Mormons, The Temple and Eternal Families
I was curious and desirous to know about eternal things and did believe, but I didn't know who or what God was. Our family attended Methodist and non-denominational churches on a sporadic basis when I was growing up.
My mother died when I was eight. This event caused me to wonder more intensely about God, family relationships and eventually about what the truth was. My earliest recollection of some concept of God was the front page of the program at the Methodist church in Caldwell Idaho when I was 5 or 6 years old. It showed the face of a Christlike figure without a body but with a trail of dust and light behind it.
When I was seven we moved to Grandview Idaho. One of our babysitters was a Mormon and talked a lot about her church. She told us how it was different from other churches, even that it was the true church. I remember asking my dad about it and he said that all churches were the really the same.
Over the next 5 years I would meet other Latter-Day Saints in this small farming community in Southwest Idaho but I was still young and not much interested religion. Going to our church was a chore and something we did not want to do as kids. My brother attended the Mormon Primary class with some friends but I never did. Her words about a true church for some reason stuck in my mind.
When we moved to Boise, I met more Mormons, and became aware of some of their teachings. I went to church with some friends when I was about 16. I learned about how they were not supposed to use tobacco or drink alcohol. I heard about their doctrines of living prophets like in the Bible and the principle of eternal marriage, families and temples. I had never heard such teachings from orthodox Christian ministers about eternal marriage. I quickly realized that many things I had been told about Mormons were not true and that those that had tried to dissuade me were seriously misinformed.
The Christian churches that I attended taught that marriage was until death do you part as their fundamental orthodox theology. Over the years I have asked many people what they thought about family relationships and most claim some hope that their family relationships continue after death. This is not however what orthodox Christianity teaches.
I made a many discoveries in the process of learning about Mormonism and mainstream Christians. Every doctrinal teaching and practice in mainstream Christianity is based on opinions of Bible scholars, not revelation or affirmation from God. In essence all sectarianism is based the philosophies of various individuals that disagree about what the Bible teaches. Mormonism is founded on direct revelation from God to prophets the same as the pattern in the Bible.
I became aware that most Christians are not familiar with the basic tenets of their own fundamental mainstream Christian doctrinal teachings. Mormonism gives the strongest assurance that I know of that marriage and family relationships can indeed continue with those bonds of love and affection continuing and even increasing in the eternities.
As I learned basic LDS beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, living prophets and the doctrine of eternal families, I found answers to questions that the sectarian ministers could not answer with any logical conclusion.
Where did we come from, why are we here on earth and what happens after we die? Their perspective seemed to be that so much of life is just a mystery and God left it to us to figure out. Their answer that the Bible is perfect but that no person, minister or scholar understands it perfectly never seemed logical to me. This is one reason there are so many churches. My personal view was that if there was one God over us all, why would he have more than one church?
When I was 17 years old I was baptized and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Many of my questions were answered and God confirmed the truth of it to me through the power Holy Ghost. This is a pattern explained in the Bible. It is part of the process of being born again spiritually. Before that time I had no idea as to how God would communicate truth to me.
I have observed convincingly that he loves us and will reveal truth to us. Truth can be communicated to us that is consistent with truth already revealed and authority that exists to receive it. Such is the Lord's church. The churches of men have no such authority. Mainstream protestantism is essentially a rejection of the Catholic church and continuing disagreement among Bible Scholars.
Some tried to tell me I was not informed enough about religion, that Mormons were not Christians, but a cult and other misleading things as well to dissuade me. Now after 43 years I have been well assured by association and study and know with absolute certainty their suppositions were not correct and they were misinformed themselves.
These long standing myths about Mormons persist in the modern era. Just for starters everything in the church, Sunday attendance and worship, the temple, tithing and any participation in any respect is voluntary. There is no paid clergy and there have been 16 prophet leaders. Jesus Christ and his gospel and teachings are at the center of our beliefs. The majority of the church has never met Joseph Smith yet his early critics established a narrative that persists with all of its falsehoods that we somehow worship him.
How could 14 year old uneducated boy be a mastermind or mind control genius of some kind according to the allegations of the church being a cult. These are perhaps the most ludicrous of the myths perpetuated by his and the churches' critics. This video explains how the church began. It is a principle we can all use to discover truth.
I have watched how activity in the church has blessed my family. I served a two year mission to Argentina when I was 19. I was married in the temple 39 years ago. My children have chosen to be married in the temple as well. Five have served missions, my five sons-in-law have served missions and our youngest son is on a mission. I have also known hundreds of members and observed thousands of people in the church. Millions of others have had experiences similar to mine as we witness the effects of the gospel teachings and living them.
I have served in many callings and currently am a primary teacher with my wife, serving a local service mission and a temple ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple. As I look back over my experience with the church, the temple and the doctrines of Christ and eternal families that are associated with it, I feel an extreme amount of gratitude.
One of the false stories that I had heard before I joined the church was that Mormons believed that only Mormons went to heaven. Other Christians still claim that we are not Christian. I knew it wasn't true but didn't really understand why others thought that. I became aware of this along with a multitude of other inaccurate things that Mormons supposedly believe and do.
These notions circulate in sectarian church meetings and other settings and are often promoted by those that disagree with the church on various principles, doctrines and teachings. They then team up with various Bible scholar apologists to promote anti-Mormon bigotry.
Being accused of not being a Christian made me wonder what other Christians really believed. Learning about some of the differences in theology taught me why there are certain misunderstandings circulating in the religious world about Mormons. I discovered that most church attending Christians are not familiar with their own theology let alone that of Mormon teachings.
Mormons believe that we lived with God before we came to earth. We are literally the sons and daughters of God. All human beings are literal brothers and sisters. The theology is very unique in that as I mentioned earlier we teach that marriage and family unit relationships can be eternal. Another unique claim of Latter-Day Saints is that we are created literally in the image of God, male and female.
Orthodox Christianity teaches that we were created out of nothing at our birth, we never lived with God or knew him and all we are is simple pawn like creations. They say we would be robots if God hadn't given us free will. They teach that that this was God's first and only creation with people on it. They also teach that God has no form, is celibate, solitary and genderless. In mainstream Christian terminology words like brothers and sisters, mother and father are used, but are only metaphorical and not as we understand them in our family relationships.
There is no actual relationship with our creator in orthodox teachings and its theological conclusions. Since Jesus and God are the same essence of being, even though the terms father and son are used, they are neither father or son since they are the same formless being and genderless. For a short time Jesus was corporeal but Christian scholars don't agree on whether the resurrection was literal or his eternal state of existing or not.
Mormons as a Christian church has millions of believers worldwide and does not believe that God is an incorporeal, incomprehensible entity. We do not believe in the mysterious trinity of the Nicene Creed of orthodox Christianity. We believe in an eternal godhead consisting of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. They are the divine leadership fully united as one in the saving process of Heavenly Father's children.
Orthodox sectarian churches teach that God is single or solitary, genderless, celibate and incorporeal in nature. Mormons believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies. They are men, and literally a father and his son. They are exalted beings of the highest possible glory and we at present are not. We do look like them however and that is what it means to be created in their image.
Mainstream Christianity again teaches that we are created in the image of God (that is what the Bible teaches) however orthodox theologians also teach the formless nature of deity and therefore the impossibility of being created in God's image. This is a contradiction that seems evident to me. They use other metaphors to be in God's image.
The average Christian believer that has some biblical scholarship as well as those that don't find God most approachable in the form of Jesus Christ. For the obvious reason he was incarnate or embodied in flesh. According to their own theology he is not really the son of God, but a part of a mystical trinity of beings that form one incorporeal god. Neither fatherhood or sonship is actually acknowledged except for metaphorical purposes since the Bible uses those terms.
Their precept is that deity is genderless by determination of Bible scholars and such teachings of orthodox theological seminaries and divinity schools. Mankind is according to these scholars a creation of this being, a pawn of sorts, but not really a child like we are children to our parents.
According to these same professors of religion we are not really created in the image and likeness of God at all because according to them God has no form. To Mormons the image of God is not a single genderless deity as taught by mainstream theologians but is male and female as in separate and actual beings, NOT in the same person.
According to Mormons, our individual intelligence is eternal and our spirit is the offspring of God in a literal manner. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are part of God's eternal family. Our creation is the result of divine love between eternal beings, one our heavenly father and the other, our heavenly mother. All of us are brothers and sisters to each other and to Jesus Christ and have parents in heaven who are our creators.
Our life on earth is an essential part of a growth process and an eternal pattern of creation that allows us to develop our eternal potential. All mankind will be saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ no matter what they believed while alive. The resurrection does consist of varying degrees however. We came to earth for a divine purpose to form our own families, which also can be eternal as I mentioned. The temple blessings and covenants exist for this purpose. This is our turn to learn to love, serve, create and nurture the life giving process.
I believe that because of his perfect love God wants all of us to return to live with him. It is however our choice. He will not force us and cannot force us because he also abides by perfect justice. This is based on the doctrine or principle of moral agency. He will give us the information we need to return to his presence but it only happens if we chose it and follow it. That is how we demonstrate our faith. We do make a doctrinal distinction between salvation and exaltation. The choices we make affect the outcome.
Those that offer willing commitments through their covenants to the eternal designs of our Heavenly Father receive all of the necessary grace to become exalted in the image and likeness of God. That is his ultimate endowment based on his perfect love, justice and mercy and our willingness to accept it and act on it.
The idea that families are eternal was something that struck a profound agreement with me as I was learning about religious precepts. The LDS church is very different in this regard so I will explain something about this.
What is the difference between a chapel and a temple in the Mormon Church? Why do Mormons believe in eternal family relationships and others do not? This questions was a powerful part of my journey to understand who we are as human beings. Do we have a spirit that is eternal, without beginning or end or are we mere pawns created out of nothing at our birth?
The scriptures speak of God making covenants with the ancient prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It talks of a posterity as endless as the stars and of blessing all the families of the earth. How is this to be done?