Mormonism in the New Yorker

Since Mitt Romney became a serious contender for the Republican nomination and now for President, the country has learned a lot about his Mormon faith. Given that Mormonism is a uniquely American religion in that it’s sacred events happened on our soil and not that long ago, it’s somewhat surprising that it’s still shrouded in mystery and most Americans know so little about it.

But if you have ever had a religious conversation with a Mormon, you probably know how difficult it can be to pin them down on their beliefs. They often try to pass themselves off as simply another Christian denomination even though it’s hard to believe that even they think that’s an accurate description. So I was surprised to read an article in the New Yorker in which one of the church leaders gives a clear picture of some of the Mormon beliefs that stand in stark contrast to Christianity. The article, Transaction Man by Nicholas Lemann, offers a very insightful picture into the forces that shaped Mitt Romney.

Some weeks later, in Boston, I asked Clayton Christensen the same question. “Let me give you a two-minute history of Christianity,” he said. “In 300 A.D., the leaders decided they had all the answers. God doesn’t give you a new answer until you ask a question. The leaders had the New Testament. It had all the answers. God had given them revelation. What’s unique about Mormonism is that, starting with Joseph Smith, we stated asking questions of God that we didn’t have the answers to. The intellectual curiosity: we, or the Prophet, ask God.” He went on, “Most religions come to believe in the Zeus model of God. He was outside the universe and created everything. Latter-Day Saints believe that God is in the universe and his power comes from understanding the rules of the universe perfectly. Everything we learn makes us more like God. The impetus to learn is so strong because it helps to become more like God.”

A Few Observations…
1. Unlike Christians Mormons believe in divine revelation outside the Bible. While acknowledging the Old and New Testaments as inspired, they give the same authority to the Book of Mormon and are even open to further revelation.

2. Mormons have a fundamentally different view of God. Not only do they not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, but they believe that God is in time and therefore not eternal. In addition, as seen in this quote, they don’t believe in God’s omniscience but instead can learn. He even discounts the clear biblical teaching that God created all things out of nothing referring to that as the “Zeus model of God.”

3. Mormons have a fundamentally different view of human beings. Lorenzo Snow, the fifth LDS president, said in 1840, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Here you see not only the belief that God was once a mortal man but that man has the potential to become God.

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