Was Mormonism ever pro-slavery?

Summary: In O’Donnell's rant against Mormonism he calls the LDS faith racist and Joseph Smith a criminal. He also accused the Church of being pro-slavery. His views are extremely biased--that will be obvious to anyone who watches the clip below. 

The LDS faith was never pro-slavery. Neither were Joseph Smith and Brigham Young--the only LDS Presidents during the antebellum period. Joseph Smith wanted to free the slaves by purchasing their freedom. Brigham Young said, I am neither an abolitionist nor a pro-slavery man. He goes on to say if he had to choose he would be against the pro-slavery side. 

Brigham Young wanted Utah to be a free state, but as a territory it permitted slavery. Though there were probably never more than 100 slaves in the entire territory. 

Naturally, politics came into play. When the church was in Missouri it was accused of being abolitionist, which is something Joseph Smith had to deal with. Brigham Young was afraid if slavery were abolished polygamy would be next. So they both walked a political tightrope.

Their positions on slavery are not what we would like them to be. But I cannot conclude either of them were pro-slavery. 


The Mormon concept of Heaven(s)

Related Posts: What is Kolob? ; Mormon Temple Worship

We believe that after the final judgment there are four places to which a person may be sent. They are the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, the telestial kingdom, and outer darkness. The first three are referred to as the three degrees of glory, often compared to the sun, the moon, and the stars (D&C 76:70, 78, 98).

The celestial, terrestrial, and telestial are kingdoms of glory. Outer darkness is not a kingdom of glory. Any person who inherits one of the top three kingdoms is technically saved; and they are saved through the power of the Atonement of Christ. 

In common usage, the word “saved typically refers to going to the celestial kingdom and heaven refers to the celestial kingdom.

So, what are these three heavens? And who goes where

The celestial kingdom: the highest kingdom of glory
Those who are most valiant and obedient receive the celestial kingdom and enjoy the presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. They have been faithful in all things and have overcome the sins of this world through the power of the Atonement of Christ.

Those who inherit this glory are referred to collectively as the Church of the Firstborn (Heb. 12:21-23; D&C 76:54).

The celestial kingdom is divided into three subdivisions, but no terminology has been adopted to refer to them (D&C 131:1-4)--We know nothing about the two lower divisions. For a person to inherit the highest division he/she must (1) qualify for celestial glory and (2) be married for eternity, which means being married in a temple. If so, “they are gods, even the sons of God--Wherefore, all things are theirs…they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (D&C 76:58-59; see also D&C 132:15-17).

The word exaltation refers to receiving the highest level in the celestial kingdom. To be exalted one “must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]” (D&C 131:1-4; brackets original). We believe God’s work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), which is also the work and glory of those who are exalted; they will work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of their own spirit children. (See Heavenly Mother.)

In Mormon terminology the word damned does not imply hell. It means they cannot progress any further. Any person who does not inherit the highest level in the celestial kingdom is technically damned, meaning they cannot have an “increase.” (Matthew 24:3 speaks of “greater damnation” so it stands to reason there is a lesser one.) 

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism reads, 
Just as there are varying degrees and types of salvation, coupled with eternal progression in some areas…so are there varying degrees and types of damnation…Individuals are damned whenever they are prevented from reaching their full potential as children of God” (“Damnation). 
Hence in his book Mormon Doctrine Apostle Bruce R. McConkie speaks of full salvation (Salvation).

Our scriptures tell us, 
All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom…[also] all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (D&C 137:7-10).
The terrestrial kingdom: the second kingdom of glory
Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom are basically good people: they might have known about all the commandments of God but chose to live the basics only; or had the opportunity and spiritual witness to accept Jesus through baptism and decided not to take it. The scriptures tell us they were not “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79). They are “[the] honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (D&C 76:75). They receive a portion of the Father's glory but not His full glory. They are also denied the presence of the Father, though they do receive visits from the Son Jesus Christ, who, in many respects is like the Father (John 14:9).

The telestial kingdom: the third kingdom of glory
The word telestial was, I believe, derived from the Greek word telos meaning last in a series. Those who go to the telestial kingdom are the really bad people. They “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:82)--not in this life, nor in the next. (See Spirit World.) They are “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (D&C 76:103).

Because they committed such grievous sins in mortality, and because they rejected Jesus who could have forgiven those sins, they must suffer the agony of their sins (Rev. 20:3; D&C 88:101). Only after their suffering will they inherit the lowest kingdom of glory. It appears that their suffering takes place in the spirit world (see Spirit World) and they are released from their torments at resurrection. What is their suffering like?

How sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God [i.e. Jesus Christ], have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit. (D&C 19:1-18)
We believe this suffering is what Jesus was speaking of when he said, “Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matt. 5:26).

After their torment they are freed from their punishments and inherit telestial glory. They enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost but not of the Father or the Son.

The glory of this lowest kingdom is said to surpass all understanding (D&C 76:89).

Why three degrees? 
Men will “be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared” (D&C 76:111). “For the Son of man shall…reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27). Or, as it is described in the Book of Mormon:
...is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? …the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish--good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful. (Alma 41:12-13)
A few years ago I came up with a generic way of explaining why three degrees of glory. There are two kinds of commandments which God gives: the ones that say, “thou shalt”; and the ones that say, “thou shalt not.” Those who go to the celestial kingdom obeyed both; those who go to the terrestrial kingdom obeyed the thou shalt nots but neglected the thou shalts; and those who go to the telestial kingdom neglected both. 

Having said that, I should emphasize that this should not be taken too far; it is only a generic way of looking at it.

Outer darkness
Those who were so wicked that they have completely separated themselves from the redemptive power of Christ becomes Sons of Perdition. They suffer spiritual death (also called the second death) -- the first death being death of the physical body. They receive a kingdom that has no glory (D&C 88:22-24). (See “Sons of Perdition,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism.)

Jesus said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:31-32). 

We sometimes refer to that blasphemy as the unforgivable sin (or the unpardonable sin).

In Mormon teachings it is not easy to qualify for perdition. Joseph Smith explained,
What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 358).
Some general comments
Mormons believe it would be terribly unfair if there
were only one heaven and one hell. What about people are are basically good but didn't try to be better? What about really good people who are not Christian? We wonder how their condemnation could be reconciled to the love of God--Is Gandhi in hell? We believe that missionary work continues in the next life; so it is possible that those really good non-Christians will be exalted. And, those people who could have lived a more virtuous life and chose not to, they don’t suffer eternally in hell either. Eternal hell is very difficult to qualify for. Only a very few people will not receive some glory.

According to Mormon beliefs the celestial kingdom is a physical place--actually it's spread out into many places. We believe that eventually this earth will die and be reborn: The earth “shall be quickened again...and the righteous shall inherit it” (D&C 88:25-26). What this means is that the earth will become a “celestial kingdom” for those righteous persons who lived upon it. This is a literal interpretation of Jesus' saying, “the meek…shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). We also believe the sea of glass mentioned in Revelation (Rev. 4:6; Rev. 15:2) is “the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state” (D&C 77:1). Because we believe there are many inhabited worlds (Moses 1:33-35) we also believe there are potentially many celestial kingdoms, where each celestialized world is the celestial kingdom of those who lived upon it during their mortal life. (See What is Kolob?)

Each celestial kingdom is a perfected planet. But speculating more is tempting but useless: Does it remain in this universe? Or does it go into a parallel God-verse. Before the advent of modern cosmology Mormons generally believed that everything took place in this universe. Early Apostle Orson Pratt, known for theological speculations, said in 1878,
Now, supposing we were immortal beings, and we stood upon one celestial world, away in a distant part of space, and others dwelling upon another celestial world innumerable miles distant from us, there may be a process by which we could communicate one to another, and ideas be exchanged, from world to world…This is the destiny of these worlds that twinkle in the firmament of heaven; they will finally arrive at that state of perfected existence…they will be full of light, like unto the sea of glass, that John the Revelator saw…What a happy state and condition, not only to study these things pertaining to this little world we inhabit, but to extend our researches to our neighboring worlds, learning the laws, institutions, and governments of the peoples that inhabit them, also their history, and everything pertaining to them, and then extend our researches still further. (JD, 19:292-293)
The above statement is not authoritative but I believe it represents what many early Mormons believed. Today the celestial kingdom is still understood to be physical planet-like sphere, a resurrected world. But most Mormons refrain from speculating more.

The New Testament
There are only intimations of the three degrees of glory found in the New Testament. The most commonly quoted scripture used to support our view is 1 Corinthians 15:40-41:
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.
Most non-Mormons interpret “celestial bodies” as heavenly bodies: sun, moon, and stars. And interpret “bodies terrestrial” as the earthly bodies of men and beasts. And interpret the glory of the sun, moon, and stars as meaning “…when they rise, [they] will be so far changed, that they will be fitted for the heavenly regions, and that there will be a variety of glories among the bodies of the dead, when they shall be raised, as there is among the sun, and moon, and stars, nay among the stars themselves” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary).

But Mormons understand the Corinthians passage in this way: just as there are glories among resurrected bodies there are three glories in which they abide. The Joseph Smith translation (See Mormons and the Bible: Part II) reads a little differently.
Also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (JST, 1 Cor. 15:41-42)
See Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Celestial Kingdom; Terrestrial Kingdom; Telestial Kingdom; Degrees of Glory; Unpardonable Sin

Blacks and the Priesthood

There has been some recent talk about the Church's former policy of not ordaining black men to the priesthood. I am republishing this post from my other blog (Response to Damon Linker).

An article written by Jason Riley in todays Wall Street Journal brought up some good points ("The Mormons still haven't settled their race problem"). The only issue I had with the article was the comment, "Ultimately, the ban was a manifestation of a central belief that blacks are unfit to be full members of the church on Earth, or to exist alongside whites in heaven." There was never a doctrine of separate heavens for blacks and whites. Mormons did, and some still do, see blackness as the mark of a divine curse. But there was never a teaching that blacks could not eventually receive all the blessings that whites may receive. I know that doesn't change the past or make it less offensive, nor should it. But because Mormonism's past is checkered with practices and doctrines that many consider racist or strange, assessments of our beliefs easily tend toward exaggeration and/or distortion--sometimes a lot, and sometimes a little.

I have noticed that younger Mormons struggle with the priesthood issue much more than older Mormons do. (By older Mormons I mean Mormons that grew up in the 40's, 50's and 60's.) I suppose the reason for it is this. Older Mormons grew up in an America that often accepted racist attitudes without realizing how awful they were. I remember my mother telling me that when she was a child she new the rhyme "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" as going like this, "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a nigger by the toe..."--It was only after an embarrassing situation that she realized how awful it was. Anyway, older Mormons know what that world was like. So when black men were admitted to the priesthood white Mormons experienced it as a change for the better. Younger Mormons, on the other hand, are left with the question of how that practice could ever have been, and struggle more with the issues of the past.

Below is a post from Response to Damon Linker posted on Monday, March 12, 2007. I have made a few minor modifications.

Related Posts: Was Mormonism ever pro-slavery? ; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part I ; Race issues in the Book of Mormon: Part II ; The Premortal Life

See also The Untold Story of Black Mormons

Blacks and the Priesthood
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints barred black men from priesthood ordination until 1978. This posting explores the question as to why that was.

The reasons
It was once a very common belief among Mormons that black people were descended from Cain; that Cain and his descendants were cursed for that act of Cain killing Abel; and the mark of that curse was a black skin; and that the seed of Cain survived the flood through Ham, one of the sons of Noah. And this, it was thought, was why black men were not ordained to the priesthood. Joseph Fielding Smith (who later became 10th president of the church) wrote in Answers to Gospel Questions,

‘Was Cain cursed with a black skin?’ Technically the black skin was not the curse, but the mark of the curse. The scriptures do not say that Cain was made black, but we read that his descendants were. We may well suppose that Cain was also black and that this was the mark the Lord placed upon him. (p. 175)

are Mormons who still believe this, though they wouldn’t say so. During my two years of LDS missionary work I met several Elders who totally believed it.

The next question is this: How can denying priesthood to an entire people because of something Cain did be justified? The typical answer would go something like this. Mormons believe in a pre-mortal life, that is, that we existed as beings before we were born. During this pre-mortal life there was a struggle between good and evil. Lucifer waged war against God and tried to persuade God’s children (you and me) to wage war also. During this struggle Lucifer persuaded one third of the hosts of heaven to follow him, but lost. (Rev. 12:4, 7-9) He and his followers were cast out of heaven and became the Devil and his angels. It was thought that people born into the black race were fence sitters in the war in heaven; they didn’t support Lucifer but neither did they support Christ. Thus they were born into the black race and denied the blessing of the priesthood. (This belief is less common than the curse of Cain belief.) In the book The Way to Perfection Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,

We naturally conclude that others among the two-thirds did not show the loyalty to their Redeemer that they should [have]…[they were] permitted to come to the earth-life with some restrictions placed upon them. That the Negro race, for instance, have been placed under restrictions because of their attitude in the world of spirits, few will doubt. (p. 43)

I’m not going to attempt to answer the question of how God could permit this teaching. And most people are not interested in justifications. So, as best as I can, I shall explain why and let people’s judgment fall where it will.

The way we were, and are
The subject revolves around race issues and attitudes within the church. I suppose the kindest way to put it is this. That’s the way a lot of America was--and in some ways still is--and the Mormons are the same.

I remember one incident when I was about eight or nine years old. I was in Sunday school class and our teacher said there was no scriptural evidence that black people were descended from Cain. I very vocally disagreed with him--I remember how ticked off he was about it. As a young boy I frequently read books on Mormon theology and the curse of Cain theory was the only explanation given as to why black men were barred from priesthood ordination. At such a young age I believed it. When I reached my teenage years I felt the basic idea was correct but that there was something incomplete with this explanation. When I was on my mission I was sure it was not complete and had some doubts about its basic correctness. It was only after my mission, and a lot more study, that I concluded the history of racism was a principal factor. Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion? I grew up in all white neighborhoods and had very little contact with black people; almost everyone I knew was really nice and so it never came to mind. I have no recollection of my parents ever making bigoted comments. And apart from occasionally overhearing a racist joke I never encountered or was made aware of severe racism until my LDS mission (1991-1993)--the South Africa Cape Town Mission.

When I first arrived there were no non-white elders or sisters serving in the mission which included the Cape Province, Namibia, Ciskei, and Transkei. Near the end of my mission there were several Indian and black elders and sisters serving. I can recall the mission president’s wife giving a talk at an LDS conference in Cape Town. I don’t recall her exact words but she mentioned to the audience that her black maid had said something to her to the effect of “that’s why God made white people better.” She said how much this upset her because it wasn’t true--her comments were directed toward whites. I also knew several non-whites who wouldn’t come back to church because of comments from white members. And I heard this joke more than once, “How do you find paradise? Tie a black to your car and drive around until someone says, ‘what’s that?’”--there’s more to the joke but there’s nothing funny about it. I could give more examples but I think I’ve made my point. When I got home from my mission I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before: things people said, the look on their face, the edge of a remark. Racism had become more real to me.

Most younger Mormons tend not to subscribe to the curse of Cain theory or the pre-mortal explanation, but are also unwilling to consider the history of racism as a factor. In the book No More Strangers one Theodore A. Di Padova explains his struggle with this issue: “While in Utah I encountered one of the unofficial theories explaining the situation of the Negro with regard to the priesthood. The implications of this theory upset me greatly, but when I came down to making a decision on it, I realized that there would be many things which I would not comprehend. Recognizing the finite nature of my own mind, I was willing to suspend judgment on some issues.” This is the most common approach taken with this issue: leave the mysteries alone.

Some history
The origin of the curse of Cain theory (which is also related to the curse of Ham) is not LDS. Its origins are much older. From what I have been able to gather it began to propagate in the United States as an attempt to justify slavery and the slave trade. Here are some examples of the curse of Cain idea. A slave by the name of Phillis Wheatley wrote (1770) in a poem: “Remember, Christians, Negros black as Cain, may be refined, and join th’ angelic train” (here). In London (1704) one popular writer wrote: “Some have believed that Cain’s Mark was black, and therefore this Successors Colour might be alter’d from what Adam’s was, and so by new Marriages and Intermixtures, the World might be diversely coloured” (White Over Black, p. 242). The Oxford Companion to the Bible under “Ham/Canaan, Cursing of” reads, “This passage[, Gen. 9:20-27,] has recently been used to support another kind racism. Because some of Ham’s descendants, notably *Cush, are black (see Gen. 10.6-14), the ‘curse on Ham’ has been interpreted as black (Negroid) skin color and features in order to legitimate slavery and oppression of people of African origin.” Over the second half of the 19th century and through most of the 20th century this teaching was prevalent among Mormons. But in Mormon theology it was not strongly linked to slavery. (Brigham Young had some personal objections to slavery but did not object to it as an institution; he believed that the black race should be servants, see below; and also stated in 1859 that if Utah were admitted to the Union it would be a free state; here)

The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a “servant of servants” to his fellow-creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it. These are my views upon slavery…The conduct of the whites towards the slaves will, in many cases, send both slave and master to hell…The blacks should be used like servants, and not like brutes, but they must serve. It is their privilege to live so as to enjoy many of the blessings which attend obedience to the first principles of the Gospel, though they are not entitled to the Priesthood.
(Brigham Young [2nd President of the church], 1855, JD 2:184)

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote (1966) in his book Mormon Doctrine:

Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry… It is only by a knowledge of pre-existence that it can be known why some persons are born in one race or caste and some in another. (“Caste System”, Mormon Doctrine)

And the Church Historian (and General Authority) B. H. Roberts said (1895):
But you can turn your eyes to a race inhabiting Africa--the negro race. While it is true they are blessed with the privileges of the Gospel, you find them curtailed in the rights of the Holy Priesthood--they cannot receive it…Then how do you reconcile this fact, I have pointed out, with the justice of God? I reconcile it by the knowledge which comes to us through the doctrine of the pre-existence of man’s spirit, and I believe that conditions in this life are influenced and fixed by the degree of faithfulness, by the degree of development in the pre-existent state. Otherwise the diversified conditions in which men find themselves placed cannot be reconciled with the justice of God.
(Collected Discourses, vol. 4)

[The remaining information in this section is taken from chapter four of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory Prince and Robert Wright. And unless otherwise noted the quotations below are also from this book]

Not all presidents of the church had such strong views on these two doctrines. President David O Mckay laid the foundation for change in the priesthood policy.

Prior to McKay’s tenure as President priesthood ordination was denied to all people who were considered Negroid in appearance. He narrowed the policy to a restriction on those of black African descent, thus opening priesthood ordination to Fijians, Australian aborigines, and Egyptians. He also eliminated a policy in South Africa that restricted the priesthood to only those who could prove they had no African ancestry (p. 80-81). The policy was changed so that ordination is withheld only in cases where black ancestry was certain. He also made it possible for black children adopted by white couples to be sealed to their new parents, and that the children could enter the temple for the ceremony.

Though President McKay was not especially friendly toward the civil rights movement there is some evidence that under the influence of Apostle Hugh B. Brown (who was strongly sympathetic towards civil rights) he theorized about altering the church’s policy on priesthood ordination. President McKay also had a special committee look into the history and scriptural basis for the priesthood ban. Leonard Arrington, who would later served as church historian, wrote “[the committee] concluded that there was no sound scriptural basis for the policy but that the church membership was not prepared for its reversal” (p. 80). President McKay also mentioned to others that he viewed the ordination issue as practice and not doctrine. A belief that was not universal among church leadership.

Upon President McKay's death Time printed a eulogy which stated “...McKay had expanded his Church’s horizons and involvement far beyond the abilities of any successor to contract them. If he had not completely destroyed Mormon exclusivism, he has certainly tempered it with his own remarkable vision of a much wider, friendlier world” ("Prophet, Seer and Innovator," Time, February 2, 1970, p. 50).

The Change
In 1978 President Kimball received a revelation that changed the policy. It reads,

Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time…all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren…[God] has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood…including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. (Official Declaration 2:7-8)

This statement says a lot. It recognizes that the ban was subject to change and that there was an expectation that it would change. But the fact that it took a revelation to do so indicates that it was seen as the will of God for the time it was in place and/or it would take a revelation to convince the leadership that the policy should be altered.

Final comments
I am not aware that there was ever a revelation directing the church to ban black men from the priesthood. In fact, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood during church founder Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the most notable being Elijah Abel. The practice of barring black men from priesthood ordination formed later and was primarily an outgrowth of 19th century thinking. The issue of change was influenced by factors such as how passages of scripture were interpreted, civil rights, and common attitudes of the time.

I will share with you my conviction that God gives people commandments as they are prepared, willing, and able to obey them.

Blacks and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” on Wikipedia.

Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black, American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, University of North Carolina Press, 1968.

Johnson, James Weldon, ed. The Book of American Negro Poetry, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.: 1931.

Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886.

Metziger, Bruce M., Coogan, Michael D., The Oxford Companion to the Bible. New York. Oxford University Press, 1993.

McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. 2d ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966.

Prince, Gregory A. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Salt lake City: The University of Utah Press. 2005.

Hartman, Rector, Hartman, Connie. No More Strangers. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971-1990.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. Answers to Gospel Questions. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957-1966.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. The Way to Perfection. 13th ed. Deseret Book Company, 1966.

Stuy, Brian H., ed. Collected Discourses. Burbank, California, and Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992.

Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon

Related Posts: Are Satan and Jesus Brothers?; Whom do we Worship?; The Trinity; The Nature of Christ; Godhead: God or Gods?; The Premortal Life

Today in an article written by Frank Pastore on Townhall.com the following allegations about Mormon beliefs were proffered.
Second, when [Mitt Romeny] said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he did not also include that, according to Mormon theology, there are an infinite number of “sons of Gods,” that Jesus is a Son of God along with his brother Lucifer, and that Jesus is only the savior of this world, since Mormon males can become the God, Creator, and Savior of their own planet one day. (“Christian Angst Over a Romney Presidency)
I would like to write about who the Mormons believe Jesus is.

Who is Jesus?Our first article of faith says, “WE believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost”. And our third article of faith says, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (Articles of Faith.)

First, we do not believe in the Trinitarian view of God. We also reject the Christology in the Creed of Chalcedon. (See The Nature of Christ.) We believe that Jesus was begotten of the Father during the preexistence, our existence before the creation of the earth. As were you and me. (See The Premortal Life.) He was the first begotten of all the children of the Father. He is and was the most faithful, valiant, and beloved of all God’s children. He is the Father’s “Beloved Son,” who was “Beloved and Chosen from the beginning” (Moses 4:2).

The Father’s plan was to create an earth so that his children could be born into mortality “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25). Because mortality meant we would unavoidably sin the Father needed to provided a Redeemer. When the Father asked Who shall I send, Jesus came forward and said, Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever (Moses 3:2); he volunteered to sacrifice himself for the rest of us. Jesus is worthy of our worship. (See Whom do we Worship?)

Jesus is the first begotten Son of God during premortality and also the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He was born of the virgin Mary. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi saw a vision of Jesus and Mary:
I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?...Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! (1 Nephi 11:13-21; see also Matt. 1:23-25).
Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection constitute the Atonement, by which it is possible for mankind to be reconciled to God. In the Mormon view the bulk of the Atonement was during Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane where he pleaded, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me,” his agony becoming so great that there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44). According to Mormon beliefs his suffering was so great that he did sweat blood (D&C 19:18; Mosiah 3:7). We also believe his suffering and death on the cross were necessary. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and crucified on the orders of Pontius Pilate. On the third day he resurrected and ascended into heaven.

Elder Russell M. Nelson (Apostle) explained that Atonement this way.

The ordeal of the Atonement centered about the city of Jerusalem. There the greatest single act of love of all recorded history took place. Leaving the upper room, Jesus and His friends crossed the deep ravine east of the city and came to a garden of olive trees on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. There in the garden bearing the Hebrew name of Gethsemane—meaning “oil-press”—olives had been beaten and pressed to provide oil and food. There at Gethsemane, the Lord “suffered the pain of all men, that all … might repent and come unto him.” He took upon Himself the weight of the sins of all mankind, bearing its massive load that caused Him to bleed from every pore.

Later He was beaten and scourged. A crown of sharp thorns was thrust upon His head as an additional form of torture. He was mocked and jeered. He suffered every indignity at the hands of His own people. “I came unto my own,” He said, “and my own received me not.” Instead of their warm embrace, He received their cruel rejection. Then He was required to carry His own cross to the hill of Calvary, where He was nailed to that cross and made to suffer excruciating pain.

...Jesus then complied with the will of His Father. Three days later, precisely as prophesied, He rose from the grave. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. He had accomplished the Atonement, which could give immortality and eternal life to all obedient human beings. All that the Fall allowed to go awry, the Atonement allowed to go aright. (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996)

What about people on other worlds?
One of the incorrect statements that Mr. Pastore made was that we believe “Jesus is only the savior of this world.” What we really believe is that “by [Jesus], and through [Jesus], and of [Jesus], the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24). Joseph Smith put is even more succinctly in a poem:

And I heard a great voice, bearing record from heav’n,
He's the Saviour, and only begotten of God-
By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,

Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav'd by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God's daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, p. 82, 1843)

So there you have it--Jesus is the savior of every world created by the Father (through Jesus Christ).

Are Satan and Jesus Brothers?

Related Posts: Who is Jesus?–to a Mormon; The Premortal Life; Angels

A recent comment published in the New York Times by presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee brought up the issue, are Jesus and Satan brothers? The interviewer writes:

I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘I think it’s a religion,’ he said. ‘I really don’t know much about it.’ I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘Don’t Mormons,’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’ ("The Huckabee Factor")

Huckabee’s not-so-innocent statement (not question) was intended to create animosity towards Mitt Romney’s religion—towards Mormonism. So what is the story behind the statement, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee is not the first to mention it. I came across it a few times while serving my two years as an LDS missionary.

The answer is best placed in the context of the premortal existence.

Mormons believe that before the earth was created we existed as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. This existence is called the premortal existence, or the pre-existence--I’ll call it premortality.[1],[2] Jesus was among these children; as well as you, me, and everybody else--including Lucifer. During this existence we learned, progressed, and developed. Then finally the time came for us to progress to the next stage of existence--mortality. Our Heavenly Father gathered us together and proposed what we call the plan of salvation. “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them,” are the basics of the plan (Abr. 3:24-25). It was further decided that since committing sin was going to be unavoidable a savior must be provided. So the Father said, “Whom shall I send?” And two persons came forward, “One answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Abr. 3:27-28). The first, who was “like unto the Son of Man,” was Jesus. The second was Lucifer. The difference between them is that Jesus is always the obedient son: “But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me--Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2). However, Lucifer wanted to alter the Father’s plan so as to guarantee salvation for all mankind, but at the expense of personal agency:

[Lucifer] came before me [the Father], saying--Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor… Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man...and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice. (Moses 4:1-3).

So in the Mormon view the Devil and his angels are simply the cast out, and fallen, spirit children of our Heavenly Father.[3]

What do the scriptures say?
It is in that light that we interpret the following passages of scripture.

Isaiah 14:12-15: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Luke 10:18: And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Revelation 12:7-9: And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And from LDS scripture: 

 An angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him--he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. (D&C 76:25-26)

So are Jesus and Satan brothers? Well, they were both created by God the Father, so I suppose in that sense they are. And in that sense everyone are brothers and sisters. Also, it is not uncommon for Mormons to refer to Jesus as our elder brother.[4] So the evangelical accusation that we believe Satan and Jesus are brothers is not without foundation. What bothers me about what they say is they carefully avoid anything that would provide context to LDS beliefs. Also, a proper response is difficult because explaining context is often laborious, even tedious. As such, it is hardly an effective response to an accusation that takes less than a second to make. On the other hand we can’t respond with “No, that’s not true.”

The LDS Newsroom handled it in this way:

Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. ("Answering Media Questions about Jesus and Satan")[5]

The above statement is an appropriately short response to a short criticism. Though it doesn’t mention premortality it should be remembered that it is designed to address fears people might have about Mormonism: fears that we might believe Jesus and Satan are in collusion; or that we believe in a kind of dualism where good and evil are equal partners; or that Satan is Jesus' equal; or that we don't worship Jesus.

See also First Estate; Second Estate; War in Heaven in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

End Notes_________________________________________

[1] The premortal existence is also called the first estate. The mortal existence is called the second estate. Thusly we interpret “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6).

The ESV reads, “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority”.

The NASB reads, “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode”

And the ALT reads, “angels, the ones not having kept their own domain, _but_ having left their own habitation”

[2] The second estate is mortality. Thus,

they who keep their first estate [i.e. are faithful in premortality] shall be added upon [i.e. born to mortality]; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate [i.e. are faithful in mortality] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abr. 3:25-26)

[3] In the Mormon view, because the Devil and his angels were in the premortal existence they recognized Jesus when they saw him.

there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matt. 8:28-29)

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. (Mark 1:23-24)

And because they were denied their second estate they desire to have a physical body and if they can they will possess the bodes of men. (See. Matt. 12:43-44; Mark 1:23-26; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:1-15.) And if not human bodies then they settle for something else.

So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. (Matt. 8:31)

[4] Apostle (and eventual President of the Church) Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

We are taught that we are all children of God; he is our Eternal Father. By that we mean that he is the Father of our spirits, and that Jesus Christ is our Elder (Oldest) Brother--the Firstborn Son of God in the Spirit and the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. For an untold period of time we dwelt in the presence of our Father, and there we walked by sight. We saw him as a glorious being with a body that shone with the brilliance like the sun. He had a body of flesh and bones--a tabernacle for his Spirit. We were spirits only, so was Jesus. As spirits, dwelling in that first estate, it was impossible for us to obtain a fulness of joy. We could not advance to receive the blessings which our Father had in store for his children in that estate. It was the will of our Father that we have the opportunities of a second estate where we would receive bodies of flesh and bones as tabernacles for our spirits.

This was not all. It was necessary also that we pass through a period of mortality where we would be required to walk by faith and be shut out of the presence of our Father. (Answers to Gospel Questions, p. 212)

[5] It should be pointed out that in LDS beliefs angels are men. Usually resurrected, but not always, whom God sends as messengers. For example, in the LDS view Michael the archangel and Gabriel are Adam and Noah respectively.

I mention this because the standard Christian belief is that angels are a different class of being.

By the word "angels" (that is, “messengers” of God), we ordinarily understand a race of spiritual beings of a nature exalted far above that of man, although infinitely removed from that of God -- whose office is “to do him service in heaven, and by his appointment to succor and defend men on earth”
Angels are termed “spirits,” as in Heb. 1:14 -- but it is not asserted that the angelic nature is incorporeal. The contrary seems expressly implied in Luke 20:36. The angels are revealed to us as beings such as man might be, and will be when the power of sin and death is removed, because always beholding his face, Matt. 18:10, and therefore being “made like him.” 1 John 3:2. Their number must be very large, 1 Kings 22:19; Matt. 26:53; Heb. 12:22, their strength is great, Ps. 103:20; Rev. 5:2; Rev. 18:21, their activity marvelous, Isa. 6:2-6; Matt. 26:53; Rev. 8:13, their appearance varied according to circumstances, but was often brilliant and dazzling. Matt. 28:2-7; Rev. 10:1-2. (“Angels”, Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

Mormon Temple Garments

Related Posts: Mormon Temple Worship; Fall of Man Part I

See Also: "Garments" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism; Temple Garments at LDS Newsroom.

Temple Garments 
There has been some talk of Mormon temple garments. So I thought I would say a few things about them. The Church discourages its members from engaging in casual conversation about temple garments so I will be brief;)

After a Mormon has gone through the temple he or she is expected to wear what is called the garment, or temple garment. In form it is usually a two piece undergarment consisting of what looks like a t-shirt and an extended leg brief. The pictures below are not Mormon garments, but they look almost exactly like Mormon garments. They are ordinary undergarments which can be purchased at any department store. In fact if you were in a locker room you probably wouldn't notice the difference. The Mormon garment is about 1 to 2 inches longer in the leg.