78 Mormon Answers to 78 Questions
Renowned Atheist blogger Friendly Atheist has a video posing 78 questions to believers in God. Other Christian bloggers have taken on these questions, and I thought I would do the same. I do so with the caveat that I am only one member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (a Mormon) and that my views may or may not be representative of others of my faith. I do however see my views as generally in line with the mainstream teachings of the Church and hope that they are fairly reflective of broader sentiments in the church.
(A Note on numbering – I based my list of questions on that found on Approaching Justice, and numbered them myself. By my count there are only 72 questions, but if someone reading these notes some questions that I missed, please let me know and I will answer them).
1) Is Anne Frank burning in hell?
2) How about Mahatma Gandhi?
3) Is Fred Phelps in Heaven since he believed in the divinity of Jesus?
I cannot judge his ultimate spiritual state and condition. Certainly, he preached of Jesus Christ but did not seem to truly understand the savior’s teachings of mercy and grace. Ultimately God will judge us according to the feelings of our hearts and our deeds. He is the ultimate and just judge.
4) Should a killer who genuinely repents at the end of his life go to Heaven?
Yes, although it isn’t entirely clear whether a murderer can qualify for the highest degree of heaven in the Celestial kingdom. It is possible that murder committed by those who have accepted Christ and should know better could qualify as a sin so heinous that it is not possible to be fully redeemed of.. We know this is likely the case with David’s sin with Bathsheba. I prefer to the take the more charitable position and believe in the power of God’s infinite mercy and grace. He is ultimately the judge.
It is also worth noting that repentance is not an instantaneous action. Genuine repentance for an act of murder would be heartbreaking and soul rending. It would require an individual to experience the torment of conscience and to bear an awful burden. Only through the atonement of the savior is this act of repentance possible
5) Should a kind-hearted atheist go to Hell for all eternity?
6) Do kind-hearted religious people who just aren’t Christian also deserve to burn?
7) Would you be happy in heaven if someone you loved was in Hell?
I would not be happy. For me, heaven is heaven because of the relationships that will exist there. In the Celestial Kingdom we will have eternal relationships with God and our families. Thus, anyone who is absent is a true tragedy.
However, I believe that my sorrow would be soothed by knowledge that everyone truly had an opportunity to be saved and to receive exaltation. God’s plan is not capricious or based on birth or chance. Each person will truly have a chance to understand God’s plan and make an informed choice. Some will have that opportunity in this life, while others will have it after they die in the spirit world. God is no respector of persons.
A couple of comments on the first couple of questions. I think that Mormons/Latter-day Saints are uniquely qualified to answer these questions because of the greater light and truth revealed true the prophet Joseph Smith. Because of this, seemingly paradoxically members of the Church can both be among the strongest believers that our church is the one and only true church and also the strongest believers that people from many different faiths will ultimately end up in heaven.
I am so grateful for my knowledge about God’s eternal Plan of Salvation. This knowledge is one of the things that first drew me to the Church and makes answering such questions rather simple. _______________________________
8) If your child were dying, and I hope that never happens, would just pray for them or would you take them to a doctor?
I would pray for them and take them to a doctor
9) And if you’d do both, which one do you think has more of an impact?
I think both have a great impact. Moreover, developments in medicine come as a result of the gift of intelligence which God has given to us. He expects us to use our intellect to better our condition. Science and modern medicine are inspired by God.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, one of the living Twelve Apostles is a world renowned cardiac surgeon who helped pioneer techniques that have blessed countless lives. He has spoken about his feelings of being divinely led to develop procedures and techniques and about miraculous guidance in the midst of surgical procedures. I believe that God works through doctors and modern medicine to perform miracles.
Faith on the part of the patient and those that love and are praying for him/her can also make an immense difference.
10) Whose prayers does God answer?
God answers everyone’s prayer. He does not always answer in ways that we expect or recognize. Moreover, his answers are sometimes no, and at other times are delayed or occur on a different timeline than we would want.
It is incredible and wonderful that the being that created the whole universe loves each and every one of us enough to talk to us personally on a one on one basis. Incredible and wonderful, but true.
11) And if it’s ultimately His Will, why bother praying?
The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s will, but instead to help us better align ourselves with God’s will. Moreover, prayer is enabling and gives us the spiritual strength to do difficult things. Prayer also is a source of revelation and we can receive answers and guidance that we could receive in no other way
12) If you have cancer, what would help you more: Certain drugs, or prayer?
Both, see answer #9.
13) If you had an amputated limb, would prayer ever bring it back?
I do believe that in certain circumstances faith can have the power to perform incredible miracles of healing. Certainly, Jesus Christ was a great healer and performed incredible miracles or restoration and rejuvenation. In more modern times, the Prophet Joseph Smith performed miraculous healings as well. However, often having faith to be healed also includes having faith not to be healed. Certain conditions that seem like limitations in this life are there to give us experience and ultimately are for our good. We can be certain that whether healing occurs in this life or not, that when we are all resurrected we will receive perfect bodies free of stain or blemish and all tears will be wiped away.
14) If you have an exam coming up, what would contribute more to a higher score: Prayer or more studying?
Prayerful study is the correct answer. Prayer before study can help concentrate the mind and lead to effective and fruitful study. Prayer can also help return things to our recollection. However, God will not give us knowledge that we have not diligently worked to acquire. It is against the principle of human agency to do so. Those who go into an exam relying on blind faith and the spirit are foolish and do not understand divine principles.
15) If you prayed for me over YouTube right now, do you think I would know it?
I don’t know if would know it. Certainly, I have felt the power of other’s prayers throughout my life. On the other hand, it is a subtle feeling that one must be attuned to feel. Whether you know it or not, ultimately our prayers are recorded in heaven. When we are all resurrected and stand before God, all will be revealed and understood and our recollection will be perfect.
16) What matters to God more: The quantity of people praying or the quality of their prayers?
I think both mater to God. Certainly, the prayers of those with immense faith can have great power (For instance, in the Book of Mormon one prophet’s prayer was able to shut the heavens from rain and open them back up again). On the other hand, quantity matters as well especially on the aggregate and nation state level.
17) If quantity matters, shouldn’t the most popular team always win the Super Bowl?
No, because I don’t think God cares about which team wins the Super Bowl. He might answer prayers to help keep players safe or ensure that they perform well, but that is because he cares about the individuals and not the teams/outcomes.
18) If quality matters, why do people you love sometimes die no matter what you do?
I don’t perfectly know the answer to this question. Yet, having experiences this personally with my Mother, I do have some insight. When we keep in mind that this life is neither the beginning nor the end, death is seen as a mere transition to an ultimately better place. God’s plan is perfect and those that die do so at the right time. Our days shall not be numbered less.
The challenge of maintaining faith in God and those around you even when prayers are seemingly not answered is one of the greatest spiritual challenges in life. The savior provided the perfect example of this in the Garden of Gethsemene when God did not take away his burdens. Yet, he persevered. So should we.
This is not to say that faith and prayer makes no difference. I have seen the healing powers of faith and prayer even in extreme circumstances. We can receive a peace that exceeds all earthly peace through prayer.
19) Is it possible that your prayers have no supernatural effect and only serve to make you feel better?
I have experienced far too many answers to prayers to doubt the efficacy of prayer. Specifically, I have received answers to prayers that went completely contrary to my intuitions and personal desires/opinions. Yet, when I have followed the advice and guidance received through prayer I have been blessed beyond belief.
20) Is there anything in your life that makes you doubt God’s existence?
I think it would be delusional to look at human suffering or our own failings and not have some doubts. We are meant to walk through life on faith rather than certainty, and so some doubts are inevitable. Probably the most significant doubt I have is when I consider God’s commandment to become perfect and then look at my own inadequacies and weaknesses. However, I have far too powerfully felt the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ working in my life. I have received too many answers to prayers and too many confirmations of the truthfulness of Church doctrines and teachings to truly doubt God’s existence.
21) How would your life change if you had serious doubts about God’s existence?
I spent two years as an ardent atheist, and I don’t want to return to that state. Before finding faith in Jesus Christ, I didn’t see a higher purpose in life and I was filled with so many more doubts and insecurities about myself and my place in the world. My faith gives me a solid foundation and grounding in the knowledge of God’s plan and his love for me.
22) Was Jesus white?
I don’t know and don’t really care. I do know that his countenance now is like a brilliant and radiant white light, but I think that has more to do with spiritual purity than skin color.
23) Why does God seem more likely to answer the prayers of a talented athlete than a starving child overseas?
This question is based on a fundamentally false understanding of what it means to answer prayers. Prayer is not really about giving us things, but about empowering, guiding, comforting and helping us to understand God’s will. God loves all of his Children and answers the prayers of all. He does not play favorites.
In one sense, I think that God might be more “likely” to answer the prayer of the African child, because that child is much more likely to humbly petition the Lord.
24) Why does God Seem [sic] to hate Africa?
God loves all of his children. He has commanded us to take care of the least among us and to help and empower them. Instead, human history has been a history in which the people of Africa have been brutalized and suppressed. Such human suffering literally makes God weep. And yet, he respects human agency and works through righteous individuals to empower communities and individuals. It is our responsibility to work to improving the lot of those in Africa.
25) If a group of Africans swooped in to your community with the intention of converting you and your neighbors to their tribal faith, what would your reaction be?
Having served a two year full time mission for my Church, I have deep respect for anyone that seeks to proselytize and invite others to learn of God. I would love to engage in respectful dialogue and learn about their faith. I would also invite them as I did countless Russians on my mission to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God to know if it is true.
26) Does God speak to you?
Yes, though I have never heard his voice, but he speaks through the promptings of the Holy Spirit and in response to prayer.
27) If God spoke to you and told you to kill someone, would you do it?
I would follow the pattern of Nephi in the Book of Mormon and first sincerely doubt that such a prompting was from God. If after wrestling with God and continued prayer and introspection, I knew that such a prompting was from God I would do so.
28) Is God always watching you?
29) How about when you’re on the toilet?
This is a really silly question. Yes, but I think he has better things to focus on than that.
30) How do you respond when someone who’s not a Christian tells you about their religious faith?
I love hearing about the faiths of others. On my mission and elsewhere I have spent hours learning about the faith of others. I deeply respect and love people of all faith.
31) Do you listen and consider what they have to say or do you just ignore them because they don’t believe what you believe?
I always consider carefully what I hear about religion from others. As a convert to my Church, I would be foolish not to. I have prayed and pondered the messages I have received from others
32) What do you make of Muslims who think the Koran is the true holy book?
I think the Koran contains a great deal of truth and it is even possible that God revealed a great many things through the Muhammad. However, I would invite anyone to examine the Book of Mormon and pray to God to know if it is true. I believe that anyone can gain more light and truth from its teachings and from knowing Jesus Christ. We invite people to bring all the goodness and truth they have and to gain more.
33) Are they wrong?
No, there is much admirable and good in the Koran. However, there are also false teachings in Islam which limit the ability of adherents to gain a fullness of truth and happiness. For instance, believing that prophecy ended with Muhammad, or rejecting Christ as a savior/more than a prophet.
As I mentioned earlier, individuals will have an opportunity to learn about the fullness of the Gospel whether in this life or the next. I truly believe that those that are believers and living consistent with the teachings of their faith will readily embrace the Gospel of Christ once they learn of it. Their faith and spiritual experiences will prepare them for that ultimate conversion.
34) Have you read the Koran?
35) Why do you dismiss them so easily?
I don’t. I deeply respect Islam and have pondered and considered its truth claim extensively.
36) Is homosexuality itself a sin?
Homosexual conduct is a sin just as all sexual conduct outside of a marriage between husband and wife is a sin.
37) Should gays and lesbians have the right to get married?
No, gay marriage can never be a true marriage in God’s eyes. As far as society goes, we should continue to place heterosexual marriage in a favorite position, but can extend to gay couples civil unions with the full benefits of marriage. However, preserving the title and status of marriage is simply that important for society.
38) Why would God make people gay and then punish them for being gay?
Being gay is not a punishment. It certainly is a difficult temptation that many face in this life. However, ultimately God knows our hearts and minds and is fully aware of all of our burdens and temptations. He will judge us based on our own opportunities, knowledge and challenges.
39) If God’s already sending gay people to hell, why do you feel the need to persecute them here on Earth [sic]?
Gay people are not going to hell. I believe that those that I have known that are gay are often some of the choicest spirits and have made a wonderful contribution to society and to the world. God will not unfairly focus only on one challenge that we face. He sees us as bigger than merely one trial. Every person will be judged with the utmost mercy and love.
I do not feel a need to persecute gay people and find anti-gay bigotry abhorrent. We all sin and all fall short of God. We should not judge or hate others because we sin differently than they do. On the other hand, I will continue to reject all efforts to silence those that speak out about the divinely inspired nature of marriage or attempt to call divine truth bigotry.
40) Why does God playing [sic] hide and seek with all of humanity?
God sent us to this earth so that we could learn to have faith without seeing him. Before this life, we were in his presence and knew him personally. Yet, for us to fully grow and make choices we needed to come here, forget and rely on faith. If we had absolute certainty of God’s existence, our choices would become less meaningful and our agency/freedom less full. We are here to make choices and rely on faith rather than perfect sight.
41) Do you believe Jesus is coming back to Earth during your lifetime?
I don’t know. I do know that these are the latter days and that his coming is soon, however no man knows the exact date or the time of his coming. Prophets and Apostles have spoken of those of the current generation having children, grandchildren and great grandchildren which leads me to believe that his coming might not be in my lifetime. Either way, I eagerly await the day and look forward to it with an eye of faith.
42) If you do, what do you say to the many generations of people who have been saying that for centuries?
Christ’s coming could not have been before his church was restored to the earth in 1830 through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Moreover, his second coming requires preparation and will be preceded by certain signs such as the great spread of missionary work to all corners of the earth. Only in the past 30-50 years has technology so developed to allow the message of Jesus Christ to spread to truly all the world.
Those who have waited for Christ’s return will be rewarded for their diligence and faith.
43) Why is the story of Jesus’ birth and life so similar to that of mythological beings well before his time?
I see this as proof of the truthfulness of the teachings of Christ. Whether understood under a different name or not, God has inspired civilizations around the world to get some understanding of the savior. Adam taught his descendents of Jesus Christ, and knowledge of his plan have been on earth from the beginning. As such, it is not surprising that many civilizations across the world would know about Jesus Christ. Moreover, some of these mythological tales may be from actual visits of the savior such as the Mesopotamian myth of Quetzecotol.
44) How do you decide which sections of the Bible are literally true and which ones are just metaphorical?
I believe that the Bible is the divine word of God insofar as it is correctly translated. I look to the living Prophet and to those that have come before such as Joseph Smith for further insights and revelation. Absent some revelation from them to the contrary I see the teachings of the bible as literally true. In many instances, however, our literal reading is simply based on inaccurate cultural assumptions rather than the text itself.
45) What are the minimum requirements for being a Christian?
I would include in that umbrella all those who believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God, and believe that he took upon himself our sins, died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day.
Of course, membership in the Church of Christ involves more than mere faith in Christ, and requires repentance, baptism, confirmation/receiving the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. However, because so many are not aware of or understand these teachings I do not see them as a minimum to be considered Christian. One day, those who have that essential faith in Christ will come to understand the fullness of his teachings and will enter into his fold.
46) And who falls under that definition?
I give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who claims to be a Christian. God ultimately is the one that judges us according to our words, deeds, and thoughts of our heart. Even many members of the Church will ultimately be found wanting because they have failed to live according to the teachings of Christ. As such, it is not my place to judge and certainly not based on external labels.
48) Pat Robertson?
49) James Dobson?
50) President Obama?
51) Do your really believe Mary was impregnated without ever having sex?
52) If someone came up to you and said she was pregnant but she was totally a virgin, would you believe her?
No. I wouldn’t. Which is exactly why the story of Mary and Joseph is so amazing. Joseph reacted as any of us would. He sought to end his engagement with Mary. Thus, what is incredible is that because of divine revelation he had enough faith to stay with Mary and endure the ridicule that they probably received. That Joseph stayed is compelling evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel account.
53) Why did God have to rape a teenage girl in order to become human?
I certainly do not believe that God raped Mary in order for Christ to be born. I do not understand fully how Christ was conceived, but I know that God understands the laws of nature far better than we do. He would never violate human agency in such a fundamental way.
54) If you could go back in time when Jesus was being crucified, would you try to save Him or would you stand back and do nothing because your entire faith depends on Him being crucified?
I would certainly do everything I could to try to save him. God requires us to do all that we can to ensure justice. The savior was innocent and should not have been killed. That his atonement was inevitable does not change the fact that he was brutally murdered by the Roman and Jewish leaders.
On the other hand, certainly Christ knew his death was foreordained, and he even commanded his disciples to not resist the Roman guards by the sword. I would thus do all that was in my power to preserve Christ’s life unless he himself told me not to do so.
55) What would it take to change your mind in God’s existence?
At this point, I have had such powerful confirming experience of God’s existence and the truth of the Church, that I think that it is only through personal wickedness and the influence of Satan that I could fall away.
56) Do you think it is a little strange when someone says they’re gonna believe in something no matter what, even when all the evidence seems to point in the other direction?
Yes, I do think that is strange and unnecessary. Every individual can receive a personal answer from God and know that he is there. God does not want us to have faith without evidence. He wants to give us personal revelation which is the most powerful evidence of all.
57) What is something your pastor has said in church that you totally disagree with?
I have written extensively about how I struggled with the teachings of the Prophets and Apostles on gay marriage. Now, I can’t think of any teaching that I currently struggle with.
58) And when that happened, did you confront your pastor about it or did you just let it slide?
I certainly spoke extensively to Bishops and to everyone else that I could about my concerns. I even asked an Apostle a question about the Church’s position on gay marriage However, as I have written because of my openness to the promptings of the spirit I eventually gained a personal witness that the Church’s teachings on the subject are true.
59) Why are there so many different Christian denominations?
When Christ was on the earth he established one Church led by prophets and apostles. They were meant to ensure uniformity and consistency of faith. However, as people killed the apostles and persecuted believers, the teachings of Christ were distorted and lost. The church fell into apostasy and many denominations splintered off, none containing the fullness of Christ’s teachings and gospel.
60) And are the people who are in those different denominations bad Christians, are they wrong?
Christians in other denominations are attempting to follow Christ but are misled by the teachings of man and the distortions built up over centuries of falsehood. They seek the truth but know not where to find it.
61) Which denomination is right?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true and living Church on the earth. True, because the doctrines it teaches are pure from God, and living because Christ leads the Church through a living Prophet and Apostles. Joseph Smith was the prophet through which God restored his Church to the earth.
62) Or, which group of denominations is right?
63) Who or what do you think is responsible for natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis?
We live in a fallen world and natural disasters are part of that world. I think disasters often ehelp us to focus on those things that matter most and realize how temporary our life on this earth is. Man can also at times contribute to disasters through our mistreatment of the world.
64) Can you pause the video right now and tell me what the Ten Commandments are?
Yes: One god, No Idols, Do not take the Lord’s name in vain, Sabbath Day Worship, Honoring Father and Mother, Do not Kill, Do not commit adultery, Do Not Steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not covent
65) And if you know them (and good for you if you do), why do so many Christians believe the first four of them belong on government property and in classes?
Many believe that the commandments belong because they are part of the heritage of this nation. The Founding Fathers quoted the bible and other sermons extensively, and the Ten Commandments were always seen as underlying commandments or laws. However, there is also a strong case to be made that they do not belong in a pluralistic society in order to ensure that others do not feel excluded. I certainly see the strength of both arguments.
66) Would you feel comfortable saying the pledge of allegiance in class everyday if the words were “one nation under no God, with liberty and justice for all”?
No. I do believe the nation was founded based on a common belief in God and that the nation prospers when its people believe. However, I completely respect the argument that such words alienate those who do not believe and therefore do not belong. Certainly, I am against compelling anyone to swear, affirm, or pledge anything contrary to their belief.
67) Do you think it’s just a coincidence that different religions are popular in different parts of the world?
No, it is not a coincidence. I believe that certain faiths have truths that appeal to those of different cultures and backgrounds. Ultimately, religion grows because it connects to the spiritual needs of adherents.
68) Do you believe that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim rather than a Christian?
I don’t know. In Saudi Arabia it is highly unlikely that I would have heard of Jesus Christ or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the other hand, as a convert who ended up joining the church while at a heavily Jewish University I believe that everything is possible in God’s plan. I do believe that God puts us in a position to hear and learn about Jesus Christ either in this life or the next. Because he doesn’t see a difference between someone who learns of it here or in the afterlife, I don’t think it matters too much.
69) Is it possible that religion has less to do with what’s true and more to do with the circumstances of where and when you were born?
No, Jesus is the Christ and that is true no matter where we are born. He atoned for the sins of all mankind whether an individual believes in him or not. Ultimately ever knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is the one and only Christ.
70) Do you believe childbirth is an example of a miracle?
71) Does that mean Hitler was once a “miracle baby”?
Yes, each of us is a miracle because we are born with divine potential. However, it is tragic that some people fall so far short of that divine potential and lead to the destruction of millions of innocents. How much wickedness can come from one individual who rejects divine truth and how much good can come from one disciple of Christ!
72) And if childbirth is a miracle, how come that miracle happens thousands and thousands of times every week?
The greatest miracles are not infrequent but common place. The greatest miracle of all is not just that thousands are born, but that everyone of them is known and loved by God.