What do Mormons believe, part 6

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 5 comments

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

6th Article of Faith

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is organized according to revelation, with leaders that are called of God and not of man and who hold the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and is based on the same structure that Christ established himself on the earth. 

Hebrews 5:4 (and numerous references in the Book of Mormon) help us understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   Throughout life we’re constantly bombarded with the challenge of discerning truth and right.  Those of you who are reading this post who are not Mormon face a similar challenge, to determine for yourself if the teachings of Mormonism are true (which you can know through personal revelation – James 1:5, Moroni 10:4). 

But how refreshing it is when we find instances, such as this, where the establishment of His church today is the same as it was in times past.  Seeing the same template of organization is one of the easiest ways to recognize His church.  For “by their fruits, ye shall know them”.  How is that so?  Because the things that they know, do, and believe, shall be recognizable as what He taught and did on the earth.

And aside from the refreshing sameness of church structure, how invigorating it is to know that at the head of His church today, just as in times of old, we are guided by a holy prophet, called of God, who holds all the necessary keys and authority of the priesthood to officiate in the church of God and all the necessary ordinances required for us to reach our exaltation.

The belief in a true and living prophet is very unique to Mormonism.  For we believe that God truly is the same today as he was yesterday, that today, just as yesterday, he works through prophets.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).  These prophets play a crucial role today, as they did in times past, in teaching and testifying of the Savior and his gospel, and in warning us of those timely issues that we face, that we might, at all times, be prepared.

How wonderful it is that this prophet, the apostles, and other church leaders were called of God, and did not aspire, nor ever seek for their positions, but rather agreed to give up their lives to serve the Lord, when they were asked.  I find great inspiration in the organization of the church, and enjoy the distinctive flavor of divinity in its structure and workings.

Rusty

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ponderingpastor May 21, 2008 at 8:57 AM

“The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is organized according to revelation, with leaders that are called of God and not of man and who hold the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and is based on the same structure that Christ established himself on the earth.”

I’m confused. In your previous post, you indicate that apostasy began at Christ’s crucifixion. Yet, at the same time, you describe the structure of the organization as the same structure that Christ established. Jesus had 12 in his “inner circle”. He established no “congregations”. He sent out 72 in pairs. He recognized John as a prophet. I don’t see any structure that Christ established prior to crucifixion. Some of the structure you describe was established in house churches after the ascension of Jesus.

“Seeing the same template of organization is one of the easiest ways to recognize His church. For “by their fruits, ye shall know them”. How is that so? Because the things that they know, do, and believe, shall be recognizable as what He taught and did on the earth. And aside from the refreshing sameness of church structure, how invigorating it is to know that at the head of His church today, just as in times of old, we are guided by a holy prophet, called of God, who holds all the necessary keys and authority of the priesthood to officiate in the church of God and all the necessary ordinances required for us to reach our exaltation.”

How then does the Mormon church consider Christianity to be the apostate church when the fruits of that church is consistent with what Jesus taught and did on earth?

Pondering Pastor

From Rusty:

As I explained in my response to your comment on the previous post, that the falling away wasn’t an instantaneous event, but a slow process of change spurred by a sustained departure of belief in revelation and prophets (among other things). The church structure that is talked about throughout the New Testament is the structure we still believe in today.

To address your last comment – we don’t view Christianity to be apostate, you use it as a term to describe a church, but instead, it’s descriptive of a group of churches that teach a belief in Christ. The apostasy was amongst these churches. It sounds harsh, for sure, but indeed that same belief is reciprocated on us by all the others, so there’s nothing unique to us there.

But the evidence of the apostasy is that the fruits of these churches actually do not manifest what Christ taught on the earth. Keeping the conversation to some degree within the natural confines of this particular post, at the minimum they do not believe in latter day prophets or revelation both of which were core to the teachings of Christ as found in scripture.

Indeed, on this I thought we were more similar. In your description of Lutheran beginnings you said, speaking of Martin Luther “He believed that the church had strayed from solid scriptural teaching”. Perhaps I misunderstood what that meant.

Reply

2 Pondering Pastor May 21, 2008 at 5:42 PM

“But the evidence of the apostasy is that the fruits of these churches actually do not manifest what Christ taught on the earth. Keeping the conversation to some degree within the natural confines of this particular post, at the minimum they do not believe in latter day prophets or revelation both of which were core to the teachings of Christ as found in scripture.”

I find it fascinating that you identify “latter day prophets or revelation” as “core to the teachings of Christ as found in scripture.” You will have to work harder than that to be convincing.

There are many who understand the core of Christ’s teaching to be a setting aside of the law and replacing it with the “law of love”. The book of Acts repeats over and over again that Christ fulfilled scripture (and the prophets) and belief in him was what was necessary, in fact, very little of Christ’s teaching is described in Acts. I’ve heard some say that the core of Christ’s teaching is a living out of Micah 6:8. Only from Mormons do I hear that “latter day prophets” and “revelation” are core teachings of Christ. I’m pretty well read in the writings of the early church fathers and in these matters, these very early Christian writers are remarkably silent.

From Rusty: Prophets are core to his teaching “Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveal his secrets to his servants the prophets”. Do you not agree that prophets are core to the gospel as you recognize it – in biblical times? Latter day prophets are no different today than those prophets were in their day to their people.

Sin certainly enters into the churches. Sin certainly enters into the Mormon faith also. But that does not mean that the church does not demonstrate the fruits of what Christ taught.

Certainly, sin is inherent to mankind, but it is not sin of which I speak in regards to an apostacy, but rather the loss of prophets and authority, and in the absence of them, a great era of misinterpretation of scripture which led to abundant variations in beliefs, disagreements on doctrine, and in many instances a complete loss of truth. Not that truth in and of itself was wholly absent, but that many great and important truths were lost or became so misunderstood as to render themselves useless.

“In your description of Lutheran beginnings you said, speaking of Martin Luther “He believed that the church had strayed from solid scriptural teaching”.” One of the ways Martin Luther differs from Joseph Smith is that Luther saw God continually working through the church and that God had not abandoned (nor people completely abandon God). Reform is much different than whatever you might call what Joseph Smith accomplished. Luther called the church back to scripture. He created nothing new. In fact, he worked within the canon, even when he believed that some of the canon did not belong.

You’re right, what Martin Luther did was a reformation, what Joseph Smith did was a restoration (going back to my former reply above). This because that while a reformation might clarify points of doctrine, it couldn’t bring back proper authority – that had to be restored, since it was wholly absent.

I’m reminded of God’s rebuke of Elijah after the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Horeb.

Good analogy. Indeed, and again, these posts aren’t to settle century long disputes, but to ensure that those who wish to know what Mormons believe, can find out. And in the process to let any who wishes seek clarification on what we believe or why. This that those who want confirmation, can ask for it with a sound understanding, and not based on inaccurate interpretation or rumor of Mormon doctrine.

Pondering Pastor

Reply

3 Pondering Pastor May 21, 2008 at 5:45 PM

*Warning*: Unrelated topic …

I do have a question Rusty. In the Mormon structure, who gets to decide whether a group can be rightfully called Mormon … or more accurately … part of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? How is that decided? Are there conditions that must be met?

I ask, and I’m not trying to trap you here, because Mormons object to Christians defining “Christianity” in a way that excludes Mormons. A parallel question then gets to be, who gets to decide what “Christian” means?

Pondering Pastor

From Rusty:

No problem, I’m just working through these…

Again, I don’t speak for the church officially, but I’d say the minimum (superficial) requirements would be being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and receiveing the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Of course those are the minimum requirements by which most would say “I’m Mormon”, but in truth, I’d suggest you’d need a testimony of the Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith, of Latter Day Prophets, and striving to learn more. For without a testimony of these things, your baptism would perhaps have been premature.

In terms of “what does Christian mean” or who gets to decide that. Well, that’s a good question, I don’t have an answer to that. How does a society come to accept any definition of a given word. The Websters dictionary defines “Christian” as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”. It seems, as I browse most other reference materials, that seems to be the most commonly accepted definition.

Reply

4 Pondering Pastor May 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM

“You’re right, what Martin Luther did was a reformation, what Joseph Smith did was a restoration (going back to my former reply above). This because that while a reformation might clarify points of doctrine, it couldn’t bring back proper authority – that had to be restored, since it was wholly absent.”

That’s the word I was struggling to remember! “Restoration”. This is one of the largest differences between Christian churches and Mormonism: Mormons declare centuries of Christian history apostasy. But I hope you can see that when Mormons declare that there was not proper authority and it had to be restored, you are also saying that the Holy Spirit (even as you understand the Holy Spirit/Ghost) ceased to work to create prophets or proper authority for that period of time. Only with the revelation to Joseph Smith was restoration possible.

Reformers through the centuries have recognized that even when corrupt, there remain parts of the church that are faithful (hence the reference to Elijah) and prophets have been called by God to call the people back into a right relationship with God. I don’t see any witness in either the Old or New Testaments that God allowed a people to exist without a prophet, but Mormons seem to be saying that from around 300AD until Joseph Smith, God was doing this new thing.

Pondering Pastor

I certainly won’t argue that throughout that time, there were those who were faithful. The Old and the New Testaments are records of their time, so they wouldn’t record this, but there are ample references of the falling away given through prophecy contained within both books. I provided a list over on the 7th post just now that spoke about this great falling away, it’s not comprehensive to say the least, but there’s a fair bit there. Although I’m sure much of it will fall into the same category we’ve found in the past, where you may read it and see something totally different than I.

Out of curiosity, are you saying, for instance, that you see the pope as the prophet today?

Reply

5 Pondering Pastor May 23, 2008 at 6:26 AM

“Out of curiosity, are you saying, for instance, that you see the pope as the prophet today?”

This is where the Mormon teaching you’ve received gets you stuck when you attempt communication with those who are not Mormon … that is the insistence on “the prophet today”. This is so central to Mormon theology that it is hard to imagine that it is not central to the theology of others. The Amos passage that is quoted often by Mormons is understood differently by others. (There we are again.)

Part of my call as an ordained minister is as prophet. There is no way for me to answer directly your question about the pope, because the understanding of “prophet” is so different between you and I.

Pondering Pastor

Yeah, it looks that way. The importance of a living prophet, just like Moses, Abraham, Noah, etc. is core to our belief for the reasons I’ve stated throughout these couple threads. It’s as you have said before, at times our termonology, or the definitions we ascribe to certain terms, is just so different.

Reply

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