About Mormonism and Judaism
Mormonism is the one Christian faith that is closest to Judaism. Mormonism incorporates all the doings and writings of the Old Testament and comprehends how they weave themselves into God’s eternal plan. God has revealed to modern prophets that He established a plan for us before this world was created. Called the Plan of Salvation, it was devised to make us like God. An understanding of the Plan of Salvation answers the eternal questions, “Where did I come from?”… ”Why am I here?”… and “Where am I going?” It is a plan of eternal progression.
Where did I come from?
We existed before we came to earth. Kabbalah talks about a “well of souls,” while Mormons speak of “pre-mortal life.” God is the creator of our spirits, and in the pre-mortal existence we were literally his spirit-children. We could only progress so far, however, without the experience of mortality. Our earthly parents are co-creators with God of our mortal bodies. Having a body enables us to make use of the agency God has given us to choose between good and evil. A mortal body is also necessary for making symbolic covenants with God, and for becoming parents ourselves — a profound training ground for learning the compassion and caring that God has for us. Because we bring with us no knowledge of pre-mortal life, we also learn to live by faith, and by the word which God has given us in the scriptures. In the pre-mortal world, God fore-ordained the prophets and others marked for leadership. Foreordination is not predestination; force is not part of God’s plan. But those who were illustrious and faithful in the pre-existence were chosen to serve God’s children on earth.
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:22, 23).
Why am I Here?
Mortality is a difficult place. It has perhaps been most difficult for the Jews. Mormons have suffered persecution to a lesser extent and for a shortened period of time. The great question has been asked, “Why does God allow evil”? Truman Madsen, an LDS philosopher and scholar said, “Philosophy has all the great questions, but Mormonism has all the great answers.” The great answer is that our agency, the freedom to choose righteousness and spiritual life, or wickedness and spiritual death, is given us to exercise in mortality. Our choices determine in what degree of heavenly glory we will continue to progress. In order to exercise choice, there must be “opposition in all things.” This is the reason God gave Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments — 1) to multiply and replenish the earth, and 2) not to eat the forbidden fruit. In the Garden of Eden, paradise though it was, there was no death, but also no birth. Adam and Eve could not keep the first commandment until they broke the second — they could not have children unless they fell from grace. There is no sin in their choice. Mormon doctrine holds, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). The doctrine of opposition in all things is explained in the Book of Mormon:
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter….Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:10, 11, 15, 16).
So we are here to make choices. And although there are billions of us, the Lord knows each of us personally; He is truly our Father, approachable in personal prayer, and able to perform miracles for us according to His tender mercies. Because He knows us individually and desires for us to become like Him, He stands ready to be personally involved in every aspect of our lives, and He does so knowing us better than we know ourselves. He communicates with us through Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Ghost. Each of us has a role to play, which we can magnify through His guidance. He desires for us to qualify to return to His presence. As Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice His son Isaac was counted unto him for righteousness, the Lord judges us by our works. Our works, however, will never be enough to save us or enable us to enter into His presence. We will ever fall short, because we all sin. We are required to repent, but the demands of justice (din) must be satisfied. Y’shuah haMoshiach, through whom all the worlds were created, because of his divinity, was able to offer Himself to satisfy the demands of justice for all mankind. He suffered our sorrows; he was a man of grief (Isaiah 53:3-5). He also suffered the wrath of God for our sins, that we could be purified if we would just repent and come unto Him.
Where am I Going?
Ancient texts speak of three degrees of heaven, and Mormons know about these degrees from visions of the modern prophets as well as from ancient scripture. Joseph Smith, Jr. and Sidney Rigdon had a vision in which they saw the degrees of heaven. It is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76. Immediately after death, however, our spirits (having been separated from our earthly bodies) go to what Mormonism calls The Spirit World, also seen in vision by a modern prophet. In the Spirit World we await resurrection, a free gift to all men, women, and children who have died, both the good and the evil. This resurrection, the perfect rejoining of spirit to an immortal body, was purchased for us by Christ’s eternal sacrifice, His blood atonement. After resurrection, we are assigned to a kingdom of heaven, the third degree being where God Himself dwells. All kingdoms are places of eternal progress and learning and glory. Only a few fail to inherit a kingdom of glory.
Since the Beginning of Time
All the prophets since Adam have understood and taught the Plan of Salvation and the pivotal act of Christ’s atonement, including Moses.
“Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 15:11).
“For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things? Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth? Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted” (Mosiah 13:33-35)?