Mormons’ Concept of Self —and of Others
“Thou wast chosen before thou wast born”
Mark D Larsen
October 4, 2012
“These I will make my rulers”
Because I strongly believe, like Richard Dawkins, that citizens should know what makes a candidate “tick” before casting their vote, I posted an earlier commentary on Why Candidates’ Religious Beliefs ARE Important. There was one particular belief among Mormons like Mitt Romney that I did not explain fully in that list, because it is so crucial, so influential, so pervasive to all those other examples, that it merits much more detailed elaboration. Given Romney’s appalling gaffe about the “47%,” this seems like the opportune moment to expose the belief, and the doctrines behind it. I am talking about Mormons’ concept of self —and of others.
In a nutshell: Mormons believe they are “God’s Chosen People.”
No, I am not talking about mere philosophical, abstract group identity, a sort of jesus-is-our-savior club. I am referring to the ancient, traditional, concrete interpretation of that phrase from the Old Testament. Mormons believe that they are truly, genetically, literally part of the House of Israel. In point of fact, their doctrine claims that they were destined to be born into that chosen lineage because of their role and status in a pre-mortal spirit world long before the earth was ever “created.” Where and how do they justify such a doctrine?
Most readers are likely aware that members of the cult revere Joseph S'myth’s Book of Mormon as scripture, just like the Bible. What they might not know is that they have even more scriptures. There is also the Doctrine and Covenents (supposedly god’s direct revelations to S'myth) and the Pearl of Great Price (which reportedly includes writings by biblical characters such as Moses and Abraham, purportedly given to S'myth by revelation). Despite the fact that in 1966 the original Egyptian papyri that S'myth used to “translate” the Book of Abraham were discovered in the New York Museum of Art, and that they definitively prove that his translation is a complete and utter fraud, Mormons still revere it as authentic scripture, written by none other than Abraham himself. The foundation of their “House of Israel” doctrine comes from these verses in Chapter 3 of that book (my boldface):
22. 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; 23. 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.
Mormons believe that they are the “noble and great ones” referred to in these passages, the spirits that god would “make his rulers” on earth. Just like with Abraham, the pronouncement that “thou was chosen before thou wast born” also applies to the pre-mortal status and eventual earthly destiny of each Mormon. This is precisely why they call themselves latter-day saints: they consider themselves an elect breed apart and above all others, holier-than-thou in every sense of the word, the best-of-the-best spirits that god selected to be born into this world as his rulers in the last days before the second coming.
That members believe there were different classes of spirits in a pre-earth existence should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the reasons why they would not allow blacks to hold the priesthood prior to 1978. The doctrine that the cult’s leaders taught repeatedly in the past was that those spirits were “fence-sitters” who couldn’t decide between Jesus or Lucifer in the pre-mortal "war of heaven" over the best way to implement god’s plan for humankind. As a punishment for their indecisiveness, god sent those wishy-washy spirits to earth to be born in the lineage of Cain and cursed with a black skin. In fact, that same Book of Abraham also purports to explain how said curse survived the flood. Noah’s son Ham was supposedly married to a woman named “Egyptus,” who was a descendent of Cain, and thus their daughter inherited her mother’s black-skinned curse. Chapter 1 explicitly states (boldface mine):
23. The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden; 24. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
You couldn’t make this stuff up!
But what about those few elect, special, chosen “noble and great rulers” in the top tier of the pre-mortal caste system? How and where would god place those privileged spirits on earth? Into what lineage of Adam’s descendents would that royal class be born? S'myth’s myth also answers this question. God tells Abraham in Chapter 2 (boldface mine):
9. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations. 11. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.
Yes, that’s right: the crème de la crème from the pre-mortal spirit world are sent to earth to be born as descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, i.e., the House of Israel, the chosen people of god. And Mormons do, in fact, have a special regard for —and affinity with— the Jewish people, even moreso than with other Christians. They consider the Jews fellow “noble and great ones” from the pre-existence, destined to re-build the temple in Jerusalem when the Messiah returns, while Mormons build a “New Jerusalem” in Jackson Country, Missouri.
But how is it that Mormons think that they, themselves, are also part of the House of Israel, the literal “seed of the body” of Abraham? Just as one might expect: it is revealed to them. Yet not simply as a generic identity for the entire cult, no: that holy lineage is revealed to each member individually. At this point readers are undoubtedly asking themselves just how in the world that is even possible.
There is a very sacrosanct priesthood office in the cult rarely talked about in public: that of a patriarch. Joseph S'myth ordained his father as the first patriarch in the cult, a priesthood position that his brother Hyrum later inherited and subsequently passed on to his eldest son, grandson, great-grandson, etc. Eventually, because the membership grew too large for one blood descendent of the S'myths to accommodate, the cult hierarchy had to call and ordain additional patriarchs. Nowadays every Mormon stake has at least one ordained patriarch. The unique power that these men reportedly hold is the ability to reveal to worthy members, in a special ordinance called a “patriarchal blessing,” their lineage in the House of Israel.
You see, the Jews are descendents of Judah. But Jacob (Israel) had many other sons, 12 in all. His favorite, according to legend, was Joseph (S'myth’s namesake, what a coincidence!), with his coat of many colors, whom the other jealous brothers sold into slavery, and who later became governor of Egypt and saved his family from starvation during the seven years of famine. Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Mormons believe that the Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Mormon are the latter son’s descendents. As for the progeny of the firstborn son, Ephraim, and their cousins from the 10 other uncles, the myth is that they were taken away in captivity during the Babylonian invasion around 600 BCE, eventually dispersed as slaves throughout the other areas of the world, and thus the uncles’ descendents are now known as the “Lost 10 Tribes” of Israel. This legend will probably sound familiar to readers from a Judeo-Christian heritage.
The point of reviewing said legend is that a “patriarchal blessing” supposedly reveals from which lineage of those “lost” scattered Israelites a Mormon is literally a blood descendent.
Mormons who wish to receive their “patriarchal blessing” must first be deemed worthy of the privilege in a pointed interview with their bishop. Only then can a member set an appointment with their stake patriarch for the blessing, which he performs in a private setting via the typical laying-on-of-hands on the member’s head. Most Mormons seek to have the ordinance performed when in their late teens or as young adults. In truth, it would be extremely rare for an active, tithe-paying, temple-worthy member to not have received this ordinance: it is revered as a sacred epiphany in a Mormon’s life.
When I received my blessing at age 19, the patriarch at the time in the Bonneville Stake in Salt Lake City, Harold Bowman, pronounced upon my head that: “You are one of God’s choice, chosen spirits. You come through the noble lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You are of the blood of Ephraim."
Praise be to Thor! Apparently an Ephraimite slave somehow ended up among the Vikings, and the blue blood genes were passed all the way down to the fetus that my spirit finally entered —more than two millenia later. Who knew that a Patriarch could lay his hands on your head and microscopically see and decipher the genetic code in your DNA!
The vast, vast majority of Mormons are descendents of Ephraim, according to their patriarchal blessings. During all my years in the cult, I met one —and only one— member who was not from that tribe: a woman convert in Connecticut whose patriarch pronounced that she was from the blood of... Dan. My suspicion is that, because the patriarch knew very well that she was Jewish, he didn’t feel... let’s say... “inspired” to declare her a descendant of Ephraim like everyone else he had ever “blessed.”
At any rate, the so-called Ephraim bloodline is so prevalent throughout the cult, that I am absolutely convinced that both Mitt and Ann Romney were likewise declared to be from that tribe of Israel. I cannot tell you how many times I have wistfully entertained the fantasy that a reporter would ask Romney in a news briefing:”Governor, is it true that you actually believe you’re a blood descendant of Ephraim, the firstborn son of Joseph in the Old Testament, and thus literally a member of the House of Israel?“
How I would love to see the look on every face in the room —especially Romney’s— when it suddenly became so silent that you could hear a pin drop, as reporters strained their ears, eyes and mouths wide open, to hear his answer.
I can well imagine that many readers are just as mystified at this very moment, now that they understand the doctrinal underpinnings of Mormons’ concept of self, why and how they actually believe they are the upper-crust spirits from a pre-existence, god’s chosen rulers, purposely born into the bloodlines of the House of Israel. I can also imagine that readers are also wondering: if they are god’s pre-ordained “noble and great” heavenly elite, then what is the point of sending missionaries all over the world to convert all the commoners to Mormonism?
The answer is: that is not the purpose of the missionary work.
Most members, and likely most missionaries themselves, don’t even realize it, but the goal is not to convert all the ignoble riff-raff to the cult. The real purpose of Mormon proselytizing is to continue carrying out Jesus’s own mission, as declared in Matthew, Chapter 15 (boldface mine):
24. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
In other words, the cult sends out missionaries expressly to find the other “lost” blue-bloods scattered among all the gentile heathens in the world. And those other pagan “sheep”? Nothing more than mutton on the hoof. The next logical question is therefore: just how are they supposed to distinguish the chosen, “noble and great“ Israelites from the hordes of commoners? The answer, believe it or not, lies in the sheepherding practices in the bronze age.
Centuries ago, it was common for villagers to pool their resources to care for their livestock. For example, at night they would herd all their sheep into one large, fenced corral through a main gate so that only a couple of shepherds were necessary to watch over and protect them from predators and thieves. The problem was: the next morning, how was an owner to separate his own sheep from all the rest to take them out to pasture to graze? The solution was basic classical conditioning. Ever since they were little lambs, their shepherds would talk and call to them while feeding them. The sheep thus grew up conditioned to associate food with the particular sound of their master’s voice. They learned to come to him when called, and thus would separate themselves from the other sheep. B. F. Skinner would have been delighted!
Knowing this, we now understand much better the context and meaning of the passages in John, Chapter 10:
2. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
And here’s the clincher, declared in the cult’s Doctrine and Covenants, Chapter 1:
8. And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and the rebellious; 11. Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear: 38. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
Ergo, Mormons believe that, when the missionaries speak... god is speaking. The solution to fulfill the real goal of the missionary work is that the elders do not have to identify the “lost” blue-bloods: they will identify themselves. Missionaries merely have to bear their testimonies to the entire flock: "I know that Joseph S'myth was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the Church is the one-and-only-true church on earth, that [fill-in-the-blank] is God’s living prophet on earth today, etc., etc., yadda, yadda, yadda.”
Do you hear something?
The elite Israelites scattered throughout the corral will then extricate themselves from the flock. Why? Because they were conditioned to salivate to Pavlov’s bell in the spirit world. They don’t remember anything about that pre-mortal existence, let alone the classical conditioning they received there, but they will nonetheless experience a sensation of deja vu, feel “moved by the spirit”, hear something oddly familiar, a “still, small voice,” as though they’d heard it somewhere before, sense a “burning in the bossom”... and join the cult. The proof of the pudding? When they later receive their patriarchal blessings, they find that they “are one of God’s choice, chosen spirits,” were thus born into “the noble lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and “are of the blood of Ephraim.” What a miraculous, happy coincidence.
I told you that you couldn’t make this stuff up!
And as I also told you from the outset, this elitist doctrine of Mormonism is so far-fetched, so convoluted and mind-boggling, that it requires detailed elaboration to expose it —as readers can see by the length of this diatribe. My hope is that those who have actually made it this far now have a better understanding of why someone like Mitt Romney is so dismissive of the “other 47%.” Is it any wonder that he strikes people as aloof, arrogant, patronizing, condescending —as he cleary demonstrated to “win” the first TV debate? Heaven forbid (literally!) that one of the “noble and great” chosen ones in the pre-existence should lose a latter-day election to a mere “fence-sitter” born into a cursed lineage.
Consequently, Romney really, truly, authentically believes that he is special, in a class high above mere peons, not just because of his amassed wealth, but more especially because he was divinely appointed in a previous life to be one of god’s rulers in this life —unlike all the lowly gentiles and Cain’s progeny milling around the corral on this planet. Oh, he can talk a good talk about compassion and caring, serving all Americans, reaching out to others, helping middle-class families, being christ-like, but now that readers know what concept of self underlies his every thought, word, and deed, they will recognize that such pronouncements are always issued from “on high.”
What can one expect from a person to whom god decreed via individualized revelation that “thou wast chosen before thou wast born”? Such a privileged, egotistical, self-centered attitude will have real effects on real people in the real world. A belief in such a doctrine amounts to pre-mortal narcissism on steroids.