I have long been torn between two approaches to dealing with critics of our faith. I'm not sure if it is a good idea to answer their allegations or to simply ignore them. I guess it depends on how much their charges bother us. The official response of the Church seems to have changed over the years in direct proportion to the number of articles published in the media that are false or misleading.
At one time we were much quieter and less responsive. Things that I thought were outrageous and slanderous were met with not a peep. Other things that I thought were obvious and petty elicited responses that seemed over-reactive and condemning. Today, things are more even, measured and, in a word, professional. I am no authority on the subject but I like the image Public Affairs presents to the world today.
There are many great websites out there that are doing an excellent job of answering the critics. In reality, you can't provide answers that will satisfy those who don't believe there are answers. We can only offer responses and correct information in an attempt to provide honest seekers of truth with facts that they can evaluate for themselves. Elder Ballard has asked for more faithful members of the Church to share the truth about the gospel on the Internet and the new media.
The best websites for LDS answers
Of course the best site is lds.org. It offers a tremendous resource of excellent material including conference talks, magazine articles, official curriculum, complete online scriptures, and links to hundreds of other official LDS sites. In my opinion the best resource for answers to difficult questions can be found in the LDS Newsroom which I have used extensively in my recent posts.
Don't discount Mormon.org. While the focus is on providing support material for the missionary discussions and therefore lacks depth, you can't go wrong in using the answers found there. The church web team went to a lot of work to present the wonderful content and videos. You will also want to be sure to visit JesusChrist.lds.org for excellent articles and videos on the Savior.
I can only mention a few others here. I have compiled a more complete list on the sidebar of this blog that I use extensively in my research. The MoreGood foundation is always worth visiting as are FAIR and Shields. Even though there are so many others, I must mention the extensive work that Jeff Lindsay has done over the years on his LDS FAQ. It has always been extremely helpful. I gave up my work in this area long ago because Jeff was doing such an awesome job.
Answers to some basic allegations
In the past week I have responded to six common criticisms of those who are opposed to the work of the church. They were conveniently presented as a comment to my Easter post, "Are Mormons Christian?" The objections were offered by an anonymous reader so I imagine there was no real desire for a response. An intelligent dialog requires that the participants at least identify themselves. A respectful exchange invites understanding for each other's viewpoints.
1. God is a glorified being of flesh and bones
2. The doctrine of spiritual brotherhood
3. The Book of Mormon brings us closer to Christ
4. Authority to act in the name of God
5. Why can't I attend a Mormon wedding?
6. The practice of plural marriage
In my experience there are two kinds of critics that we cannot help. There are those who are convinced that their zeal in attacking us is providing a service to God and others who they want to impress. Then there are the apostates and ex-Mormons who want only to justify their actions. They will go to any length to make sure that everyone knows how hurt they have been by some real or imagined offense. I wish there was something we could do to ease their pain.
Dealing with anti-Morman literature
I often reflect upon the words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie as he spoke about anti-Mormon literature. He said he would sometimes read it for entertainment value and nothing more. I suspect that he may have read it on occasion more for intellectual stimulation. I used to have an extensive collection of books that were not flattering to the LDS faith. I would refer to them in an effort to understand what our critics were saying and how they saw things.
For some reason the fact that I had such a collection came up in an interview with a good Stake President. He counseled me to dispose of it. I did so long ago and have not missed it especially since so much of the same material can be found today on the Internet with a simple search. You do not have to go far to discover that there is still much animosity and false interpretations of our history and doctrine available to the public in thousands of anti-Mormon websites.
We do not shy away from the difficult questions if the seeker is legitimately wanting to know the answers. For some questions there are no answers. For others, the answer depends on the maturity of the individual asking the question or repeating the allegation that they have read elsewhere. If you are sincere in wanting to understand something about our faith or doctrine I am more than happy to point you to some answers that have helped me over the years.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I have long been torn between two approaches to dealing with critics of our faith. I'm not sure if it is a good idea to answer their allegations or to simply ignore them. I guess it depends on how much their charges bother us. The official response of the Church seems to have changed over the years in direct proportion to the number of articles published in the media that are false or misleading.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
How do you respond to the criticism that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can't be Christian because the LDS Church at one time taught and practiced polygamy? I suspect a simple presentation of the facts followed by a few official statements of the Church should suffice. Before I do that, I would like to offer a few personal observations.
I do not have Utah pioneer heritage. I was born and raised in California. Members of my family are converts to the Church. My ancestors were from Tennessee and Missouri and were either Baptists or Presbyterians, including many who were ordained ministers. On the other hand, Carol's family is all from Utah and includes several ancestors who participated in plural marriage.
I have gained an appreciation of the social implications of plural marriage from reading the life histories and journals of some of Carol's great grandparents. Trust me, it was no picnic. They obeyed the counsel of their priesthood leaders and entered into plural marriages but it was not easy. There was conflict, petty jealousies and economic hardship. On the other hand, these marriages produced some of the most faithful and devout Latter-day Saints in Mormon history.
The early LDS practice of Plural Marriage
Polygamy — or more correctly polygyny, the marriage of more than one woman to the same man — was an important part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a half-century. The practice began during the lifetime of Joseph Smith but became publicly and widely known during the time of Brigham Young. Today, the practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church, as it has been for over 100 years.
In 1831, Church founder Joseph Smith made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle. Joseph Smith entered into dozens of plural marriages, as did several of the early church leaders. It was not commonly known or practiced until the latter years of the Nauvoo period in 1842-43. Records are sketchy as to the details of this time.
Practiced openly by perhaps as many as 20 to 30% of the church members after the Saints moved to Utah, it was a source of contention to the rest of the nation for nearly fifty years. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, received what Latter-day Saints believe to be a revelation in which God withdrew the command to practice plural marriage. It was difficult for some to accept this major change to their way of life.
President Woodruff issued what has come to be known as the "Manifesto," a written declaration to Church members and the public at large that stopped the practice of plural marriage. Today Church members honor and respect the sacrifices made by those who practiced polygamy in the early days of the Church. However, the practice is outlawed in the Church, and no person can practice plural marriage and remain a member. The doctrine is not taught in church curriculum.
Confusion about polygamy today
Polygamous groups and individuals in and around Utah often cause confusion for casual observers and for visiting news media. The polygamists and polygamist organizations in parts of the western United States and Canada have no affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that the term "Mormon" — widely understood to be a nickname for Latter-day Saints — is sometimes misleadingly applied to them.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the following about polygamy in the Church's October 1998 general conference: “I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
"If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, 'We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law' (Articles of Faith 1:12).”
Summary and Conclusion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not teach or practice polygamy or plural marriage and has not done so for over 100 years. Although the doctrine is still contained within our scriptures, specifically section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, it is not taught as a current doctrine and is not tolerated if practiced. Those who do so are excommunicated from the church. It was a time of our history that we consider a part of the restoration of all things.
The subject of polygamy continues to fascinate both members of the Church and those who are investigating the Church. It is a common topic for those in the media to write about or at least mention the practice in any major piece about the Church or its people that is published today. It is a source of humor for many, embarrassment for some and misunderstanding for most. It is a sacred principle, an extension of the law of Celestial Marriage and deserves greater respect.
I do not pretend to know everything about the doctrine or the practice. There are many experts both in and out of the Church that have researched and written extensively about it. I am saddened that some critics of the Church point to the history of plural marriage in the LDS faith as evidence that we could not possibly be true followers of Jesus Christ. We invite any who are seriously investigating our Church to get the facts before they embrace false accusations.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In a recent post here at Latter-day Commentary, I addressed the question, "Are Mormons Christian?" On that Easter Sunday an anonymous reader responded with several reasons why he felt that we are not Christian. I have addressed most of them already and now turn my attention to a difficult accusation that involves families, weddings and the temple of the Lord.
He wrote that Mormons aren't Christian because no Christian would "keep loving parents from the weddings of their children." The statement was obviously meant for shock value. It certainly gets your attention, doesn't it? You immediately want to know if it can possibly be true and if so, why? It does sound awful when the statement is phrased that way. Let's investigate.
In order to understand this properly, we need to discuss the sacred nature of LDS Temples and the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. We can then address the social difficulties mentioned. The LDS Newsroom has an excellent article on differences between chapels and temples. Another article on Temple Marriage is helpful but incomplete as it does not address all the social issues.
The sacred nature of the Temple
Temples are not regular places of Sunday worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are quite different from the thousands of regular chapels or meetinghouses all over the world that are used for Sunday services. Anyone, regardless of religion, may enter a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, attend services and worship with us.
However, because of the sacredness of temples as "houses of the Lord," only members of the Church who are in good standing are allowed to enter the temples. A member must be observing the basic principles of the faith and attest to that fact to his or her local leaders once every two years in order to enter a temple. A "Temple Recommend" is required to enter.
Those who are not members of our faith may visit a temple during the open house before it is dedicated. Many temples also have a visitor center nearby where those who are not members of our faith may learn more about the sacred nature of temples. Once the temple is dedicated, faithful members attend the temple and participate in sacred ordinances performed there.
The doctrine of Celestial Marriage
Members of the LDS faith believe that marriages performed in temples are “sealed,” or blessed to last for eternity. The concept that the family unit can continue beyond the grave as a conscious, loving entity, with the marriage partnership and parent-child relationships intact, is a core belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The purpose of a temple marriage can be found in D&C 131:1-4 where it is identified as an order of the priesthood, the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. The sealing power exercised in performing the marriage is referred to in Matthew 16:19 where the Savior tells the Apostle Peter of the importance and the binding or sealing power of the keys of the kingdom.
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Church equates the word “bind” with “seal.” This is no civil union "until death do you part." Of course, the sealing is dependent upon the faithfulness of the couple involved.
Social difficulties in Mormon weddings
When all family members and extended family members who want to attend the wedding are faithful members of the LDS church with current temple recommends, there is no problem and no hurt feelings. However, when the parents or extended family of either the bride or groom are not members of the LDS church, it takes a little bit of understanding of the above principles.
It can be difficult for someone not of our faith to understand why they cannot attend the wedding of their own child. Of course they are welcome to attend if they meet the same qualifications. So we are not excluding anyone. All are invited. They simply must qualify. I know of children who have waited years for their parents to get baptized and worthy to attend.
Dealing with hurt feelings of parents or siblings or other relatives when planning an otherwise joyful event can be most distressing. This question was asked and answered by several young Latter-day Saint women a few years back in this Ensign article. While the loved ones may not be able to attend the actual ceremony, there are other ways to show love and respect for them.
Personal observations on marriage
We do not "keep loving parents from the weddings of their children." We invite them to join with us in making the same covenants to enter the house of the Lord. The Lord set the requirements by revelation. He has a right to say who can and cannot enter His house. Baptism, adherence to the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Tithing as well as moral cleanliness are all required to enter.
I understand it can cause some discomfort and difficult feelings when discovering that you must be a faithful member of the Mormon Church to attend a wedding in an LDS Temple. It is especially distressing if it is your own daughter or son that is getting married there. We are not trying to exclude you. We hope you will be understanding when discussing it with loved ones.
I was married in the Los Angeles Temple over a quarter of a century ago. Carol and I are all the more committed today to the principles and ideals that we learned there. The covenants we made there have blessed our lives and helped us through many difficult times. I am glad that Carol's parent's were able to be with us that day. I only wish my own parents had been there.
Friday, March 28, 2008
In point four from my anonymous objector, the issue of authority was raised as a reason why he feels that Mormons aren't Christian. He wrote that Mormons believe "...[other churches] don't have the authority to act in His name." I previously wrote about the importance of authority to act in the name of Christ, but perhaps it deserves another visit to make the response complete.
He pretty much nailed this one. I confess, we do believe that there was an apostasy and that the keys of the priesthood were taken from the earth with the death of the early Apostles. Maybe it's the naive Mormon in me coming out, but I find it hard to believe that this isn't an important issue to other Christians. I would hope that this is important to anyone who believes in baptism or priesthood ordination.
When our missionaries teach the doctrine of the apostasy to those who are investigating our church, they use dialog that is carefully crafted to not offend. I am going to be blunt. This is the most important difference between the LDS Church and other churches that claim to follow Jesus Christ. It is this authority that gives power and vitality to the Mormon Church. A major focus of the message of the restoration is that angelic messengers ordained Joseph Smith.
Authority from Christ is important
We proclaim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church with the authority to administer the ordinances of salvation. That is a strong statement and a bold claim. We are not hesitant in teaching to the world that we are the only source where you can receive baptism and other ordinances that are recognized by the Savior as being valid, authorized and efficacious in the world to come.
The Latter-day Saint view of authority as the divine right to preach, act in the name of God and direct the Lord’s church is distinctive from other Christian churches. We do not believe in a continuous or unbroken line of authority from the early apostles. We also do not believe that authority can be found in the inerrancy of the Bible. Nor do we believe that one receives authority simply because of a sense of “calling” to the ministry.
While there is much truth in other churches, there is something missing. We have that missing piece, which is the authority of the Priesthood. We offer that same authority to all followers of Christ. It is true that we do not confer the authority upon women. We do not ordain women to be ministers in our church. This is by direction and revelation from God and will not change. With that authority we are confident that the ordinances we perform are recognized by God.
Validity of religious experiences of others
The issue of authority has come up so many times in stories and articles about the Church that the Public Affairs department has dedicated an entire Newsroom article to the subject. The piece focuses on acknowledging many good things about other Christian religions. We do not dismiss or diminish the validity of other people’s religious experiences. For example, you will find these statements there:
"Members of other churches who accept Jesus Christ and try to live by the principles he taught are entitled to divine guidance and inspiration in their lives. Faithful Christians who are not Latter-day Saints still go to heaven, and those who live according to all the truth and light they have will open themselves to further light in the hereafter."
“Informed Latter-day Saints do not argue that historic Christianity lost all truth or became completely corrupt. The orthodox churches may have lost the ‘fullness’ of the gospel, but they did not lose all of it nor even most of it. Many Evangelicals caricature or overstate the actual LDS view, which is that the orthodox churches are incomplete rather than corrupt.”
Summary and conclusion
I think it is our confidence in our position of authority that unnerves some of our Christian friends. This confidence is often misunderstood as arrogance. We do not mean to be offensive. We do not mean to imply that others can not or do not have valid religious experiences. But authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ is something about which I would want to be very sure. Without that confidence, it is easy to dismiss the claims of others in speaking for God.
I was baptized by an ordained priest when I was eight years old. I was ordained to the Aaronic priesthood when I was but twelve years of age. I had the Melchizedek priesthood conferred upon me when I was nineteen, ordained an Elder and set apart as a missionary. I was later ordained a High Priest and set apart in various priesthood leadership capacities in the Church. I know from personal experience that there is something to this priesthood. It is real.
Holding the priesthood and acting in the name of the Lord has blessed my life in so many ways. It is a privilege for which I am deeply grateful. Bearing the priesthood has shaped who I am. Serving in the priesthood has taught me how important it is to be very careful how I act because I am a representative of Jesus Christ. That is an awesome responsibility. It is a marvelous blessing to be part of the large army of the priesthood spread throughout the earth today.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Objection three out of six raised by anonymous is that Mormons can't be Christian because we believe that Christ visited America as a resurrected being. That argument is weak. If anything, it proves that we are greater followers of Christ because we have an additional witness of His gospel. Perhaps his objection really was that we have additional scripture and thus modern revelation.
This is one of my favorite objections to discuss because it proves one of the most important claims of the Restoration. In fact, almost any objection to our message can be summarized as a reluctance to accept modern revelation. Having been exposed to the idea all my life I have never understood why it is so difficult to understand. The Book of Mormon is the best evidence of Joseph's prophetic calling.
If someone is a sincere follower of Jesus Christ they will benefit by reading the account of His visit to America as a resurrected being as found in the Book of Mormon. I highly recommend it. The message recorded there should sound highly familiar to students of the Bible. In fact, it would be difficult to explain if Christ had not shared His same gospel with the ancient Nephites.
The Book of Mormon
For someone who has never read the Book of Mormon, Mormon.org is the best source to get a good overview of the book. As part of the Restoration of the gospel, God brought forth the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. By the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this book from an ancient record written on gold plates.
The Book of Mormon is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. It helps us understand His teachings, including those in the Bible.
In the Bible, Jesus told His Apostles, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Soon after He was resurrected, the Lord visited these “other sheep”—the inhabitants of ancient America. They recorded their history on metal plates.
Evidence of Modern Revelation
The Book of Mormon is evidence of modern revelation and of the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith. If one is sincere in wanting to understand our message and know for themselves that it is true, then we offer the promise of an ancient prophet. Millions of people worldwide have found out for themselves that the Book of Mormon contains another witness of Jesus Christ.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost?” ( Moroni 10:4).
As taught in the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I have experienced these feelings many times as I have read the Book of Mormon.
Summary and Conclusion
"...the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time." (The Journal of Joseph: The Personal Diary of a Modern Prophet, p. 203) Isn't that a great quote? We have the Articles of Faith, but we do not have limiting creeds. It is those creeds of other churches that keep their members in the dark.
The Book of Mormon is a major stumbling block to many who investigate our church. The Book of Mormon is a door through which you must pass if you are to understand what we are about. It is the best tangible evidence of the work of Joseph Smith. The church that he organized is secondary to a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that is promised to all those who diligently seek it when they read the Book of Mormon.
We are followers of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. We can come closer to Him by reading it than by any other book. The Bible has gone through many translations that introduced errors. The Book of Mormon had one translator - Joseph Smith. He was and is a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon proves it.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In responding to my recent post, "Are Mormons Christian?" an anonymous commenter objected to my claim that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians because he said that we believe Jesus and the devil are "literal" brothers. Elder Ballard requested that we become more involved with the dialog on the Internet about the church and our doctrine.
Said Elder Ballard, "There are conversations going on about the church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches. There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs." In that spirit I offer this explanation.
This question has been raised and debated many times in the past, especially since Mike Huckabee made it a campaign issue in December 2007. I wrote about it back then but want to offer a more complete answer now since this reader brought it up again. My main objection to the comment is the inclusion of the word "literal". It shows a lack of doctrinal understanding.
The doctrine of spiritual brotherhood
Here is the short LDS Newsroom answer, "Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind."
So Jesus and Satan are not "literal" brothers. My anonymous commenter is implying that literal means physical. That is false doctrine. Jesus was born into mortality as the Son of God. Satan never had a physical body so how could they be literal or physical brothers? They are not. I suspect that my friend was looking for shock value in his comment, just as Mike Huckabee was.
As the newsroom explanation points out, we are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father, and are therefore all spiritual brothers and sisters. That includes Lucifer, who the scriptures tell us was a son of the morning, meaning he was also a son of God, just as I am a son of God. God is the Father of all, including Lucifer. When he was cast out of heaven he became Satan or the devil.
Our spiritual family
As we declare in "The Living Christ,"We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world." Jesus Christ was the Firstborn of Heavenly Father's spirit children. We all, along with Lucifer, were born later.
We were all with our Heavenly Father as spirits in a premortal existence. We lived together as families before we were born into mortality. Lucifer and one third of the hosts of heaven, by their own choice, decided that they did not want to become mortal and learn to walk by faith. Satan and his followers are here on the Earth. They do not have physical bodies but are spirits.
Are these spirits still considered our brothers and sisters? If so, that means that we too are brothers and sisters to Lucifer, just as we are brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ. I don't think that is too hard to understand, do you? Perhaps some don't like to think about it. While it is true, the idea of evil spirits hanging around and trying to lead us astray is not a pleasant thought.
Summary and Conclusion
Our understanding of the doctrine of spiritual brotherhood and the family of God only solidifies our position that we are Christians. There is no inconsistency with the idea that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers and our bold statement that we are true followers of Jesus Christ. He is our Elder Brother. We worship Him out of love because of His love for us in atoning for our sins.
We do not argue with or belittle others who have not thought the issue through or have decided not to accept the doctrine. It is straightforward and logical. There is nothing sinister about it. Perhaps my anonymous commenter does not understand the concept of a fallen angel. Who created the angels? God did of course. Who created us? The same God. The same family.
We invite everyone to study the doctrine for themselves. It is not difficult to understand. It just takes a little patience to think it through. We hope that those who do not accept the doctrine will not try to redefine it in an effort to misrepresent it to others. Instead of telling others what you think we believe, please point them to official sources where they can interpret it for themselves.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
In my Easter post, I addressed the oft-asked question, "Are Mormons Christian?" I shared my witness of Jesus Christ and included a video clip from an apostle that summarized the answer. An anonymous reader left a comment disagreeing with my declaration that Mormons are indeed Christians. He kindly shared a list of six points with which he disagreed.
I responded briefly to our anonymous friend and promised to reply in greater detail to each of the points he raised. This post addresses the first point that God is a glorified being of flesh and bones. A Google search on the subject reveals several well written articles. An equally useful search on the phrase "Does God Have a Body?" delivers some of the same results and many others.
I am not a Mormon apologist nor am I experienced in apologetics. I am just your basic member of the church. My family joined when I was very young, converting from Presbyterianism. I served a mission, was married in the Temple and have been attending church all my life. I think my religious experiences are typical of a Latter-day Saint living in Southern California.
My personal views on the nature of God
I have never had a problem with the doctrine taught that God is a glorified man and that he has a body of flesh and bones. I know some object to the idea that God was once a mortal man but it has always made sense to me. I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the universe. For example, who was taking care of things when God was going through his mortal probation?
There are a lot of questions about God that I just put up on the shelf until some future time when I trust that they will be answered. Some get confused when others talk or write about God's father and the whole idea of eternal progression. I know some things have been taught and revealed about that subject, but frankly, I don't think about it much. It doesn't bother me.
I have been taught and believe that the purpose of this life is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and prove myself obedient to His commandments revealed in scripture, both ancient and modern. I am a very simple man, really, but it makes me happy to think of a loving Heavenly Father who understands me perfectly because He has gone through the same kind of mortal experience.
Official statements from the Church
From Mormon.org: "God is your Father in Heaven (Matthew 6:9). We call God Heavenly Father because He is the Father of our spirits and we are created in His image ( Genesis 1:27). God has a body that looks like yours, though His body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory beyond description. He knows you personally and loves you more than you can comprehend."
From True to the Faith: "God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things. He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He 'has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s' (D&C 130:22). Our Heavenly Father is a God of judgment and strength and knowledge and power, but He is also a God of perfect mercy, kindness, and charity."
From Preach My Gospel: "God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer."
Summary and Conclusion
I know this is not a deep discussion on the subject of the nature of God. There are so many more ideas that could be addressed. This post focused on one idea: God has a body of flesh and bone. Note that we do not teach that God has a body of flesh and blood as that is a condition of mortality. God is a glorified, immortal, perfected being and we are made in His image.
It is not a hard doctrine to comprehend. Man has made it difficult through uninspired creeds and interpretations of scripture that are not correct. That is why we need Apostles and Prophets to help us come to the unity of faith. I am so grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who bore a plain a simple testimony that he saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
So is this different from what the Christian world teaches? Yes, it is. We believe in a "Restored Christianity." Any doctrinal disagreements we have with ministers of other faiths can be summarized in one statement: We do not rely solely on the Bible for our understanding of the nature of God. Our understanding is based on knowledge revealed through modern prophets.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I guess I should not be surprised by now. I have heard it and read it so many times that I still wonder how it is that some people don't know. Of course Mormons are Christians. We are the Church of Jesus Christ.
It has been asked and answered many times in many ways and in many places by many people over the years. Yet it continues to come up day after day. I read it in forums, on blogs, on websites and in news articles.
Perhaps it is just simple curiosity that causes the question to be asked again. I like to think that the questioner is just repeating what they have heard others say and want to be reassured. Yes, Mormons are Christians.
Resources on the Internet
A Google search of the question brings Jeff Lindsay's FAQ to the top of the list. Read that and you will find that the question is answered affirmatively in several different ways. He links to a great article in the Ensign by Stephen E. Robinson that addresses the topic in great detail.
Brother Robinson even wrote a book answering the question. Elder Holland addressed this most eloquently in the Oct 2007 General Conference. He makes it so clear that our break with conventional Christianity is over the Nicene creed, which is not Biblical in authority.
Maybe if all the LDS bloggers in the world added a post answering the question, people would get the idea that yes, Mormons are Christians. Perhaps then we could get the message across more clearly than some of the other links that come up in the Google search.
The leaders and the members agree
The leaders of the Church have been declaring this message for as long as I can remember. I have never heard a talk or sat in on a lesson in which it was ever said that we are not Christian. It is only in the last twenty or twenty five years that we have been accused of this falsehood.
Elder Ballard has said that the Church does not have the resources or the personnel to answer this question each and every time it comes up. He extended an invitation to members of the Church to get involved in sharing the gospel on the Internet and using the new media to do so.
Many thousands of regular members of the Church have added their witness of Christ in forums, on their own websites and blogs and in comments on many newspaper articles over the years. I too am just a regular member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My witness of Jesus Christ
On this Easter day, I add my witness that I am a Christian. Yes, Mormons are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. I can't imagine there wasn't an LDS chapel today where the talks in Sacrament meeting weren't about the Savior, his atonement and resurrection.
I raised my voice in song today in worship of Jesus Christ. I spent two years as a missionary in Central America declaring the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bore my witness to thousands that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Redeemer of Mankind.
Just because we don't accept the non-Biblical Nicene creed does not mean that we do not believe in or worship Jesus Christ. We have so much in common with other Christians. We each want to do good in the world. I think it is only some ministers who are stirring up this controversy.
This one minute video clip from an Apostle of Jesus Christ answers the question succinctly:
And a more recent video from Elder Gary Coleman on Mormon Messages:
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Across from the Los Angeles temple is the Seagull Bookstore. I usually don't stop in because we have been buying most of our LDS books from Deseret Book online. Today, I dropped by to see some of the latest releases firsthand. There's just something about holding a book in your hand and reading the back cover before deciding to buy. I left with four books - three more than I had intended. I confess, I'm a book collector from way book.
I also wanted to take a look at some of the LDS fiction offerings. I have never in my life bought or read an LDS fiction book other than The Work and the Glory series from Gerald Lund. I know those are fictional but they are historically accurate. I saw the latest book from Stephanie Black, Fool me Twice. I even had it in my hand to buy but just could not justify one more book without checking with the mistress of the checkbook. Sorry, Stephanie. I love your blog.
Books about the Last Days
I wanted some more books on the last days as that has been my personal course of study this year. I have re-read all the Anthony Larson books in the Prophecy Trilogy. I have also been re-reading Prophecy - Key to the Future by Duane Crowther, owner of Horizon Books (now Cedar Fort), as well as The Coming of the Lord by Gerald Lund. The two additional books I purchased on the subject today are not new, but I have wanted to read them for quite some time.
The first is Behold, I Come Quickly - The Last Days and Beyond by Hoyt W. Brewster Jr. It was first published in 1994 by Deseret Book but remains in print, attesting to both general interest in the subject and the treatment by the author. The second book is 50 Signs of the Times and the Second Coming by David J. Ridges, published by Bonneville Books (Cedar Fort) in 2004. Brother Ridges taught for the Church Educational System for thirty-five years.
I picked up the book for a quick perusal when I got home and could not put it down. I did not intend to do so but read the whole thing through in just a few hours. It is that fascinating. As usual for me, there are some interpretations of scripture in the book which which I don't agree. But the book contains a great overview of fifty signs of the times that is worth reviewing. I highly recommend it. Interest in the last days is increasing as we enter the seventh thousand years.
Chapter four of the book contains a comparison chart of the conditions preceding the Savior's appearance to the Nephites to the conditions leading to the Second Coming. If you are interested in a more detailed treatise on this subject, I recommend Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans by Anthony E. Larson. He takes the comparisons quite a bit further with an investigation of twelve parallels that are astounding to contemplate.
Here is just one parallel from Anthony's book worth noting: A time came in the history of the Nephites when they degenerated morally until they were more wicked than their adversaries. Essentially the same thing is happening to Americans today. If you'll recall from Helaman 4:4 many dissenters and apostates leave personal righteousness and join the ranks of the enemies of righteousness. It was the wickedness of the people that made them weak and vulnerable.
What else do you recall from the Book of Mormon description of the government in the days just before the visit of the Savior? The Gadianton robbers infiltrated and took over the government. They passed laws that made it easier for the people to participate in wickedness. The judges and lawyers that ruled the land in their day were mostly corrupt. I don't know about you, but I have seen an amazing parallel as the judges of our day interpret laws that allow and encourage evil.
A timeline for the last days
Brother Ridges notes in his book that it is a good idea to avoid making time lines of anticipated events of the last days. The common tendency is to make your own list of things to watch for so you can know when you really need to repent and start living more righteously. So while he presents and discusses fifty signs, he does not present them in any particular order. By the time some of the signs come to pass, it will be too late. Think of the parable of the Ten Virgins.
"The earth is rumbling, and earthquakes are occurring in 'divers places.' Human nature being what it is, we don't normally pay much attention to these natural phenomena until they happen close to where we are living. But when we contemplate what has happened during the past decade, not only with earthquakes but also with regard to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and the like, you would see an accelerating pattern.
"So can we use this scientific data to extrapolate that the Second Coming is likely to occur during the next few years, or the next decade, or the next century? Not really. I am called as one of the apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Council of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency know." (M Russell Ballard, 12 March 1996, BYU Devotional)
Friday, March 21, 2008
For some reason, I landed on the forums at MormonApologetics.org the other day. Oh, I remember. I got there from FAIR, which I occasionally visit just to see what's new. There are two major LDS forums which I like to visit: The LDS.net forums, part of the MoreGood Foundation and MormonApologetics. The latter is the more wild and woolly debate board. Be careful if you post there and are expecting to be treated with kid gloves. That won't happen.
Now there are other discussion boards that are frequented by members and ex-members but I won't link to them. I don't know why I even mention them but hey, it's a fact of life that if you are a member of the Church and you use the Internet then you have probably found them before. They are about as unavoidable as your basic anti-Momon site, of which there are hundreds. A popular one is The Foyer and another is PostMormon. There are many others.
The reason I brought this up is because I wanted to respond to one of the recent threads on MormonApologetics. So why don't I post my comments there? Well, this is my blog and I write my essays here. That's why. The entry that prompts today's essay is from a recent convert who writes that he is struggling with the concept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the only true church. He wonders why we say that. He says that it feels arrogant.
The scriptural source of the doctrine
Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord's preface to the book. It was given in November of 1831 after 65 previous sections had been received. In verse thirty, the Lord declares that the Prophet Joseph Smith was given "...power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased..." (D&C 1:30)
Add to that scripture the testimony of Joseph Smith as he recorded what the Savior said to him in the First Vision received in 1820. He asked which church he should join. "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt." That's a fairly harsh condemnation of all other churches, isn't it? Did the Lord really say that?
I believe he did. I have no reason to doubt the boy Prophet's recollection and testimony of what happened on that beautiful Spring morning so long ago. True, he was but fourteen years of age when he received the visit. It is also true that this account in Joseph Smith History 1:19 was dictated to a scribe some eighteen years after the fact. We know that the Lord speaks to men according to their understanding and knowledge. Joseph was impressed to use those words.
What the other churches are missing
So in what way are other churches wrong? And don't we teach that we invite others to join us bringing with them all that is good and right with their beliefs? Of course we do. But in what sense can we claim, and we do, that we are the only true church upon the face of the earth? In priesthood keys, my friends, in priesthood keys. Why this point escapes so many is beyond me. It is such a basic claim and such a fundamental tenant of our religion. How can you miss it?
I hope it doesn't bother you when someone gets up in testimony meeting and says, "I know this church is true. I know it is the only true church." What more can you say when you hear that? The person is sharing a witness borne of the spirit that they know for themselves that what Joseph claimed and taught was true. He did indeed receive the keys of the kingdom from John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias and Elijah. This is what makes our church true.
We are not trying to be arrogant. We are not trying to say that we are better than anyone else. We are only saying that if you want to receive the ordinances of salvation from an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, then we offer them to you. If the Savior taught that we need to be baptized by one having his authority, and he did, then I would hope that a true follower of Jesus Christ would want to be sure that an authorized representative performs the ordinance.
Conclusion and why this matters
This is basic doctrine. It is not new. I cannot understand why someone would leave this church, no matter what the reason, when they know that this is true. It doesn't matter who offends you. It doesn't matter that the members aren't perfect. It should not matter that the bishop or the Stake President or the General Authorities are not perfect. It should not matter that we are not perfect. All that matters is that we receive the ordinances and remain true and faithful.
Why is that so hard?
Update: Read what a modern prophet had to say about the subject. President Henry B. Eyring delivered a wonderful discourse on the subject of The True and Living Church at General Conference in April of 2008 just a few weeks after I wrote this essay. Note especially his discussion of keys, and ordinances and sealing power, all fundamental parts of the true church.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Back in January I mentioned that Carol and I started reading Elder Lund's new book, Hearing the Voice of the Lord. This is one that we chose to read out loud together at the end of each day. We discuss what we read so we are only halfway through the book even though we have been reading it for over two months. Sometimes a few pages read aloud and discussed together are better than whole chapters read silently alone.
I have come to the conclusion that the book is not just good. I pronounce it a masterpiece. It is destined to become a classic. Obviously Elder Lund knows how to write. Which General Authority other than Elder McConkie and Elder Maxwell has written so many books? Of course, The Work and the Glory series of books are not doctrinal treatises but historical novels. Nevertheless, the man is a skilled writer and this book proves it.
Prior to reading Elder Lund's book on "Principles and Patterns of Personal Revelation," my favorite book on the subject was "The Holy Ghost" by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet (Bookcraft 1989). My copy of that book has been marked and highlighted as the results of many readings. I anticipate Elder Lund's book will soon receive the same treatment. That replaced my earliest book on the subject, N. B. Lundwall's "Discourses on the Holy Ghost."
Elder Lund's book is still in the Top Ten of the bestsellers list at Deseret Book. It was number one for several months. Marketing and name recognition got it there but the content is going to keep it there for a long time to come. Elder Lund wrote an article about the book that contains a great overview of the contents so I won't duplicate any of that here. I would like to share just one story that touched me deeply and comment on one principle that I have learned from his book. It was a major 'aha' moment for me.
Choosing a new Stake President
I had long wondered about the process of choosing a new Stake President. I listened carefully as it was explained by the outgoing Stake President, but still wondered why I was being interviewed. Even though I was a member of the High Council, I knew I was not the man. I dutifully went to the interview and was asked two questions. "Tell me about your family." and "Who do you think should be the next Stake President?" were the only questions that were asked (OK, so one wasn't a question - it was more of a command). Then the visiting general authority knew right away what I already knew.
On pages 54 to 59 of Elder Lund's book he goes into great detail about the process of interviewing the counselors in the Stake Presidency, each high counselor and each bishop. Occasionally they ask the Stake President for others to interview. The two General Authorities confer after each visit and share impressions. After discussion and prayer, the answer is usually clear and known to both the Brethren.
Elder Lund concluded this section by telling an amazing story in which the call was issued based on shared feelings that this was the Lord's will that had been manifest. However, he said a silent prayer even while issuing the call, "O Lord, this feels right, but it is so important. I hope we read Thy inspiration correctly." As they stood up to leave, the newly called Stake President said, "Now I understand the dream I had the other night."
When asked what he meant, he related that in his dream he was being interviewed by the Stake President. This was not unusual because he was a bishop. However at the end of the interview, the Stake President got up and placed his suit coat on this good bishop's shoulders. To Elder Lund, this was one of the manifestations of the tender mercies of the Lord. It was a "second witness" that they had indeed read the inspiration of the Lord correctly in this calling.
Being taught by the spirit
The "aha" moment I wish to share in conclusion came just last night as we read on page 210 about priesthood keys. The epiphany was not so much from what was written and what I read, but what I felt as I read this simple statement. "Someone who has not been given the right to preside and direct the affairs of the Church...cannot...unveil a new interpretation of scripture." I know, this is not new and it is hardly deep doctrine.
As I read this statement aloud, the spirit bore witness to me again how important this is for teachers of the gospel. We need to be so careful that we do not teach our personal opinion about a scripture. It is imperative that the doctrine taught is consistent with the official view of the Brethren. Of course, that can best be done by teaching what is found in the manual. If we do not understand a scripture, look on lds.org for additional references that can be used.
It never ceases to amaze me how many Google hits I get on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings from people searching for lesson commentary on some subject that I happen to have written about on a previous post in my blog. Hello people! Read the manual. It has all the quotes you need. Google is the last place I would be looking to find material to teach in Primary or Sunday School. Maybe for the High Priest's group - nah, I'm just kidding.
I'm happy you are reading my posts but don't quote my retelling of the apocryphal story about the bullet that was stopped in the Isaiah chapters of Second Nephi. And my insights on the Liahona were shared freely but I would stick with whatever is in the manual. For goodness sake, my opinion on where the Ten tribes are should never be taught in a Gospel Doctrine class. And why is everyone wondering if President Monson will change the doctrine of the church?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I know very little about Darwin and Evolution. I didn't pay attention when that was taught in school. I wasn't interested in it then and I'm not sure that I am now. But I am curious to find out why I've been hearing and reading more and more about it lately. What's the big deal? As far as I know Darwinists believe that we evolved from apes or that life was created in primordial slime.
I don't believe that we evolved from apes and frankly, I can't believe that Darwinists believe that either. Tell me I'm wrong. That must be what the people who oppose Darwinism say that Darwinists believe. I'm a Mormon and I believe that God placed Adam and Eve here upon the Earth a long time ago. I believe that Adam and Eve became mortal about 6,000 years ago.
I don't know that it was 6,000 years ago that Adam and Eve were placed here because who knows how long it was before they became mortal? But I don't believe they evolved from apes or slime. They were born to immortal parents. Adam was a son of God. They were immortal before the Fall. I believe in the Fall of Adam and believe that there was no death before the Fall.
So is it true that all Darwinists and Evolutionists don't believe in God? Do they really believe that life began by chance and that there was no intelligent design? I am a creationist, not an evolutionist. I believe God created the Earth, the heavens, the stars, animals, plants, man and just about everything that we see. I believe he organized it from material that he created.
There are some things I can't explain about the creation. One of them is did God organize the material for this earth from pre-existent material? I believe he did. I believe the dinosaurs must have come from another planet, simply because there was no death before the fall. That is a very important point for me. The earth must have been organized from older planets.
I know the First Presidency has published official statements on evolution several times early in the 20th Century. I also know that President Joesph Fielding Smith wrote a book about the subject when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I also believe that even President McKay did not support it, responding when asked, "It is not official doctrine of the church."
According to the contributors of the Wikipedia article on Mormonism and Evolution, there is no official church position on the subject of biological or organic evolution. I am satisfied that when God wants us to know more about it, he will let us know. Perhaps we can ask Him when he comes again. It just doesn't bother me very much. For some people it has become a problem.
I ran across a YouTube video today from Ben Stein on the subject of scientists losing their jobs because they are questioning evolution. Amazingly enough, he has written a documentary about this controversy and it has been made into a movie that comes out April 18th. I had not heard about it. It is called, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." YouTube has short and longer trailers.
This must be a controversial subject. There are 2,700+ comments on Ben's blog. Ben has been going to college campuses across the country to talk about the movie. What little I have read on his blog, in Wikipedia and in the blogs of several of my visitors on the subject has convinced me that it is a very complex matter. I am glad the church does not yet have an official position.
A recent visitor to my blog, Gary Shapiro, has a blog dedicated to the idea of No Death Before the Fall. In fact that is the name of his blog. I recommend a visit. Another visitor, S. Faux, also LDS, has posted a thought-provoking essay on Evolution on his blog, Mormon Insights. He is a life scientist (biology), and writes regularly on many subjects. I enjoy his essays very much.
Isn't it great that we can disagree on the subject of evolution and still be considered faithful members of the church? I wish that others in the world would take note of this idea. We can get along and dialog intelligently on a controversial subject without descending to name-calling or personal attacks. We also show respect for each other's point of view. Take note you anti's!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Mosiah 3:19 has long been my favorite scripture. I was pleased to learn many years ago that it was also one of the favorite scriptures of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I think I have maybe half of Elder Maxwell's nearly thirty books in my library.
Elder Maxwell wrote so much about discipleship. He also was the epitome of humility and submission. The man was an intellectual genius but wrote in such a way that the focus was never on him; it was always on the Savior.
FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) was renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship in honor of Elder Maxwell. It is a fitting tribute. He loved scholarship. Bruce C. Hafen, who has also served in various capacities in church education, wrote a wonderful biography of Elder Maxwell appropriately entitled "A Disciple's Life." It was and is a welcome addition to my library when published in 2002. Elder Maxwell died in 2004.
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)
Elder Maxwell has pointed out that the word "submit" is used several times in this verse. It is closely correlated to the act of yielding, in this case to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. The natural man has no desire to be submissive to anybody let alone to the loving encouragement of a God who only has his eternal happiness in mind. The natural man views submissiveness as a weakness.
Said Elder Maxwell, "Significantly, submissiveness, that reverent expression of enduring, is mentioned twice. Giving enduring extra emphasis is capped by directing that we 'submit to' and endure 'all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.' Much of enduring well requires this reverent submissiveness. " (If Thou Endure It Well, 1996, p. 33)
"Spiritual submissiveness is so much more than bended knee or bowed head. Submissiveness also checks our tendency to demand advance explanations of the Lord. The submissive soul will be led aright, enduring some things well while being anxiously engaged in setting other things right—all the time discerning the difference." (Willing to Submit, Ensign May 1985)
"Personal righteousness, worship, prayer, and scripture study are so crucial in order to "[put] off the natural man" (Mosiah 3:19). " (General Conference, Oct 2000) "One is not only to endure, but to endure well and gracefully those things which the Lord "seeth fit to inflict upon [us]." (BYU Speeches 27 Nov 1979) Almost everything I read from Elder Maxwell on this verse indicates that he equated putting off the natural man with submissiveness and patience.
"How can there be later magnification without some present deprivation? Except we are thus tutored, how else shall we grow spiritually to become the men and women of Christ? In this brief mortality, therefore, reveries are often rudely elbowed aside by tutoring adversities! Meanwhile, as faithful children, the challenge is: Will we prove ourselves, in King Benjamin's phrase, "willing to submit?" (BYU Speeches 4 Feb 1990)
"In the journey of discipleship we lose our old selves. The natural man and the natural woman are “put off,” and then we find ourselves having become more saintly (see Mosiah 3:19). We see such saintliness all about us in the Church—quiet, good women and men, not particularly statusfull, who are becoming saintly. This is what should be happening in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. " (BYU Fireside, 27 March 1994)
"Brothers and sisters, no wonder the divine direction is for each of us to "becometh as a child" (Mosiah 3:19). Such saintliness will sustain us as we cross our Sinai, including in those moments when we must "be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Such submissive stillness is necessary, because the process of consecration is not one of explanation. (General Conference May 1996)
You can read more about Elder Maxwell's profound understanding, interpretation and instruction on this verse in his Conference talk of November 1990, "Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror." This marvelous verse characterized the life of a great disciple. By following the advice of an angel as delivered to a Book of Mormon prophet, a man became an apostle. By doing the same, can we at least expect to be saved in the Kingdom of God?
Monday, March 10, 2008
One of the most popular stories on Yahoo News this morning was "Real Death Star Could Strike Earth." Somehow, we remember in the back of our minds that something like this is prophesied to happen in the last days just before the Savior returns to the earth. I suppose that is why stories like these are so popular.
Space.com has been running these regular Monday morning reports that seem to play on the worries and fears of the Last Days. Aren't there supposed to be signs in the heavens that we should be able to look for as a warning that time is almost up - something about stars falling from the sky? Ah yes, here it is:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. (Matt 24:29). There it is, just as clear as can be. The stars will fall from the sky.
Or, if you prefer a version from modern revelation: "But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath. (D&C 29:14)
Greater signs in heaven than stars falling? What could those possibly be? How about a huge meteorite hit? "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth." (Rev 9:1) John actually mentioned three stars in Revelation which cause three woes or three plagues. These "falling stars" appear to be the direct cause of three major catastrophes.
How about the approach of a large comet that gets just a little too close? Couldn't that possibly cause a huge amount of destruction as the Earth passes through the tail or the gravitational pull causes global earthquakes the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime? How about a bunch of little meteorites, each one causing terrible destruction? Could that be a sign in heaven?
"Earthquakes rent the earth in vast chasms, which engulfed multitudes; terrible groanings and wailings filled the air; the shrieks of the suffering were indescribably awful. Water wildly rushed in from the tumultuous ocean whose very roaring under the mad rage of the fierce cyclone was unendurable to the ear. Cities were swept away in an instant..."
NOTE: I'm looking for a better source for this quote. I have one in printed form in an old book and one online in this slide presentation. I looked in the BYU online digital library but could not find it. The source is The Contributor Magazine, Vol 15, No 20, pp 638-647. It is entitled, "A Dream". The author is Charles D. Evans, a patriarch in Springville, UT and is dated August 1894. Junius Wells was the editor of The Contributor Magazine during those years.
How about fire from heaven - could that be a sign? I am not convinced that the Peshtigo fires of 8 October 1871 were caused by anything other than natural events. But many have read into the accounts the very description of earth passing through the tail of a comet: "It came in great sheeted flames from heaven. There was a pitiless rain of fire and sand. The atmosphere was all afire."
I know, the idea of the fires of 1871, including the great Chicago fire being caused by an asteroid, comet or meteor have all been debunked over the years. Phil Plait, author of Bad Astronomy, whose upcoming book is entitled, "Death from the Skies," is adamant that there is nothing to the idea. But still, from the descriptions I've read, one could make a case for meteorites mixed with burning petroleum. I don't know - just wondering aloud.
I suspect we will be reading more and more stories about these kinds of catastrophic events. Some of the most ridiculed are the ideas of some sort of gamma ray burst or an ultramassive body passing through our solar system. Some theorize that a comet or meteor could affect the orbit of one of the outer planets, causing it to careen into the path of another planet and so on.
Who knows? Most scientists are not known for their ability or desire to correlate their understanding of the heavens with the prophecies found in the scriptures. We are told that there will be "new heavens and a new earth," (D&C 29:23-34) but that it shall be like the old one. (Ether 13:9)
So the heavens will look different in the future - perhaps a change in the very stars that we see. Does anybody know when this will happen? I don't, but the Lord has told us that he will "do nothing save he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets". (Amos 3:7)
"Wherefore, be not deceived, but continue in steadfastness, looking forth for the heavens to be shaken, and the earth to tremble and to reel to and fro as a drunken man, and for the valleys to be exalted, and for the mountains to be made low, and for the rough places to become smooth--and all this when the angel shall sound his trumpet." (D&C 49:23)
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Larry Richman and I are good friends. We must be. He keeps sending me personal emails giving me clues into what the web team of the church is doing these days. I think he must have told Joel Dehlin, the CIO of the church about me because he also sends me his emails. They are most informative into understanding how the CIO of a large organization thinks. We go way back - to almost five months ago when I signed up to receive their emails. You can too. Anybody can.
I mean no disrespect. Larry and Joel take their work seriously. I think they have some of the hardest jobs in the church. I am convinced that the Internet outreach of the Church is only going to grow in the years to come. That means that the web team needs to grow. I'm sure you've seen their ads on the bulletin board at the church. Larry is so busy he is looking for another manager (posted 28 Feb 08). You can find lots of church tech jobs at tech.lds.org.
I wanted to work for the church once. A long time ago when I still made a living as a programmer, I applied for a programming job at Church headquarters. I was surprised when they called me up and said they would like to interview me. "But I live in California," I said. I was even more surprised when they sent me a round trip ticket to come up for the interview. I think this was back when the church had some connection to the old Western Airlines.
The interview went well, I thought. We even discussed my first project - writing the interface for the point of sale system for the Mormon Handicraft store that stood across from the Church office building. So I moved my family up to Salt Lake and showed up in the personnel office on a Monday morning. "What are you doing here?" they asked. "I'm here to start work," I said. "Oh, sorry. We just sent you a letter. We hired someone else who already lives here."
My mistake. I was young and naive. There was no job offer. I only thought there was. No problem. I went to work for Management Systems Corporation down the street. I knew computers well and sold Apple Computers in their retail store. I was there during the big State street flood during the spring of 1983. Remember the floods? I had a blast in Utah for a year. My son was born there. But times were tough and we soon returned to sunny California.
Now I work for the Church again. No, I'm not an employee of the Corporation of the President. My sister is though. She works for an Apostle. I'm real proud of my big sister. She has done well. I've always heard that you can't make much working for the church. The standard line is that it is a labor of love. I'm told that things have changed in the tech arena. So if you have tech skills, especially in web development, give them a call or send them an email. They're hiring.
I work for the church in that I take Elder Ballard's invitation to share the gospel via the Internet very seriously. I strive to write posts that shed a good light on the church. Sometimes I will take a current criticism of the church from the news and write my take of it in such a way that I hope is helpful to someone who is not a member of our church. Don't get me wrong. I love a good dialog, but I prefer a discussion of doctrine over a haranguing from a Mormon basher.
Larry sent me an email today pointing out an article on BYU Newsnet, "Called to Blog: Fighting for the Church Online." There is a great quote from Richard Holzapfel, a BYU professor of Church History. Holzapfel said that the way the gospel is being spread has changed. Missionaries used to go to islands by boat. Today, things are completely different. People search for information about the church online. "One of the ways they're going to come to the gospel is through the Internet."
The More Good Foundation was founded by Jim Engebretsen, assistant dean of Corporate Relations at the BYU Marriott School. Jim served as a mission president in Oklahoma from 1998 to 2001. Missionaries told him they were being turned down after investigators searched about Mormons on the Internet and found anti-Mormon websites. Engebretsen decided that something needed to be done and started the More Good Foundation in 2005.
If you would like an easy and friendly place to answer Elder Ballard's invitation to start blogging. check out the More Good Foundation's lds.net. It is kind of like MySpace for Mormons and already has nine thousand members. This online network combines blogs, chats, forums, photos, and videos. People don't go to their neighbors like they used to. Instead, people Google things. The Internet is where many people will go to find answers to religious questions as well.
I have found that to be true. I get so many hits from Google. I can see that people are looking for information about the subjects I have previously written about. You can watch the hits come in on my little sidebar widget. I just wish more people would leave comments, especially honest seekers after the truth. So far, most of the comments are from good faithful members or, on occasion, from a professional Mormon basher. What kind of reader are you? Leave a comment.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I have been meaning to comment on the new church website on the Savior. In a word, I am impressed. No, that word seems too common and almost worldly. From a web design point of view, I am impressed by the style, the content, the layout, the colors and the functionality. They are first class. But for me, the right word to describe the overall web site, including it's purpose, is powerful.
The website makes a bold statement to the world. The church and the web design team have not been hesitant over the years in proclaiming the message of the restoration. The church website on Joseph Smith has long been a great wealth of information about the prophet who ushered in this dispensation. Recently, the web team added great websites on President Hinckley and President Monson that are virtual testaments to these great men.
This website on the Savior stands out to me in a class by itself. It is obvious that the designers worked long and hard to make the site simple yet powerful. It is not overwhelming on the surface and yet it is deep. The doctrines taught and the testimonies shared all serve to emphasize one purpose to the world: Mormons are Christians in every sense of the word. We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ (2 Ne 25:26).
One of the greatest things about it is the accompanying tie-in to the special March 2008 issue of the Ensign, which is also all about the Savior. You will find some of the same articles both on the website and in the Ensign. I loved reading President Hinckley's testimony of the Savior. I know I have heard and read it before, but in this format, it will always to be his last testimony to me. With the Ensign was delivered a special memorial supplement on President Hinckley.
Update: A video overview of this special issue of the Ensign has now been placed online.
President Eyring's article is a wonderful invitation to come unto Christ. Elder Nelson's article focuses on faith in the Savior while teaching of our divine natures. President Packer's article is chalk full of doctrine and teaches clearly just who the Savior really is. Elder Holland's article focuses on the atonement and includes one of my favorite stories - Elder Orson F. Whitney's dream of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each article is a witness of Jesus Christ.
Taking advantage of multimedia and explaining why the church created this new website, you can even watch a video of Elder Nelson that proves that the church focus on using the Internet to share the gospel is intentional, determined, will continue and probably intensify. If you have not been to lds.org lately, I highly recommend you make a visit. There are links to other online videos with more apostolic testimonies, and the always great video, Finding Faith in Christ.
How can the world not get the message? Mormons are Christians! Make no mistake about it. Those who disagree have either not seriously investigated the claims for themselves or are intentionally denying facts just to argue against us. Well, we know that there must needs be opposition in all things. There are way too many anti-Mormon websites out there. I, for one, want my blog to clearly show that I am a Mormon who believes in and testifies of Jesus Christ.
What did you think of the new church website on Jesus Christ? Have you visited it?