a type of 'celestial pecking order.' This is often expressed by the claim that Latter-day Saint men wish to become "gods of their own planets." One critic even extends this to our "own universe,"
Mormons teach that by obedience to all the commandments of Mormonism, a Mormon may attain the highest degree of heaven and ultimately become a god, creating and ruling over his own universe. Do you believe that? Is this your ultimate personal goal?
Members of the Church—like early Christians—believe in human deification or theosis. They assert that this doctrine is taught in the Bible and by modern revelation. However, what this doctrine means or entails is beyond human comprehension anyway. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," taught Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Most members of the Church realize that they have enough on their plates to do and become through Christian discipleship and keeping their covenants. They do not spend much time concerned about the details of their future state. They are simply confident that they will be happy, in families, and back in the presence of God where they will continue to do His will.
Certainly we can have the end in mind, remembering the relationship of Father to child is crucial. He will always, through all eternity, be our Father and our God. Still, it would be unwise to jump the gun and assume we are practically almost there; we have plenty to do in the meantime, and an eternal and abiding need for the grace of Christ to compensate for our manifest inadequacies.
The critics' accusations along these lines are a caricature of LDS belief, and omit virtually everything of importance in their discussion of this doctrine.
The caricature: Mormons wishing to "get their own planet"
Mormons, along with many other Christian denominations, believe in deification or theosis, based on the teaching that we can become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Little is known, though much might be speculated, about the specific details of our potential under this doctrine. Reducing it to ruling a planet caricatures a profound and complex belief. The use of the word “planet” makes Mormons seem more like sci-fi enthusiasts than devout Christians.
This isn’t just a quibble about semantics. Claims that Mormons hope for “their own planets” almost always aim to disrespect and marginalize, not to understand or clarify. The reality is that we seek eternal life, which we consider to be a life like that of our Father in Heaven. We consider our immediate task on Earth to learn to understand and obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than speculate on what life might be like if we achieve exaltation. Specifics about the creation of worlds and the ability to govern them upon achieving eternal life are not clarified in Latter-day Saint scripture. Attempts to portray these concepts as simply wanting to “get our own planet” are a mockery of Latter-day Saint beliefs.
The reality: Latter-day Saints wishing to become like their Father in Heaven
Much criticism of Joseph Smith and the Church in general stems from a teaching regarding the eternal potential of mankind. The Church believes that men and women are the "offspring" of Heavenly Parents (see Acts 17:28-29) composed of the same eternal substance (see DC 93:33-35) and hence we have divine possibilities through the grace of Christ. Latter-day Saints believe that they can achieve a life like that of our Father in Heaven. This implies that one can eventually participate in similar works, among which would be the creation of worlds. In 2001, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted,
The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does. We learn both the spiritual things and the secular things “so we may one day create worlds [and] people and govern them” (Henry B. Eyring, quoting Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, October 2002.)
Elder's Eyring and Kimball are not the only ones to make such references. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Joseph Fielding Smith all associated becoming like our Heavenly Father with the creation of worlds, and the populating of these worlds with spirit children.
However, there are many names for (and many interpretations of) this belief in and out of the Church. There are various schools of thought on what it might mean for a person to become a "god" after this life. On this view, Brigham Young didn't teach of countless gods doing their own thing in countless universes, each out for their own concerns. According to Brigham, there will be no such separate kingdoms of personal power
...to yourself, by yourself, and for yourself, regardless of every other creature.
But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth. If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead...If we fancy that we have an independent interest here and in the world to come, we shall fail in getting any of it.
Your interest must be concentrated in the head on the earth, and all of our interest must center in the Godhead in eternity, and there is no durable interest in any other channel.
Along these lines, consider the interesting sermon by Heber C. Kimball from 1856. In this discourse, President Kimball tangentially referred to deification, not as a glorious declaration that we will become gods or godlike, but to remind his listeners not to put the cart before the horse. We ought to consider becoming true "Saints" before focusing too much on being gods.
Many think that they are going right into the celestial kingdom of God, in their present ignorance, to at once receive glories and powers; that they are going to be Gods, while many of them are so ignorant, that they can see or know scarcely anything. Such people talk of becoming Gods, when they do not know anything of God, or of His works; such persons have to learn repentance, and obedience to the law of God; they have got to learn to understand angels, and to comprehend and stick to the principles of this Church.
…I bear testimony of this, and I wish you would listen to counsel and lay aside every sin that doth so easily beset you, and turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart.</ref>
Similarly, during the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith is said to have taught:
When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel--you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.
The need for divine grace
Christ said "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (see Matthew 5:48) and members of the Church tend to take that charge literally. The trouble is, some Saints might feel they can or even must achieve this impossible goal through their own efforts. In conversations about grace and works Mormons are quick to quote: "faith without works is dead," (see James 2:20), often in reaction to extreme conservative Protestantism's claims that one can be saved by faith alone without a concurrent change in behavior and life wrought by that faith. In this respect, the Latter-day Saints share far more with the early Christians than they do with modern conservative Protestantism.
Members must also remember, however, that works without faith is also dead, and Heber seems to be trying to express that message.
Here we see an early example of a Church leader discussing "grace," though he still maintains a perspective in which works are essential. It is for us, today, to focus on today, and retain a remission of sins relying on Christ, as the light grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day, when the rest of this doctrine can be figured out more clearly. In the meantime, our probation continues, and Heber had a few pieces of advice to impart:
We cannot become perfect, without we are assisted by our heavenly Father. We must be faithful and of one heart, and one mind, and let every man and woman take course to build up and not pull down. See that you save your grain, that you may save yourselves from the wicked of the world. Try to take care of every thing that is good to eat, for this is the work of the Lord God Almighty, and we shall have times that will test the integrity of this people, that will test who is honest and who is not.
Omitting prayer is calculated to lead the mind away from those duties which are incumbent upon us; then let us attend to our prayers and all our duties, and you will know that brother Brigham and his brethren have told you of these things...
There are trying times ahead of you, do you not begin to feel and see them? If you do not, I say you are asleep. I wish that the spirit which rests upon a few individuals could be upon you, everyone of you, it would be one of the most joyful times that brother Brigham and I ever saw with the Saints of God upon this earth.
Response to claim: 179-180 - "Mormonism's heaven revolves around personal adoration and eternal sexual relations"
Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a practice called "celestial sex," and that this is the manner in which "spirit children" are formed?
It is the critics of the Church that invented and use the offensive term "celestial sex"
This is not a term used by Latter-day Saints. It has, in fact, never been used by Latter-day Saints. The use of the term "celestial sex" by critics is intended to be demeaning and shocking to Latter-day Saints or interested readers. The use of such tactics may say much about the mainstream culture's preoccupation with sexual behavior. However, it says nothing about the actual beliefs of Church members.
Critics of the Church twist LDS beliefs into a form that makes them look ridiculous. Quotes made by early LDS leaders are often used to support the claim that Latter-day Saints believe in “Celestial sex.” It should be noted, however, that LDS leaders have never used the term "Celestial sex." This phrase was coined by critics of the Church, likely for its “shock value” in portraying the following concepts in LDS belief:
- The belief that God the Father has a physical body.
- The belief that there exists a Heavenly Mother who also possesses a physical body.
- The belief that our Heavenly Father and Mother together are capable of creating “spirit children.”
Critics take these ideas and combine them, leading to a declaration that Latter-day Saints therefore believe in “Celestial sex.” Various anti-Mormon works then use this idea to mock LDS beliefs or shock their readers—though this claim does not describe LDS beliefs, but the critics' caricature of them.
One of the earliest uses of the term "celestial sex" was in the anti-Mormon film The God Makers
For example, the 1982 anti-Mormon film The God Makers makes reference to “engaging in celestial sex with their goddess wives." One woman in the film, who is claimed to have once been a Latter-day Saint, expresses the idea that the primary goal of women in the Church is to "become a goddess in heaven" in order to "multiply an earth" and be "eternally pregnant." The claim that Latter-day Saints expect to have "endless Celestial sex" in order to populate their own planet is very popular among critics of the Church, though members themselves would not explain their beliefs in that way.
The critics' assumptions simply take what we know about our physical world and naively apply it to the afterlife. When one examines the critics’ point further, a key question ought to be raised: How does the union of two immortal beings in a physical manner produce spirit offspring? Latter-day Saint belief is that “spirit children” only receive a physical body upon being born on earth.
This question, of course, cannot be answered. It is pointless to speculate on the exact manner in which “spirit children” are produced, and to assume that this occurs through “Celestial sex” and being "eternally pregnant" is to apply a worldly mindset to a spiritual process. The bottom line: Latter-day Saints do not know the mechanism by which “spirit children” are produced, and no LDS doctrine claims that "celestial sex" and being "eternally pregnant" are the means.
Question: What have Latter-day Saint leaders actually said about the method of procreation in the afterlife?
Church leaders have said very little about this, because little is known about the process
The fact that we do not know the exact process by which “spirit children” are created does not mean that LDS leaders have not speculated on the process. There are a few quotes that are often used to support the critics’ concept of “Celestial sex," which we will now examine:
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 387
"[I]ntelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual [spirit] entities."
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 750
"Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities."
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, 122
"[God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be."
— Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:122..
John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 69
The author of the anti-Mormon book Becoming Gods says the following:
"As for the sexual aspect of this event, LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe explained, 'Sex Among the Gods. Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere.'" (p. 392, n14)
Upon reading the quote above, it does indeed sound as if Widtsoe is talking about a “sex act” among gods. It must be noted, however, that Widtsoe referred to "sex" as a "quality" rather than a "practice." Of course, the fact that two genders exist at all implies that it somehow takes both to accomplish the creation of spirit children. Looking at Widtsoe’s quote in context, we learn that he is not speaking about the sex act, but about gender:
Sex Among the Gods.
Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere. It is indestructible. The relationship between men and women is eternal and must continue eternally. In accordance with Gospel philosophy there are males and females in heaven. Since we have a Father, who is our God, we must also have a mother, who possesses the attributes of Godhood. This simply carries onward the logic of things earthly, and conforms with the doctrine that whatever is on this earth is simply a representation of spiritual conditions of deeper meaning than we can here fathom.
Would a “sex act” be considered a “quality” that was “indestructible?” Critics rely on contextual presentism by quoting the term "sex" without the context that makes its meaning clear. It is more reasonable to consider “gender” a “quality” that is “indestructible.” Consider the following quote from James E. Talmage.
“We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of sex among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life. It was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both disembodied and resurrected states .... [The] scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing characteristics, including the distinction of sex, "before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth." ("The Eternity of Sex," Millennial Star (24 August 1922): 530.)"
Note the phrase “the distinction of sex.” Talmage is not talking about a “sex act,” but rather the distinction between the two sexes or genders.
Response to claim: 182-183 - "Only a people ignorant of God's righteousness can think that they can establish their own righteousness and thereby meet the standard of God's absolute perfection"
- For a detailed response, see: Plan of salvation
- For a detailed response, see: Plan of salvation/Three degrees of glory/Concept of Hell
- In apologetic terms, a proof text is typically a scripture, often pulled out of context, used to prove a doctrinal point.
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary of the Whole Bible (McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Co., 1706), 6:641.
- This article was based on a blog post, Blair Hodges, "Becoming Saints before gods," lifeongoldplates.com (8 February 2008), last accessed (28 December 2008) off-site (used with permission). Due to the nature of a wiki project, the text may have been subsequently modified.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:26-28.
- Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:306–307. Volume 6 link
- Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 4:1-7.