It's not often that you find a senior American politician engaging in theological cut-and-thrust in print. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Utah has got a new book coming out next month in which he does exactly that.
I don't yet have my copy of An American, A Mormon, and a Christian: What I Believe, but according to Doug Gibson, the opinion editor of the Ogdon Standard-Examiner, here's how Hatch goes about it.
The book does a thorough job of including chapters on Mormon theology. It starts with “Our Life Before Birth” and ends with “Eternal Marriage” and a last, personal testimony from the author. Hatch has accumulated a vast amount of scriptures from the Bible, and other LDS scriptures, to back more controversial LDS beliefs, such as the pre-existence, a distinct Godhead, Joseph Smith, latter-day prophets, the need for priesthood authority, eternal marriage, etc. I was impressed by Hatch’s “scripture-chasing” abilities. He’s found more biblical quotes than I can muster on defending many elements of my faith’s doctrines. The book would be an ideal help for missionaries who regularly encounter skeptics.
Occasionally there will be a more combative tone. Hatch is contemptuous of the traditional belief that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three different ingredients of the same substance. He writes, “Some churches teach that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one being, essence, or substance, like water steam, and ice — three different aspects of the same thing. They also teach that God is a spirit without body, parts, or passions. Are these teachings biblically correct? No!”
"Some churches" refers, of course, to every Christian church that follows the Nicene Creed's doctrine of the Trinity, which is probably about 99 percent of them. Early Christians did fight over the doctrine, with the Arians (including the Emperor Constantine and his family) preferring to believe that Christ was only of a similar substance as God the Father. But the Arians lost out by an iota.
I imagine that the 78-year-old Sen. Hatch, who's a shoe-in for reelection this year after beating back a Tea Party challenger for the Republican nomination, wrote the book simply in order to share his testimony with his co-religionists. Published by Cedar Fort, a small Mormon publishing company located just south of Provo, the book would not ordinarily be destined for circulation beyond the confines of the LDS world.
But in the midst of this year's Mormon Run for the White House, interest in the doctrinal convictions of the dean of American Mormon politicians may be of wider interest. Mitt Romney is, so far as anyone can tell, every bit the good Mormon Hatch is, and it is hardly to be doubted that he shares Hatch's orthodox LDS beliefs. I'm guessing that, in the Romney camp, they're praying that the book gets as little attention as possible.