Poor Mitt Romney.
Well, not actually poor, but you know what I mean.
Little did he know that in order to run for president, he was going to have to take America to Sunday school class.
Officially, of course, there is no religious test in order to hold public office. But in practical terms, if a candidate believes in something completely insane, people have a right to take that into consideration before voting for him.
Besides, we Mormons spend a lot of time and effort trying to get our message out there. We can't become suddenly shy about our religion just because one of our number is running for office.
Our first senator, Reed Smoot, had to go through a grueling investigation before he could be seated in the Senate. We can hardly expect the first serious Mormon candidate for president not to face a similar gauntlet.
The doctrine that our opponents would love to hang around Romney's neck is the one about human beings having the potential to become like God.
Or, as our opponents like to put it because it sounds more insane Mormons believe that they're going to become gods.
Now, that's just not accurate. We believe that those who repent of their sins and become perfect of heart will be, by the grace of Christ, exalted. But how many people have you known who are truly perfect of heart, desiring nothing but to serve God and their fellow humans?
I've known a few. But I'm most definitely not one of them. I'm in the category called "sinners," and I have a pretty good notion that most of us are.
We also believe that people who never heard the gospel during mortality can accept it in the next life. Certainly many who were never "Mormons" in their mortal lives will be exalted.
But that's quibbling over their phrasing. The point of contention is whether anyone can become Godlike.
It all comes down to what we mean by "God."
In one sense, we're in perfect agreement. We all point to the Bible and say, "We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he is divine himself, and that only by his grace can we be cleansed of our sins and return to the presence of the Father.
As far as I'm concerned, anybody who believes that is a Christian. You can be wrong about a lot of the details, but all who accept Christ's divinity and try to live by his teachings are Christians.
However, something happened between the writing of the Bible and the settling of the traditional Christian doctrine of God. What came between them was Plato.
Technically, it was Neoplatonism. But I'm not writing a book, I'm writing a newspaper essaycolumn, and a lot of fine distinctions are going to be left out.
For a thorough treatment of the details, read "How Greek Philosophy Corrupted the Christian Concept of God," by Richard R. Hopkins.
Plato taught that all physical objects are unreal because they're corrupt and imperfect and doomed to change and die. The perfect chair or star or stone or man has no tangible existence only the "idea" of these things can be real because only the idea does not change or corrupt or break or die.
Likewise, whatever we call true, beautiful or good in this world is merely a shadow of the ideal, and therefore real and unchanging Truth, Beauty and Goodness.
In Plato's view, the only god worth worshipping is the perfect ideal of the True, the Beautiful and the Good.
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