I’m teaching the Gospel Principles lesson #2 tomorrow. I’m going to attempt to utilize proper sources, only utilizing personal experiences and church magazines. We’ll see if I bore everyone to tears or if we can have an enlightening conversation.
The title of Lesson #2 is “Our Heavenly Family”, but I think it is mis-named. Most of the lesson deals with the pre-Mortal life. As I thought about this, I think this is one of the biggest theological innovations in Mormon theology. I can remember teaching about the pre-mortal life as part of the plan of Salvation. I also remember that missionaries are free to use A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards. I loved this book as a missionary. Elder Richards served as mission president to the Southern States Mission. Since I served in the South, this book was a wonderful tool in the Bible Belt, and highlights many biblical scriptures in support of Mormon beliefs and doctrines.
The lesson starts off with a basic missionary principle: We are children of Our Heavenly Father. I do remember teaching a pastor on my mission. When I stated this, he said, “Why do you say we’re children of our Heavenly Father?” I replied with the “Sunday School answer” (which is backed up by the quote in this lesson from Joseph F Smith), that God created us. His response was puzzling to me. “God created the animals too, but he’s not their Father, is he?” I was puzzled by his response then and now, and was not sure how to respond. I felt he was toying with me, but I never understood his point. Can anyone enlighten me and tell me what he was getting at?
The next paragraph in the lesson is something that we often say, and something that I think some members don’t fully appreciate. “Because we are the spirit children of God, we have inherited the potential to develop His divine qualities.” While most evangelicals generally agree that we’re all “trying to be like Jesus”, the idea of exaltation is repulsive to them. I suspect most teachers of the lesson will gloss over this sentence of the lesson, but I think it is profound. I do remember on my mission being accused that we don’t really talk about exaltation openly in missionary discussions or church lessons. While I agree that Mormons are somewhat guilty, this is a place where we can discuss a “meatier” portion of the gospel. So what do you think of this theological innovation of Mormonism? Are you comfortable with the idea that we can actually become “like God”, or is this a real heresy of the LDS church?
There are those who claim that many ideas in the Doctrine & Covenants are not found in the Book of Mormon. However, the pre-Mortal life is alive and well in the Book of Mormon. The manual references Alma 13:1-3, as well as Abraham 3:22-23 from the Pearl of Great Price. Other Biblical scriptures from the lesson referencing the pre-Mortal life include Hebrews 12:9, Job 38:4-7, Jeremiah 1:5, 1 Corinthians 15:44, to go along with many sections from the D&C: 29, 76, 132. When we look at the story in John 9 where the disciples ask Jesus,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
This scripture seems to imply that the blind man could have sinned in a pre-earth life. The disciples seemed quite comfortable with this idea of a pre-Mortal life, or why would they have asked the question? Though I haven’t read the book yet, Terryl Givens has a history of the pre-Mortal life in his book, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought. Why do you think other religions don’t believe in a pre-Mortal life? It seems pretty obvious to me that it is a biblical idea. Givens says that the pre-Mortal life idea was created to fix many theological conundrums.
There is an interesting distinction between foreordination and predestination (as Andrew S commented on my blog.) While Calvinists believe
“Everyone is predestined…but God doesn’t even make it so that everyone goes to heaven. Some people are predestined for hell and there isn’t anything they can do about their reprobation.”
Let’s contrast that with what the manual says (page 10):
“However, everyone on earth is free to accept or reject any opportunity to serve.”
So, while Mormon theology states that we’re all foreordained to our offices, we can still screw up. Calvinism seems to imply that God plays favorites (at least according to Andrew.) So, which theology do you prefer: predestination or foreordination? (Side note: Calvinism apparently refers to churches which belong to World Communion of Reformed Churches).
Finally, there is the council in Heaven, with lots of quotes from prophets and LDS scriptures in the manual. I won’t go into that here, but Isaiah 14:12-18 describes the fall from heaven of one called “Lucifer” in the King James Version and the “morning star, son of the dawn” in the NIV. Ezekiel 28 is another passage thought to refer to Lucifer/Satan. Apparently, Lucifer/Satan had a position of guardian angel in heaven “among the fiery stones,” thought to be the shining precious jewels that are seen in other descriptions of heaven (Exodus 24:10; Revelation 21:18-21).
Why is it that evangelicals make such a big deal that Mormons believe Jesus and Satan were brothers? Don’t they? Where did Satan come from?