Archive for August, 2008


Status and State


     Many of the comments to previous posts are confusing people’s status with their state.  This is a very important distinction.  Take the current discussion about immigration.  Even though millions of people are presently living in the United States and some for many years, they are constantly on guard.  Why?  Because of their status as illegal aliens.  Even if they are doing a fine job at work, even if they are in a state of having a good job and a good life, they know that none of that will matter – that they could still be quickly deported.  All because of their status.

     Status is also very important in my relationship with God.  Because Jesus has paid for all my sins God has formally and legally acquitted me.  That is what the biblical word, “justify” means.  It was a term from the courtroom to describe a judge’s verdict of “not guilty”.  Right now, because of Jesus’ payment for my sins, I have the status of being acquitted.  “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:24)

      I have that status of not being acquitted and not being condemned (“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1), even though, in my current state, I still sin.  I have the status of being perfect in Christ even though I am still in an imperfect state

     And the great thing about it is that my status is more important than my state!  In God’s eye, by virtue of his own verdict, I am not guilty, I am perfect.  All because of Jesus.  I’m going to spend the rest of my life giving him all the glory.


The Miracle of Conversion


     In the discussion of agency, the argument is often made that the commands, “Believe” and the like automatically imply the ability to do what is commanded.  If a person doesn’t naturally have the ability to do what is commanded, why give the command?  The logic is that a command presupposes the ability of the person to obey it.

     But that logic doesn’t always apply when God is added to the equation.  Take Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead.  In John 11:44 we hear Jesus crying out, “Lazarus, come forth.”  It would be ridiculous to say that this command implies that Lazarus had the ability to obey it – that Lazarus was lying in the tomb and had a choice:  do I come forth or don’t I come forth?  No, Jesus’ command was a creative command – through that very command Jesus created life in Lazarus’ dead body.

     This is common in miracles.  When Jesus told the lame to walk or the blind to see, his command created within them the power to do what he commanded.  Again it would be ridiculous to say that the lame or the blind had a choice to make:  should I walk or shouldn’t I?  Should I see or shouldn’t I see?

      The Bible describes coming to faith also as a miracle worked by God.  It is a spiritual resurrection:  “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”  Ephesians 2:5.  It is also equated to God’s creation of light.  “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 4:6)  Just like in the examples cited above, God’s commands of “Believe”, “Follow me” etc. are creative commands.  That is why Paul wrote:  “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:  for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth’” (Romans 1:16)  Even when it comes to coming to faith, the Bible gives God all the credit.


Does Everybody Have Agency?


     One of the many differences between what Mormonism teaches and what the Bible teaches is in the area of mankind’s natural condition.  A key LDS teaching is that of agency.  The “True to the Faith” manual states:  “Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself.  Agency is essential in the plan of salvation.”  Boyd K Packer, an LDS apostle, wrote:  “It is critically important that you understand that you already know right from wrong, that you’re innately, inherently, and intuitively good.”

      The Bible, however, says that we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1).  After the Flood, we hear God saying:  “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  (Genesis 8:21).  What is so striking about that is that God said that after he had destroyed all the wicked in the Flood.  But, as this verse shows, that didn’t change man’s basic nature.  It remained evil – a very strong word.  And note that he didn’t say some men would be that way – or sometimes men would be that way.  No, the imagination – their inclinations – are evil.  Period.

      Paul, quoting the Psalms, wrote:  “There is none righteous, no, not one:  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they have together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Romans 3:10-12)  Again note how absolutely Paul talks.  None, not one, none, none, all, none, not one.  That is all-encompassing.  And note what “the none” do or don’t do.  None are righteous – none are seeking after God – all have gone out of the way.

     In these and similar such verses, the Bible does not just not teach that all people have agency, it rules it out.

      Rather these verses give the reason why Jesus had to do everything so that we could live eternally with Heavenly Father.  He had to do everything because we, by nature, were spiritually dead.  We were so corrupted that even our imaginations were evil.  We were so blind that we weren’t even seeking God.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5)




    In my last post I talked about Mormonism’s 8th Article of Faith, namely, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.”  The word “translation” usually means taking something from language and putting it into a different language.  For example, I translated that letter from Spanish to English. 

     But Mormons often cite the 8th Article of Faith in reference to their belief that the original text was corrupted.  In other words, they often include the transmission of the text down through the ages.  As Joseph Smith said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers.  Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”  (Quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 14)

     To muddy the waters even more, as this issue is discussed, often the interpretation of the Bible is introduced with the argument that people interpret things differently.  But the interpretation of the Bible is not pertinent in this discussion.  Translation and interpretation are two different things.

     Hopefully the following analogy helps make my point.  Whenever the President of the United States gives a speech, the “experts” immediately interpret that speech and come up with differing interpretations of it.   But the key point to my illustration is that they all work off all the same transcript of the speech.

     Now apply that to the Bible.  People come up with different interpretations of it, but they all work from the same “transcript”.  Mormonism, however, says the transcript itself is corrupt.  In any other situation when such a charge is made, the obvious questions are:

“What parts are corrupted?” and “Can you prove it?”  How many news agencies, for example, would take at face value the claim that the transcript of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was not accurate without asking those two questions?

      Many people are asking the LDS church, what parts of the Bible are corrupted?   A general statement that it is corrupted isn’t very helpful.  If you want to be helpful, be specific.  From an outsider’s viewpoint, these seem to be reasonable questions -especially because of Mormonism’s claim that its living prophets receive direct revelation from God.  It is difficult to believe that God, over the past 150 years, hasn’t remedied this situation of a corrupted Bible by revealing the truth to one of its living prophets.    


How Accurate Is the Bible?


     The first part of Mormonism’s 8th Article of Faith states:  “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.”  This is a huge point of disagreement and discussion between Mormons and Christians.  As is evidenced in many of the responses on this blog, both sides bring a lot of “expert ammunition” to the fray.  And much of that is worth-while.  I myself have studied both formally and informally the transmission of the Bible.

     But right now I would like to lay that all aside and consider, from a different angle, Mormonism’s claim that the Bible has been corrupted.  Over the years I have read literally dozens of official LDS church manuals.  In all those manuals they quote the Bible extensively.  Over the years I have also talked with hundreds of official representatives of the LDS church including missionaries, bishops, stake presidents, institute teachers, and the like.  They too make extensive use of the Bible.  I see the same thing in many of the LDS responses to this blog.  The assumption I make is that if the LDS church uses that specific Bible verse, it must believe that that specific verse was not corrupted.  (If that assumption is wrong, then it would mean that the LDS Church is intentionally using corrupted verses to validate their beliefs.)  Here’s my point:  if I gathered all the Bible verses that all the LDS manuals and representatives have cited, it would constitute the majority of the Bible!  In other words, the very small percentage of the Bible never cited would be the only verses that the LDS church could claim were corrupted.

     Here’s a tangent on this point.  Sometimes, when talking with some of the LDS representatives listed above, they would say that the verse I was citing was corrupted.  I then would bring out of the manuals that cite that same verse in defense of LDS belief and ask, why then does this official manual use it in this way.  It can’t be both.  It can’t be corrupted when I use it and correct when the LDS church uses it.  Our interpretations of that verse would more than likely differ, but that’s not what the 8th Article of Faith is talking about.




     Both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus.  But, as with so many words and phrases, each means something differently by that.

     James E. Talmage, who was an LDS apostle, defined faith this way:  “Primarily, and in a theological sense, we are considering faith as a living, inspiring confidence in God, and an acceptance of His will as our law, and of His words as our guide in life.”  Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin put it this way:  “We each should develop the faith of Nephi to do the things the Lord has commanded [see 1 Ne. 3:7] knowing that all commandments are given for our good.” 

     When Christians talk about faith in Jesus, however, they are not talking about accepting His will as our law or even His words as our guide in life.  The first and primary things Christians think about when faith comes up are not Jesus’ words but his works.  To Christians, having faith in Jesus means trusting that what Jesus did he did for us and because Jesus has done those things, we are already acceptable to God.  So much so that faith in Jesus, for Christians, includes the thought of abandoning any reliance on our own works.  But note that any mention of Jesus’ works for us is completely absent in James E. Talmage’s words – even though he is describing faith “primarily”. 

     Although both Mormonism and Christianity talk about having faith in Jesus, they have two different objects in which they place their faith.  In order to understand each other and not talk past each other, it is important to see this difference.  It is not enough to agree that both talk about having faith in Jesus.  The telling question is: faith in Jesus’ what? 




     When you ask people what Jesus did for them, many will respond by saying he died to pay for their sins.  That’s true but is that the whole story?

     It’s not.  Jesus not only died for us; he also lived for us!  Throughout his life he kept the commandments perfectly.  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:15)   But that’s just the beginning.  God credits all that commandment- keeping, all that perfect living, all that righteousness, to believers.  “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:  That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)  Jesus has become my righteousness.  I have been saved by works – Jesus’ works which he worked for me.

    This is what Isaiah was talking about when he said:  “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful to my God; for he hath clothed me with garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (61:10). Note that Isaiah said the Lord clothed him – the Lord covered him with the robe of righteousness.  Isaiah’s robe of righteousness was given him by the Lord.

     That’s the same thing Jesus was talking about in the parable of marriage of the king’s son in Matthew 21.  There the man without the wedding garment was cast into outer darkness.  What is so instructive about that parable is that the custom at royal weddings was that the king would supply a wedding garment for the guests.  It would be his gift to them.  We don’t know, but the man who was cast out might have been well-dressed.  But he wasn’t dressed in the wedding garment that the king had supplied.  By not wearing that garment, he dishonored and angered the king.  He was thrown out into outer darkness.  The thought that these wedding garments were gifts of the king also fits into the context of the parable because the king’s servants went out into the highways and byways to get guests – guests who would not have had the time or probably even the means to get a wedding garment of their own. 

     Jesus perfectly wove my robe of righteousness for me with his perfect life.  Every good work he did was another thread of that robe.  God has now given it to me as a gift to me.  With Isaiah and Paul I give all glory to the Lord. 

August 2008

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