This is the first in a twelve part series analysing the Articles of Faith. I haven’t read any of them for a while, although I used to know them all by heart and could rattle them off on command just like a good little drone. I want to see how much value they have as ethical guides, or if they are mainly explanatory in nature. I’d also like to tease out the language and try to explain exactly what Mormons mean by these articles, as some of them could easily be seen as more ecumenical than they actually are.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Article One: “We believe1 in God2 the Eternal3 Father, and in his son4, Jesus5 Christ, and in the Holy Ghost6.”
1. It’s safe to assume that this view of deity, referred to by the LDS as “The Godhead”, means a general Protestantish view of the Christian god that Americans brought with them from northern and western Europe. Under no circumstances should this be mistaken for an esoteric Catholic-style Trinitarian belief, which Mormons will scoff at as utter nonsense. Three gods in one? They think not. Three Nephites, however . . .
2. Elohim, former human and current denizen of a planet near the star Kolob, where he resides with his wives who give birth to souls that will populate the worlds he creates. Has a body of flesh but instead of blood Mormons believe he is “quickened by spirit” which is how a body stays immortal after resurrection. Most Mormons believe there is no doctrinal conflict between their concept of a flesh-and-bone, married, sexually active and physically procreative deity and the historic conception of God that mainstream Christians evolved out of Judaism, but the Christians usually disagree.
3. The God of Mormonism is only Eternal in the sense of going forward, but not eternal in the sense of always having been God. If possessing a physical body is problematic for Mormonism’s claims that they worship the same deity as Christians, the non-eternal nature of the Mormon god is a complete deal breaker. The conventional Christian view of their god is that of a spirit which was never created and always has been. Elohim isn’t eternal in the past because at one point he was just a human on a world created by the god that he worshipped. He only became eternal in the sense of immortal after successfully completing a life as a Mormon and becoming one of many gods that exist.
Mormonism is often describes as being uniquely American in character, and I believe the multi-level marketing aspect of its doctrine is what makes this view accurate. Mormonism is a spiritual pyramid scheme. Adherents promise to follow the exclusive plan (available to you at the low low cost of ten percent of your income and all of your spare time). The American Dream is realised in Mormonism after an initiate to the Temple ceremony manages to make it through some appallingly dull amateur theatre to end up in the Celestial Room. While each temple has some unique features, the best way to describe a Celestial Room is to compare it to the lobby of a three-star hotel with a white and off-white colour scheme, or perhaps a more spacious version of the sort of sitting room that your grandmother will not allow anybody to use because the furniture will get dirty. All this can be yours, Mormons! Elohim achieved godhood and so can you!
4. That’s literal son in both the spiritual sense and physical sense. According to Brigham Young, God had sex with one of his heavenly wives to birth Jesus’ soul. God then had sex with Mary to produce a body for Jesus. A lot of Mormons balk at this, but what do you think the general authorities mean when they say that Jesus is the literal offspring of God and that the rest of us are too?. This presents the doctrinal necessity of polygamy. With billions of souls needed for worlds without end, one man would need quite the harem to generate the needed population.
Correlation ensures that only the most current manual is used, and all old teachings go down the memory hole, even teachings that are still necessary for the doctrine to work. When asked how souls are created, some advanced-level Mormons may be able to fish out a quote about “organising intelligences”.The reality is that past and present doctrine makes it extremely clear that God has a body, that he has multiple wives, and that they used their bodies to physically procreate spirits. What do you think they mean by saying souls are “begotten and born?” Orson Pratt certainly explained that souls are conceived and birthed in the same manner that physical bodies are. This provides a more or less logical basis for the doctrines of God’s physical body as well as polygamy being essential for the achievement of godhood. However, because this idea is odd or even distasteful, it has not been taught for some time. Mormons retain the idea that God has a body and that Mormons who reach the Celestial Kingdom will have bodies, and that polygamy factors in somehow, but most remain ignorant as to the explanations for why these doctrines are necessary.
And a question for the naysayers: if none of these things are part of Mormon doctrine, then what is an eternal body for? Why do Mormons spend so much time focusing on the physicality of God and the literal nature of the flesh-and-spirit resurrection if those bodies are not needed for sex and reproduction?