Archive for February, 2012

27
Feb
12

Beware of Worshiping Logic

 

A common reaction to many biblical doctrines is that they are not logical and thus need to be modified or otherwise rejected.  One doctrine that is often dismissed in that way is the teaching that God grants eternal life freely to people without basing that on any merit on the people involved.  That just doesn’t make any sense to human reason.

But not only is that what the Bible teaches, it also acknowledges that we won’t be able to understand it logically.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Significantly the Lord says that in the context of his abundantly pardoning us.  Talk about a wide gap.  God’s thoughts are so far beyond us that it is like the distance between heaven and earth.  Obviously, they are not bound by the limitations of human logic.

Paul says the same thing in his letter to the Romans.  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out”  (Romans 11:33).  Notice the word “unsearchable”.  His judgments and his ways are again far beyond the puny limitations of human logic.   They just don’t make sense to us.

In his love, he gave us a glimpse of his wonderful ways in the Bible.  Even those glimpses, such as the one he gives us when he tells us that he gives people eternal life freely, are so marvelous that they boggle our minds.  But here’s the important point.  Even though we can’t fathom them, we can believe them.  We can believe them, not because we understand them, but because he has revealed them to us.   In fact, we could go even a step further.  If we describe those high truths in such a way that make sense to us, then we have corrupted them.  That explanation can’t be right because the fact is that they are way beyond us.  They are unsearchable.  Period. As one of my college professors use to say:  “You are beginning to understand when you understand that you can’t understand.”

That is why when people respond to biblical teaching with a logical argument I don’t even bother responding. They are using something that doesn’t apply.  We can’t fit God’s great thoughts into our little minds. The argument that it doesn’t make sense is an invalid argument from the get go.

Yes, I know that the teaching that God is one being but three separate and distinct persons doesn’t make sense.  1+1+1=1 is not the math I learned.  But, when it comes to the nature of God that is what he has revealed.  Therefore I believe it.  More than that.  I rejoice in it.  Because that is just another indicator of how truly awesome God is – how he is vastly superior to me. So much so that I can’t understand him.

The flip side of that equation is also important.  When people reject biblical truths because they aren’t logical, they have placed human reason above divine revelation thus making reason and logic a god.  Making logic the standard for accepting truth is just as much an act of idolatry as the worshipping of Baal in the Old Testament.  It is an affront to the Lord and something he hates.

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24
Feb
12

2 Nephi 25:23

One passage that will be referred to this coming Sunday in Gospel Doctrine Class will be 2 Nephi 25:23: “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  In the last couple of years I can’t count how many Mormons have tried to tell me that this passage doesn’t teach that salvation is based on grace and works.  They make that claim even though official church manuals say otherwise.  For example, True to the Faith states:  “The phrase, ‘after all you can’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fullness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him” (p. 77)

Following are the ways that this passage has been referenced in recent General Conferences.  I will let them answer the question:  Does Mormonism teach that human effort is required for salvation?  By the way, a website that enables you to easily see how LDS Scriptures is referenced in General Conference is http://scriptures.byu.edu.

D. Todd Christofferson, Oct. 2011:  “Second, repentance means striving to change. It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).”

Dallin H. Oaks, Oct. 2010;  “Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).”

LDS General Conference  2009  October  Saturday Afternoon  Jorge F. Zeballos:  “Salvation and eternal life would not be possible if it were not for the Atonement, brought about by our Savior, to whom we owe everything. But in order for these supreme blessings to be effective in our lives, we should first do our part, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”7 Let us with faith, enthusiasm, dedication, responsibility, and love do all that is within our reach, and we will be doing all that is possible to achieve the impossible—that is, to achieve what for the human mind is impossible but with the divine intervention of our loving Father and the infinite sacrifice brought about by our Savior becomes the greatest gift, the most glorious of realities, to live forever with God and with our families.”

23
Feb
12

Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon

This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrine Classes, LDS members will be looking at 2 Nephi 11-25 from the Book of Mormon.  The bulk of these chapters consist of almost direct quotations of Isaiah chapters 2-11.  The teacher’s guide for this lesson makes the claim:  “Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon provided the world with a copy of Isaiah’s writings that predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years.”

That raises a question. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been heralded as one of the most major historical events of the last century.  Still today they are scrutinized intensely being universally accepted as the earliest manuscripts we have of Old Testament books.  But why are they accorded such treatment if the statement of the teacher’s guide is true?  Then, it should be these chapters from the book of Mormon, and not the Dead Sea Scrolls, which would be undergoing intense scrutiny –seeing that they “predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years.”  But I know of no reputable scholar who looks upon them in that way.  Has even one LDS scholar gone to one of the many symposiums on the Dead Sea scrolls and tried to “correct” them on the basis of the Book of Mormon?  If not, why not?

For example, Isaiah 14:4 in the Dead Sea Scrolls says, “How his fury has ended.”  In the Book of Mormon (and also the KJV) it says, “the golden city ceased”. (2 Nephi 24:4)  Will LDS scholars claim that the correct reading is “golden city” because the witness of the Book of Mormon predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by 400 years?  In other words, will LDS scholars back up the claim of their church with their actions?  If not, why not?

22
Feb
12

CAPTIVITY OF SIN

I recently read that during the fall of Cambodia the Communists used a simple but very effective way of controlling their prisoners as they forced them to walk through the jungle.  Using a long needle they would thread something like fish line through the palms of each of their captives.  If a prisoner lagged behind or tried escaping, the pain would be excruciating for all.

When people think of being under sin’s bondage they often think of the “big and dirty” sins like murder, adultery, addictions.  They picture sin’s bonds as heavy duty chains.  But the devil is smart.  He often controls people like those Communists in Cambodia controlled their captives – with slender threads of pride, bitterness, and the like.  One of his most common “threads” is self righteousness.  That was the thread the devil used to bind the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

What is so devious about all this is that it’s very difficult for both the person bound and others to see that they are truly captives. Often nothing looks amiss.  Things look good.  So much so that the captive doesn’t even try to escape and thus doesn’t feel much pain.  Life is not that bad.  But whether their bonds are seen or not, they are captives of sin and are walking on the broad way that leads to destruction.

They too need to be rescued.  That is what Jesus did.  He came and defeated the devil.  He broke sin’s power.  He cut the bonds enslaving us.  “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2: 14-15)

It is my prayer that everybody sees that all sins – even the nearly invisible ones – are deadly. That they not only see them, but then see that in Jesus and in him alone, is deliverance.

16
Feb
12

Atonement

This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrine classes, LDS members will be studying 2 Nephi 6-10, especially chapter 9 and its description of Christ’s atonement.  It’s interesting that Mormonism uses the word, atonement, as the most common way to refer to Jesus’ sacrifice for us, although it is rarely used in the Bible.  (The only New Testament reference is Romans 5:11.  Most Old Testament references are from Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and refers to the Old Testament sacrificial system.)

Because it is a common word in Mormonism, it is one that deserves close scrutiny.  The LDS source that has been most helpful in explaining it is chapter 12 in the basic manual, Gospel Principles.  The whole chapter is on the Atonement.  A large portion of that chapter is taken up by a parable told by President Boyd K. Packer. It’s quite lengthy so I will summarize much of it here.  Heavenly Father is the creditor.  We are the debtors.  After a while we realize that we can’t pay back the debt. After a discussion about justice and mercy, Jesus, the mediator, steps in. He asks the creditor if he will free the debtor from the contract, if he, the mediator, pays the entire debt. The creditor agrees. Let me pick it up there by quoting a few sentences.

“The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’

“‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’  “‘Then’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’”

Those sentences clearly illustrate that Mormonism views Jesus’ atonement in a vastly different light than biblical Christians do.  Many Christians are genuinely horrified to hear Jesus being described as a creditor and their having to pay the debt to him.  This goes against every grain of their being.

This horror on the part of Christians is mystifying to many Mormons.  They don’t see the problem.  They wonder what the big deal is.  To them seeing Jesus as their creditor is no big deal – it’s even natural.

For me, not only the parable itself, but then also the two differing and drastic reactions to it clearly illustrate the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.  The parable illustrates the different teaching; the differing reactions illustrate the different mindsets. As Christians talk with their LDS friends, they need to not only remember that many times words will be defined differently between the two, but also that their mindsets will be different from that of their LDS friends.

That might not lessen much of the frustration experienced by both, but it does help explain it.  Not only are we talking different languages, but we are on different wavelengths.  Thank God that the Holy Spirit has overcome that with many Mormons so that now they are rejoicing not in Jesus, their creditor, but in Jesus, the one who paid the debt and remembers it no more.  May the Holy Spirit open the eyes of many more to this wonderful truth.

14
Feb
12

Joseph Smith – Part Two

Lesson 4 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith, the lesson that will be studied this coming Sunday in Relief Society meetings and priesthood quorums throughout the LDS Church, is about Joseph Smith.  Since I talked about whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet in my last post (please see), in this post I am going to focus on what he was supposedly told in his first vision – a subject that lesson four addresses.

I found it interesting that when President George Smith talked about Joseph’s first vision of the heavenly Personages, he quoted the first and last parts of Joseph Smith – History 1:19 but not the middle section.  (Joseph Smith – History is part of LDS Scripture, as it is contained in the Pearl of Great Price.)  Especially noticeable by its absence was the reference to the existing churches’ creeds, namely, the words:  “and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight”.  Because of that, Joseph was commanded not to join any existing church because “they were all wrong”.

Let’s just take the most widely used creed at that time, the Apostle’s Creed.  “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day he rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

According to LDS Scripture, that is an abomination.  What is so abominable about that?  According to Mormonism’s god, it is.  In addition, most Christian churches still use and agree with that creed.  That means that, again to LDS Scripture and to Mormonism’s god, they are all wrong.  Why then do so many Mormons today say that Christians and Mormons believe the same thing?  I was just talking with a man yesterday who told me that it took three months of pretty regular discussions with his good LDS friend before his friend would admit that there were differences in their beliefs.  How many times haven’t Mormons told Christians that they believe the same things – but that they just have the fullness of the gospel?

Let me put it as simply as I can to any Mormon reading this.  Do you agree with your Scriptures – do you agree that the Apostles’ Creed is an abomination?  If you do agree, please tell me specifically why it is an abomination.  Wouldn’t warning me of its abominable teaching be the loving thing to do?

 

09
Feb
12

Joseph Smith

This Sunday, in their Gospel Doctrine Classes, LDS members will be studying 2 Nephi 3-5 from the Book of Mormon.  This section is famous because it contains a supposed prophecy of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. (I say, “supposed”, not to be unduly disrespectful, but to be clear that I do not believe this to be a true prophecy.)

One of the most common flashpoints between Mormons and Christians is their vastly different views of Joseph Smith.  Mormonism’s viewpoint is probably best summed up by one of their scriptures.  D&C 135:3 states:  “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.”  This is not an obscure reference but one that is quoted frequently.  For example, the LDS manual True to the Faith, in its brief treatment of Joseph Smith, quotes it.  That Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God is part of every Mormon’s testimony.

Because of Mormonism’s emphasis on Joseph Smith, his life has been the subject of intense scrutiny over the years by both Mormons and non-Mormons.  Fawn Brodie’s No Man knows my history is still considered one of the best treatments of his life.  Interestingly, Mrs. Brodie was raised Mormon. Many have followed in her footsteps with the result that there is an immense amount of material available on his life.  One topic that has especially been in the spotlight has been his polygamy.  In her book, Mrs. Brodie lists the name of 48 women who were his wives but also makes the comment that research indicates that he was sealed to 66 or 67 living women.

One popular argument Mormons make to prove that Smith was a true prophet is the position that nothing else can explain how an unschooled boy/young man could produce the Book of Mormon.  But the same argument could be used to “prove” that Mohammed was a genuine prophet.  He too was unschooled.  He too claimed to receive revelations from God.  He too claimed to be a prophet of God.

What does the Bible say about determining whether or not somebody is a true prophet?  The most important thing to examine is not the person’s lifestyle or his claims, but his teachings especially what he teaches about the gospel.  “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you then that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

As has been amply demonstrated on this blog and elsewhere, there is a huge difference between the gospel proclaimed in the Bible and Mormonism’s gospel.  The biblical gospel simply consists of the good news (the word gospel means good news) that salvation comes through trusting solely in what Jesus has done for us: his perfect life led for us, his sacrificial death as payment for our sins.  Mormonism’s gospel is far different.  “In its fullness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.” (True to the Faith, p. 76)

Because Joseph Smith preached a vastly different gospel, he is not a true prophet of God.  Rather, according to the Bible, he is cursed.  Instead of having “done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”, the sobering truth is that, because he was a false prophet, he has done more than most persons who have ever lived, for the damnation of people.

I realize how harsh that comes off.  But that is my sincere and heartfelt conclusion.  And that is why biblical Christians continually plead with Mormons to listen only to the Bible.  For, if they continue to follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, they will suffer the consequences of that for all eternity.




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