Archive for the 'Bible' Category

12
Apr
13

We were created to extinguish suns?

More than once I have talked about Mormonism’s teaching that people can become Gods.  I have done that because quite a few LDS members have told me that is not what it teaches.  Instead many say they won’t become a god, but they will become like God.  Others have said that only Heavenly Father is a capital G God.

Therefore whenever I run across a statement in LDS literature that states that they can become Gods I sit up and take notice.  That happened again last week as I was reading the LDS Church’s currently used manual on the Pearl of Great Price.  On page 38 it contains the following quote from Brigham Young.

“It is brought together, organized, and capacitated to receive knowledge and intelligence, to be enthroned in glory, to be made angels, Gods – beings who will hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds, or to extinguish suns by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This is what you and I are created for.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that extremely striking. It is obvious from quotes like this that Mormonism teaches that people can become Gods.

I also find this extremely dishonoring to God.  Look at how Brigham Young puts people on the same level as the one true God.  Just like him, they can by the power of their word, create, redeem, and destroy worlds.

The God of the Bible, the one true God, is not just God of planet earth.  He is the God of the universe.  He and he alone created everything in the universe.  He and he alone has the power to extinguish suns and destroy the universe. Most importantly of all, he alone redeems people.  And he did that, not by giving people the plan and power to attain his favor, but by sending Jesus to do it all for us.  His plan of salvation is glorious – because it is worked completely by him.

The God of the Bible is so much more glorious than the god(s) of Mormonism.  May many Mormons come to see that and glorify him for that.

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15
Nov
12

Revelation through Feelings

The November issue of Ensign, the monthly magazine of the LDS Church, contains all the talks given at the recent General Conference.  Therefore it is an important issue and one that many members will study for the next six months.

One talk that caught my eye was by Elder Craig C. Christensen, of the Presidency of the Seventy.  It was about the Holy Ghost and how he “communicates to our spirits through feelings and impressions” (p. 13).  He talks about how his six-year old son received a strong feeling as they toured an LDS temple before it was dedicated and how he was experiencing the influence of the Holy Ghost.  The following quote from that article summarizes well his message.

“As inspired thoughts come into our minds, we know them to be true by the spiritual feelings that enter into our hearts. President Boyd K. Packer has taught: “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. . . . While we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling . . .’” It is through these sacred feelings from the Holy Ghost that we come to know what God would have us do, for this, as stated in scripture, “is the spirit of revelation.” (p.14)

Revelation through feelings, as this talk illustrates, is an important component of Mormonism.  And it’s another thing in a long list that reveals the great difference between Mormonism and the Bible.  According to the Bible, it is the place of the Holy Ghost’s revelation.  It is the Spirit-filled word – it is the lamp which shows us our way – it is where Christ is revealed to us.  Mormons would agree with that (adding the caveat “as far as it is translated correctly).  The difference, however, is that the Bible claims to be the only source of revelation.  Isaiah 8:19-20 is just one example of that.  And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

On top of that, feelings can be so fickle – and wrong!  During my ministry, I can’t count how many times I talked with individuals who weren’t concerned that they were violating a direct command of God contained in the Bible because, “it felt right”.  Or “I prayed about it and God said it was OK.”  Just a couple of talks later in the Ensign, Elder Bowen talks about the guilty feelings that he still sometimes has 22 years later over the accidental death of his son.  He shares that, not because he wants to legitimize those feelings, but to say how they weren’t warranted. My point is: how come those feelings weren’t from the Holy Ghost revealing to him that he actually was guilty of doing something wrong?

Some of my LDS friends have sincerely said they feel sorry for me because I only have the Bible to rely on.  I understand where they are coming from.  But I don’t think they understand when I reply how thankful I am that I only have the Bible to rely on.  There God has told me everything I need to know for salvation and for living a life to his glory. There the Holy Spirit has revealed to me wonderful truths about God and his love for me.  There the Holy Spirit reassures me that I will live with Heavenly Father for all eternity solely because of what Jesus has done for me – even when I don’t feel like I’m going to.  Thank God that he has given us the sure rock of his holy Word on which to base our faith!

05
Jun
12

Revelation

Chapter 11 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with revelation.  One of its main emphases is Mormonism’s teaching that the Lord gives revelation for the church only through the church president.  “Let us remember that the President of this Church has been officially designated as the pilot of the Church here in mortality to represent the Master of heaven and earth.”

Its other emphasis is that each member can receive personal revelations conditioned on keeping the commandments and living a godly life.  Most of the time this revelation is said to come through their feelings.  The manual True to the Faith puts it this way:  “we often describe a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling.’” (p.144)

It also addresses the fact that this is something that the Mormon Church has received criticism on.  “By the unbeliever, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ in all ages of the world have been considered a peculiar people. When the Lord has spoken through his servants, there have been at different periods of time many people in the earth who have said, ‘I do not believe in revelation.’ This age is no exception to the rule. The thousands, yes, the millions, of our Father’s children who live in the earth are but repeating the history of the past when they deny that God has revealed again his will to the children of men, and say that they have no need of any further revelation.”

Obviously, I would be placed in that grouping.  But, just for the record, I do believe in revelation.  I believe that the Lord is still powerfully and wonderfully revealing himself and his will in the Bible.  It tells me absolutely everything I need to know for my life now and for eternal life.  In my personal devotions, I am just finishing a thorough study of the first three chapters of Ephesians.  Talk about a breath-taking revelation of God’s grace!  As I studied those chapters once again, the Lord revealed anew to me the greatness of his love for me – how he did absolutely everything so that I will live with him for all eternity.  Verse after magnificent verse reveals the unsearchable riches we have in Christ.  In Christ we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.

And what was so striking was, not once was there a qualification of having to be worthy for all this.  In fact, Paul talks about the wonderful grace given him to be an apostle even though he was the least of the saints.  Not once was there a condition of having to keep the commandments.  No, the entire focus is on what God had done for me through Christ.  The only imperative verb (command) in the entire first three chapters is to remember our former state before Christ. That’s it.  The rest is a description of God acting for me.

What God has done for me in Christ – that, my friends, is the fullness of the gospel.  That is true revelation.  That, and the rest of biblical revelation, is all the revelation I need.

16
May
12

Scriptures

Chapter ten of the Teachings of George Albert Smith is about the scriptures and the encouragement to use them.  Whenever the Scriptures are the topic, one of the most visible lines of demarcation between Mormonism and Christianity appears seeing that Mormonism includes three other books as Scripture; namely, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

This has also been one of the most hotly debated topics between Mormons and Christians.  Understandably so.  Nothing influences people’s beliefs more than what they consider the word of God.

Over the years, many Christians have listed many problems they have with LDS Scriptures. They have cited the lack of archaeology proof for the Book of Mormon; its similarity in many places with the King James Version; the Book of Abraham in reality being a funeral Egyptian text to name just a few.

One thing that I always have found curious is that the books of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price are supposedly the correct version of the similar accounts in Genesis.  If that is correct, why didn’t Jesus point that out when he walked the earth?  We know that the Genesis account as is contained in the Bible is the one that the Jews of Jesus’ day used.  We know that from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other sources. If that account was as corrupted as indicated by the Pearl of Great Price, why didn’t Jesus correct it?  I suppose somebody could claim that Jesus’ correction was one of the plain and precious truths that Mormonism claims were taken out of the Bible.  But that is very difficult to believe.  Just think of how Jesus’ Jewish opponents could have used that to incite the crowds!  “He’s changing our Scriptures!”  It’s difficult to believe that all traces of that could be wiped out, not only from the Bible, but from ancient history.

I doubt, however, that this argument will have much effect on most Mormons.  After all, accepting books as Scripture are more a matter of belief than reason.

Over the years I have found a better way of showing the differences between the Bible and LDS Scriptures.  It is emphasizing the unique and glorious message of the Bible that salvation and my living with heavenly Father is entirely, completely, 100% God’s gift.  That we don’t have to do one single thing to receive that – that we can’t do anything to receive it.  When it comes to being accepted by God the only thing that counts is what Jesus did for me. The more I emphasize that, the more I hear from Mormons wanting to learn more.  That shouldn’t surprise me.  Because, as the Bible says, that gospel message is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

10
May
12

Covenants

One thing that Lesson 19 of the Gospel Doctrines Class covers is the baptismal covenant described in Mosiah 18 of the Book of Mormon.  In that connection the teacher’s manual contains the following quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith.  “A covenant is a contract and an agreement between at least two parties.  In the case of gospel covenants, the parties are the Lord in heaven and men on earth.  Men agree to keep the commandments and the Lord promises to reward them accordingly.”

Here again is an example of how Mormonism and biblical Christianity not only define words differently, but also view matters differently.  The word gospel literally means good news and in the Bible it refers to the very specific good news that Jesus became our substitute, fulfilled all the commandments for us, died for all our sins so that now eternal life is God’s gift to us.  The Bible, and historic Christianity, has always sharply distinguished between this good news of what God has done for us and his commands telling us what to do.  In short, the biblical gospel has nothing to do with God’s commands.  If it did that would not be good news – in light of verses like James 2:10 that state that even breaking one commandment makes us guilty of all.

Secondly, the way that the Bible describes the gospel covenant is all about what God does.  It describes not an agreement between two parties but rather a unilateral action on the part of God.  For example, Jeremiah 31:33-34 says:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  There is no mention of keeping the commandments or any other action on the part of man.  God’s gospel covenant is 100% about what God does – especially his forgiving us of our sins.  That deserves the description, “good news”.

Because of that good news I know that I am worthy before God – that I am nothing less than a saint in his eyes.  Because of that good news I am eagerly looking forward to Judgment Day knowing that, solely because of what Jesus did for me, I will be eagerly welcomed by God.  Because of that good news I have no doubts that I will be living in the very presence of Heavenly Father for all eternity.  Thank you, Jesus, for doing everything for me.

03
May
12

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Of all the parables Jesus told, one of the most familiar is the Parable of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15.  It is a wonderful story of God’s forgiveness as the father rushes out and welcomes home his wayward son.

But, as we place it into its context, we see that the point Jesus was really making was the joy we are to experience whenever we see a lost soul saved.  H makes that emphasis in direct response to the Pharisees’ murmuring against him.  “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2).  In response, Jesus tells three parables about the lost – the parable of the Prodigal Son being the last of the three.  And all three emphasize the joy we are to feel when we see the lost saved.  (See Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 22-24)

In that setting it is obvious that the complaining elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son represents the Pharisees.   His anger over his father throwing a feast for his brother mirrors the murmuring of the Pharisees over Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  I’m sure that the Pharisees listening to Jesus as he unfolded this parable felt as if he had hit them with a two by four over their heads!  In essence, Jesus was telling them that, instead of murmuring, they should be rejoicing that he was reaching the lost.

Therefore I found it interesting to see how Mormonism interprets this parable.  In the New Testament manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, it talks about the mercy and forgiveness of the Father.  But what I found interesting is that it talks more about the two sons than it does the father.  The point it emphasizes is that the father “did not have the younger son restored to all the privileges he had forfeited.”  He was received back but now “the farm” is gone.  “The ‘father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

In striking contrast, the older son becomes the role model.  He is described as the “more dutiful” son.  “The father consoled him with the statement: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”   In other words, for him “the farm” was not gone.  Unlike the younger son, he did not forfeit his privileges.  There is not one mention made of the Pharisees and their ungodly murmuring against Jesus.

A beautiful story of forgiveness is turned into a story of making choices.  “Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions.  When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.”  So much so, that “the ‘father’ cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

The Bible teaches about a Heavenly Father who can undo the effects of foregone choices and has done so in Jesus Christ.  Through the saving work of Christ he has restored all the privileges that we have forfeited through sin.  Because of Jesus I’m looking forward to living eternally with Heavenly Father.

25
Apr
12

What a difference a “not” makes!

One of my favorite Bible passages is Romans 4:5.  “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  The whole context is brimming over with comforting statements reassuring us that God forgives us through faith.  For example, the very next verse says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”  It is obvious that righteousness without works is Paul’s theme in this section.

But that is not how Joseph Smith translated it.  His translation, also called the Inspired Version by theLDSChurch, translates verse 5 this way.  “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Besides having no basis for such a translation, it violates Paul’s line of thought.  In the very next chapter, for example, Paul speaks in a similar way about justifying the ungodly when he writes: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  (Romans 5:6)

This is not the only time Joseph Smith did that either.  Another beautiful example of how quick God is to forgive us is seen when the prophet Nathan comes to King David to confront him about his adultery.  After he laid in on the line and also told David that there would be earthly consequences for his sin, we read:  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”  (2 Samuel 12:13)  It’s striking how quickly Nathan reassures David of forgiveness.

But not according to Joseph Smith.  He translated it, “hath not put away thy sin that thou shalt not die.”  Once again the little word “not” changes the sense completely.  It drains it of comfort for us.  It robs God of great glory.

A lot of Mormons today shy away from statements like the following what Spencer W. Kimball wrote in his classic book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  “It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when.  It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you.  That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”  I don’t know why they shy away from such statements.  To me, such statements are accurately reflecting the way Joseph Smith translated the Bible.

The way Mormonism talks about forgiveness and the way the Bible speaks about it are totally opposite.  I rejoice along withSt. Paulthat God justifies the ungodly, that to the one who doesn’t work, his faith is credited as righteousness.




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