Questions Mormons Can’t Answer?

I was reading an ethnography of Mormonism that will be released in the next few months (I got an advance copy) and a thought struck me when the author started describing some Mormon beliefs: There are some aspects of Mormonism that really cannot be explained.  In other words, Mormons can’t answer some questions about their religion.  I could be wrong, of course, but here the questions that came to mind:

  • Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?  If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?
    • And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?
  • If god is omniscient, why do Mormons need to learn handshakes and passwords to get into his kingdom?  Wouldn’t god know who is worthy and who isn’t?
  • If priesthood is required for performing ordinances, then how are female temple workers able to perform washings and anointings?
  • When does a prophet speak as a prophet and when does he speak as a man?
  • How will god not let a prophet lead the church astray (per, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.” – Wilford Woodruff)?
  • And, of course, the infinite regress question: Where did the first god come from?  Joseph’s regression of gods doesn’t actually solve the problem of “who created god”, it just regresses it.
Any other questions that Mormons just can’t answer?  And are there answers to these questions and I’m just not aware of them?

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profxm

I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

63 thoughts on “Questions Mormons Can’t Answer?

  1. Gotta remember, gotta remember.
    Birkeland currents and human cytoplasm electric fields.

    Reminds me that I heard that the outer darkness is a big black hole. Recalcitrant little spirits are carted to the event horizon and given a gleeful little nudge.

    And substituting water for wine seems to make a mockery of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. It’s like plugging in an 120 volt appliance into a 220 socket. Whether God or the devil is the power source, you’re gonna need the right adapter and transformer.

  2. profxm,

    It appears that my comments have exposed your ignorance of these things. Mocking is a natural response when someone feels threatened by something they cannot understand or comprehend or which they never heard of before and do not believe to be true. I truly am sorry if I have made you feel bad. My intention was to teach, not to make you look like a fool.

    So, I will end my responses to you in this thread. Perhaps with time, these principles will percolate in your brain, or you will learn more about your environment (from the Plasma Universe Wikipedia: “The visible universe is 99.999% plasma. So quite simply, if you don’t know how cosmic plasmas behave, you don’t know the Universe.”), and you will come to some comprehension of what I wrote above.

    But, in closing, I will again attempt to clear up your confusion. (I realize that at this point it is likely futile, but I’m in the mood.)

    1. You wrote, “spirits can be physically chained,” but I never said anything about spirits being physically chained. Spirits are chained with spiritual chains. Joseph taught that “all spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes.”

    There are four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. We list plasma as the fourth state of matter because it appears to be the least abundant state on planet Earth, but in reality plasma makes up nearly the whole of the Universe, making it the very first (or fundamental) state of matter. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_%28physics%29)

    Now, of the four states, which best corresponds to spirit matter? When you undertake a study of plasmas and the many forms they can take, and all the different characteristics they can possess, including invisibility and exceeding fineness, the obvious answer is plasma. We can consider, then, that spirit matter is a particularly fine and pure type of plasma.

    Plasmas can interact (and join) with other plasmas. They can also form themselves into stable filaments which look like chains, as well as many other structures. So, I’ve established that Mormon doctrine teaches that spirit is matter and that only plasma corresponds to what we know about spirit matter. I’ve also established that plasma can form itself into intertwining filaments that can take the shape or appearance of chains, which corresponds to the chains of hell.

    Now, the scriptures speak of “chains of hell” which can be attached to mortal men and which also have power to bind down souls to hell. Do a keyword search for “chains of hell” on the LDS online scriptures to see for yourself.

    I think that covers the first point and also the second, since plasmas also conduct electricity, have magnetic fields, etc.

    Now, for a Christian, the way around this is easy. You simply say, “Joseph didn’t know what he was talking about. Spirit isn’t matter. Spirit is immaterial. It isn’t a solid, liquid, gas or plasma, but some unknowable non-thing.”

    For a Mormon, though, to get around this they just have to ignore the knowledge we’ve gained about plasmas. In other words, a Mormon would say, “Joseph was right. Spirit is matter, but it takes a form different than a solid, liquid, gas or plasma. I don’t care that plasmas can take the same forms and have the same functions as spirit matter is said to have. I refuse to believe that spirit is a plasma. I believe that spirit is a fifth, as yet undiscovered state of matter.”

    And I suppose the atheist would draw the line at the existence of spirit, saying, “There is no such thing as a spirit.”

    So, I am certain you’ll choose whatever response is consistent with your current belief system when you discount the information in this comment.

  3. The chains of hell are just a symbol, not a real thing.

    Hell is a state of mind. (In other words, it’s just a symbol.)

    People in spirit prison (we Mormons don’t use the h-word) have agency. They are spiritually dead in the (symbolic) sense that they are cut off from God, not in any literal way. They just mull around discussing their former lives. No one is literally imprisoned, just symbolically imprisoned by their own minds. Spirit prison is patterned after justice and fairness. No one is tortured by the devil there. There is no fire there, no literal darkness there, just symbolic darkness. Hell is a subset of spirit prison in which really bad sinners are mentally tormented by their sins.

    Are these your beliefs, Seth?

  4. I don’t get that detailed. But I do believe that hell is a state of mind more than anything – and entirely self-inflicted.

  5. LDS Anarchist…

    Your comments have exposed EVERYONE’S ignorance of these things. Why? Because you’re just making stuff up.

    I’m fine with that, since that is what theology is all about. I just want to reiterate this point:

    Almost everything you said was completely made up by you.

    Sure, you’re drawing connections to this and that, but there is no reference to spirits being plasma anywhere in the scriptures or in the teachings of any latter-day prophets. There is also no reference to spirits actually being chained using electric fields. You are perfectly welcome to dilly-dally in theology because, well, none of it actually matters. But, at the end of the day, there is no basis in empirical reality for anything you’ve said. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. It’s all made up.

    Are you willing to admit that?

  6. @56 + @52 Well, there is the point in the D&C about spirits being made of finer matter, which one might interpret as meaning plasma.

    The trouble with the plasma theory is that if a spirit is made of matter (even in plasma form), it could be detected by natural means. People can and have performed tests to try to detect what (if anything) leaves the body at death, and if some non-trivial amount of plasma consistently left the body at death, that would be known.

    My own solution to this problem when I was younger was kind of along a similar line. Instead of looking at the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma), I applied the fact that we now know that energy and matter are the same thing. So I speculated that maybe there is a third state (matter, energy, and spirit). And since the “spirit” state is yet unknown to science, scientists currently have no way of detecting it.

  7. chanson,

    I have heard of such death tests and have also heard of two sets of results: the one detected no difference, while the other detected a very slight difference. Unfortunately, I do not recall the exact references. Maybe it’s on the Internet somewhere.

    That reminds me of the Michelson-Morley experiment which failed to find the aether. Everyone is taught in school that it failed. What they are not taught is that Dayton Miller repeated the experiment and found an aether drift. Same experiment, two results.

    Joseph never said you can’t detect a spirit, only that it “can only be discerned by purer eyes” and that “we cannot see it.” In other words, human eyesight can only see a certain spectrum, but spirit is not in the visible spectrum. That is all that statement means, not that it is impossible to detect a spirit. Even people who don’t believe in spirits have had the experience of feeling the presence of an unseen and unheard person in the room. Their five senses didn’t register a person, yet they felt one anyway, and then the person made himself known. Many people have this experience and it’s kind of creepy, but it makes perfect sense if spirits are plasmoids which interact at a distance with other plasmoids (which in what plasmoids do.)

    The machines we’ve made to detect plasmas are not absolute. Like everything, there are tolerances. There is a bottom limit and an upper limit. There is also the fact that we still don’t know everything about plasmas. They seem simple but form cellular structures too complex to describe mathematically. What we do know is this, the characteristics of plasma and spirit are a match, whereas solids, liquids and gases don’t match. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, tastes like a duck, etc., the logical deduction is that it is a duck. We are free to speculate that it isn’t a duck but some 5th state of matter, but that isn’t logical, is it?

  8. I, Robin Lee Johnson, would answer your questions as follows, and would ask you to also pray upon these things in your heart, and ask God if these things are true, and if ye ask with a sincere heart, having faith in Christ, then he will make these things known unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things!

    Question 1a! Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?

    Heavenly Father is perfect and he wants his children to be the same as he is. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, where the Lord tells us to “Be ye therefore Perfect, as I and your Heavenly Father are perfect!” Look in the footnotes what it says about the word perfect. Apparently the word perfect was translated from a Greek word that could also be translated as “Complete;” thus the Lord could be telling us to be complete.
    We do know that in the pre-existence our souls were incomplete. Joseph Smith taught that there are four parts to the soul. The first part is our intelligence which God created from his own infinite intelligence and shared it with us. The second part was created when God the Father and our Heavenly Mother’s created Spirit bodies to house the intelligence’s that were made by God. The third part is our mortal bodies, created by Christ, here on earth and on other planets that belong to our Heavenly Father. The fourth part, we receive after birth in mortality, and this is the “Light of Christ” given to all mankind, to guide us back to the presence of our Heavenly Father. These four parts make up our complete souls. Without all four parts, we would be incomplete. Also, this life is the time to prepare to meet God. So, because of the fall of man, certain ordinances became necessary for us to overcome the fall. When we were in the pre-existence, we were not able to perform these ordinances. Mortality gives us the power to perform these sacred ordinances. For example; as pre-mortal spirits we could not even pick up a cup of water; let alone be submerged in water. Joseph taught that even those sons of perdition, who will be resurrected beings, who will be cast into outer darkness, will still have power and dominion over the devil and all his angels, because they will have a body and Satan, with the one third of the hosts of Heaven who were cast out with him, will not ever have a body.
    So, our physical bodies are necessary to perform these ordinances, because they give us the power to necessary to perform them. They also give us power to perform these ordinances for others by proxy, just as Christ has died in the flesh, so that by proxy, we all who experience mortality will now overcome physical death by proxy, and thus all who suffer mortal death, will be resurrected.

    Question 1b! If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?

    If Spirits could perform ordinances, like baptism for instance, then why couldn’t Jehovah make his intercession for us in the Spirit? Jesus’ sacrifice must have been done in the flesh; if not, don’t you think that God the Father in his infinite wisdom would have found another way for the Lord to perform the ordinance of sacrifice on our behalf?
    The Savior suffered both physical and spiritual agony and death, that he might overcome both, physical and spiritual death for us all. Without the physical and temporal body, Jesus Christ would have only overcome spiritual death only, thus we all would be incomplete and imperfect, to stand before God, and our physical bodies would remain in the grave forever. But Christ has overcome both physical and spiritual death; thus the Lord saith, “Oh death (spiritual death) where is thy sting; and grave (physical death) where is thy victory,”

    Question 1c! And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?

    This sounds like a good question, however the answer is simple; without these ordinances and the atonement of Jesus Christ being performed first, there would not be any resurrection at all; you cannot put the cart before the horse.

    Question 2! If god is omniscient, why do Mormons need to learn handshakes and passwords to get into his kingdom? Wouldn’t God know who is worthy and who isn’t?

    Of course God would know who was worthy, and who was not worthy! But consider this: since our Heavenly Father has said that he has worlds without number, and that his work has no end, and all these worlds are populated with his children; do you really expect our first born brother, Jesus Christ, to spend all of eternity, bringing each soul into the presence of the father, through the veil, one by one, when their are so many that can help him accomplish this monumental task. Of course not, that is why he has legions of angels to help him. Now these angels are not yet God’s, therefore they are not omniscient and must rely on handshakes with their accompanied names and tokens, in order to recognize who should enter into the Lord’s Kingdom. It was the Prophet, Brigham Young who said that we go to the house of the Lord, to receive all the signs, tokens and names needed to pass by the angels, who will stand there as sentinels, in order to enter his Kingdom.

    Question 3! If priesthood is required for performing ordinances, then how are female temple workers able to perform washing’s and anointing s?

    From the very beginning, females were given unto man as a helpmeet for him; not a helpmate, as most people think it should say in the Bible. Eve was to be a helpmeet to Adam, in order that Adam could accomplish all that he was meant to do in this life and for the eternities. The dictionary defines the word helpmeet, as someone who helps another meet their responsibility or responsibilities.
    Eve has done her part, even in helping Adam partake of the forbidden fruit that man may be, especially since Adam had already declined Lucifer’s invitation to partake of the fruit, of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Without Eve and all her daughters, man could not fulfill the measure of his creation. Women have always been there to help their brothers. Women have given blessings, have healed the sick, have raised the dead, and even performed other ordinances when necessary, especially when no man or priesthood holder was available. Just like when an Elder, will be called upon to perform the duties of a High Priest, or a Priest, can perform the duties of an Elder, when no Elder or High Priest or even a Seventy is available to perform the duties of their respective offices.
    Why then, does it surprise you that a Sister can officiate in necessary ordinances when it is most appropriate that she do so? Joseph Smith said that the daughters of Zion have a higher calling than that of the men, and that the Priesthood was given to men, that they might rise up to the status and virtue of women. Women have performed miracles in the Church in Joseph’s day, all the way to the present time; and it is because of their great faith, that they are able to do so.

    Question 4! When does a prophet speak as a prophet and when does he speak as a man?

    I am sure that when the Lord’s Prophet is sitting at the breakfast table, reading the daily newspaper, and commenting on such things that he may read that many of his words are his own. Even Joseph Smith, said of himself, that he was still only a man, and subject to temptation. A reporter from back east, came all the way to Missouri, just to meet a Prophet of God, who he somehow thought was more than a human being. Joseph knew what was in the man’s heart; so, when he met the man, Joseph drew a line on the ground and said to the reporter, let us both jump from this line, and see who can jump the farthest. However, the reporter refused, and went away disappointed in Joseph Smith, because he thought that Joseph wanted to play a childish game, in his opinion. The Reporter went back to his newspaper and reported that Joseph was not a true Prophet of God, because no Prophet of God Would act in such an undignified manner. When the saints asked Joseph, why he had behaved in such a manner, he replied, “I wanted to show the gentleman, that I was still, just a man, as well as a prophet of God.” Common sense, should tell you, that not every utterance from a prophet is from the Lord our God, but when the prophet says, thus saith the Lord and the spirit confirms it in your heart and mind, you can be sure that it is from the Lord.
    Also, the Lord has said by the mouth of his prophets, that it should not be necessary for the Lord our God, to command us in all things, but that we should do many things of our own accord, and bring to pass, much good works accordingly to our faith and our own diligence.

    Question 5! How will god not let a prophet lead the church astray (per, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.” – Wilford Woodruff)?

    When I was on my mission, on the east coast of the United States, my beloved Mother passed away and it was very hard for me. Shortly thereafter, while I was still with the same companion, we began fellowshipping a Sister who had not gone to church for ten years, and had become inactive not long after her baptism and conversion to the Church. This Sister was a single parent of a nine year old boy, who wanted to be baptized into the church. I quickly grew fond of her, as she reminded me of my own mother, especially how she looked. Also, like my mother, she smoked, drank coffee, tea and alcohol; and would decline to go to church, every Sunday, even though we had diligently arranged transportation for her and her son.
    Then one morning she calls us on the phone, and tells us that she was bending over to pick something up, and she slipped a disc in her back, and that she was scheduled for surgery on her spine, was very afraid, and she requested a priesthood blessing from us. My companion and I went to her home, later that day, having fasted from the previous day, so that we might be prepared to give her a blessing of healing. My companion, Elder Pugh, anointed her head with blessed olive oil, and I, with him, confirmed the anointing and proceeded to pronounce a blessing. It was my intention to heal her completely by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, when I attempted to give such a blessing from God to her, I had a stupor of thought and could not speak. In a minute, I tried again, and the same thing happened again. I then tried a third time, and again I had a stupor of thought, I could not speak, and I completely forgot what I wanted to say.
    At that moment, I recalled the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants, which stated that this very thing that was happening to me would happen, if I was not doing the will of God. So I said a prayer in my heart, and told Heavenly Father that I loved this woman very much, and I asked for forgiveness, for trying to do my own will, and not thy will, oh Lord. I then humbly asked, please Lord, put thy words in my mouth and let thy will be done. No sooner had I thought these things, when suddenly words began to pour out of my mouth, yet none of them came from my mind, and it was as if the Holy Ghost was speaking through me to this sister.
    Much of the things I told her, were just as much a revelation to me, as they were to her; and I told her things that I would never dream of telling another. I could not remember all that came out of my mouth, but I felt the comforter more strongly that day, than I ever had before. What I do remember saying to her was: that she would not be blessed, or healed, unless she showed forth more faith, and a willingness to keep the Lord’s commandments; which is something that I thought I could never say to another at my age of just 20 years old.
    I know that this is what the Lord would do to his Prophet if he tried to go against his will. Also, look what happened to the Prophet Eli in the Old Testament when he failed to do the will of the Lord and stop his two sons from perverting the will of the Lord. Many terrible things happened, the Ark of the Covenant was lost in battle, 30 thousand sons of Israel died in battle, Eli’s two sons were killed and after hearing all this bad news, Eli fell backwards in his chair and died.
    So, the answer to number five is: the Lord will do whatever it takes to prevent his servant from leading his covenant people astray.

    Question 6! And, of course, the infinite regress question: Where did the first god come from? Joseph’s regression of gods doesn’t actually solve the problem of “who created god”, it just regresses it.

    The Lord our God has stated that he is: “Without beginning of days, or end of years.” To me this means that God had a beginning, and that from that beginning to his present state; he has been here for a lesser time period, then he will be here in the future, which, of course, will be for all of eternity. However, Heavenly Father has always existed, in some form or another, and he has been eternally progressing, which has made him what he is today, and he will continue to do so forever. We know this also, that “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.” Joseph Smith, Jr. said that the eternal beings, on the other side of the veil, are comprised of a spiritual energy that is more pure and refined, than we are in this mortal world. God’s spiritual energy has always existed; and this energy has grown, and gained intelligence, and knowledge, and wisdom. Eventually he gained a spirit body, and later he possessed a mortal body, at which time he progressed rapidly and was temporarily separated from that body, but continued to progress until he was resurrected into an immortal body, where he continued to increase, progress, and become sanctified, and perfected, and even exalted unto Godhood. And before this world was, he shared his light and energy in the creation of his children. We therefore are a part of him, and are also eternal beings, with the same potential to become like him. Our Heavenly Father, will always be above us, for he progressed before us, and we came from him, from everlasting to everlasting, without end.
    This is why our Spirits can never die, because they have always existed, and always will. Even the second death, is a permanent separation from our God only, and not a cessation of existence. So, just as the universe has always existed, so have we, and God, and Christ, and so has good and evil always existed. We are all made of the same eternal substance, however, those who choose good eventually become God’s and those who choose evil, receive damnation, and their eternal progression is ended.

    You also asked if there was: “Any other questions that Mormons just can’t answer?” I will answer this with the words of Jehovah, to the Brother of Jared, or namely: Monhonri Moriancumer, (Ether 3:26): “For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things.”

    And finally, you said: “And are there answers to these questions and I’m just not aware of them?” I submit to you, that the answer is yes! Therefore, have faith and pray to God the Father, that he give you the Holy Ghost, which will teach you all things that ye should know, and bring all things unto your remembrance, and walk uprightly before the Lord, and keep his commandments and he will unfold the mysteries of the universe unto you, and give unto you treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; I so testify to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

  9. Robin Lee Johnson — You’ve got some interesting ideas. This one is a little unclear, though:

    Question 1b! If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?

    If Spirits could perform ordinances, like baptism for instance, then why couldn’t Jehovah make his intercession for us in the Spirit? Jesus’ sacrifice must have been done in the flesh; if not, don’t you think that God the Father in his infinite wisdom would have found another way for the Lord to perform the ordinance of sacrifice on our behalf?

    The Savior suffered both physical and spiritual agony and death, that he might overcome both, physical and spiritual death for us all. Without the physical and temporal body, Jesus Christ would have only overcome spiritual death only, thus we all would be incomplete and imperfect, to stand before God, and our physical bodies would remain in the grave forever. But Christ has overcome both physical and spiritual death; thus the Lord saith, “Oh death (spiritual death) where is thy sting; and grave (physical death) where is thy victory,”

    It looks like you came up with a related question, but didn’t really answer the original question.

    You seem to be saying that there are some ordinances (like atonement and baptism) that can be performed on one person for another’s behalf — but the ordinance has to be performed on someone with a physical body.

    But why?

  10. RE #59

    When we were in the pre-existence, we were not able to perform these ordinances.

    Why?

    as pre-mortal spirits we could not even pick up a cup of water; let alone be submerged in water.

    Where does it say spirits cannot pick up a cup of water or interact with matter? FYI, Jesus, according to Mormon doctrine, created the planet before he got his body, with the help of Adam. Apparently they could interact with matter without getting bodies. So, um, yeah, where’s your support?

    our physical bodies are necessary to perform these ordinances, because they give us the power to necessary to perform them.

    What power?

    Your attempt for 1a isn’t satisfactory. You have not explained why spirits cannot be baptized. You’ve just said, “They can’t because they can’t.” Why not?

    Jesus’ sacrifice must have been done in the flesh; if not, don’t you think that God the Father in his infinite wisdom would have found another way for the Lord to perform the ordinance of sacrifice on our behalf?

    That’s not an answer. That’s a question.

    that he might overcome both, physical and spiritual death for us all.

    There is no such thing as “spiritual death” in Mormonism. The spirit cannot “die” as in “be destroyed.” The closest Mormonism comes to “spirit death” is being separated from god in outer darkness. But that isn’t the destruction of a spirit.

    No resurrection without ordinances? That runs in the face of Mormon beliefs. Moroni was a resurrected being when he visited Joseph Smith, yet he did not have a temple, nor a wife. If he did not have all the saving ordinances, how could he have been resurrected?

    Question 2:
    If god is omniscient and omnipotent, why can’t he just open the doors by the power of his will? Why does he need angels?

    Question 3 you didn’t answer. You just said they can.

    Question 4

    but when the prophet says, thus saith the Lord and the spirit confirms it in your heart and mind, you can be sure that it is from the Lord.

    So, if I get no confirmation, they are not prophets?

    Question 5

    I know that this is what the Lord would do to his Prophet if he tried to go against his will.

    You don’t KNOW this. You believe this. Do you have any evidence to support this? E.g. Prophets having stupors of thought in conference when they tried to lead the church astray? Should have happened with Boyd K. Packer on a regular basis.

    Question 6

    The Lord our God has stated that he is: “Without beginning of days, or end of years.” To me this means that God had a beginning

    So, apparently “without beginning” means “with a beginning” to you. That’s, um, not even remotely logical. That’s calling “black”, “white.”

    You also didn’t address the infinite regress question. You didn’t even mention god’s god. That’s not an answer.

    Thanks for the testimony, but not needed.

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