I've thought quite a bit about your question regarding what I consider the crux of "Mormonism" to be and like to share with you what I believe it is. To me it is its concept of the God and man and their relationship.
When the young and unsophisticated Joseph saw the vision of God he Father and His Son in the grove near his home, he saw two distinct personages. With this great revelation and subsequent knowledge came the restoration and bringing together of several great truths.' Among them are:
1). God does exist and is actively concerned about the affairs of men ( is neither "dead' nor absent);
2). He is a glorified and perfected being (not a vague metaphysical force for good);
3). His Son Jesus Christ is in His express image and glory, and is a separate personality (not one in being as most theologians unitedly and illogically suppose, but one in purpose)',
4). We are all the spiritual sons and daughters of God, created in His image (not everlastingly inferior creatures created by his good pleasure out of nothing solely to honor and worship Him)'; and
5). We have the capacity to become like Him through the power of His Son's atonement and our individual obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (not saved or damned by His caprice of will through no act of ours). In short, the vitality of Mormonism (or the essence of true Christianity) lies in the worship of a (of truly worth worshipping and emulating--for lie is the idealization of all the highest aspirations, attributes, and capacities latent within Man and Woman. In comprehending His divine nature we more fully comprehend our own potential, as well as come to understand the great worth and potential of every soul who has ever been born, is being born, and shall yet be born. Perhaps in no other way do we become more godly or appreciate what it is to be like God, than in using our talents, strains, and efforts to lift and succor one another--particularly our own families.
Let's analyze some of the philosophical implications of this anthropomorphizing? Well, my lovely cockatoo, what manner of creature do you suppose Jesus was (and is), you are, I am, everyone is, was and will be? If religion is not the study of man-what he is, what he is capable of becoming, and his relationship to others--can you think of something it should rather be? Yet that seems to be what the Christianity of the Dark Ages evolved into--something rather than man-oriented when the theologians no longer conceived of God as a glorified, perfected being. The simple doctrine of an anthropomorphic God found in the old and new Testaments was corrupted and lost by the meaningless jargon of the creeds (adopted at Nicaea that developed out of the intellectual mysticism and confusion of the fourth century And these creeds and beliefs have largely continued to this day. You know the creeds: "God is a spirit, eternal independent, infinite and immutable, who is present
Everywhere, who seeth all things and governs the universe”…and “He is supreme intelligence, who has neither body or figure, or color and living cannot fall under the senses…” Catholic Church
There is but one and true sod, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness the maker and preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and in the unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power eternity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost..." (Methodist
Church) is but one living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his immutable and righteous will, for his own glory;....with all most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty." (Presbyterian Church).
How can anyone he expected to understand, much less to love and be loved by, such an incomprehensible God as the above tenets would lead him to worship? One would think that the explanations that have developed out of these creeds would he beneath the dignity of ministers of the gospel to promote.
Ludwig Feuerbach considered such a conception of Deity to be "monstrous", anti-man, and inconsistent with the real essence of Christianity (and life!) To elict it was inconceivable" (and it is) In an attempt to analyze the God believed in by Luther, Feuerbach described it as a "thought-being" who was the sum of all our harshest tendencies and feelings, while the incarnate Christ was the revelation of (God to man of ills will in terms that man could understand One may ask: How can I honor then Father and seek to become like him (even the
pronoun him is appropriate) without becoming unlike the anthropomorphic Christ) whom the theologians say we can properly adore and worship and honor? How can two such broad extremes be "one God"? If such an inconceivable corruption of Deity is not contrary to the laws of nature, it is most assuredly contrary to reason.
Certainly Carlyle's jibe of an absentee God, "sitting idle ever since the first Sabbath on the outside of His universe and seeing it go,"--is true of St Augustine and his brother monks' corruption of deity. Perhaps it was not that God had deserted man so much as it was that man was no longer -capable of comprehending God.. ."How much did these men know of that greater revelation of God, the book of nature, which flooded, the last century with light? Interpreting Deity, as perforce they must, by the content of their experience, think what a narrow emanation of the life of the Dark Ages their conception had to be!
"What of His physical personality, considered from the standpoint of ascetics--men who devised the human body as viler than the rags of a beggar? "What of His intellectual personality, interpreted by an age dogmatic and un-scientific to the last degree? What of Bus social and moral personality, mirrored in the imaginations of men, whose highest social ideal was to shirk all contact with, and responsibility for the world, by living in caves, convents, and monasteries?
"Is.it any wonder then, that when men began to study science, when they went direct to nature for their ideals, when they read od's purpose concerning man by studying man himself, especially in his relation to social evolution,--is it any wonder that they turned away from the artificial conception promulgated by theologians? Was not this idea of God, after all, only an intensified conception of the medieval monarch; whose approbation was to be gained, and whose anger appeased, through the mediation of court favorites (saints, angels, the Virgin Mary, the Son of God), who might be bribed or cajoled into pleading the sinner's c au s e?
"Such a conception could not co-exist with ideals attained through the larger generalizations of life. To find pleasure in the servile prostration of multitudes is not now conceived a noble trait even in kings; les therefore, in the King of kings.
"To make life and death dependent on the mere caprice of human will, we have now come to believe unjust and dangerous, and accordingly have substituted the reign of human law; in the same way, eternal life has come to be conceived as dependent, not upon the favor or anger Deity (in the medieval sense), but upon divine law (i.e. the laws of the universe).
"But in this shifting of the ultimate Source of volition and responsibility, a great mistake was made. instead of stripping from the Christ or Bible-type of Deity all the vagaries and artificialities in which he had been clothed during the Dark Ages, and then re-clothing Him according to the ideals of modern life, scientists overthrew the type itself; and after awhile theologians caught up by substituting a vague generalization--first fathered by Buddha and afterwards developed by Plato--under the mistaken notion that such a concession was necessary in order to patch up the breach between science and religion. I repeat that a great mistake was made, for after all, what type of creative intelligence other than the man-type, can the race possible come in contact with? Why, then throw away the teachings of experience, from some fancy that it may be inadequate, and build upon non-experience, which we know is inadequate?
The point of the foregoing discussion, so far as the present volume is concerned, is this: Mormonism, though starting as it did, in the blaze of the scientific age, yet took for its object of worship the Bible-type of God; but it did not load itself down with the incubus of medieval interpretation.
"Like Christ, God is conceived as the perfected man; but as to the meaning of "perfected", no theologian of the past, however wise, in the estimation of Christendom, can have a voice: each man knows God to the extent that he has grown like Him; and he has grown like Him to the extent that he as discovered and obeyed law.
"Mormonism thus finds in life, not metaphysical speculation, its commentary upon Scripture. Accordingly, let the reader come to this book, not with the pre-judgment that he is to witness the setting up again of a conception which has fallen a hundred times in previous polemical battles; but rather with the idea that Mormonism may have something new and entirely/worthy of modern thought. For however true of the Augustinian conception, Carlyle's jibe....has no meaning whatever in the conception believed in by Latter-day Saints."-A
Let us consider the accomplishments of modern “puny” and "mere morta1" anthropomorphic man in just the last decade or so: "his computers store and impart information that overwhelms the imagination, and his lasers give light to the lunar landscape or remove tiny cataracts from the human eye. He predicts and, in some measure, controls the weather. He has unleashed the atom to consume the world or irrigate the waste places and run the faltering human heart. He walks the wide expanse of space, builds his own small planets and dwells within, them for months at a time, traverses the moon's surfaces while millions of others throughout the world watch and hear it all happen. He maps the face of Mars and Venice in minute detail, hurls missiles into the sun and onward everlastingly into space.
"Technologically speaking, in other words, man has now attained a certain divinity, accomplishing wonders many people once assumed would be impossible for any God 'handicapped' with physical limitations. In the words of Archibald MacLeish...'ours is one of the great ages in history...an age in which the old impossible heroic myths have all come true.' (when We Are Gods? Saturday Review, Oct 1967, p.22)."
In the realm of social evolution in recent years, women and minority groups, so long sup-pressed and underrated (and no wonder, considering the tyrannical gods Most of world has paid homage to!)have made great strides in emancipation and recognition. Our consciousness has been raised concerning the underprivileged and oppressed all over the world, and war is no longer perceived as glorious and heroic, hut as. the horrible and destructive evil that it really is. 'L
Joseph. Smith has written:
“Man possesses the faculty to increase in knowledge, wisdom and power.
'He has subdued the earth and rides upon the air and on the seas.
"He has harnessed the lightings and the cataracts and made them
"His inventive get1us has brought the forces of nature to obey him.
“He has discovered hidden secrets of the universe.
He builds great structures reaching into the heavens, and improves and beautifies his surroundings.
“He has taken advantage of the knowledge of past ages and by his observation and adaptation has increased his knowledge and power.
"He has developed to a high degree the gift of reason.
"He has inherited the gift of speech and conveys his thoughts to his fellow man in a complex language, both written and oral.
"He has learned to send his thoughts out upon the ethereal waves almost instantly to all parts of the earth.
"Neither land nor sea stands in the way of his communications.
"In his higher civilization he possesses an esthetic nature. He loves the beautiful and appreciates things lovely and artistic. By these qualities he is able to touch the hearts of his fellow men and sway them in their emotions. All of these powers are increased as he draws nearer to his Creator and Father. When he forgets the source of all these qualifications and turns from his God, then are these blessings impaired and he sinks in ignorance and sin. Without the guidance of the Divine Presence, whence he comes, he becomes a slave to savagery and debased ignorance, for it is the Spirit of truth which enlightens and sustains.”
Our spiritual and moral aspirations and advancement has often seemed less focused and ambitions than those in the domains of science and the arts. I do not in the least join the ranks of orthodox theologians who, with self-righteous distain, look upon the desperate search for knowledge, power, wealth and liberation, as well as the indulgence in spiritualism, unlawful sex, and drugs,-- as wholly hedonistic, permissive, and decadent Truman Madsen) The end view the efforts of humanity to find self-realization and fulfillment as largely misguided, and watch with sympathy (if not empathy!) the attempts of some to be "turned on as but distorted concern for godly power, and often a sincere desire to find escape or meaning in the very real pain, frustration, terror, and alienation this life can have: Surely a large part of the blame for the moral/spiritual fusion lies with theology itself. or the only type of God that can have any meaning (and hope) whatsoever for man is a man-type of God and when the theologians varied from the anthropomorphic God found in the simple teachings of the Bible, perhaps considering it too puerile or blasphemous (and both are utterly ridiculous!), or blinded by a too-long tradition of metaphysical vagueness, they did humanity a grave dis- service. As Marion Evans (Eliot), Feuerbach, and others would likely have understood, the only conceivable experiences of man are human experiences; therefore, the only conceivable God to man must be a glorified, perfected Man. A man-type of God is the only type of God with whom we can identify, worship, and emulate.
"The only conception that any people can possible have of Deity is one which comes within their mental horizon-- the horizon bounded by their experience into His personality they will think their highest and noblest ideals. What they love most, fear most, admire most, will somehow be found among his attributes. To the extent, and in the direction, that they are civilized and enlightened, to that extent and in the-direction will lie be idealized.
It was therefore a profound remark of our behavior, that to know God is to have eternal life. Io one can know Him save as he becomes like Him. To know him absolutely, is therefore to be perfect as He is perfect, which of course could be nothing else than eternal life.
"By the same reasoning, to know him in part is to be like Him in part, and therefore to be saved in part; or to generalize, we are saved (i.e. we have eternal life assured unto us) no faster than we learn to know -god; in other words, no faster than we become like Him.'''
"But becoming like him implies a progressive means of getting ideas about Him. Let us take time to see how this thought works out in practice.
"To know (God is to have adequate notions of His personality in, say, five different aspects: physically, intellectually, socially, morally, and spiritually. Manifestly these notions can come to man only as God reveals them. The germ ideas respecting his personality are to be 'found in Scripture; but these are meaningless, save as man thinks into them the content of his experience. The real revelation of God to man is, therefore, too and in that which gives man experience: in life--nature--law.
'If a man would have the noblest ideal of (God's physical personality, let him master all that is known of physiology and hygiene--and conform his own life thereto; if he would realize his intellectual personality let him become familiar with the Elements of intellect in man, then calculate what must be the intellect that could create and control a solar system with all the myriad forms of life and being therein manifested; if he would know God's social personality let him study sociology, determine what qualities in man lead to love and harmony: in the home, in the state, in the nation, in the world,--and then consider that God has so mastered these that heaven (ideal social harmony) is His eternal habitat; and so of God's moral and spiritual personalities: to the extent that man discovers and lives moral and spiritual law,--to that extent he will know God.
"It follows therefore, from the very nature of things)that the honest man's conception of God is a progressively growing ideal. As day by day, he discovers law (truth), and especially as he conforms his life to law (obeys truth), so must his ideal of the Ordainer of law charge...." and ecclesiasts who would presume to lay an embargo on Hi5 soul by pronouncing what God is or is not, are merely ascribing their own limitations and imperfections when they declare that he cannot be anthropomorphic. It is their own self-revulsion that makes a man-type of God seem repulsive.
It is in seeing upward that we really see inward. "No being can thoroughly learn himself without knowing more or less the things of God; neither can any being learn and understand the things of God without learning himself; he must learn himself, or he never can learn God.0 It is in comprehending the nature of God that we more fully comprehend our own natures, and in comprehending our own natures, we more fully comprehend his. As essential as a correct notion of God is a correct notion of man himself as a child of God, possessing all the attributes of Divinity in embryo. The man whose faith is to remove mountains (of sin) "must feel himself...differing in degree, but not in kind from his Father in Heaven, potentially free as a moral agent, and actually free, to the extent that he has emancipated himself from sin; capable of becoming perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:k8)."
The greatest freedom. is the freedom to become This is the whole intent of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Truth is knowledge of things as they really are, were, and are to com; Gospel truths (divine laws and ordinances) are knowledge of who we really are, were, and are capable of becoming And as we apply them, we unlock, enliven, or "free" our divine potential. Faith then, is no blind leap, no desperate gullibility, no "sense of being crucified on the paradox of the absurd (Kierkegaard’s expression); rather, "it is the expression of the inner self in harmony with a whole segment of one's prior experiences." Faith in God as an exalted "Man of Holiness” ‘is the striving after of our own highest ideals, noblest attributes, and fullest potential.
Christ was not only a manifestation to man of God as He really is, but He is also a manifestation of what man may actually become. In Him was the law when we keep His commandments, we too become manifestations of
the Divine". "If any man iii do is wil1 (the will of the Father's), he shall know of the doctrine?." taught the Savior (John 7:17). We become our own proof and witness of the gospel's verity. True knowledge is a state of being.
To know God is to be like God and be perfect as he is perfect. Eternal life is the type and quality of life that tie lives, and immortality is an extension of--not a replacement of--the same habit patterns we form in mortality. In contemplating the potent statement "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke) 17:21), one realizes that the varied kingdoms of glory (that we inherit in the here-
after) are the natural outcome of the kinds of beings we have become and are on the way to becoming here.'
The gospel of Jesus Christ is much more than just a system of laws. Its whole intent and purpose is the advancement of man.' Man is a progressive, evolving being "with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome 1he evils of his life and lost every desire for sin,"....and arrives at a point in faith where he achieves the glory and presence of God. "But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment...." Our very relationship to such an exalted and advanced Being puts us in a position to progress and advance as well.' Even the great Einstein concluded that "the harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared to it all the scientific thinking and acting of human beings is an entirely insignificant reflection." (From The World As I See It, as quoted by Mark E. Peterson.) "Just as one may, with sufficient commitment, study, and sensitivity, gradually comprehend the genius of an Einstein, a Beethoven, or a da Vinci, he may also come to comprehend more and more fully the greatest creative mind o± all, that of the Creator himself."
In pondering the nature of man, the psalmist queried thousands of years ago--"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him,(Psalms 8:4 It was almost as if in direct answer to this that the Lord underscored His own purpose and existence to Moses: "For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39) He also emphasized what He must surely considers the greatest, most demanding and fulfilling of all careers – parenthood.
What greater aspiration can a man have than to choose as a role model an all-powerful, all-loving God-personage, who—of all the titles he has earned and deserves-prefers most to be addressed as simply “Father”? And what more exalted view of woman can there be--for was there, will there, ever be a father without a mother9 The ultimate fulfillment then of either sex lies in union with the other; and if either sex is diminished or suppressed, then the whole is lessened "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord," wrote Paul. God established the basic equality of the sexes when He ordained that. neither men nor women can attain the greatest eternal heights without the other. "In the heavens, are parentsn single?" penned the poet-prophetess Eliza R. Snow, "No, the touu makes reason stare!/ Truth is reason, truth eternal/ Tells me I've a mother there...."
"Mormonism" is no new religion to appear in an already befuddled world nor even an aberration of already existing forms. It is as old as man (who may, after all, have had no.. beginning). The God who appeared to Joseph Smith
is the self-same (God who walked and talked with Adam, spoke face to face with Enoch, Moses, and the brother of Jared (see Book of Mormon, Ether), and was the friend of Abraham Joseph Smith was able to teach quite clearly and scripturally: "It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with an other, and that He was once a man like us; yea that Father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the
The exalted-man promise exalts God. Which God is more worthy of worship and emulation: A od who has never suffered weakness--or one who having suffered all, has conquered all, and enables others to do the same one whose nature forbids peers--or one who desires them?....One who would make us everlastingly inferior creatures--or one who would make us co-creators, and give us not only all that He has, but all that He is? One who would save or damn us by His caprice of will or good pleasure--or one who would not only save us all, but establish laws whereby we might advance like unto Himself? Consider the empathy with which God the Father must view our own struggles, for he has journeyed the entire course, knows every stone, pitfall, and obstacle. He has groped his way in storm and darkness, swum the rivers, traversed the barren desert and the teeming wilderness, found at times his places of respite, and surmounted the final peaks into the sunlight. In righteousness he has fought the good fight and prevailed, vanquished every foe, attained that prize which surpasseth understanding." It is now his work and. glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His posterity. He is the personification of love and sacrifice in ways challenging to fathom,' yet so very natural and worthy of worship a emulation. In contemplating His exalted nature, one is led to say like Charles W.. Penrose:
"The person whom I worship I acknowledge as my Father. Through Him I may learn to understand the secrets and mysteries of eternity, those things -which never had a beginning and-will never have an end. He has ascended above all. things after descending below all things. He has fought his way up from the depths up to the position He now occupies. He holds it by virtue of His goodness, of His might, of His majesty, of His power. He occupies that position by virtue of being in perfect harmony with all that is right, and true, and beautiful, and glorious, and progressive. He is the embodiment and expression of the eternal principles of right. He has won that position by His own exertions, by His own faithfulness, by His own righteousness."
I have seen no vision, heard no voice, but I know that these things are true. I know that od the Father is a perfected and exalted Man, and that the whole intent of the gospel plan is designed for our fullest potential, "which is eternal progression and the possibility of godhood. “I know that Jesus the Christ was the only begotten son of God in the flesh, and that His mission and atonement was to bridge the gap between God and man, so that we--spiritually begotten sons and daughters of God-might also mature into manifestations of the Divine I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because I know that the things he taught and revealed are scriptural, philosophically sound, and true, and I appreciate the clarity and greater understanding they give to the Savior's gospel. And I know that this church--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--is the Lord's true and living church upon the earth today, possessing the "keys of the kingdom", and guided by a prophet who is like unto Moses', yet so right and needed in this generation in time. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ as I love my own life--for by it, and through it, my life has meaning, direction, and purpose. very fiber of my being seems to cry out in witness, and the greatest desire of my life is to live increasingly more true
to it. -
I know that these things are true and so will you. In fact, there is no excuse for you not to eventually come to know their truth. If you are skeptical of all this--study the life of Jesus the Christ. Make Him your "spiritual father" in all things He is living divine proof of the eternal and divine capacity of man. If you will walk in paths He has ordained, you will become proof as well. I hope that you will strive to gain a personal relationship with the Savior, so that in understanding His divine nature, you come to more fully comprehend and desire your own as a son of God.' You, who considered becoming a Catholic priest because you were enthralled by the absurd idea of making god" out of mere bread and wine (emblems of his flesh and blood) ! Why do you not make "alive" the god of your own being--by partaking of the eternal principles and divine power that He has?
It will not be easy. Nothing of great value and attainment ever is. "If you are to find it, you must pay more by a thousand fold than you ever paid before, reach farther than you have ever reached, use more courage, and self-discipline than you ever knew you had but at the end of all that comes the promise...." It's not too late. Do not be discouraged and do not give up. Conversion is not an event; rather it is the spiritual maturation process that begin with where you are and leads to endless possibilities with in my heart I pray that the eternal Father of us both will bless you, guide you, enlighten you, enlarge you, and bring you to both know and become like Him. If I were truly a friend, would I desire anything less? May you ever grow wise and rich in being, my dear, and through you, may others--especially your family—become--so.
Mrs. Gardiner and family