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George Orwell, in his novel 1984, did Catholic apologists a great favor by coining the term "doublethink," which he defined as "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in ones mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." Its the most succinct way of describing certain religious beliefs. For an illustration of doublethink one need look no further than the Mormon churchs doctrines about God.

Joseph Smith, Mormonisms founder, taught the doctrine of a "plurality of gods"polytheismas the bedrock belief of his church. He developed this doctrine over a period of years to reflect his belief that not only are there many gods, but they once were mortal men who had developed in righteousness until they had learned enough and merited godhood.

The Mormon church uses the term "eternal progression" for this process, and it refers to godhood as "exaltation." Such euphemisms are used because the idea of men becoming gods is blasphemous to orthodox Christians. Needless to say, Smith encountered much hostility to these doctrines and so thought it wise to disguise them with unfamiliar terminology.

Although he softened his terms, Smith minced no words in explaining his beliefs. "I will preach on the plurality of gods. I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see" (King Follett Discourse).

Mormonisms founder concluded that his flock didnt understand the nature of God. No mortal entirely does, of course, but this particular group was handicapped, not helped, by the strange theories expounded by Smith.

True to his word, Smith took away the veil of misunderstanding, only to replace it with a monolithic wall of doublethink. After all, to teach that the all-sovereign God, the infinite and supreme being, the Creator and Master of the universe, is merely an exalted man is a fine example of what Orwell had in mind.

Progressive Revelation To Smith

In 1844, shortly before his death in a gunbattle at a jail in Carthage, Illinois, Joseph Smith delivered a sermon at the funeral of a Mormon named King Follett. The King Follett Discourse has become a key source for the Mormon churchs beliefs on polytheism and eternal progression. Its short and can be purchased at any LDS bookstore for about a dollar. You can read it in half an hour.

To appreciate the extent of Smiths departure from traditional Christian thought, its important to realize that his doctrines werent "revealed" to his church all at once or in their present state. From his first vision in 1820 until his death in 1844, Joseph Smith crafted and modified his doctrines, often altering them so drastically that they became something else entirely as years passed.

Early in his career as "prophet, seer, and revelator" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, which he claimed to be the "fullness of the everlasting gospel." In it are passages that proclaim there is only one God and that God cant change.

The next time you speak with Mormon missionaries, cite these verses:

"I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity" (Moroni 8:18).

"For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and in him there is no variableness, neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles" (Mormon 9:9-10).

Its hard to be more explicit than that. In his early years Smith did not believe in the "law of eternal progression." He had an orthodox understanding of Gods immutable nature. But at some point in his theological odyssey, he veered into the land of doublethink.

Contradictory Views

Remember, Smith maintained the inspiration and truth of the Book of Mormon at the same time he believed the following: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visibleI say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in formlike yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image, and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another" (King Follett Discourse).

This is one of Smiths more spectacular displays of doublethink. Fourteen years after penning the Book of Mormon, he contradicts his earlier writings with this sermonbut he doesnt throw aside his earlier teaching. Both are to be accepted.

The Missionarys "Testimony"

If you question a Mormon missionary, hell be familiar with the King Follett Discourse (or should be), and hell have a "testimony" about the truth of the doctrine of eternal progression. If you have both the Discourse and the Book of Mormon on hand, read these passages to the missionary. Watch his reaction and press for an explanation. Ask him how its possible to hold both positions. Mormons revere Joseph Smith as the highest authority in their church. What he said is scripture, and theyre stuck when it comes to this topic. These two teachings from the prophet obviously dont agree with each other. This is where doublethink kicks in. If Mormons couldnt believe two contradictory doctrines at once, theyd be forced to throw up their hands in bewilderment.

They cant believe that God is at once immutable and changing, that from all eternity he was as he now is, yet he evolved from a mere man. To Mormons this theological contradiction poses no problem because they dont think through the ramifications of such a position. Your job as an apologist is to show them there is a problem and then to offer a solution to it.

Its not enough to say God is eternal and to leave it at that. We need to take his infinite perfection into account. This is where the Mormons falter. They believe that although God is perfect now, he wasnt always so. Once he was imperfect, as a mortal, and he had to arrive at perfection through his own labor. (You might call it a sort of "hyper-Pelagianism.")

Jesus Christ

According to Morman teaching, at one point in the eternities past, this man-become-God, or "Heavenly Father," begat the spirit body of his first son. Together with his heavenly wife, the Father raised his son in the council of the gods.

Before the creation of this world, Jesus Christ presented to his father a plan of salvation which would enable the billions of future human beings the opportunity of passing through mortality and returning to heaven, there to become gods of their own worlds. At the same time, another son of the Heavenly Father and brother of Christ offered a competing plan. When Christs was chosen, the rejected Lucifer led a rebellion of one-third of the population of the heavens and was cast out.

In time, Mormans believe, the Heavenly Father came to earth and had physical, sexual intercourse with the Virgin Mary. Rejecting both the testimony of Scripture (Luke 1:34-35) and the constant teaching of the Christian Church, Mormons believe Christ was conceived by the Father, and not by the Holy Spirit. (Journal of Discourses 2:268.)

Moreover, Mormans teach that Christ is a secondary, inferior god. He does not exist from all eternity. (Nor, for that matter, does his Father.) He was first made by a union of his heavenly parents. After having been reared and taught in the heavens, he achieved a certain divine stature. Through carnal relations with her Heavenly Father, the Virgin became pregnant with this lesser god.

Mormons now believe that Christs divinity is virtually equal to that of his Fathers. As we have seen, this is a compromised godhood: Jesus Christ merely joins the end of a long line of gods who have preceded him, an infinite "regression" of divine beings whose origin Mormons cannot explain. (Nor, for that matter, can they explain its end, as we will see when we discuss the doctrine of men becoming gods.)

The Holy Ghost

The LDS church teaches that all men must pass through mortality in human bodies before they can reach godhood. Yet their third, separate god, called the Holy Ghost, has not yet received a mortal body, even though he is considered to be another god. Mormon theology typically does not address this contradiction.

However, thats not to say that the Holy Ghost is without any body. In fact, he has a "spiritual body," in the actual shape of a man, with head, torso, and limbs. He can be in only one place at once (in this hes no different from his two superiors in the Mormon "Godhead.")

Though to the Holy Ghost is now ascribed the power of each Mormons individual "testimony" or feeling concerning the truth of Mormon doctrines, he was not always so honored. In fact, Joseph Smith originally acknowledged only two divine personages, referring to the Holy Ghost merely as the "mind" of the two. (Lectures on Faith, 48-49.)

Latter-Day Saints do not believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the only three gods there are. Rather, they believe in (though do not worship) a "plurality" of gods, gods without number, each one ruling his own creation. Thus, the three separate gods who rule our universe are finite in powerthey sustain and govern only a tiny portion of all that exists.

The other gods have either preceded or followed the Heavenly Father who organized our world. In fact, men living today on this planet will one day become gods of their own universes. As such, they will mate with heavenly wives, beget spirit children, populate new worlds, and receive the worship and obedience we are now expected to give to our particular, current God.

SmithAnd All MenTo Be Gods

The Mormon founder taught that faithful Mormon men can ascend to divinity. In the King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith said, "My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same. And when I get to my kingdom [godhood], 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."

In any discussion with a Mormon about Mormonisms conflicting teachings on the nature of God, you have to cut away the camouflage. You have to get to the central facts. Its simple, really. Just show them how the Book of Mormon conflicts with Smiths later teachings. If he was right about God, when was he right? Take your pick, but you cant pick both, and neither can a Mormon, except if he uses doublethink. If a Mormon chooses either teaching as correct and admits the other must be wrong, Smiths credibility as a prophet collapses.

Dont Aim to Win an Argument

Be forewarned that your first discussion about the nature of God wont produce any visible change in your Mormon acquaintance. Hes unlikely to admit the cogency and simplicity of your argument. Hes probably working in good faith, and hes sincere in his beliefs. But psychologically youre at a disadvantage, since he wants to maintain his faith as hes known it. Be patient as you help him see these theological "black holes."

Keep in mind your ultimate goal isnt to win an argument, but to win a soul for Christ. What the Catholic apologist offers isnt just sound logic, or a preponderance of Bible quotations, or even the blunders Joseph Smith made. No, what he offers is the truth of the Catholic faith.

But you do need sound logic, buttressed by thorough homework, and you need patience thats sustained by charity. Above all, you need to pray that God will use your efforts to prepare your acquaintances soul for the gift of faith. Doublethink isnt invincible. Its just an intellectual impediment, and it can be overcome.

You need to do some homework first, of course. You need a solid understanding of Gods nature. We recommend reading the appropriate passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Fr. John Hardons Catholic Catechism, and Frank Sheeds Theology and Sanity.

These books are available in inexpensive paperbacks, and they should be a part of every Catholics library. You should also have on hand, a copy of the Book of Mormon and of the King Follett Discourse. If you have your references already marked in these books, youll be ready the next time a Mormon missionary comes to your door.