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Ask A Mormon: Which unique tenets of Mormonism do you find most valuable?

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Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online.

Q. Which unique tenets of Mormonism do you find most valuable?

SPO-House-ad_Ask-A-Mormon_0823139A. One of the basic tenets of Mormonism that consistently grounds me is that we are literal children of God. We have a heavenly father and a heavenly mother who love us and want us to be happy and to learn and grow and fulfill our potential. And because we are all children of these perfect, omnipotent parents, every person’s potential is unlimited! As I have experienced parenthood, my appreciation of this principle has deepened immeasurably. The overwhelming love I feel for my children gives me a taste of the love my heavenly parents must feel for each of their children. I watch my boys as they grow and struggle and make mistakes and learn by experience, and I think I understand a little better why our heavenly parents sent us here and what they want for me during our time apart. This principle is fundamental to the way I view myself and how I view every person I meet. Each of us is a child of God who is loved unconditionally and is of infinite worth, and we should treat ourselves and others accordingly.

Latter-day Saints believe in eternal progression. We learn line upon line and precept upon precept (see Isaiah 28). I find that principle to be incredibly encouraging. We are constantly striving to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ, by following his example and applying his atonement. We are not expected to be perfect this instant, to never make a mistake again, or to know everything right now. It is a progression, and everyone is on his or her own individual journey. Of course we will still mess up — we are imperfect human beings, after all — but with Christ’s help we can be better people and become more like him and our heavenly parents.

We believe in continuing revelation; God is not done revealing truth to the world in general or to each of us in particular. I find our faith’s tradition of asking questions and getting personal answers very individually empowering. The LDS Church was restored because 14-year-old Joseph Smith had a question, asked God directly and received an answer. Much of the Church’s growth and my own personal growth have come because questions were asked and the answers sought through prayer, faith, study, and discussion. Questions open the door for us to receive revelation. We have both the right and the responsibility to communicate directly with God and to receive personal, individual direction for our lives.

 Do you have a question about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Submit it online.

Emily Geddes

About Emily Geddes

Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University.

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17 comments

  1. Eric Blauer

    You said: “The LDS Church was restored.”

    One of the major problems I see with Mormonism, as I understand it, relates to the teaching that Joseph Smith was visited by an Angel and given a gospel.

    LDS site reports:
    “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people…He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/js)

    The issue of another gospel or even a restored gospel is a difficult and serious issue in the New Testament, Paul specifically warned of gospels given by angels:

    “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Galatians 1:8

    I’ve read that Mr. Smith said this about all other Christian churches:

    “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right — and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt . . .” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 5-6).

    So if Smith was visited by an angel, led to tablets that gave a “restored gospel” and taught this about all other Christian churches, how could we not consider Mormonism different than historic Christianity?

  2. Emily Geddes

    Eric –

    Mormons interpret Galatians 1:8 as applied to Joseph Smith differently. Absolutely Paul warned against any gospel being preached that was different from the one Christ and His apostles preached, even if an angel preached it. We don’t believe it applies to Joseph Smith’s visions because we believe that the gospel that was restored *is* the same gospel Christ preached.

    About 1800 years passed between Christ’s death and Joseph Smith’s First Vision. We believe that over that span of time, the pure gospel Christ preached was slowly altered and no longer taught exactly as Christ and His apostles had preached it. The many historical councils, including the Councils of Nicaea, Councils of Constantinople, Council of Ephesus and many others, document the myriad of theological differences, opinions, and arguments – profound and fundamentally important ones – that had developed over less than three to five centuries since Christ’s death. Mormons don’t recognize those councils as authoritative in determining proper doctrine.

    More than 1000 years later the numerous denominations and congregations that were active during the Second Great Awakening still disputed tons of doctrinal points. That’s not to say, of course, that there wasn’t still good and truth in all other faiths – Joseph Smith frequently spoke of his admiration for other Christian religions and commonalities with them. Joseph Smith’s account says (sorry, long quote):

    “so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I [14 at the time] was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith-History 1:8-10, link below)

    In the midst of the all the contradictions and confusion, Joseph Smith turned to God, the source of all Truth.

    We believe that the angel Moroni didn’t preach a gospel other than the one Christ preached; he preached the same one. Yes, it was different in some ways from the gospel being preached by other Christian churches at the time, but we would argue that that is because the doctrine had not remained pure over the centuries and that’s why a restoration was needed. Our definitions of “historic Christianity” are different.

    Joseph Smith’s canonized first person account of his First Vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, as well as his subsequent visions of the angel Moroni can be read here: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1

  3. Eric Blauer

    I agree LDS does interpret “definitions” differently and that’s why the debates about Mormonism and Christianity being different are valid.

    If someone pours a different meaning into a word shared by common use than it’s not fair to claim solidarity when the word may be the same but the definition is different. This is true for words like atonement, salvation, godhead, divinity, fatherhood and heaven. These words mean very different things to LDS people and historic, creedal Christians. Many of us see this and feel that the LDS campaign to equalize the issue is a bit of a smokescreen.

    If your Angel said:
    “The personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt…”

    How can we agree that we share the same faith?

    For me the issue of diverse branches on the tree of historic Christianity doesn’t alarm me or confuse me, it’s liberates me to enjoy the many fruits on the different limbs. Diversity is reflected in anything living.

    Revelations 22:1-2 says: “Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

    Calling other branches of the tree of faith, “abominations and corrupt” is a serious charge.

    So what was “restored” that other Christian denominations don’t practice?

  4. Emily Geddes

    I think there is quite a bit of diversity of definitions within Christianity as well as between “historic Christianity” and Mormonism. Different denominations view all those topics through slightly different lenses, too.

    Let’s start with just one simple definition. The most basic definition of a Christian is someone who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, someone who views Christ as his or her personal Savior. Faithful, believing Latter-day Saints absolutely fit that definition, so it feels particularly exclusionary to us when other Christians put additional requirements on that basic definition and claim that we aren’t Christian because we don’t subscribe to those additional, often creedal, requirements.

    The statement you quote is from Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the Personage speaking, we believe, is Christ Himself, not an angel. My understanding of Christ’s statement is that He is specifically speaking to the man-made beliefs that had crept into the historic creeds distancing them from the gospel He had taught while on the earth, and any religious leaders who were intentionally corrupt. He was not speaking about those honest, well-intentioned seekers in the various faiths who were doing their best to follow Christ.

    As for your final question, would it be all right if I put it in the queue for my “Ask a Mormon” feature? I still have three more questions ahead of it, but I think that would be a better place to start/continue the discussion about restoration than in this comments section.

  5. Eric Blauer

    You can comment whereever and however you choose but it feels a bit like statements instead of dialogue if one writes articles but isn’t interested in answering questions in response.

    As for your response, that seems to be an easy out and another redefining the meaning of the statement.

  6. Emily Geddes

    Eric, I’m glad to answer questions. I thought I had been. But this has turned into a wide-ranging discussion on topics not addressed in the original post that I think would be of interest to more people than just the two of us. I think it likely that more people will be able to see and participate in a discussion about restoration if it has its own post, identified as being on that topic, than if it’s buried in the comments section of a post only tangentially related. I was trying to widen the discussion, not cut it off.

    I was using a basic, broad, widely accepted definition of “Christian” as an example of how definitions can be exclusionary on both sides of this discussion. If the way I defined “Christian” above isn’t acceptable to you, I can understand why you would be reluctant to include Mormons as Christians, but I would argue that it is a perfectly acceptable definition to many people and that fact isn’t negated by the fact that you prefer a different definition.

    • Eric Blauer

      My concerns revolve around one’s definitions of the gospel. Your prophet, and the angel and Book of Mormon claim that our gospel needed “restored” and called everyone’s at the time, an abomination and corrupt. So I think the burden of explanation of definitions lies on the one’s making the case that the gospel needed to be something different than it was. I didn’t make that case, Mormons did and do.

      I’m instructed by the Apostle Paul to be extremely discerning about gospels from Angels and both Mormonism and Islam derive their religious distinctions and teaching and books from Angels.

      Galatians 1:6-7
      “I am astonished that you are lso quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

      You claim that Mormonism is a return to the gospel before it was distorted, so I’m wanting to hear what exactly are the distortions that Mormonism restored.

      That point was stated in your article, so I’m asking clarification on what you wrote.

  7. Emily Geddes

    Eric –

    I really appreciated your comment on my earlier post about “Hell on Wheels” when you said in response to some antagonistic commenters: “We are not talking about Mormonism only…we are talking to Emily.

    “She isn’t a position or a doctrine, she is a person, a writer and a pretty humble, self-reflecting contributor to this site. She doesn’t project Mormonisim in a china hut image but even pushes back or asks for sources for the stuff commented on in this post. All I’m saying is that honey more than vinegar works best in working through differences of opinion, truth or ideas. The slash and burn posture of many commentators online is a dirge for heath[l]y debate. Arguments, defensive responses, accusations, allegations, undocumented reports, hearsay, etc fills reams of Internet space and discredits the testimony of Truth… Flushing out the doctrinal faithful is an old tactic that sidesteps the issue of how people deal with one another…When we reduce people to positions only we are on the way to devaluing them completely.”

    Which is one reason I’m so confused with your approach on later posts, including this one.

    This post was about what I personally find valuable about my faith.

    You latched on to a single word and have run with it, hijacking this comments section to address your particular beef with Mormonism rather than the actual topic of the post.

    I’d be glad to discuss the differences between Mormonism and other Christian denominations. I’ve told you that several times now. When you submitted your almost-500-word question to “Ask a Mormon” I asked you to simplify your question so I could address it in the space I have available and you didn’t respond. In an earlier comment on this post, I again mentioned that a separate “Ask a Mormon” column would be a better forum for your question. I don’t understand your resistance to submitting a question in a more appropriate format and I don’t appreciate the insinuation that because I’m trying to direct this discussion to a better forum I’m avoiding answering questions.

    • Eric Blauer

      Emily, I’m just asking questions about stuff I’ve never got good answers for and thought this is why you started the “Ask a Mormon” section.

      I’ve defended you when I felt the comments went straight for the jugular in a way that seemed personal. My original submitted question was too long I guess, I didn’t know there were guidelines. So I’ve simply responded to subjects in your answers. I looked for you at the writers & readers meet up to talk but you didn’t attend.

      Mormonism has a lot of doctrines, practices and history that many people just don’t understand, I thought this might be a great format to wrestle with many of those, you must have other ideas.

      No worries, I’ll move on to other articles since this format seems like something you don’t enjoy. Thanks for the comments you’ve given.

      • Eric – I think it’s pretty clear from what I’ve read on other threads she’s participated in that Emily is very good at wrestling with issues in this format. I mean, she’s *still* responding to people on that Hell on Wheels thread. She just seems to be saying that comments should be on topic and related to the question she is answering in the post. That’s pretty basic internet etiquette. This post wasn’t about the differences between mormons and other christians or what Mormons think “restoring” means or what Galatians 1:6 means or different definitions of gospel or what that even means. You didn’t even address the question she was answering or the real subject of her post! You just latched on to an opening to talk about something you wanted to talk about and demanded she start debating theology on your terms. In the process, you made some pretty personal attacks on her, implying that she was lecturing people, dodging questions, and now you sound like you’re accusing her of being uncooperative and chasing you away.

        I’d heard good things about you from other people in the community who work with refugees about how kind and humble you are, Eric, so I’m really surprised that you resort to such passive aggressive tactics (and the cyber equivalent of leaving in a huff because you didn’t get your way!) instead of just apologizing for the misunderstanding and doing what the volunteer lay writer asks for to make it easier for her to contribute. I mean Emily’s not a full-time pastor or clergy member or theologian – her bio says she’s a mother with small children and a career. You guys don’t get paid for this, do you? If she’s anything like me, she’s has a life and obligations that don’t let her to spend all day arguing religion in the comments section and it looks like she’s spent a good chunk of her Saturday – maybe away from her kids? – trying to answer your questions.

        So Eric, I guess just don’t understand why it’s easier for you to do all of that than it is to take her at her word and submit a question like “Explain the differences between Mormonism and other Christians” or “I read XYZ that Smith wrote. Can you explain what it means when he said other churches were an abonimation and corrupt? Do Mormons think other churches are evil?” and then ask follow up questions in those threads. That’s what the rest of have done. And she’s responded! Looking over other threads, she’s put a lot of time into answering specific questions and replying to comments that were on topic and clear.

        Emily – I really enjoy your column and appreciate getting to know the basics about mormonism. It’s really interesting to me as a member ofanother faith. I’m not a pastor and didn’t go to seminary or study theology in school, so these have been really helpful for me to understand my mormon friends better on a practical level, instead of the deep doctrine debates clergy members always dive into on these sites. I’ve had some great discussions with my mormon friends on facebook about your posts. Thank you! – TT

  8. Eric Blauer

    Tabitha, everyone has the right to engage the site, material and writers and I’ve always supported the writers here and in person. I did submit a question and I responded to her articles because that’s what the comment section is for.

    We encourage dialogue and debate here, there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing, challenging and even calling people out. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of tackles, uppercuts and strong pushbacks. From my perspective, I’ve been pretty cordial in the back and forth, on the issues that I don’t feel she really addressed in responses.

    But that’s cool, I’m not a stalker or a crank. I enjoy the wrestling matches and the tea parties on this site. I also value people taking the time to write, ask questions and tango if they want. It’s a honor to get comments on an article. You may not value such conversations but others may and they are important issues to me.

    I did thank her for the comments too.

  9. Tracy Simmons

    The SpokaneFAVS writers are volunteer, and I truly appreciate all their hard work and efforts! Emily has gotten TONS of Ask A Mormon questions and is tackling them one at a time – despite her busy schedule. I like that these features prompt questions and dialogue, as long as it’s friendly 🙂

  10. Eric Blauer

    I will add that of all the Mormon’s i’ve asked anything or read, you’ve been one of the best Emily. So don’t take my line of questioning as adverserial, just inquisitive debate, or at least that’s how I intended it to be. I always try to write with the knowledge that I will more than likely sit in front of that person at some point in Spokane.

    So forgive me if my measurment of that relational perimeter was somehow off. Obviously there’s no way to communicate tone or intensity using this medium, and if we would of been face to face, you would of seen that underneath my face marrmot, there wasn’t a frown but a generally agreeable countenance.

  11. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

  12. Tracy Simmons

    Hi Jesenia, I just emailed you about this. But in case anyone else if having the same problem – when you get a notification from us, you can hit the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the email.

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