Due to the fact that Mitt Romney is Mormon and running for president there has been a lot of talk about the LDS Church’s beliefs. So in an attempt to help people learn what the Church really believes I have decided to start this Q&A page. Ask anything you want, within the ground rules; which are: (The ground rules explanation took up too much space so here is the extremely edited version)
1. Be Respectful 2. No hostile arguing, this is not a debate forum, it is Q&A 3. Be patient, I may need to do research. Thats it: ask away
Q) How frequently do significant/revolutionary revelations from the Prophet come about? How would Mitt Romney handle these revelations as President?
A) Well, I wouldn’t presume to speak on behalf of Mitt, but he, similar to Kennedy, has already vowed that he will not be taking orders from SLC.
As for the first part of the question, the last revolutionary revelation was received in 1978 when the Priesthood was given to all worthy males. However, that is only the last extremely major one. More recently, the First Presidency’s Proclamation to the World on the Family is a prophetic instruction and warning on the family, the creation of smaller temples, and the recent push on food storage, emergency preparedness, and eliminating debt is often considered a prophetic warning.
A key thing to remember is that not every address by the Prophet is going to be groundbreaking and major. The Prophet simply a mouthpiece for God pertaining to issues that affect the world as a whole. However, all who hold the Priesthood, and really, everyone, can draw on the powers of God and receive revelation for that over which they have responsibility. For example, a Bishop has authority to receive revelation from God pertaining to needs of the Ward, a Father likewise for needs of his family, and so on. President Hinckley, however, is the only one given the keys to receive revelation for all of mankind and the Church.
Q) Is baptism for the dead a highly acclaimed practice? Why do Mormons practice baptism for the dead?
A) Yes, baptism for the dead is a “highly acclaimed” practice in the Church. Our youth (ages 12-18) go to the Temple a few times per year to perfom them. Additionally, it is one of the main temple ordinances in the Church, so all are encouraged to participate. It is taught regularly in sunday school or over the pulpit, especially when teaching about geneaology or salvation.
So why do we practice it? We believe that in order for a person to be saved, they have to be baptized. So what about those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel and be baptized? They are baptized via proxy by people living. Once this baptism has been performed, the person who is dead has the opportunity to accept or reject their baptism as being valid ((This is an important principle to remember, many people outside the Church think that once a person has been baptized for the dead they are automatically Mormon, this is not the case, the dead still have their agency.)) This has to be done by proxy because baptism is a physical ordinance and one must have a physical body to be baptized. As the dead have not yet been resurrected and only have spiritual bodies, they are unable to do it.
The biblical verse we use as a basis of this doctrine is 1 Corintians 15:29, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” This chapter, 1 Corinthians 15 is about the atonement and the resurrection (I address this topic below), in this verse Paul is basically asking, ‘if there is no resurrection, why are we baptizing people for the dead? It would be pointless.’ The “they” in the verse is referring to Christians who are performing the ordinances. This verse, while the only one on the topic in the Bible (at least clearly on the topic), indicates that Baptism for the Dead was a relatively common practice, especially considering Paul seems to refer to it almost in passing. However, this biblical verse is not the only thing we base the practice on, we also have modern-day revelation. Doctrine and Covenants 128 is a MUST read if you are interested in this topic, specifecally verses 6, 12, 16-18, it is fantastic and far better than I can say it.
Now let me share some personal thoughts on this topic. No doctrine demonstrates the love, greatness, mercy, and justness of God more than this. How sad and cold it must be to believe that simply because one is born, say, during the dark ages on a pacific island and never gets to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damned. Or if not damned, they can only progress so far; but because they have not been baptized they are not entitled to full and complete salvation. Baptism for the dead is a solemn and holy ordinance. What a blessing it is to give all generations of mankind the opportunity to learn of Christ and enter into his ordinances, that all mankind may be judged fairly and enter into exaltation. Surely, it is through the wisdom and mercy of God that this practice has been restored in our day.
Now let me address something from the question as posed by David, one of the caveat lines you wrote was, “…the resurrection of the body being based of acceptance of Jesus Christ…” I feel this doctrine of resurrection needs to be clarified or, at the least, give the LDS belief on resurrection. Because of Christ’s atonement, his death and resurrection, Christ “loosed the bands of death” and all will be resurrected. There is a physical death and spiritual death. Redemption from these is provided by the Savior, however redemption from spiritual death also requires effort on our part, whereas redemption from physical death through resurrection is given to all freely. The bible, while having very little on the subject, makes this clear in Acts 24:15, “And they have a hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” and 1 Corinthians 15:21-23. The Book of Mormon elaborates on this principle extremely well should you care to investigate further: Alma 11: 39-45, Alma 41 (specifically Verse 4, but the whole thing is an enlightening read).
Q) Why is Baptism for the Dead never mentioned in the Book of Mormon?
A) Honestly, I don’t know why. That is a good question. Perhaps the Lord didn’t have them practicing it or perhaps it was simply left out or just not mentioned. However, I like to think that two of the three sources we have to learn the word of God (Bible, Book of Mormon, and modern revelation being the three sources) is sufficient from which to base the practice. If any LDS folks (or otherwise) do have a BOM reference for baptism for the dead please mention it.
Q) Is it possible for me, as a non-Mormon, to go to Heaven after I die and be in full fellowship with Jesus Christ?
A) Yes, in full fellowship. “Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.” After “judgement day” (we call final judgement) all will be forgiven through the atonement of Christ and will go on to a place far better than we now live – heaven. Now, we also believe that in order to progress and attain all that God has prepared for us, you need to have performed the ordinances and proven your worthiness. In other words, there are different glories (or levels of progress?) that can be attained in heaven. The grace of Christ saves us and returns us to heaven, our efforts then move us on through the ranks if you will. (hmm, that is the first time I thought of the role of Grace vs. Works like that. Already a good day when I learn something new!)
Q) I was told (on a tour of the beehive house) that children are baptized at age 8. What is the fate of children that unfortunately die before age 8. Are they saved even though they are unbaptized? (Brad, I am getting to your other questions, this one I could answer pretty quick).
A) Yes, we believe that 8 years old is the “age of accountability,” children under the age of 8 are not accountable for their actions, at least with God. Therefore any child that dies before age of 8 is saved (D&C 137:10). Since they cannot commit sin there is no reason for them to be baptized. Coupled with this we do not subscribe to original sin in that the Atonement of Jesus Christ took care of that for us. Hope that answers your question. See LDS Doctrine and Covenants 68:25,27
Q) Do you consider the nature of the Jesus Christ of Mormonism and the Jesus Christ of Christianity to be the same? (Brad, I will get to your other two questions soon, they are more complex)
A) Similar but not the same when it comes to his nature. This question comes down to the debate between the Trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost) being all the same person) and the Godhead (Three separate and distinct beings). As I understand it, mainstream Christianity believes the Trinity definition. I believe that the justification for this comes from (among other verses) the first chapter of John: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Pretty good support. Also see John 10:30
The LDS belief is that of the Godhead. Three separate and distinct beings whose purposes are all united to those of the God the Father. The reason for this is simple and unequivocal, there is no interpretation needed; and that is Joseph Smith’s first vision. In this vision Joseph saw both God and Jesus Christ (v. 16 & 17 in link above). Immediately, the doctrine of the Trinity was disproven, indeed God and Christ are separate. Now, I know that non-Mormons do not necessarily believe this, so there is scriptural support:
Christ’s intercessory prayer in John 17, especially verses 20-23. In this Christ asks that his disciples be one in him as he is with the father. If they were the same person, is Christ asking that all of his disciples be metaphysically merged into the same person also? Of course not, he is asking they be one in purpose and glory as he is with the father. An analogy would be that of a sports team. A group consisting multiple individuals under one title, with one purpose.
Other verses: John 5: 19-23; John 14: 6-13; Acts 7: 55-56; Romans 8:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-4.Q)
Q) After the resurrection, when Jesus showed himself to the disciples, He told Thomas to feel the prints in his hands and the wound in his side. Now, when Jesus arose to be with his Father, what did he do with his body? Is it just hanging in some closet in heaven?
A) Christ is in his body. We believe that both God the Father and Jesus Christ have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, though perfected, in heaven. We further believe that all mankind, following the resurrection of the dead will have their physical bodies restored in a perfect state and we will live in these bodies in heaven for the eternities.
Q) I have read, and re-read, the first two chapters of Genesis, and three things are striking:
1. The progress of creation explained in chapter 1 (water to fish to birds to cattle to man) is technically parallel to scientist’s explanation of geology and evolution.
A) This is really interesting (in no way is what I am about to right the official stance of the Church, it is purely my ‘theory’ or, perhaps, speculation). I have also noticed this trend. I sort of think that both science and religion are not as separated on the issue of creation as most would like to think. I do not think that it is out of the realm of possibility that God placed a organism in the water and commanded that it grow, develop, and evolve. God is wise, he will utilize the most effective and simplist method to accomplish his means, there is no reason to believe the creation was any different. However, this ‘evolution’ does not extend to mankind. The creation of man was specially handled by the Father and Son.
2. After creating man in verse 27, verse 29 says, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Am I wrong, or does this seem like early man was a fruit and nut gatherer – exactly as scientists have claimed?
A. Sure, why not. This is more of a food for thought question; fun to think about, but really neither here nor there in the scheme of things.
3. Does this mean that Adam was not the first man? The six “days” of creation ends in chapter 1. Indeed, chapter two begins “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” But with the beginning of verse 4 it seems that the author tells of a different kind of created man, a man to “till the ground” – a smart, farming type of man – exactly as scientist gave claimed. This man was different than the earlier fruit and nut gatherers. For this man, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (See 1 Cor. 15:45)
A. Adam was indeed the first man on the earth, however another food for thought question that can be taken from this is “are all mankind decendents of Adam or after Adam’s creation, he being the first man, did God create others to help populate the earth faster? (This question would fall in line with the rest of your question as you posed it). The Church only teaches that Adam and Eve were the first people on the earth, they do not dive any deeper than that, thus there is no clear answer. It is an interesting thought, and would help explain the rapidly populated earth. Personally, and this is purely me speaking, I am inclined to believe that all mankind stems from Adam and Eve (65% of me). The other 35% of me believes that the other option is quite possible, but there is little to no scriptural basis to this that I have seen, it only makes sense to me when looking at it in a purely academic and logical setting.