LDS Articles of Faith, Part LX
Article 11, Freedom of Worship, Part 1
The 11th LDS Article of Faith says, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.” Most Christian organizations would say something similar, but what does it mean for LDS? LDS Apostle James Talmage wrote the Articles of Faith, a book to explain the 13 LDS Articles of Faith and on page 395 he said, “The Latter-day Saints proclaim their unqualified allegiance to the principles of religious liberty and toleration.” And on pages 410-411 he said people have “free agency and must be free to choose in all things.” But that’s not the way the LDS Church has always treated their members who publicly questioned it. Until the 20th century began such members were excommunicated for “immorality” or other “sinful” conduct and their names and charges against them were published on the front page of the LDS owned Deseret News newspaper to intimidate them.
Eight year old Children of LDS parents are supposed to be baptized and confirmed as members of the LDS Church. That was my experience, but by age 17, I saw many problems with LDS claims and quit attending LDS services and I became a Bible believing Christian. Seventeen years later LDS told me my name was still on the LDS membership rolls and the only way it could be removed was for the LDS authorities excommunicate me. That same year about 10:00 pm one Sunday night two LDS Stake missionaries came to my home and gave me a summons to appear in an LDS Bishop’s Court a week later. I went to the LDS court and the “judge” had the charges against me read, which said I had alienated myself from the LDS Church and was an ordained Baptist minister. Then the “judge” asked: “Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” I said, “You summonsed me to your court, so I want to see your evidence that I’m an ordained Baptist minister.” The LDS men on the court looked shocked at each other. I said, “Apparently you don’t have any evidence, so you summonsed me to this court on hearsay that wouldn’t be allowed in a real court.” The judge said, “You do want to be excommunicated don’t you?” I said, “You summonsed me here because LDS Authorities told you to and you will do what they told you to do. LDS talk about free agency more than any other church, so it is absurd that I had free agencyto join the LDS Church at age eight, but I don’t havefree agency to leave it at age thirty-four, so I lost my free agency while IN the LDS Church!” More happened at my “trial,” but it isn’t relevant to our subject. Not long after my “trial” LDS leaders began to allow members to resign their membership. Maybe my trial helped bring that about.
These blogs have shown that Mormon words don’t always clarify what they mean. The 11th LDS Article of Faith mentions “Almighty God” which we discussed in our first five blogs of this series. That LDS God was once a man like us and through “eternal progression” he became a God just like his daddy God, his grand-daddy God and so on back endlessly. LDS Apostle Orson Pratt said in the Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345, “If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.” But the “Almighty God” of the Bible said there was no God before, OR after Him, and there was none like Him (see Isa. 43:10; 44:6; 45:5; 46:9). So, the “Almighty God” of Mormonism is not the Almighty God of the Bible!
In his book the Articles of Faith, Talmage showed he could see the faults in other churches, but none in the LDS Church. Referring to Catholics and other liturgical churches that use litany he said on pages 396-397, “Worship most profound may be rendered with none of the artificial accessories of ritualistic service…for purposes of display, one may insincerely perform all the outward ceremonies of an established style of adoration; he may voice words of prescribed prayers” (pp. 396-397). Those familiar with LDS practice might ask, “Aren’t LDS temple rites ritualistic with their special underwear, white clothing with a green fig-leaf apron and having to repeat special oaths? The same sacrament prayers must be repeated verbatim in LDS wards every Sunday and if they aren’t exact, they must be started over again. 12 year old deacons must serve Sacrament only with their right hand. LDS Annual and Semi-Annual meetings in Salt Lake also have formalities like all members raising their right hands to “sustain” General Authorities. But Talmage didn’t mention any of the LDS “outward ceremonies.”
Talmage says Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, have been intolerant (Articles of Faith p.398). While it is true that some Catholics and Protestants have been intolerant, it is not true of all Catholics or all Protestants. But Mormons have also been intolerant. Mormon leaders finally admitted that it was Mormon men, not Piute Indians, who killed the 120 emigrants bound for California in 1857 at Mountain Meadows in Southern Utah. But it wouldn’t be fair to claim that all Mormons are killers, yet Talmage painted all Catholics and Protestants with the broad brush of intolerance. Anyone who has read histories of early Utah know that men like John Fremont were mysteriously killed in Utah in the 1800’s. I’ve lived among Mormons most of my life and have personally experienced intolerance because they didn’t like my “religion.” I have been punched in the nose, shoved off doorsteps, yanked off my feet by my necktie, “cursed by the power of the LDS priesthood” too many times to count. Those actions were intolerant, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that all Mormons do that. Yet, Talmage implies all religions except LDS are intolerant. LDS founder, Joseph Smith did the same thing when he claimed God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and told him not to join any church “for they were ALL wrong;ALL their creeds were an abomination and ALL those who professed to believe them were corrupt” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History 1:18-19). Talmage said, “Is it not rational to say that…any denomination or church that would preach its own conceptions as the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ, is guilty of blasphemy and deserving of the curse of God” (Articles of Faith p. 401). But on p. 403 he said, “It is in no wise inconsistent for Latter-day Saints to boldly proclaim the conviction that their Church is the accepted one, the only one entitled to the designation ‘Church of Jesus Christ’ and the sole earthly repository of the eternal Priesthood in this present age, and yet to willingly accord kind treatment and a recognition of sincerity of purpose to every soul or sect honestly professing Christ.” But he just said on p. 401 that such souls or sects are guilty of blasphemy and deserve the curse of God! So, his “kind treatment” sounds insincere! Like many Mormons, Talmage sees faults in others, but not in Mormonism. Talmage mentioned the intolerance of Christians, Israel and even John the apostle, but not a word about any Mormon intolerance! The Bible says in Rom. 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one and Rom 3:23 says, “All have sinned” and that includes LDS. But LDS believe their “one true Church” is perfect even if all members aren’t.
Next time we will look at more of Talmage’s discussion of the 11th LDS Article of Faith.