Joint-Heirs with Christ

We’ve reached the tail end of my Gilbert Scharffs-esque, line-by-line refutation of Tea Party columnist Mike Adams’ lambasting of a faith he both misrepresents and misunderstands. (If you must, you can read his original assault here.) And it’s a good thing, too, because I’m getting really tired of this guy. Not the most Christlike of sentiments, I know, but I’ve wasted over 10,000 words in response to a man who took no second thought to putting himself in Christ’s place and blithely condemning 14,000,000 people to hell. That level of pride and ignorance tends to make me just a tad bit snippy.

So let’s get this over with.

I say Adams didn’t give this a second thought, but that may not be entirely accurate. In response to an earlier post on this subject, an old friend dug up a Mike Adams column from 2006 wherein he stated categorically that “The idea that Mormons are not Christians is… untenable. No one reading Romans 10:9 and John 14:6 can deny that Mormons are Christians who are saved by faith and destined for heaven.”
(Read that one for yourself here.)

So what changed his mind?

John 14:6 again, apparently. According to Adams, this verse, which insists that Jesus Christ is the only way into heaven, contradicts a statement by Joseph Smith that Adams offers as evidence that Smith was a polytheist. From the column:

I am sorry that Joseph Smith said the following shortly before his death: “(W)hen I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my father, so that he may obtain kingdom among kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.”

This quote represents either a wildly disingenuous attempt to deceive or an error so sloppy that it’s astonishing any editor let it go to print. In either case, Adams gets this one entirely wrong.

Read the excerpt from Joseph Smith’s King Follett sermon from which Adams lifted this embarrassing blooper:

How consoling to the mourners when they are called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child, or dear relative, to know that, although the earthly tabernacle is laid down and dissolved, they shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of His Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all His children.

(King Follett funeral sermon, April 7, 1844. Emphasis mine.)

By leaving out the text before and after his quote, he directly charges that Joseph Smith was trying to take God’s place. But Joseph is speaking from the perspective of Jesus here. In modern vernacular, it’s as if Joseph were saying, “What did Jesus do? Well, Jesus said ‘I do the things I saw my father do…” etc. Every time Joseph says “I” in the paragraph Adams yanks from its contextual moorings, he is referencing not Joseph Smith, but Jesus Christ. To Adams, this ludicrously makes Joseph a “polytheist” who ignores Christ to sit on the throne of God. Behold:

I am sorry that Smith’s polytheism is not consistent with John 14:6. I am also sorry that since these are the words of Christ, polytheism cannot be Christian. Moreover, I am sorry, my Mormon friends, but the the words of Christ trump the words of Joseph Smith who will never be God.

Yet it’s the very words of Christ that Joseph is quoting here! He’s claiming that Christ is God, not Joseph Smith. No Latter-day Saint worships Joseph Smith, and no Latter-day Saint ever will. Indeed, no one in my church worships any god other than the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ Himself, who, as the scriptures taught, and Joseph reemphasizes here, “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Philippians 2:6)

In this quote, Joseph is not distancing himself from John 14:6 – he is embracing it. He is also laying claim to the promise that we are children of God, and therefore “heirs” of God – specifically ” joint-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17) In this sermon, Joseph is doing nothing more or less than taking the plain language of the New Testament at face value – a very Christian thing to do.

Adams, however, doesn’t get any of this. He goes on to say:

I am sorry that Mormonism teaches that Christ was not there in the beginning, that god was just a man who became God by following a moral code he did not create, and that we may all become gods by following the same moral code that predates the existence of Jesus. I am sorry that the theological mess caused by Joseph Smith is irreconcilable with the teachings of the Holy Bible.

Talk about a theological mess – where on earth does he get the idea that Christ was not there in the beginning? Indeed, what “beginning” is he talking about? Beyond the Bible, Latter-Day Saint scripture is replete with references to Christ’s eternal nature, including repeated references to Christ being present “in the beginning” and being co-eternal with the Father. (See Abraham 3:21, D&C 93:7, Moses 6:30, Moses 2:1, Ether 3:15, Mosiah 7:27) To claim otherwise is pure nonsense.

That’s not his primary point, though – he’s attacking the doctrine of theosis, an idea with a lengthy Christian tradition that did not originate with my church but is now one of the primary reasons Mormons are branded as heretics, if not blasphemers. As Joseph Smith explained in the sermon Adams mutilated, we are all to be joint heirs with Christ. Joint heirs all inherit the same thing – because Christ paid the price for us, we all get what Christ gets. You may not agree with that doctrine, but it makes no sense to argue that it somehow diminishes the centrality of Jesus in Mormon theology. If anything, it makes us more Christian, not less.

As for whether God created the moral code or whether it “predates” him, Joseph Fielding McConkie, my mission president and the son of renowned Mormon theologian Bruce R. McConkie, wrote the following in his book “Answers:”

QUESTION: Did God discover law, or is he the author of it?

ANSWER: God is the author of law, not its creation or its servant. All light and all law emanate from him (see D&C 88:13)… He does not harness law and then use it to bless and govern his creations… True it is that God was once a man obtaining his exalted status by obedience to the laws of his own eternal Father, but upon obtaining that station he becomes the source of light and law to all that he creates.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, “Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions,” pp. 167-168)

We know nothing of God’s relationship to his own father, or what moral code may have existed then. We only know that God is our father, the only father we worship, and that the only way to him is through his son, Jesus Christ. We worship none else.

Latter-day Saints believe that we are all children of God in a very real and literal sense – Christ is the Only Begotten in the flesh, but we are all God’s children in the spirit. We believe, therefore, that we are, to be somewhat crass, the same “species” as God, and that his “work and his glory” is to impart to us everything that He has. (See Moses 1:39)

Yet this is the height of blasphemy to the Christian world. Truman Madsen, another great Mormon theologian, reported an exchange on this subject that, for me, has always perfectly illustrated the doctrinal tension that this teaching often exacerbates. He was speaking to a group of Christians who were appalled by these ideas, and he engaged in a brief Q&A with them.

“Why,” I dared to ask—and it’s a question any child can ask—”did God make us at all?” There’s an answer to that in their catechism. Basically, it is that God did so for his own pleasure and by his inscrutable will. Sometimes it is suggested that he did so that he might have creatures to honor and worship him—which, if we are stark in response, is not the most unselfish motive one could conceive. Sometimes it is said that he did so for our happiness. But because of the creeds it is impossible to say that God needed to do so, for God, in their view, is beyond need. And then the bold question I put was “You hold, don’t you, that God has and had all power, all knowledge, all anticipatory wisdom, and that he knew, therefore, exactly what he was about and could have done otherwise?”

“Yes,” they allowed, “he could.”

“Why then, since God could have created cocreators, did he choose to make us creatures? Why did God choose to make us his everlasting inferiors?”

At that point one of them said, “God’s very nature forbids that he should have peers.”

I replied, “That’s interesting. For us God’s very nature requires that he should have peers. Which God is more worthy of our love?”

That sums up my thoughts on the subject exactly.

As for Adams, he ends his distinctly unChristian column by patting himself on the back.

Finally, I am sorry that my Mormon readers have unfairly accused me of criticizing Mormonism without doing my homework. But I am glad I did.

Not sure why. I wouldn’t be glad if I did my homework and got all the answers wrong.

To sum up this past week’s worth of responses, I wouldn’t be glad to make laughably broad claims about the Book of Mormon that the book itself doesn’t make, which modern science is in no position to sustain, and which are often provably, factually inaccurate. I wouldn’t congratulate myself for botching all the details I cite about a discontinued Mormon practice that I demonstrably do not understand, historically, factually, or scripturally. I wouldn’t invert the Lord’s teachings about how to identify people as Christians when I’m attempting to pass judgment on the faith of millions, a faith I misrepresent repeatedly. I wouldn’t quote Joseph Smith and pretend he was aggrandizing himself when he was praising the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Lord I claim Mormons somehow reject. And, finally, I wouldn’t take much pride in condemning people for believing that Jesus is too generous, too grand, and too all-powerful and loving to give all that He has, insisting that Christians ought to believe in a Jesus that doesn’t honor the plain language of the Bible on the subject of being joint heirs with him, but rather one who demands we assume our proper roles as arbitrary subjects rather than potential peers.

Adams concludes by saying:

Now I understand the significance of Galatians 1:6-9.

Galatians 1:6-9 reads “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.”

Another gospel? So which gospel does Adams represent? Can we presume that it is fraught with hatred, deliberate deception, pettiness, and error just as Adams’ defense of it is? If so, I’m thrilled to keep my distance from it.

I’m so glad to be through with this. I’m going to bed.

Hellfire, Exceptions, and Rules
The Big Twist

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