Okay, so this clip isn’t actually from a movie, but it has Michael Landon reprising his role as the Teenage Werewolf (and singing while doing it, no less) and Don Knotts & Billy Barty belting out a rendition of the Monster Mash, so frankly, who cares where it came from? Plus, on top of all that, there’s a couple of Mormons running around dressed up as vampires. No, no, not Bella and Edward, I wouldn’t be so cruel as to do that to you. I’m talking about those other two Mormon vampires…
I’ll admit, Twilight notwithstanding, vampires and werewolves aren’t normally the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Mormons. Usually the first image that pops into someone’s head is probably that of well-dressed men riding around on bicycles and knocking on your door way too early in the morning. Alright, so there’s also polygamy and magic underwear, but to be fair, the former has been officially discontinued by the LDS and the latter is just a snarky term for one of their religious customs. For my part, I won’t cast any stones at their Mormon long-johns as long as they lay off my Catholic “magic amulets” (yes, I know and you know they’re not magic, but that’s what some people who don’t understand sacramentals call them anyway). I say, let the LDS wear whatever they want to wear.
When it comes to doctrines of faith though, well, there I suppose I’m going to have to give the Mormons a bit of a tough time simply because the differences are just too great. True, it doesn’t always seem that way on the surface, but once you dig around a bit, it becomes more obvious. For instance, back in 1994, a gathering of well known Christian theologians released a document entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together which was basically an ecumenical attempt to reach a minimum level of agreement on the basics of the Christian faith. After a lot of thoughtful debate (and the requisite amount of yelling at each other), they finally settled on the Apostles’ Creed (the one we say with the rosary) as the minimum standard for an agreed upon Christian doctrine. Oh sure, they haggled over stuff like whether or not the Creed meant “catholic church” or “Catholic Church” (those capital letters can make a big difference), but in the end they all accepted the wording.
Now the LDS weren’t a part of ECT, but some of their holy writings would seem to indicate they wouldn’t have been able to accept the group’s conclusions even if they had been. After all, according to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, when he asked God which church he should join, he writes, “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History 1:19).” But apparently things have softened up a bit out in Salt Lake City these days, because most modern Mormons appear to have little trouble with the Apostle’s Creed. In a response to a fan’s question regarding the subject, Donnie Osmond claims that “If we were to insert The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in place of ‘The Holy Catholic Church’, it would define our beliefs about God and Christ very well.”
That sounds pretty good, until you get into specifics. The trouble starts almost immediately with the first words of the Creed, “I believe in God the Father…” Obviously the Mormons believe in God, that’s not the problem, but they do have an entirely different concept of who and what God is than does traditional Christianity. The LDS believe, for example, that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s… (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22)”, a belief that stands in stark contrast to the orthodox teaching that God is pure spirit. So, everybody can say the first line of the Creed together, but they don’t really mean the same thing as they’re saying it.
But so what, right? What does it matter as long as Mormons are good people? I mean, Donnie & Marie may have been guilty of putting on a silly variety show, but offstage they seem like decent folks, so why worry about their beliefs? Well, because the kinds of differences we’re talking about actually get to the heart of the purpose of religion. You see, religion isn’t just about making good people. Any good course on ethics, even perhaps an atheist one, can manage that. Religion is about responding to God’s call “to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength” so that we may eventually “share in his own blessed life.” That would seem to indicate that a false knowledge of God might just have some pretty big consequences.
For instance, the Mormon belief that God has a physical body implies that something, somewhere, at some point in time, must have created God. If that’s true, why bother worshipping God? Why not worship the even more omnipotent thing that made him instead? Worse yet, if that larger thing is unknowable (the Mormon’s certainly haven’t said what it might be), then why bother worshipping anything at all? See, bad knowledge can lead to bad results. Now contrast that idea with the traditional understanding of God whom the Catechism describes as “the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is.” Now that’s a God worthy of worship.
So let the Mormons keep their itchy underwear and their non-threatening vampires, those things are no big deal. Some of the other stuff, though, I’m afraid we’re just gonna have to keep butting heads over. The stakes (sorry, vampires, no pun intended)are a bit too high.