Jesus’s Doctrine and Gospel versus Mormonism’s Teachings of Temple Priesthood Ordinances and Exaltation

(Note: The following essay will appear as Chapter 1 of a book currently being written by M.S. Brothers entitled Restoration II: Defending the Bible and Book of Mormon Against LDS Theology.)

It might come as a surprise to the average member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to encounter the assertion that the gospel taught by his or her church is in conflict with the gospel taught in the Book of Mormon. That which made the church famous and unique in 1830 when it was founded was the Book of Mormon, and the nickname “Mormon Church” is derived from that same book. Presumably, nothing should be more in line with LDS Church doctrine than the Book of Mormon itself. But in truth, the contrast between the two couldn’t be more pronounced.

Jesus’ biblical message regarding how to attain salvation and inherit eternal life, which he preached to the Jews in Israel, and then to some New World inhabitants whose history is chronicled in the Book of Mormon, bears little resemblance to current LDS teachings on the same subject. This stark doctrinal difference has been chosen as the subject of the first chapter because, of all the conflicts to be discussed in this book between Mormon theology and what Jesus himself taught anciently, this is the most fundamental and important.

Jesus’ message of salvation, as it fell from his own lips to his Jewish audience, was simple and straightforward. After delivering the Sermon on the Mount, in which he preached a new set of moral principles by which his disciples would be measured, Jesus defined who would be saved in the kingdom of heaven. It would be that individual who “doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven,” the same person who “heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them.” Matthew 7: 21; 24-25. Jesus’s apostles were later commissioned to go into all the world, teaching this same message, announcing that Jesus was the Son of God who had come to earth as a new lawgiver, had been crucified, and had resurrected, and that resurrection and redemption were now available to all mankind through him. Those who believed this message, repented and were baptized for the remission of sins would be saved. Matthew 27: 18-20; Mark 16: 16; Luke 24: 45-49.

The Book of Mormon in many ways is much like the Bible. It’s a record of God’s dealings with peoples living anciently in the Americas during a period which came to an end 421 years after the birth of Christ. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon narrative was dutifully written by religiously-oriented individuals who recorded general historical developments as well as the preaching of prophets as they attempted to keep their people close to God. As demonstrated below, its version agrees with the biblical version of Christ’s gospel, and appears to define and simplify it even further.

The Book of Mormon’s definitive statement of Christ’s “doctrine”, as Jesus himself calls it, is contained within an account of the resurrected Jesus descending out of heaven and appearing to a multitude of Nephites (a people descended from the house of Israel who left Jerusalem and came to the Western Hemisphere shortly before Judea fell to the Babylonians). On this occasion, some 2,500 men, women and children were gathered at a temple in the land Bountiful, somewhere in the Americas, approximately one year after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The account of Jesus’ visits and teachings, beginning in the 11th chapter of the book of Third Nephi (hereafter “3 Nephi”) constitutes the apex of the Book of Mormon narrative. The prophecies chronologically preceding this apex built up to it, and the teachings in the centuries thereafter referred back to it. It’s the climactic event precisely because while it lasted, it represented the kingdom of God on earth, though it was temporary. Whatever Jesus taught as immutable doctrine on this occasion could not be superseded by prior prophetic teachings, nor by those which would come later, for no teacher or prophet could ever be more authoritative than Jesus, the resurrected Son of God. The Book of Mormon records that Jesus emphasized his preeminence over all other teachers by declaring himself to the people gathered to the temple,

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the alight and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning . . .
I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole dearth . . . (3 Nephi 11: 10-11, 14)

After descending out of heaven, in full view of all who were gathered there, Jesus invited the multitude to come forth and thrust their hands into his side, and feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet, thus evidencing his crucifixion and resurrection. What did the “God of the whole earth” teach the gathered Nephites? He defined what he called his “doctrine”, and the process whereby one can “inherit the kingdom of God”. We find Jesus’ words in the following verses of the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi Chapter 11, with emphasis added to key phrases with italics, and in two crucial verses, italics and boldface:

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.                                                                                 34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned . . .
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
 

Having defined his doctrine, Jesus then proceeded to teach the New World equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, the same moral code he had given to the Jews in Israel. For the most part, the sermon to the Nephites, found in 3 Nephi chapters 12-14, it is a word-for-word duplication of the one found in the Bible, with two important exceptions.1 When he had finished, Jesus repeated what he had told the Jews regarding who would fare well with God in the hereafter:
“Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.” 3 Nephi 15: 1

On a subsequent occasion, as set forth in the following verses from 3 Nephi 27, Jesus further explained to his twelve disciples, whom he had chosen from among the Nephites, what his “gospel”2 consisted of. I have italicized one verse for emphasis:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the ccross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world . . .
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

In addition to Jesus describing precisely what his doctrine and gospel actually consist of in the verses quoted above, his words also display two salient features. First, the doctrine and gospel he announces are remarkably simple. Believe in his atoning sacrifice, repent of your sins, become as a little child, be baptized, and continue humbly as a little child in this mode, repenting when necessary, and you will be saved and inherit the kingdom of God. There are no extra ritual or ceremonial requirements, or “ordinances,” as Mormons call them, included in Jesus’ teachings. Baptism is the first and last physical ritual required.3

Nor does Jesus’ message contemplate any greater reward than to “inherit the kingdom of God.” If a greater reward than this were to be striven for, this occasion, where the Lord taught his doctrine to the Nephites gathered at the temple, would have been the occasion when he would have said so. As it stands, however, not only did Jesus not add extra requirements or rewards to his message of salvation and its corresponding promise of inheriting God’s kingdom, but nowhere in the Book of Mormon is inheriting the kingdom of God described as being more complicated than Jesus described it here.
The second salient feature is Jesus’ warning in 3 Nephi 11: 40, stated with unequivocal plainness, not to add to or subtract from the doctrine he enunciates; doing so “cometh of evil.” The existence of this warning creates a conflict with current Latter-Day Saint (hereafter “LDS” or “Mormon”) doctrine. As we shall see, LDS doctrine embraces a much more elaborate and ritual-heavy gospel than the one Jesus declared to the Jews and Nephites. So much has been added by Mormonism, in fact, that Jesus’ original teachings bear little resemblance to the church’s current theology.

Mormonism’s Departure from Biblical and Book of Mormon Doctrine

In modern Mormonism, baptism is taught as only the first of several ceremonies in which believers are urged to participate. In fact, Mormon theology ignores Jesus’ above-quoted warning to not add to his doctrine, and plainly, if unknowingly, trivializes the mere inheritance of the kingdom of God. The church replaces Jesus’ above-quoted promise of salvation with a far greater reward for which to strive—one never taught by the Lord in the Bible or Book of Mormon—exaltation and godhood. And to achieve exaltation and godhood, the believer must do much more than merely live the gospel Jesus taught the Jews and Nephites. Otherwise, Mormons are taught, mere baptism will only get you salvation—a disappointing consolation prize.
LDS theology teaches that to only be saved in the kingdom of God is to fall short of one’s potential, in much the same way as ending one’s education upon graduation from high school should fail to satisfy an individual bent on becoming an astrophysicist. Instead, Mormons who go on to participate in further ordinances do so to become gods. If they perform these rituals and keep Mormonism’s version of required commandments, they qualify to acquire the same powers as those currently held by God the Father and Jesus, and to perform the same function as gods to the worlds they will someday create.

To achieve this higher reward of exalted godhood, Mormonism adds to the requirement of baptism an elaborate list of ordinances, none of which can be skipped. However, not only are these rituals and ceremonies unmentioned and uncontemplated by the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, as stated above, they are clearly contra-indicated by those books. But Mormons justify adding layers of required ritual because of the faith’s embrace of teachings attributed to Joseph Smith, which Joseph Smith, in turn, claimed he received from God.4 Vague, nondescript references to those rituals are contained within another book Mormons have canonized as scripture, The Doctrine and Covenants. This book contains transcripts of revelations church founder Joseph Smith claimed to receive from God from the 1820s through the early 1840s, as well as a compilation of some of Smith’s personal teachings. As will be demonstrated herein, however, the teachings of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are worlds apart, and indeed, mutually contradictory.

With respect to exaltation and godhood, Mormon doctrine declares that after we die (“we” meaning every member of the human race), almost all of us wind up in one of three places. After we’re judged by God, we inherit either the Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial kingdom, depending on how well we performed during our respective earthly sojourns,5 with the Celestial being the highest. Attaining exaltation in the Celestial degree of glory, which is far more glorious than simply being saved in the kingdom of God, involves an individual becoming a god himself. An individual cannot attain this highest realm, where God the Father dwells, without participating in the aforementioned ritual ceremonies.

All but the first of such rituals are performed only in Mormon temples; they cannot be performed in mere meetinghouses. If a person dies without participating in the ceremonies himself, he cannot attain exaltation until and unless the rituals are performed for him by a living proxy, once again in a Mormon temple. These exalting ceremonies or ordinances, which are “higher” and more important than mere baptism, may only be performed by a Mormon holder of the “Melchizedek Priesthood.” They are as follows, in chronological order:

1. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands following baptism.

2. Being ceremonially washed and anointed, and declared clean from the sins of the    outside world.

3. Being given underwear garments to wear throughout one’s life, which the individual then dons in the temple. The garments contain symbols sown into them. The symbols represent reminders of principles of righteous living, which are explained to the individual during the ordinance.

4. Being given a sacred new name by which the individual will be known to God. The individual is admonished to keep the name secret until she repeats it to God during the ceremony described in the following paragraph. Eventually, she is taught, she will repeat her “new name” to God before entering the Celestial Kingdom.

5. Undergoing an elaborate “endowment” ceremony wherein individuals learn sacred signs, tokens and words, which they covenant not to disclose, and which they’re told will also be needed to enter God’s presence. There are four sets of signs, tokens and names, and each represents a separate covenant into which the person enters, promising God to live different aspects of a righteous life. The covenant-making is followed by the person repeating his or her newfound knowledge of the names, signs and tokens, and symbolically enacting entry into God’s presence.

6. Finally, and equally in contrast with the rest of Christianity, Mormons teach that no one can attain the highest realm of heavenly glory with God unless they are married, and such a marriage must be performed in a sacred temple. See Doctrine and Covenants 131: 1-4. The marriage itself is the fifth and crowning ordinance. It doesn’t guarantee exaltation, but without it, exaltation is impossible.6

Consequently, Mormon marriages are frequently not attended by family or friends of the bride or groom who would like to attend, because they’re not Mormons themselves, or if they are, they’ve been deemed unworthy for insufficient compliance with the Mormon version of the commandments. Without a temple recommend, which is a certification issued by an ecclesiastical leader attesting to a Mormon’s righteousness and worthiness, no person can attend a marriage in an LDS temple.

Amazingly, another larger group that’s not allowed to attend, are all persons who aren’t at least 18 years old, unless they’re the ones getting married, regardless of whether they’re the bride’s or groom’s siblings, and regardless of their personal righteousness. So, though someone twelve or older is allowed to perform baptisms for the dead in the temple, the “higher” ordinances mentioned above, including the marriage of a sibling, are considered too sacred for those of such young age, notwithstanding the Mormon emphasis on family togetherness. Such restrictions on attendance are, obviously, unheard of in the Protestant and Catholic worlds. Nor do they find any support in the Bible or Book of Mormon.7

As alluded to above, a further restriction is that these marriages, or “sealings” as Mormons call them, may only be performed by one holding proper Melchizedek priesthood authority. This claimed authority is the same high priesthood possessed anciently by the great high priest Melchizedek and by Jesus Christ himself.8  This authority, Mormons are taught, is today possessed solely by the LDS Church.  Doctrine and Covenants 132: 7 states that exclusive authority was given to LDS founder Joseph Smith to perform religious rites, and that any marriage or ceremony performed today under any religious or civil authority other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not valid or cognizable before God:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

This principle is so crucial to LDS theology that it may fairly be said to be Mormonism’s second most important claim.  The only more important one is the teaching that Joseph Smith was told by the Lord in his 1820 “First Vision” that all existing Christian churches were wrong.9 As such, these two tenets distinguish Mormonism from the rest of Christianity more than any other features, including the Book of Mormon.10

Although most of the rituals performed in Mormon temples are not laid out in LDS scriptures, what purports to be divine revelation on the requirement of Melchizedek Priesthood-performed marriages is contained in the aforementioned Doctrine and Covenants. Set forth below, in Section 132: 15-17, the contrast is made between those who are married by mere civil authority and those who’ve had their marriage sealed by proper priesthood authority. These verses purport to be the actual words of God spoken to, and revealed by, LDS founder Joseph Smith:

15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

[Italics added]

Thus LDS theology relegates those who are merely saved to dramatically reduced status—angelhood— in the kingdom of God, in comparison to those fortunate individuals whose marriage was performed by a Mormon high priest. The improperly married, and those who remained single, on the other hand, are left to minister as servants to their former peers who qualify to achieve godhood.11 Those in the first category are worthy of, and receive, “far more” glory than the those in the latter. Doctrine and Covenants 132: 20 goes on to describe the fate of the properly married:

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

It’s therefore no surprise that Mormon leaders stress, above all other things, the importance of getting married by proper Mormon priesthood authority. Current Mormon church president Thomas S. Monson, who is regarded by the faith as a “prophet, seer and revelator”, reaffirmed in 2004 an oft-quoted LDS maxim taught by apostle Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985): “The most important single thing that any Latter-day Saint ever does in this world is to marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority.”12

The point here is that Mormons teach requirements for living with God which are much more complex and ritual-laden than any taught in the Bible or Book of Mormon.

LDS Justification for Conflict between its Theology and the Bible and Book of Mormon

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are unlikely to encounter, at least from within LDS circles, the allegation that the gospel and doctrine in the Bible and Book of Mormon is at odds with church theology. It’s therefore somewhat, but not entirely, speculative to anticipate how a thoughtful Mormon would respond to the allegation. However, the most likely expected response, based on the author’s personal experience in never having heard any other response, is that Mormons believe in modern revelation, and through such modern revelation, many things are revealed to latter-day prophets which were withheld from ancient Christians in the times of the Bible and Book of Mormon. This response is indeed quite versatile, as it can be used as a convenient catch-all to justify all sorts of beliefs and practices which enjoy no ancient scriptural mention. Temple marriages and all other modern temple rituals, both for the living and the dead; eventual godhood for faithful church members; Melchizedek priesthood-holding apostles and prophets; a Mother in Heaven; polygamy in the next life; the baptism of eight-year-olds—all are modern LDS teaching which fall into this category. None of these, or many other modern Mormon ideas, for that matter, existed when the church was founded in 1830. They were all introduced by Joseph Smith, who purported them to be modern revelation.

However, the “modern revelation” defense becomes patently implausible when used to justify replacing Jesus’s core doctrine and gospel with a new one. Why? Because Jesus pre-empted such modification when he unequivocally said, as quoted herein above in boldface italics, that his doctrine, which he had just defined, could not be added to: Again, from 3 Nephi 11: 40:

And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

[Italics and boldface added for emphasis]

Jesus left no room for adding extra levels of heavenly rewards to his gospel doctrine, and especially not extra prerequisites for living with God in heaven. He didn’t preach inheriting the kingdom of God as a mere consolation prize to be upstaged by more impressive-sounding rewards. In fact, he expressly condemned such theology as ill-inspired and built on a sure-to-be-destroyed foundation. To suggest that Jesus’ definition of his own doctrine and gospel, as set forth in the Book of Mormon, could be contradicted and nullified by modern revelation, is to render meaningless his words. Such an assertion begs the question of why the Lord would say anything on this point in the first place, especially when, as Mormons acknowledge, he went to such great lengths to bring forth the Book of Mormon in the latter days and thus provide the earth with what he called “the fulness” of the gospel. The LDS position would then consist of this non-sequitur: “Jesus defined his simple gospel doctrine to the Nephites, declared it immutable, warned the reader not to add to or subtract anything from it, declared the Book of Mormon to contain “the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah,”13 preserved the book’s writings so they could be read by the latter-day reader, brought forth the book through miraculous means, and then within thirteen years of the Book of Mormon’s publication did exactly what he warned against: He revealed to Joseph Smith a gospel doctrine so altered from the original as to render it unrecognizable. Moreover, the Lord also omitted these extra levels of requirements and rewards from the Bible, knowing most of the future Christian world wouldn’t ever read the Book of Mormon, let alone the Doctrine and Covenants.”14

There are other clear indicators, besides what the author considers logical reasoning, that Jesus didn’t intend to replace what he taught the Jews and Nephites with what Joseph Smith added to Mormon theology after the church’s founding in 1830. For one thing, Jesus made clear to the Nephites that he had fulfilled and was now doing away with the Law of Moses, which had defined the Hebrews’ religion for almost 1,500 years.15 This necessarily meant that he was also doing away with the religion of ordinances in which the Law of Moses found its outward expression. In fact, when he explained his discontinuance of this form of worship, Jesus was standing in the presence of the Nephites’ temple,16 the sanctuary where rituals of the Mosaic Law were practiced. But he made no mention of the temple or the rituals practiced within it, except to say the Law of Moses, which informed all temple ceremonies, was fulfilled and would no longer be practiced. Thereafter, neither the temple nor the ceremonial religion of physical rituals was ever mentioned by Jesus or his successor disciples and prophets through the end of the Book of Mormon. If Jesus considered his gospel to consist of high priests administering a collection of temple ordinances, wouldn’t he have said so to the Nephites as he stood in the presence of their temple, especially since he knew latter-day readers would be scrutinizing his words in the book he himself was calling “the fulness of the gospel”?

In fact, so careful was Jesus to present to the latter-day reader a complete picture of his gospel, he interrupted a sermon to instruct the prophet Nephi to insert into the record a missing account of many other saints rising from the dead, following Jesus’s own resurrection, and appearing unto others.17  This instance is instructive. Clearly, the reality of the resurrection, and the joy associated with it, were indispensable elements of his own gospel. The reader needed to know exactly what the resurrection of Christ meant to ordinary people contemplating their own death or having lost love ones. If anything were left out of the Book of Mormon, it couldn’t be something this central and important. Everything true and important had to be set forth lest the reader misunderstand what mattered.

In this context, the absence of Joseph Smith’s priesthood ordinance theology in the Bible and Book of Mormon speaks volumes. The reader should judge for himself or herself the significance of the Lord omitting it from the fulness of the gospel.

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. The notable exceptions come in 3 Nephi 12: 18-19 and 46-47, where the verses differ from their counterparts in Matthew 5 of the Bible. By the time his sermon was delivered to the Nephites, Jesus had already been crucified and resurrected, and thus had fulfilled the law of Moses, but this was not yet accomplished when he spoke to the Jews. His sermon to the Nephites therefore emphasized in the above-cited verses that he was replacing the Law of Moses with his own set of moral principles, a higher law of the heart rather than a checklist of outward observances.
  2. From a comparison of the statement of “doctrine” quoted from 3 Nephi 11 with the message contained within 3 Nephi 27, it appears that the words “doctrine” and “gospel” are used almost interchangeably, with much overlap in their substance, or, at the very least, are very closely related to each other. If there is a difference between the two concepts, it might be that “doctrine” consists of Jesus’ instructions to his followers on how to inherit the kingdom of God, whereas “gospel” is the good news that justifies the giving of those instructions.
  3. Though the reception of the Holy Ghost is characterized in current Mormon doctrine as a separate ordinance which is required to “confirm” a baptism, it was taught differently by Jesus. It was understood to be something that would happen to anyone who accepted his gospel, 3 Nephi 9: 20; 27: 20, not as a core physical ritual requirement validating a baptism. In fact, occasionally, both in the Old World and New World, groups of people received the Holy Ghost without having been first baptized, or even necessarily knowing what had happened to them. The Bible and Book of Mormon demonstrate a person’s reception of the Holy Ghost might best be characterized as a spiritual transformation which could take place through varied means. See Acts 10: 44-47 and 11: 15-17; Helaman 5: 34-50 and 3 Nephi 9: 20, respectively. Indeed, the apostles themselves had not received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; see Acts 2: 1-4. Alhough Jesus’ twelve Nephite disciples were instructed to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands upon those who had been baptized, as was the case in the Old World, the Book of Mormon contains no account of anyone else besides the twelve having been thereafter authorized to do it. After the twelve Nephite disciples died, no mention is made in the Book of Mormon of this ritual physical practice being continued by subsequent church leaders. Similarly, in the New Testament, only apostles were described as conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. See Acts 19: 1-6; Moroni 2: 1-3. However, it’s clear that the influence of the Holy Ghost continued to work upon and cleanse those in the church who embraced the gospel and were baptized, even if the process whereby it was received remains unknown to us. Moroni 6: 4. And, in one of the most famous passages in the Book of Mormon, Moroni urges all persons reading the Book of Mormon to ask God whether that sacred record is true, adding that by the power of the Holy Ghost the truth of all things will be manifest to those who ask with true intent. Such manifestation is considered a gift from God. Moroni 10: 4-19. Presumably, this gift of the Holy Ghost can be received by anyone praying about the Book of Mormon, regardless of whether they have yet been baptized. Nevertheless, Mormonism continues to teach that the gift of the Holy Ghost can only be obtained through a physical ordinance by the laying on of hands. See Pearl of Great Price, Article of Faith 4. The only proffered scriptural support for this Mormon teaching consists of Doctrine and Covenants 130: 23, which only states that a man may receive the Holy Ghost without it tarrying with him.
  4. I use the word “attributed” because the ceremonial practices performed by Mormons in their temples are not specifically set forth in any history published by the LDS church, nor are they found in Mormon canonical works. Today, a Mormon who participates in these temple ordinances is told (if he or she asks in the first place) that they were revealed to Joseph Smith by God, but unlike other reputed revelations, if a person wants to actually read how and when the specific ceremonies came into being, and what God’s actual words were, there is nothing published by the LDS church to read. These things are kept secret by the church.
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 76: 25-113. Compare I Corinthians 15: 35, 40-42, wherein Paul mentions the existence of celestial and terrestrial (but not telestial) bodies. Mormons cite to this scripture as biblical support for the teaching that resurrected beings will go to one of the named three degrees of glory when they are resurrected. A fourth place, where “sons of perdition” go, is reserved for the worst of the worst—those who knew the truthfulness of Jesus’s gospel through the witness of the Holy Ghost but nevertheless denied it.
  6. In Mormon doctrine, a person who remains single isn’t eligible for exaltation in the highest degree of eternal glory. For discussion regarding how those who never marry during their mortal lives can later qualify for exaltation, see discussions below under footnotes 11 and 12.
  7. Curiously, in most of the world, governments don’t afford legal recognition to marriages performed solely by ecclesiastical authority in Mormon temples. In such countries, couples must be married civilly before they can be sealed in the local Mormon temple. And of course, at such civil marriages, anyone can attend, whether Mormon or not. A growing movement within Mormonism advocates handling temple marriages in the United States the same way as in most foreign countries, with a civil marriage, attendable by all invitees who wish to attend, preceding the restricted-attendance temple ritual.
  8. See Hebrews 5: 5-10; 6: 20; 7: 11-28
  9. Joseph Smith’s First Vision is the subject of Chapter 2 of this book.
  10. The requirement of a marriage performed by proper Melchizedek priesthood authority applies to deceased couples as well as living ones. In fact, Mormons teach that those who were married without such authority and are now deceased are barred from exaltation until the matter is resolved back on earth. Accordingly, LDS individuals who desire to facilitate the exaltation of forebears and ancestors who fall into this category can perform all of the six ordinances previously described, as well as baptism, by proxy in the temples. More will be written about these teachings in Chapter 3.
  11. A gaping hole exists in Mormon theology concerning those members who unintentionally remain single throughout mortality. They’re taught by church leaders that someday in heaven they’ll be given a spouse if they’ve lived righteously on earth, and will thus remain eligible for godhood. Unfortunately, no scripture exists to verify this promise, or even address this subject, within Mormonism’s expanded canon of four separate books. Nor is Joseph Smith known to have spoken on the subject publicly or privately. Within Mormon orthodoxy, those who remained intentionally single in mortality are thought to have forfeited their chance for exaltation in the hereafter, though this view is also without specific scriptural support.
  12. Thomas S. Monson in New Era Magazine, Salt Lake City, Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, October 2004, p. 3
  13. 3 Nephi 15: 13-14
  14. Some Mormon apologists may defend Joseph Smith’s supplementation of the doctrine and gospel of the Book of Mormon by arguing that the Book of Mormon itself describes revelations from the Lord to the brother of Jared, which were to be kept hidden from the world and be revealed at some future latter-day time when the world is righteous enough to receive them. See Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, chapters 3 and 4, and chapter 5, verse 1, generally. This argument ignores several important facts. First, the sealed revelation to the brother of Jared was not described as being Jesus’ core gospel, but rather, information about the history and future events of the inhabitants of this world. Second, as already emphasized, Jesus himself had described the unsealed portion of the Book of Mormon which would come forth to contain “the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah.” Third, the ordinance-heavy theology introduced by Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the world history shown to the brother of Jared in Ether 3: 25-26, and Joseph Smith didn’t claim otherwise.
  15. 3 Nephi 15: 2-5.
  16. See 3 Nephi 11: 1
  17. 3 Nephi 23: 6-13

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