Givens’ List of Five Fundamental Mormon Beliefs

Short lists always seem problematic.  In this case, the list was made by Terryl Givens, Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond:

Prof Terryl Givens at the Podium

Mormons have largely left others to frame the the theological discussion.  In opting to emphasize Mormon culture over Mormon theology, Mormons have too often left the media and ministers free to select the most esoteric and idiosyncratic for ridicule.  So jibes about Kolob and magic underwear usurp serious engagement, much as public knowledge about the Amish is confined to a two-dimensional caricature involving a horse and buggy.  But members of a faith community should recognize themselves in any fair depiction.  And it is the fundamentals of Mormonism that should ground any debate worth having about Mormon beliefs or Mormon membership in the Christian community.  What are these fundaments?

  1. God is a personal entity.
  2. Men and women had a pre-existence.
  3. Men and women are born pure and innocent.
  4. God has the desire and power to save.
  5. Heaven will principally exist for eternal familial relationships.

Any list of this sort is going to be controversial.  But this one, given the author, is a bit of disappointment.  I will briefly mention three points.  (Also, I need to note that I have shortened each of the items from Givens’ original description.)

First, in the elongated version of 3, there is a brief discussion of Adam and Eve that is, for me, unnecessary.  I think Christians, including Mormons, need to start thinking about how OT biblical metaphors fit into their belief structure.  For example, there was obviously “death before the Fall.” If there was no literal Adam and Eve, how do Mormon’s and other Christian’s deal with the Fall and Atonement.

Second, there is no item explaining where mankind is headed long-term?  What is the purpose of this life?  Where are we headed in the afterlife?  How are mortality and post-mortality related? Isn’t explaining this issue an important function of any religion?

Third, there is no mention of the importance that Mormon’s place on service.  Givens’ suggests no credo like “faith without works is dead.”  For me, the emphasis on “serving your fellow man” is one of the beautiful parts of being Mormon.

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4 Responses to Givens’ List of Five Fundamental Mormon Beliefs

  1. Allen says:

    Thanks, Roger, for bringing to our attention the list by Terryl Givins.

    I have to disagree with your statement ‘there was obviously “death before the Fall.”’ I think the scriptures clearly teach that Adam and Eve were created as immortal beings in a physical world that was immortal, that is, no death. Adam and Eve chose to become mortal and the world was changed to the mortal world we know and use. This is the Fall. So, how do we account for the clear evidence from science that there have been humanoids on earth for hundreds of thousands of years and that death has existed for 4.8 billion years? Simple. The scriptures clearly say that the world didn’t become mortal until Adam and Eve had made their choice. This means that all of the scientific knowledge about the creation pertains to the time after Adam and Eve made their decision. As I clearly say in my blog on science and Mormonism, I believe evolution was used by God in the creation of the mortal world that occurred after Adam and Eve made their decision.

    The mistake that many LDS and other Christians make concerning the creation and the question of death before the Fall is in placing death, evolution, and scientific discoveries at the wrong place in the time-line of creation. Evolution and scientific discoveries pertain to the mortal world that occurred after the Fall. Science has no knowledge about any creation of an immortal world before the Fall, and belief in an immortal creation is based on ones faith and not on scientific discoveries.

    In my blog, I address the question of Adam being the first man and there also being humans living before Adam.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi Allen, I think conservative Christians try too hard to hold onto some of the old metaphors and teachings in the OT, particularly the Book of Genesis. I don’t believe that Christianity needs Adam and Eve to justify the mission of Jesus Christ. I think we should let science decide how the world, the universe, and everything beyond was created, and let religion concentrate on how we should live our lives, how we should relate to our neighbor, and how we should connect with God. Roger

      • Allen says:

        Hi Roger,

        You have a good point. I think it is difficult to figure out what parts of the scriptures are metaphors and what parts are literal. I take a more literal view than you but not so literal as many LDS would take. The Fall is a good case in point. The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ overcame the effects of the Fall through his atonement. Is the Book of Mormon speaking literally or metaphorically? Someday we’ll know for sure. In the meantime, your counsel about science and religion is a good perspective for us all to have.

        “I think we should let science decide how the world, the universe, and everything beyond was created, and let religion concentrate on how we should live our lives, how we should relate to our neighbor, and how we should connect with God.”

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    Allen, Thanx for your reponses, Roger.

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