Kudos to Elder Ballard!
The Tongue of Angels--Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Obfuscation, Evasion, and Half-Truths: The LDS Church Answers Fox News

Over at the Fox News web site, they have posted 21 questions posed to the LDS church and answered by the voice for the "one true and living church on the face of the earth"--yea, even the unnamed public relations spokesperson.  While some of the questions are poorly worded, they do represent a decent sampling of questions frequently encountered by members of the LDS church.  So, how did the church do in answering?  I present here the questions, the answers, and my commentary.  Before getting to the Q&A, I find this from the article interesting: "The Church objected to answering some of the questions on the grounds that they misrepresent the basic tenets of the Mormon religion."  I am not sure why that would be an objection?  Why not just correct any misrepresentation in the answer?

Also, the church's prefatory statement is curious: "
Many of these questions are typically found on anti-Mormon blogs or Web sites which aim to misrepresent or distort Mormon doctrines.  Several of these questions do not represent ... any serious attempt to depict the core values and beliefs of its members."

Which questions? And which blogs and which web sites "aim to misrepresent or distort Mormon doctrines"?  Is the church perhaps referring to the www.josephsmith.net web site and its misrepresentations of the gold-plate translation process and Joseph Smith's family life?  It's hard to know.  And should questions that people have about Mormonism make a "serious attempt to depict the core values and beliefs of" Mormons?  Isn't the point of the questions to find out about those beliefs and values?  A strange objection, to be sure.  On to the Q&A.

Q: Why do some call the Church a cult?

A: For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion or other organization that is not well-known with an inflammatory term like 'cult.' Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said a cult means a church you don't personally happen to like. We don't believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.

Equality: Actually, many who call the LDS church a cult have extensive experience in the church.  Many who have served missions and in positions of responsibility and have subsequently left the church use the term cult to describe it.  While I generally eschew using the term myself, I think many of the people who use the term do not use it out of a lack of understanding about the "[c]hurch and its core doctrines and beliefs."  Rather than knowing too little about the church, perhaps they have learned too much.  Do Steve Benson and Richard Packham really know too little about the church's doctrines and history?

A truthful answer would be something like this: "Some people call the church a cult, I suppose, because of our history of secrecy regarding polygamy and our continuing practice of engaging in secret ceremonies in the temples which are only open to a small minority of our membership.  It's possible that some people consider it cult-like for people to consecrate all that they possess--all their time, talents, and treasure--to the church upon penalty of everlasting death.  Perhaps it is the historical doctrine of blood atonement, taught by the Prophet Brigham Young and other church leaders in the 19th century, under which heretics and apostates were shunned or targeted for violence.  A few might argue the church is a cult because little children are taught from the time they are able to speak to sing a song the chorus of which, sung to a martial beat, is 'follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don't go astray. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way!' Still others might say the church is a cult because the church tells its members what to eat, what to drink, what kind of underwear to wear and how to dispose of it, how many earrings they can have, what color shirts to wear on Sunday, what to watch on TV, what to read and what not to read, what recreational games to play, and what kind of marital sexual acts they can engage in.  But they would all be wrong.  The church is not a cult.  Just look at how big the letters are in the words "Jesus Christ" in our logo, and how big that statue of Jesus is in the Salt Lake Visitors' center."

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
 

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

Equality: A reasonable question and a decent answer.  A simple "yes" would also have been good.

Q: Does the Church believe in the divinity of Jesus?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

Equality: OK, that really was practically the same question.  Still, a little variation in the answer might have been nice. 

Q: Does the Church believe that God is a physical being?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

Equality: Objection, nonresponsive.  Seems like somebody in the PR department is going a little crazy with the cut-and-paste feature of their software.  This doesn't answer the question at all.  The key word in the question is "physical."  Since when did the church start being mealy-mouthed on this doctrine?  Is this the next doctrine to be re-cast as "folk doctrine" by the Mormon intelligentsia?  Why not just say "yes, the church teaches that God has a physical body, the Son likewise"?  Why so evasive? This is starting to read like a lawyer's answers to interrogatories.  Did Michael Otterson go to law school or is he farming out his work to Dallin Oaks?

Q: If so, does the Church believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob?

A: 'Kolob' is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.

Equality: Well, I think we have encountered our first out-and-out lie from the church. Shame, shame, shame.  Notice the passive voice here: "Kolob is a term found . . . " as if it's just a word that Joseph Smith translated with no meaning attached whatsoever.  No particular significance? Well, that might be news to William Clayton William W. Phelps and the folks who put the hymn "If you Could Hie to Kolob" in the church hymnal.  I'm sure it would also be news to Joseph Smith.  And to anyone who has ever, you know, read the Pearl of Great Price which, last time I checked, was still canonized scripture.  But now I suppose the Book of Abraham is just an ancient record translated by Joseph Smith with "no particular significance." Yeah, that's the ticket.  Maybe this whole Kolob idea is an embarrassment to the church now but it didn't use to be.  Here is a link to an article that appeared in the Ensign in 1971.  Seems pretty significant to me.  Incidentally, I think the church is doing itself a disservice by excising its most distinctive doctrines in an attempt to gain mainstream cred.  But that's a topic for another day.  The article I link to is actually interesting, which is more than one can say for the things that appear in the Ensign these days.

Q: Where is the planet Kolob? What significance does the planet have to Mormons?

A: 'Kolob' is a term found in ancient records translated by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith did not provide a full description or explanation of Kolob nor did he assign the idea particular significance in relation to the Church’s core doctrines.

Equality: Another repeat question with repeat answer, so Equality will just say "see response to interrogatory number 5."

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus?

A: The Church does not claim to know how Jesus was conceived but believes the Bible and Book of Mormon references to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary.

Equality: A poorly worded question, so the church can avoid a perjury charge on its Clintonian response.  The question should have said "Did Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, and other church leaders teach . . ."  Because at one point, the man who led the church and claimed to speak for God (who once said that whatever he spoke could be written down and considered scripture) said that Jesus was conceived through sexual relations between God the Father and Mary.  Many Mormon leaders have taught this idea, and ridiculed the idea that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Ghost, since that would make Him the Son of the Holy Ghost and not the Son of God (hey, it's not my argument--don't shoot the messenger). 

Here is what LDS church president Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "The Holy Ghost is the messenger of the Father and the Son. Mortal beings could not endure the presence of the Father without the Spirit overshadowing them, and that was the mission of the Holy Ghost, but not to beget the Son of God, THAT WAS THE BUSINESS OF THE FATHER. Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God the Father in the flesh, and in holding to this doctrine President Brigham Young is in perfect accord with the teachings in the Bible." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 5, p. 128).  Joseph F. Smith said that to believe Jesus was conceived in a non-physical, spiritual manner was "nonsense." Ezra Taft Benson also taught the doctrine: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in THE MOST LITERAL SENSE. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was SIRED by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father." (Teachings of ET Benson, p. 6).  The same doctrine is found in James Talmage's Articles of Faith, still published by the church and one of less than a dozen books on the "approved" list for missionaries to read on their missions today.

I could go on with other examples.  Anyone interested: Google is your friend.  Of course, as the church PR spokesperson pointed out at the beginning, "anti-Mormon web sites" are often the ones where such quotes are found.  Does anyone else see the irony in that?  The church itself refuses to quote its own prophets and apostles as they expound on doctrine, relying instead solely on what is in "the Bible and the Book of Mormon."  To find out what the latter-day prophets have taught for the past 150 years and to know what Mormons believe, you have to go to so-called "anti-Mormon" sites.  I wonder: is a prophetic statement found on an "anti" site less prophetic than if it is quoted, say, in General Conference?

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?

 
 

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other 'sheep' who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Equality: A softball question.  I applaud the PR spokesperson for almost giving a straightforward answer. Of course, notice the sleight of hand even on this Q&A: the spokesperson switched "North America" to "Western Hemisphere."  Well, at least the church has not officially adopted the Malaysian Book of Mormon geography theory--yet.

 

Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?

 

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other 'sheep' who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Equality: Another wasted repeat question.  More cut and paste from Otterson.

 

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become "gods and goddesses" after death?

A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being 'joint heirs with Christ' reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

Equality: Peter? What? Huh? What Mormon church have you been attending, Church PR Guy Who I Suspect Is Mike Otterson? Again, why the shiftiness?  Why the squirreliness?  Why not just tell the truth?  The proper answer here is a clear and unequivocal "yes, through the atonement of Jesus Christ."  Why is it so hard to just say what you believe and let the chips fall where they may?  This is a scriptural doctrine.  It is central to the teachings of the temple.  It is fundamental to the Mormon faith.  Why the obfuscation?  Why not refer the questioner to the marvelous vision of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon found in section 76 of the Doctrine & Covenants?  Are you ashamed of your scriptures? Of your doctrines?  Do you not believe in the converting power of your scriptures?  Why do you treat the revelations given you by Joseph Smith with such contempt?  Or do you not really believe in his prophetic gifts?  If you do, you have a funny way of showing it.  What do you gain by using weasel words to leave a false impression about what Mormons believe?  Do you not think that someone who reads this and then investigates the church will find out what the church really teaches and believes? And do you not think they will feel like they were lied to with this answer? Do you have a temple recommend? How do you answer "yes" to the question about being totally honest with your fellow man? Or is there a special "PR spokesperson" exemption given?

 

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women can only gain access to heaven with a special pass or codewords?

A: No.

Equality: Another Clintonian answer.  Perhaps not--a woman can go to the celestial kingdom (i.e., Mormon "heaven") without going to the temple.  But the highest degree of glory is reserved for those who have gone to the temple: "Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.416).  Perhaps the PR spokesperson meant to say "No, it applies equally to men and women."  Still, not exactly an open, honest, and forthright response, eh?

 

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that women must serve men on both Earth and in heaven?

A: Absolutely not. Mormons believe that women and men are complete equals before God and in relation to the blessings available in the Church.

Equality: Finally some certainty in the response.  Of course, it is laughable, as anyone who has been through the endowment or has read the writings of the prophets and apostles knows.  Again, Google is your friend.

 

Q: Is there such a thing as Mormon "underwear"? if so, are all Mormons required to wear it? What does it symbolize?

A: Like members of many religious faiths, Latter-day Saints wear religious clothing. But members of other faiths — typically those involved in permanent pastoral ministries or religious services — usually wear religious garments as outer ceremonial vestments or symbols of recognition. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, garments are worn beneath street clothing as a personal and private reminder of commitments to God.

Equality: The real answer would be something like this: "When Joseph Smith was in Nauvoo, he secretly began taking plural wives, some as young as 14 and others already married to other men.  As you can imagine, such a practice, if widely known, threatened his position as the moral and political leader of the community.  So, he adopted secret Masonic ceremonies, including oaths and penalties, and initiated a cadre of his most loyal followers, teaching them the secret doctrine of polygamy.  The garments served as a reminder of the death oaths these initiates took in the temple and served as a means for Joseph Smith to keep track of who was in on the secret and who was not.  The garments that members of the church wear today continue to bear the Masonic markings and are simply a vestige of the secret practice of polygamy.  Many members believe the garments have talismanic properties, meaning they serve as a physical protection from potential dangers of all sorts, including fire and bullets."

 

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe in the existence of another physical planet or planets, where Mormons will "rule" after their death and ascension?

A: No.

 

Equality: Buzzzz! Thanks for playing.  See response to interrogatory number 5, above.

 

Q: What specifically does the Mormon Church say about African-Americans and Native Americans?

 

A: Mormons believe that all mankind are sons and daughters of God and should be loved and respected as such. The blessings of the gospel are available to all.

Equality: As Reagan said to Carter: "there you go again."  Technically, is there anything wrong with the answer? No.  But is it really what was being asked about?  Obviously, the question goes to the church's doctrine that dark-skinned people have the mark of the curse of God upon them.  The doctrine is taught in Mormon scriptures that are still used by the church today (the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon). The church has never repudiated or renounced the doctrine.  The question also goes to the church's policy of banning dark-skinned men of African descent from holding the priesthood until 1978, and to the question of the Israelite ancestry of Native Americans, which the church has consistently taught since its inception and which it has still not officially changed (in spite of the abundance of evidence contradicting it).  Instead of addressing these issues, the PR department, following the pattern set by the president of the church, chose to duck and dodge once again.

 

Q: What are or were the "Golden Plates"?

 

A: The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from records made on plates of gold, similar to metal plates that have been found in other ancient cultures. It contained a history of peoples in the Western Hemisphere including an appearance by the Savior to them. As such, the Book of Mormon is considered a second testimony of Jesus Christ.

Equality: OK, as far as it goes.  Where did Joseph Smith get the plates? How did he translate them? Where did the plates go?  Leaving out the answers to these questions could leave the reader with a false impression. Was it intentional?

 

Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Equality: Did that answer the question?

 

Q: Does the Church also ban the consumption of "hot drinks"? And does that apply specifically to caffeinated drinks?

A: It is against the teachings of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

Equality: Err, so that's a "no, the church does not ban the consumption of caffeinated drinks."? Why are they not sold on BYU campus, then?

 

Q: Why do Mormons go from door to door?

A: Christ admonished his disciples to take the gospel to the world. The Church follows that admonition and sends missionaries throughout the world.

Equality: Yawn. This is a serious question? Who are these journalists?

 

Q: What do the Mormons believe about the family?

A: Mormons believe that the family is the foundation for this life and the life to come.

Equality: Another yawner.

 

Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

 

A: God will not withhold blessings from any of his children who may not have the opportunity to marry in this life.

Equality: Yes, but the devil is in the details.

 

Comments

chandelle

wow! that was so slimy. i was especially taken aback by the simple "no" given to the question about women going to heaven. such a PR answer! my first reaction was the same as yours, that their answer should have been, "actually, that's required of both men and women." what a joke.

Jordan F.

Hmmm. Where you see obfuscation and evasion, I see polished presentation. Interesting...

dpc

Come on, Equality. None of this should be surprising. We all know that you never learn anything new from interrogatories...

Equality

dpc,

Especially poorly drafted ones. Requests for production, now, I could have fun with those. And if we could just get one of these guys in for a deposition...

Katie

I was thinking that the copy-paste problem originated from Fox, not from the Church. Like maybe the Church PR person took three questions and put one answer below them, and Fox cut and pasted.

Equality

Good point, Katie. I had not thought of that.

Reformed_Egyptian

Q: Are consumption of alcohol and tobacco prohibited or simply discouraged?

A: It is against the TEACHINGS of the Church to use alcohol and tobacco or to drink tea and coffee.

So...does this mean, since there is no such thing as 'official binding doctrine' other than what is in the scriptures and the 5-ish 1st Presidency declarations, that when Brigham Young made the WOW a "commandment" we can ignore that "teaching" just like his slit your spouse's throat if they've sinned in order to save them and Adam is HF teachings?

In the actual, official, canonized and accepted by the Church to be binding (due to the raising of the hands) scriptures, it says it is NOT a commandment, so that'd open up strong drinks to me as an option would it not? (Funny thing, how God's actual words, teachings and commandments to men only have any validity if I MYSELF say they do by raising my hand, as if I can boss Him around and say what He actually did, or did not say or mean to say).

The WOW actually TEACHES us to drink beer (my take)...D&C 89 vs.17" Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain." --- now, just what "mild drinks" were being made in the times of JS made of "barley" and "other grain"? I've never had beer before, but my personal take on the WOW appears to sanction and allow me to partake of it freely if I so choose.

Interesting and slippery thing, this jello-like church doctrine, teachings, commandments, good ideas, guidelines or suggestions or whatever the heck they are today. :)

THANKS for another great post Equality.

dpc

Reformed_Egyptian

"(Funny thing, how God's actual words, teachings and commandments to men only have any validity if I MYSELF say they do by raising my hand, as if I can boss Him around and say what He actually did, or did not say or mean to say)."

Yeah, it really sucks to have a God that allows His children a say in how to live their own lives. It would be so much easier if we weren't granted the power to choose and all this troublesome autonomy. Just imagine how much better it would be if God acted like a dictatorial overlord instead of a loving Father.

Reformed_Egyptian

DPC: "Yeah, it really sucks to have a God that allows His children a say in how to live their own lives. It would be so much easier if we weren't granted the power to choose and all this troublesome autonomy. Just imagine how much better it would be if God acted like a dictatorial overlord instead of a loving Father."

No, I don't think it sucks, I just think it's 'funny' (as in 'odd funny') how us puny human's determine what words God actually said or didn't say, and or that will be binding on us, or not.

Like the revelation JS received for the brethren to marry the Lamanites to help speed up the 'making them white' process. God said it. It's a revelation. Yet, it didn't make the 'cut'. I wonder what other items didn't make the cut...since I myself seem to be the determining factor on His words making the cut, I'd like to know ALL of his revelations so I can pick and choose which to raise my hand for or not.

The Lectures on Faith clearly teach HF is a spirit only and is omnipresent, that Jesus has a body and the HG is only the mind and will of God and that the Godhead is 2 persons (and that these teachings are doctrinal and we can base our faith unto salvation on them). Even though everyone put up their hands to sanction those words as being binding, scripture and official doctrine in 1835, it's now out of our official cannon (1835-1921), even though no one put up their hands to say 'we now DON'T believe it and please remove it from our cannon'.

QUESTION: How is having 7 lectures of faith removed from MY scriptures without my being asked (hey, we the people made them thus originally), "granting the power to choose and all this troublesome autonomy."?

Just seems rather evasive of God (to me) to put out doctrines as scriptural for us and then to change His mind. Saying He's a spirit only and omnipresent, then saying He's got a body and can't be omnipresent due to the body and it's the HG who is a spirit and no longer just the 'mind and will of God and JC'. If I'm the one in the first place who determines what he DID say, I ought at least to be consulted when He changes His mind, it's only logical reasoning here is it not?

I just think it funny (funny odd), kinda like trying to nail jello to a wall, all of this 'official teachings' or 'official doctrine'. I think it even funnier when I actually picture myself determining what God said and didn't say by raising MY puny little human hand.

When I'm a God, I'm gonna show up and hold a press conference. :)

If you've sensed any discontent, confusion and disillusionment on my part, then my feelings are indeed coming through as I intended them to through my words...and you don't even have to raise your hand to sustain them. :)


Jordan F.

RE: You are funny.

Moabite

THANK YOU! I read this yesterday and was trying to explain the general tone of it to my husband, but couldn't quite. I'll just e-mail him the link now. You nailed it!

Jordan F.

Notice that in the song you cite, "If you could Hie To Kolob," by WW Phelps, the term Kolob is used more as a representation of where God is than anything else, and it is only used once.

And I have heard "Kolob" being mentioned as the name of a hypothetical plant or star that is near where God is, and I believe that was the context in which it is used in the Book of Abraham as well. I think the LDS Church answer to this interrogatory was actually quite nice, getting rid of years of Elder's Quorum and High Priest (and Relief Society) ridiculous speculation on Kolobian space doctrine.

Really, all it says about Kolob in the Book of Abraham is this:

2 And I [Abraham] saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

3 And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.

4 And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.

"Kolob" never has been a central part of any LDS teaching, except space doctrine discussions in EQ/HP/elsewhere. As for the song, which while having "Kolob" in its title only mentions the word ONE TIME, "Kolob" there is used simply as a representation for where god is.

chandelle

hey katie! i guess you wandered over here from that snarky post i deleted a few minutes later. you must get all of my posts, even if regret them five seconds after i post them, eh?

i was pretty surprised that the questions weren't more, you know, interrogatory. i mean, is the kolob question really that important? aren't there far more troublesome and confusing doctrines to consider?

SillyNut

Polished presentation?

Dude.

:O

aerin

I think it's good that they (someone in pr) answered the questions, for the public. Some of these are very thorny questions - which are rarely answered.

I do love the dig about anti-mormons and anti-mormon blogs and websites. Obviously, anyone who would want to talk about this information or know the answers to these questions is anti-mormon.

handmaiden

The church sure knows how to put their foot in their mouth! I nearly came out my computer chair when I got the email from Saints Alive about the subject. It's crazy that the church would think that the members of their own religion would accept the "new" thought(s) on the questions asked.
handmaiden
http://mormonnomore.blogspot.com

mondo cool

I realize I am very late to this discussion, but it seems to me that any answer the Mormons give that are contrary to the views that Equality holds, must be "Obfuscation, Evasion, and Half-Truths."

"You give an answer that I don't like = Evasion!"
"You give a different perspective than mine = obfuscation!"
"You don't give all the information that I would give = Half-truth!"

Gee, who knew it was so easy?

Equality

mondo,

Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your perspective. I hope you enjoy my little blog.

Peace,

Equality.

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