Idolatry is one of the great sins of this generation, according to LDS prophets such as Spencer W. Kimball (for details, see his comments in “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me“). Interestingly, Latter-day Saints have been accused of idolatry by a few of our critics. After all, some of our temples have a statue of the Angel Moroni on top. To us, the statue is symbol of angelic proclamation to the world of the Restoration of the Gospel, in possible fulfillment of Rev. 14:6. The idea that we would worship the statue is ridiculous. But, as one commenter has charged, the word of God forbids making graven images, and so by using statues or any other images associated with our temples or churches, we are in clear violation of the word of God.
I’ve run into only a few other Christians that had such strenuous objections to any kind of images being associated with places of worship, mistaking use of an image for idolatry or basic violation of the Ten Commandments.
So are we idolatrous violators of the Second Commandment for having a statue reminding us of an angel proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world with the sound of a trumpet?
Let me pose some hypothetical questions to those few of you with hangups in this area. Would it be better if we replaced our hollow, gold-plated statue of an angel with a solid gold statue having much higher precious metals content? Oh, a step in the wrong direction – just adding to the value and glitz factor, making it all the more appealing to the idolatrous LDS mind.
OK, would it be better if then had two angels on each temple? No? Perhaps twice as bad, eh?
OK, how about if we dress up the proposed solid gold angel duos by adding some flashy wings to make them more supernatural? No improvement, perhaps even worse?
OK, what if we go beyond just using it as a symbol and instead say that our winged golden angels are holy, sacred objects, or part of a complex of sacred objects? What if we put those images in the holiest part of our temple, only to be taken out and paraded to awe the people in religious ceremonies and to work mysterious miracles? What if we say that our angels and associated holy relics are so sacred that to even touch them would bring divine wrath and perhaps even instant death upon the sinner?
Would that be an improvement and gain your approval for valid, biblical use of angelic statues? No? You say it would confirm that we’re a crazed blasphemous idolatrous cult in direct violation of the sacred principles God gave to Moses? Ouch.
Would it make any difference to you if we told you that these deviant practices are OK in our opinion because they were revealed to us from God through a true prophet of God? Not a chance, huh?
Well, would it help if that prophet were Moses? Would it help if Moses were simply carrying instructions from God relative to the sacred Ark of the Covenant, associated with the Tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon, an Ark that was adorned with two golden cherubim statues as directed in Exodus 37:7-9? Would it help open your mind if you realized that these instructions were given by the same God who earlier gave the same prophet the commandment to not make graven images? Is it possible that the meaning of the Second Commandment was not to forbid religious images and even golden angel statues per se, but to prevent worshipping of idols?
Maybe you’ll argue that the cherubim on the Ark were too small to be a problem, or somehow don’t quality as “graven.” If so, it might help to consider the later construction of Solomon’s Temple in 2 Chronicles 3 and 4. There we read of huge cherubim being constructed with a wingspan of about 20 cubits (about 60 feet), as described in 2 Chronicles 3:11 – dwarfing any LDS statue on or near a temple. And the giant cherubim statues overlooking the smaller statues on the Ark of the Covenants were not enough: the Lord also directed that there be “graved cherubims on the walls” in 2 Chron. 3:6, in addition to cherubim on the curtains (v. 14). And they are specifically called “graved” – surely that can’t be considered as anything but graven images. And the images in the temple weren’t just limited to cherubim, but also included statues of oxen (twelve of them, in fact – see 2 Chron. 4:2-4), not to mention four hundred pomegranates (2 Chron. 4: 13) and a variety of other objects including flowers of pure gold (2 Chron. 4:21). A graven situation, indeed.
105 thoughts on “LDS Idolatry?”
This post reminds me of a fantastic sermon by John Piper entitled, “The First Dark Exchange: Idolatry”…
…excellent sermon. =)
Good post Jeff =)
Bah. Who gives a hoot if well-meaning Christians think Moroni is an idol.
You forgot to mention that they are sometimes struck by lightning, per http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/facts/ . Somebody up there must not like them. *eyeroll* I seem to recall from somewhere that the statues are often properly grounded, so actually act as lightning rods by design.
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I am not too quick. Were you alluding to the cross and how it is sometimes on top of some, non-Mormon Christian, Churches?
The cross is not solid gold. Morani was a person. If anyone should be on your church it should be Jesus. But the commandment does say no idols. Not to mention all the masonic symbols. It just seems all that gold could be used to help people. You said gold plated and hollow, I would like proof of that thoughlater you say solid gold.
A key point here is the danger of thinking that one’s opinions are the pure will of God because one can find some words in the Bible that seem to support that opinion. One can take “no graven images” and use that as a hammer to condemn all sorts of things as idolatry, and even claim that it is done “without interpretation,” just repeating the pure word of God – which is utter rubbish if one doesn’t recognize there is always a need to determine what the words actually mean and how they are meant to be applied. If God later commanded Moses to make solid gold cherubim for the tabernacle, and later commanded a prophet to make “graved” images of cherubim and giant cherubim for the temple, then graven images per se must not be the intent of the Second Commandment. Clearly the intent is not to worship anything besides the Lord. The language is meant to refer to idols, not religious art and symbols in general.
LD James, that was in the back of my mind. I think some of us Latter-day Saints are sometimes too quick to condemn other religious practices. Some of us have casually likened crosses and statues used in other Christian religions to idolatry when people pray before them or seemingly to them, but such condemnation may be unkind. While I’m not personally comfortable with the way some people use such objects, I can respect those practices as a sincere attempt at following the Lord, whom they worship.
Many Mormons are idolaters. ‘While it isn’t the angel Moroni that they idolize, it amazes me how many of them idolize their cards, their houses, their boats, their TVs, their movie stars, etc. Yes we have problems with idolatry, but not because we have a statue on our temple.
I have a replica of the gold plates that I pray before to my Father in Heaven, is this idolatry?
Mormanity, I wasn’t really condemning. I am open-minded enough to realize why some non-Mormon Christians use the cross on their church and in other church services. I just wonder why some don’t realize why we use the angel Moroni on the Temples. Why aren’t we given the same respect? Just a rhetorical question.
1st off mormons aren't christian your temple is the synagogue of satin and thats why you have a graven image of him on top of it the devil disguises himself as a angle of light and in galatians 1 we are told that he is under the Devine curse of god because he brought a different gospel joeseph smith is a false profit and every person who denies jesus christ is god almighty will burn in hell repent come to the real Jesus Christ and be saved
LD James, I didn’t think you were condemning anybody – the comment just triggered a thought about those who do, and reminded me also of my own prejudices in the past.
There is a good chance that the few who get bent out of shape over a statue of an angel might not have any trouble about the symbols and images in and on their own churches.
I think there is a far greater threat of LDS “idolatry” in the obsession over whoever happens to hold the position of president of the church at a given time. LDS devotion to “the prophet” often borders on fanatical.
Nick–Please explain: If your laughable accusation were somehow true–and you know it’s not–how could that be a personal problem for you?
I don’t know what members you have talked to (certainly not orthodox ones–I don’t care what they say). They certainly do not represent my view or the views represented by the scriptures or the brethren themselves.
If there is fanaticism involved here, it is on the part of those who stubbornly insist that LDS members believe in something when in fact they do not.
Totally off topic. But you’ll never guess where I gave a talk this Sunday. In the Fox Cities Hmong branch. My brother lives nearby (same stake) and was talking with his bishop. When the bishop learned that I speak Hmong, he arranged for me to give a talk in the branch. It was a great experience for all.
Jay and Russell,
First of all, let me clarify something that appears to have been misleading. I did not intend to make a statement about all LDS members. I can see, however, how what I wrote can be misunderstood.
Second, I have to chuckle that after 26 years as an active member of the LDS church, I must not know anything about the church or its culture, and just “talked to” the wrong people. 😉
With that clarification, I’ll stand by what I said. I have known quite a number of LDS members who take “follow the prophet” to the point of idolatry. They engage in behaviors which are devoted to the person, rather than what that person teaches. Even Deseret Book realizes there’s enough of a “market” for this kind of thinking, and they accordingly marketed an enormously tacky 12″ resin statue of Gordon B. Hinckley waving a white handkerchief a few years ago. (Personally, I think Gordon B. Hinckley probably found that embarassing, rather than in any way flattering.)
I well remember one well-intentioned home teacher, who commented during a visit to my home on the importance of having one’s testimony “centered on the prophet.” Now, OF COURSE we all know he was out of line with Mormon doctrine on that one. I suggested that he really meant centered on Christ, at which time he was clearly aghast. The next month (over his companion’s objections), he came to my home with a special lesson on the importance of prophets. That was a man who had become distracted in his devotion.
Again, I’m not saying that all LDS are this way. Some are this way, however. There are certainly more who behave in this way, than could ever venerate a statue of Moroni.
Nick,so are you saying there are many like this? And if so where do you get your info? Personal experience is good but not when it generalizes a large amount of any group.
I do understand the point you are trying to make. The Prophet should be revered but never placed above Christ.
I can see Nick’s point. There are some who have a hard time grasping just what it means to have fallible, mortal men as leaders. We need to understand that they can make mistakes, just as Joshua, Moses, Jacob, Jonah, and others in the Bible did.
Occasionally local leaders act or think as if they are infallible, and that’s when things can get really problematic. Being the leader and seeking inspiration does not make all decisions truly God’s choice.
There is a big difference between the worshiping of graven images in Babylonia, Egypt, etc. and having a statue of an angel on a temple. We do not pray or worship Moroni as the Babylonians,Egyptians,etc. did with their gods. And we do not go to the prophet to ask for forgiveness or worship him as a god. We go to him for inspiration on how God would want us lead our lives. Christ is at the head of this Church and through His chosen leaders directs us on how to live righteously. Every single church or organization that has lost a divinely inspired and righteous prophet and leaders has disintegrated and splintered into a thousand different pieces or disappeared into history. This Church has withstood the tests of time and all manners of persecution and is still going strong. If you believe in a living Christ and God the Father and this Church is so evil why would they allow it to continue to grow in this world? Any organization that is based on false doctrine would not survive intact the amount of persecution this church has received. It still amazes me that in this land of religious freedom there was an executive order to hunt Mormons and the amount of persecution Mormons received for their beliefs and still do. If this church is so evil why would Satan try to destroy it? The statue of Moroni is no different than the crosses and statues on other churches.
The reason why the lds cult grows is because they are of the world so the world listens to them whoever is of god will hear the gospel by the way there is so much evedence that Joe smith was a false profit it makes me sick pearl of great price has been proven to be a Egyptian burial document with no relation to abraham,it has been verified that joeseph smith stole the book of mormon from Solomon Spalding aka the unknown scribe lol. And that he had 5 versions of his 1st vision and the angle was nefi 1st and Moroni later. Future more the book of mormon contradict the bible at every turn contridicts itself and all of the other books at the end of the day the mormon faith is just a nice story with no historical facts the only book that you guys have that has history to back it up at every turn is the bible witch every mormon says to believe but denies at every turn. Joseph Smith will take you to hell come to the real Jesus Christ the only one who has the power to save
I apologize to anyone who might be offended by some of my above comments. I get carried away sometimes. I worked long and hard on my beliefs and when someone says I or any other member of this Church is being deceived, or idolaters, or whatever it gets me all fired up and I don’t know when to quit. We will never know exactly all of the details of the Gospel until the very end when Christ comes.
I’m with Nick. There are definitely people in the church whose devotion to the prophet borders on idolatry. I for one, refuse to sing “Praise to the Man” because I see it as going way beyond devotion to the point of worship.