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Meyer Dismisses Public’s Interest in Her Mormon Faith

Mormonism has gotten a lot of press lately. What with Mitt Romney running for mormonism1.jpgPresident and now Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire saga all the rage, you’d think Mormonism would be making some inroads into mainstream American religion. However, it appears the Latter Day Saints are still facing an uphill climb.

The topic came up again in a recent USA Today article on Meyer. Her Twilight series is generating a lot of buzz, as much for its topic as her unique personal story. One part of that story is her religious beliefs:

Her Mormon faith, she says, is of intense interest to the news media, but to her, it’s just who she is.

“It seems funny that it’s still a story,” Meyer says, “because you didn’t hear people saying, ‘Jon Stewart, Jewish writer,’ when his book came out. I guess being a Mormon is just odd enough that people think it’s still a real story. Obviously, to me, it seems super normal. It’s just my religion.”

Being a Mormon may be “super normal” for Stephenie Meyer, mormons1.jpgbut like it or not, her beliefs are still way out of the mainstream. Despite its burgeoning secularism, America remains a nation framed within a Judeo-Christian worldview. Meyer’s attempt to downplay her beliefs by referencing Jon Stewart’s Judaism is a typical Mormon apologetic. Latter Day Saints have long sought inclusion into the American mainstream, especially under the “Christian” tent. But no amount of spin or feigned shock can change the fact that Mormons believe

  • There are many gods
  • God, the God of Earth, was once a man
  • We can become gods of our own worlds
  • Jesus is Lucifer’s brother
  • Jesus was not born of a virgin; God had sex with Mary

Despite what the ACLU says, Americans are an incredibly tolerant people. You can believe what you want without fear of persecution. And obviously Meyer’s beliefs have not kept her from selling books. What I continue to find interesting, however, is how surprised Mormons appear to be about the public’s perception of their faith. During the Republican primaries, it prompted Mitt Romney to deliver an extensive speech on religion — one in which he conveniently avoided all the controversial Mormon doctrines. Likewise, Stephenie Meyer’s dismisses our curiosity: “It’s just my religion.”

In the end, I think this type of publicity is good for the LDS cause. Mormon women are often viewed as repressed, ultra-conservative, pioneer-like, husband-doting, baby machines. So a Mormon housewife writing a teen vampire novel can’t help but demolish some stereotypes. What it doesn’t do is change those oddball beliefs. And it’s those beliefs that we Americans continue to see as, um, weird.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • PaulW August 11, 2008, 2:26 PM

    What you and others don’t seem to understand is that what you list here as “controversial Mormon Doctrines”, are for the most part, peripheral ideas that have been expressed by some Church leaders in our history. . .not core Church doctrine. Stephenie Meyer may or may not even believe the things you listed:
    *There are many gods
    *God, the God of Earth, was once a man

    Especially this one. . .I would argue that most if not all Mormons would see this idea, as you’ve expressed it, as false:
    *Jesus was not born of a virgin; God had sex with Mary

    These next two statements are over simplifications of the core doctrines that may lead to these conclusions. They sound sensational to you but in reality shouldn’t be:
    *We can become gods of our own worlds
    *Jesus is Lucifer’s brother

  • Alma August 11, 2008, 3:57 PM

    Unfortunately, our “oddball beliefs” rarely get cited accurately. Of the five bulleted items above, you’d be hard pressed to find a knowledgeable Mormon would would accept more than the first one as accurate.

    If I were to refer to God in an LDS meeting as “the God of Earth” it would raise quite a few eyebrows as being absolutely foreign to our theology. Additionally, given the fact that Paul refers to Satan as being the “god of this world” it’s just bad form to make such an assertion.

    The oft repeated refrain–invariably from critics of Mormonism–that Jesus and Satan are brothers, is akin to asserting that Catholics practice cannibalism. You can possibly get there through some linguistic gymnastics, but it doesn’t honestly portray their beliefs. Mormons believe that all mankind and all angels are the children of God–as spirit children from before the creation of the earth. Consequently, every spirit child is a brother or sister. That includes you, Christ, all the angels and even the fallen angels. Singling out Jesus and Satan as spirit siblings is really a distortion of the whole concept. In my whole adult life I have never, ever heard Christ referred to in LDS Church services as the “brother of Jesus.”

    Similarly, while Mormons do believe in deification, or theosis, the idea that we become gods of our “own worlds” doesn’t quite convey the LDS perception. It would be more accurate to say Mormons believe that they have the potential to become as Christ is: “when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2)

    The last item doesn’t fare any better. The only official doctrine of Mormonism is contained in its canon. The Book of Mormon refers to Mary as being a virgin after the birth of Christ. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, it is Mormon doctrine that Mary was a virgin.

    Alma

  • Alma August 11, 2008, 4:01 PM

    sorry, I should have read my message before hitting “submit.”

    “knowledgeable Mormon would would” should read “knowledgeable Mormon who would.”

    “I have never, ever heard Christ referred to in LDS Church services as the ‘brother of Jesus’” should read: “I have never, ever heard Christ referred to in LDS Church services as the ‘brother of Lucifer.’”

    Alma

  • Mike Duran August 11, 2008, 4:34 PM

    Thanks for the comment, Paul. What one believes about the nature of God is not “peripheral.” That question defines every religion and affects how we view the universe, ourselves and the afterlife. If we were created by an impersonal, amoral force, that matters immensely to our conduct and destiny (or lack thereof). However, it’s a slippery subject for Mormons. Why? Because it depends upon which God you’re talking about.

    Whereas Christianity is defined by its belief in the Trinity — One God existing on three distinct Persons, a concept articulated in The Nicene Creed, and unique among world religions — Mormonism believes in THREE SEPARATE GODS. Even the Wikipedia article on Mormonism notes that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “does not accept the Nicene Creed’s definition of Trinity.” This is just one of many Mormon denials of orthodox Christianity, and is why most Christian organizations view Mormonism as a cult.

    You wrote, “Stephenie Meyer may or may not even believe the things you listed.” I agree. But if she doesn’t, then she’s not a genuine Mormon — at the least, she’s uninformed. And sadly, I think this kind of doctrinal naiveté is typical of many LDS (to be fair, it’s true of most Christians as well). Christianity is defined by its beliefs. To doubt or deny those beliefs is to veer away from being a Christian. Likewise, the person who claims to be a Mormon but remains willfully ignorant, or in denial of, these “ideas” as you call them, is probably not the real deal.

    It is my experience that most of these “controversial doctrines” are purposely withheld from the layperson until they are deemed “mature.” Some suggest this is the process employed by many cults. Whatever the case, Paul, I would encourage you to begin a more honest, unbiased examination into your own religion. Thanks for your comment!

  • Nicole August 11, 2008, 6:34 PM

    “*We can become gods of our own worlds . . .”
    “Similarly, while Mormons do believe in deification, or theosis . . .”
    These quotations seem to clarify a distinct belief of Mormonism which Christians cannot and do not adhere to no matter how much explanation is offered in their defense.
    The crux of the disagreement lies in Mormons asserting that Jesus Christ is created. We know He is God.
    And I agree with Mike. Most cult members with the exception of the upper echelon of leaders do not know the doctrine of their belief system. And it is a shame that this can be said of many self-proclaimed Christians as Mike pointed out.

  • Mike Duran August 11, 2008, 7:08 PM

    Thanks for the comments, Alma. You wrote: “Of the five bulleted items above, you’d be hard pressed to find a knowledgeable Mormon would would accept more than the first one as accurate.” Several responses:

    Just the concession to polytheism, my first bullet point, distances you substantially from orthodox Christianity. Yes, the Bible describes Satan as “the god of this world.” However, Scripture always frames the devil as A FALSE GOD, a fallen angel that has usurped God’s authority, deceived man, who is destined for Hell, and who must be resisted by the saints. I Timothy 2:5 states what the Bible teaches explicitly, “There is one God…” It’s why He commands us to not have any gods before Him. All other gods are patently false, at the least, woefully inferior.

    Secondly, the fact that I’d be “hard pressed to find a knowledgeable Mormon who would accept more than the first [point] as accurate,” reinforces my assertion about “doctrinal naiveté” and/or organizational deception. In spite of this, you then go on to state “Mormons do believe in deification.” So which is it? Do Mormons agree or disagree that they can become gods of their own worlds? Not only does it appear you support my point, but in doing so, you once again distance yourself from Christian orthodoxy.

    Third, your semantical dance around the Jesus / Lucifer connection is interesting. From the LDS.org website:

    “Jess L. Christensen, Institute of Religion director at Utah State University, Logan, Utah. On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel “who was in authority in the presence of God,” a “son of the morning.” (See Isa. 14:12; D&C 76:25–27.) Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother. (See Col. 1:15; D&C 93:21.)” So, once again I ask, should Mormons believe Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers? Your own church says “yes.”

    Finally, my desire in this post is not to haggle doctrine as much as to point out that Americans continue to find Mormon doctrines out of the religious mainstream. Why so many Mormons have a hard time admitting that is another story. Thanks for the comments, Alma.

  • BobS August 11, 2008, 7:27 PM

    Actually, each one of your points that you deride as “weird” is nothing more that common sense and down to earth (or up to heaven?) thinking:

    * There are many gods
    It’s completely true that we don’t accept the Nicene Creed, which is simply the opinion of a committee and not necessarily truth. It’s never made sense to me to think that Jesus was praying to himself in Gethsemane, or that he was a ventriloquist at his baptism. I’ve never seen any reason that God should be incomprehensible if he’s to be described as our Father.
    * We can become gods of our own worlds
    I’ve never had to wonder just what we will be doing in the afterlife. Many of my friends that are not LDS seem comfortable with the idea of resting for eternity, but not me. I’ll need to be doing things and learning things. This doctrine of “eternal progression” where we can continue to learn for eternity IS core to our beliefs. And if we can continue to progress eternally, where does it end? It doesn’t.
    * God, the God of Earth, was once a man
    This follows logically from the previous point.
    * Jesus is Lucifer’s brother
    Aren’t we all children of our God? What difference does it make theologically if Lucifer was one of the children of God that was cast out for rebellion? He’s still real and he’s still real bad.
    * Jesus was not born of a virgin; God had sex with Mary
    This is NOT church doctrine. Leaders over the years have reinforced the belief in the Virgin birth. Brigham Young makes a comment once about it happening in “the usual way” or something like that, and everybody takes it as doctrine. I’ve always taken that to mean that since the Father is a physical being, then there was a physical part of Him that joined with a physical part of Mary and made Jesus. Even with our limited technological abilities, we can do something similar.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on the subject, for what it’s worth

    Bob

  • Xdpaul August 11, 2008, 9:03 PM

    Good, then we are all in total agreement: Mormonism and Christianity are two wildly different faiths.

    Glad that’s settled! 😉

  • BobS August 11, 2008, 9:36 PM

    @Xdpaul – That’s actually very funny you should say that, since Christianity is itself a conglomeration of wildly different faiths… But which one is TRUE? Presbyterian? Episcopalian? Mormonism? Catholicism? Non-denominational? All focus on a personal relationship with the Savior as the source of redemption.

    @Mike – “Christianity is defined by its belief in the Trinity — One God existing on three distinct Persons, a concept articulated in The Nicene Creed”

    Voting by committee doesn’t embody the decision with truth. The Declaration of Independence is great document, but the committee dropped the condemnation of slavery just to get an agreement done. Committees are all about negotiation to get a job done as opposed to defining truth. Why would I believe in a committee’s decision over the statements of my Savior, who said “He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.”

  • Mike Duran August 11, 2008, 9:55 PM

    Thanks for the comments, Bob. But your statements seem to contradict Alma’s. Whereas he sees my points as a mischaracterization, you affirm each one of them! Go figger.

    First, assuming that the Trinity is false because you can’t understand it, is a dangerous rationale. Heck, I don’t understand gravity, and neither do the best physicists. Does that make it false? If, as Scripture teaches, God is Uncreated, exists in multiple dimensions, is all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing, it only stands to reason that , uh, we might not understand everything about Him. Furthermore, God says in Is. 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” God cannot be God unless He is far, far, above us.

    Furthermore, your assertion that “the Nicene Creed… is simply the opinion of a committee and not necessarily truth,” misses one crucial factor — all their opinions were constrained by Scripture. Unlike Mormonism, the Bible is the one non-negotiable standard of truth for Christians.

    You said, “This doctrine of ‘eternal progression’ where we can continue to learn for eternity IS core to our beliefs.” Belief in an eternal progression of gods has forced Mormons into some difficult corners, namely, the belief in the eternality of matter. If God was once a man then where did the first god come from? Why, he evolved! The doctrine of the eternality of matter is fundamentally at odds with the Christian religion, not to mention science. So much for rational thinking.

    Mormonwiki.org has a good summary, with plenty of quotations, of the Mormon view of Jesus’ conception. It only stands to reason that if God is flesh and blood (Mormon doctrine), that Mary’s impregnation must involve physical sex… a point that all your founders apparently believed. To deny that Mormons believed that God the Father had sex with Mary is either naive or dishonest.

    Finally, Christianity is not defined by the number of its variants (i.e., denominations), but by its core beliefs. Unlike Mormonism, what makes one a Christian is not what they believe about tithing or baptism or a Temple ceremony, but what one believes about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Grace to you, Bob.

  • BobS August 11, 2008, 10:15 PM

    “what makes one a Christian is not what they believe about tithing or baptism or a Temple ceremony, but what one believes about God and His Son, Jesus Christ”

    Mike – I couldn’t have said it better myself. My belief in tithing, baptism or Temple ceremonies are important and sacred to me, yes, but pale in comparison to, and only have meaning because of, my trust in Jesus and gratitude for his atonement, through which the price was paid for my sins, which are many. And THAT is what makes me a Christian and no one anywhere has the right or the ability to take that away from me.

  • BobS August 11, 2008, 10:38 PM

    On another note, I’m not a big fan of the Twilight series. I read the first 2 and was amazed at how weak the main character is. Completely dependent on Edward’s presence in her life. And he’s a 99 year old teenager? What’s he doing with his life besides going to high school for the umpteenth time? How is he bettering society other than by not eating people? I understand that not all characters need to be role models, but it was just too depressing to read any more. Nonetheless, I understand the “forbidden love” aspect that draws teenage girls into the story (including my own daughters) and I wish Ms. Meyer all the best in her career.

  • Mike Duran August 12, 2008, 1:21 PM

    Bob, the Bible warns us about false Christs and false gospels. As such, Christianity has historically viewed the Mormon Jesus and the Mormon gospel as aberrant. You’re correct that no man can ultimately judge your relationship with God. However, we ARE instructed to judge (see: discern / critique) religious claims. And in this, Mormonism remains patently non-biblical.

  • Amie November 22, 2008, 10:12 PM

    What a great discussion. I know I come to it at a later date, but after blogging today about how Twilight is a mormon apologetic…I was fascinated to drop in on your ongoing and robust discussion. Thanks for your blog Mike, can’t wait to read some others.
    Amie
    http://writetools.wordpress.com

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