Monday, June 12, 2006


Progression! According to Reform Mormon, this is the purpose of human life.

Around the world, people are living longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives because of progress in ethics, science, technology, art, philosophy and other fields of human endeavor.

But if one studies history, one soon learns that nearly all of these advances were at first criticized by traditional religions. Those brave men and women who were on the forefront of progress were often labeled “heretics,” and criticized or persecuted for daring to “play God.” And yet with the passage of time it has become evident that their “playing God” has benefited the human race.

Reform Mormonism asks you consider a radical question--one that many might call blasphemous: What if “playing God” is actually a virtue?

Joseph Smith, the first Mormon, put it this way:

“….you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves…the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one.”

At first the very idea of learning to be a God probably sounds ridiculous. This is because traditional religions think of God in completely supernatural terms, attributing qualities to Him that defy reason: they claim that God created everything that exists from nothing; that God is present everywhere at all times; that He is now, has always been and always will be all-knowing and all-powerful, controlling all events. In fact, when all is said and done, the traditional concept of God boils down to one thing: power. God has all of it; human have none, and so they at God’s mercy.

Reform Mormonism rejects the supernatural. Nature is supreme. Against this background, Joseph Smith revealed a new vision of God:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…That is the great secret….if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man [or woman] in form….for Adam [and Eve] were created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God.”

The good news of Reform Mormonism is that in a deeper and more profound sense than you’ve ever imagined, you are a child of God. Whoever you are, wherever you, whatever you have done in the past, whatever your situation may now be--you exist in the image and likeness of God.

Your conversion to Reform Mormonism begins when you consider this radically new idea:

“As we now are, God once was.”

Reform Mormonism rejects the idea that human nature is inherently fallen and sinful.

Human nature is not something that one can repent of; to do that would be to apologize for having been born.

Human nature is not something that one should try to overcome; to do that would be suicidal.

The First Step in converting to Reform Mormonism is to accept human nature as your most profound link to God.

The experiences of life here on earth--whatever those experience may be--do not separate you from God. On the contrary, God was once like you, and understands everything you could possibly experience.

“As God now is, we may become.”

All children exist in their parents’ image. They have the potential to grow and become like their parents. In doing this, they take nothing away from their parents. No ethical father or mother is offended when their children follow their example and make an effort to become happy, productive adults. Far from it! Good parents take great pride in their children’s achievements! They are flattered when their children express a desire to follow in their foot steps. This is merely nature taking its course. Reform Mormonism proclaims that this same principle pertains to you and your relationship with God.

The Second Step in conversion is to realize that because you and God share a common nature, you also share a common destiny.

Growing up means learning to be independent from your parents. It means thinking for yourself, deciding what you do and do not value, making decisions and taking action and--most importantly--taking responsibility for your actions. No one can go through life blaming their parents for how his or her life has turned out.

And yet this is exactly what so many people do when they think of their relationship with God. It’s as if they think of themselves as puppets, with God pulling their strings and controlling every event in their lives. When something bad happens, they wonder why God allowed it to happen. When something good happens, they believe they’d better thank God for it or else He might punish them.

This way of thinking about God overlooks one very important thing: Every human being is free by nature. Each of us has Free Agency (Free Will). While other religions teach that you need to surrender your will to God’s will, Reform Mormonism proclaims something entirely different: God expects you to think for yourself. God expects you to be curious and to ask questions--not live by blind faith. God expects you to act for yourself and take responsibility for yourself. The good news of Reform Mormonism is this: God, like any good parents, wants you to become strong, self-reliant, independent and--above all else--happy.

Joseph Smith, the first Mormon, taught that it was God’s will that people be “free forever….to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.”

The Third Step in converting to Reform Mormonism is to embrace your Free Agency--your divine right to think for yourself, to act for your self and to accept the consequences of your actions.

You are not a puppet. You are not a pawn in some divine chess game. You are in complete control of your choices and your actions. It is God’s will that you have complete authority over your life. Being free, you create your own character; you determine what you will become.

The Fourth Step and final step in converting to Reform Mormonism is to make a personal commitment (a covenant) to emulate God.
This final step is completely private and personal. It is between you and God alone. It does not consist of joining any organization or church; it does not consist of going through a formal ritual, ceremony or ordinance.

To emulate God is to accept God as your example, to think of God as your Heavenly Father or Mother, and to commit yourself to progressing and becoming more like God.

This personal covenant with God can be made silently, or it can be expressed in a simple pray or vow. Here one’s example of such a prayer:

“Dear God, I accept that I exist in your image and
that you are my Heavenly Father (or Heavenly Mother,
or Heavenly Parent). As your child, I will look to you as an
example. From this time on, I commit myself to progressing
and becoming more like you. Amen.”

The exact words are unimportant. All that matters is that you accept the fact that because you are a child of God, and commit yourself becoming like God.

“I have said that you are gods;
all of you are children of the Most High.”
(Psalm 82:7)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

IS HUMAN NATURE GOOD OR EVIL: The Reform Mormon Doctrine of Human Nature

Is human nature inherently good or bad? It’s a question that theologians and philosophers have debated for thousands of years.

When we look at a newborn infant it’s very easy to believe that we‘re inherently good. After all, an infant is so helpless, so dependent--and little children are so trusting.

“No,” say most theologians. Human nature is fallen, sinful; man is selfish, proud, arrogant. War, intolerance, sexual depravity, man’s inhumanity to man--these things prove that human nature is basically evil.

If that’s true, then how do you explain the good things people do: acts of kindness, compassion and valor? Theologians say that any good people do is the result of God working through them; they insist that if left to our own devices, we’d gravitate towards evil.

Others philosophers take the opposite view--made famous in Anne Frank’s declaration, “I believe that people are basically good at heart.” Cruelty, hate, murder, sadism--these are the result of disease, mental illness or negative social influences.

But is that true? Watch those wide-eyed trusting little children at play. Even though society hasn’t had a chance to influence all that much, little children can be awful to cruel to one another at times. But surely they’re not all suffering from disease or mental illnesses.

Others say that it isn’t a question of being good or evil. Human nature, they say, is conflicted. We’re all caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between two opposing forces---between our spirit and our flesh, our minds and our bodies, our hearts and ours heads. The body, the flesh and the cold rational mind entice us to be selfish, sensual and cruel--while the spirit and the heart entice use to acts of selflessness, love and kindness. For thousands of years philosophers and spiritual leaders have said that we should strive to overcome our selfish physical desires, our materialism and the temporary concerns of life on earth--and instead focus on spiritual matters and on what awaits us once this life is over.

Most people seem to accept this last view. When they get caught up in the demands of every day life, they often feel guilty thinking that they’re not paying enough attention to God or spiritual matters. Many of us also feel awkward, insecure and ashamed of our sexuality because we’ve been conditioned to think of our bodies and our physical desires as being in conflict with what is spiritual and good.

So, is human nature good, evil or conflicted?

The good news of Reform Mormonism is that none of these ideas are true.

Reform Mormonism teaches, “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88: 15)
Any conflict between the body and mind, the spirit and the flesh, the heart and head is imaginary. Take away any one of these attributes and not only would you no longer be human, you’d no longer be alive. One philosopher put it this way: “The spirit without the body is a ghost; the body without the spirit is a corpse.”

Emotions and reason, spirituality and sexuality--none of these things can be separated from one another. All are a part of our nature; all are essential aspects of our soul--and none should be ignored, suppressed or sacrificed. We have to fully embrace them all if we’re to experience true and lasting joy.

Because the body and the spirit are the soul of man, Reform Mormonism teaches that “spirit and element inseparably connected receive a fullness of joy; and when separated man cannot receive a fullness of joy.” (Doctrine & Covenants 93: 33-34)

What about that newborn infant? Is she inherently good or evil? The answer is neither one. She’s still an infant, too immature mentally or emotionally to think for herself; still too helpless and dependent on others to make choices or act on her own.

And that is the key to understanding the true nature of good and evil: both are the result of an individual’s choices and actions. If something isn’t a matter of choice, then it can’t be a sin.

And so the good news of Reform Mormonism is that human beings are “in their infant state, innocent before God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:38)

And those little children at play--sometimes hitting, shoving and calling one another names--are they good or bad? Certainly hitting and fighting are wrong, but these are still little kids, emotionally and psychologically too immature to be held responsible for their actions. In a few years, they’ll begin to more fully understand how their actions effect others and then they can be held accountable, but for now--being kids--they, too, are “innocent before God.”

The good news of Reform Mormonism is that human beings are not by nature good, evil or even conflicted; they are by nature free.

Understanding that freedom, is the first step in understanding ourselves and the purpose of life.