One of the traditional Christian doctrines that bothered me in my initial investigations was the tenet of Original Sin. The idea that we are “created sick and commanded to be well.”* The assertion that the fall of one man, Adam has doomed all of mankind to the burden of a sinful nature. The very idea that Infant baptism is required lest the poor innocents be damned is antithetical to the idea of a just and loving God. This comes from the Catholic cannon, but there are equivalents in all the Christian religions.** We are all base and sinful creatures, due to the fall of Adam, or just because God made us that way – it doesn’t matter. It is unjust either way. If you believe in Hell, if you believe that we are a sinful people, if you believe that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction” ( Matthew 7:13, 14) than how cruel is God to create so many doomed creatures. Better He had left us unmade then to make us such that the vast majority of us will endure eternal torment. Even if He was powerless to control our nature He would have known we would have ended up this way.
The Mormon version of this still establishes us as a sinful and imperfect people. It still says most of us are headed for “destruction” – they have to, they use the KJ Bible. The key differences are these:
1. The Mormon version of “destruction” isn’t so much eternal torture, but eternal life without spiritual advancement.
2. The specific doctrine of “Original Sin” is addressed by the 2nd Article of Faith. (2nd of 13 published in a letter from Joseph Smith, 1842): We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
3. Mormon doctrine is that it wasn’t God that created our spirits. It was God who created the bodies and the earth our spirits would inhabit.
Point 1: So God is not cruel but a spiritual facilitator, a Heavenly Father, with limited power. This is a much easier way to imagine God. It seems to even be supported by some scripture. Great! Unfortunately it only works if you leave it at that.
The problem is that it really isn’t supported by much scripture. Most discussions of Hell and the utter destruction that faces the unbelieving and the sinful sound nothing like an eternity spent on a new earth, in a perfectly resurrected body. They barely even sound like “outer darkness”. The LDS teaching is that these passages refers to either a lesser exultation or to Outer Darkness but neither work with the idea that the majority of humanity will suffering and punished eternally as these verses suggest. Unfortunately this IS the hell of the bible and if we are going to accept the bible as scripture then we cannot disavow this hell and no amount of clever re-branding can change that.
Point 2: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.”This is a great sentiment, and a necessary one because the idea of inherited sin had been losing popularity for some time. The problem is that Brigham Young and subsequent prophets taught that blacks were black because they were under the mark Cain and the Curse of Ham, ineligible for the priesthood. Is this not an inherited unworthiness no different than the idea of Original Sin?
Point 3: As much as the idea of eternal spirits uncreated by God helps with some troublesome bits of Christian theology once again there isn’t any support for the concept in the Pre-Joseph Smith scriptures. The majority of Christian dogmas established the beginning of life and of the spirit is at conception. Adam came into existence (flesh AND spirit) when God created him.
Even if it was true and the scriptures support it, as I’ve already noted in my previous post (LINK) there is no more justice in an eternity of spiritually blocked souls. The doctrine seems to assert either that these people are incapable of learning, growing and improving themselves, or they deserve to be disqualified from the opportunity – forever.
There is no way to reconcile the pain of life, and threat of Hell, with the reputed love of a perfect God.
* Mustapha; Fulke Greville (1609)
**Few assertions are more ridiculous as the one I have heard made by many a “true Christian” (See ‘True Scotsman’) regarding Catholics. Apparently modern “Christians” are increasingly inclined to disavow themselves from their Catholic roots. While I can understand the desire to separate from such a beleaguered organization, it is more than hubris to accuse the Catholic church of corrupting the “word of God”. So many of the modern interpretations of the message of Christ, so many of the apologetic arguments that are still used by “true Christians” today are the result of centuries of Catholic theology. The very existence of Christianity is due to the perseverance of the early Catholics until Constantine. Thomas Aquinas formalized many of the still used proofs of God (The Quinque viae, Five Ways, or Five Proofs are five arguments regarding the existence of God summarized in his book, Summa Theologica. - LINK). Martin Luther and the Reformation may have challenged the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church, the idea of free will, Papal authority, etc. but much of Christianity’s understanding about the fundamental nature of God, and Jesus Christ, creation, heaven, come from centuries of Catholic apologetics and theology. If you want to say the Catholic Church isn’t a “true” church you had best do some homework on how much of your beliefs are rooted in Catholic theology and traditions.