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08
Jul
10

LOVE IS STRONGER THAN LAW

    On a plane trip awhile back, I got into a conversation about spiritual matters with the person sitting next to me.  Once he found out that I believed that I didn’t have to do anything to work myself back into God’s favor but that Jesus did everything for me, he responded with the well-worn argument:  “If you tell people they don’t have to do anything, then people will just run amuck in sin.”

     My response caught him off-guard.  Earlier I had noticed the wedding ring on his finger and from our previous small talk I had learned he was on a business trip.  So, in response, I asked him:  “Does that mean that tonight you are going to hire a prostitute to come to your motel room?  There’s no way that your wife will ever find out.”  Before he became too upset with me, I quickly continued:  “I don’t think you are going to do that.  But I was just applying your logic to your relationship between you and your wife.  Love is stronger than law.  I love Jesus for all that he has done for me.  The last thing I want to do is hurt the person who rescued me.  Love is stronger than law.”

     That man, at least, saw my point, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  And even though some might consider my illustration crude, I think it makes my point.  Just as offensive as it was to that man for me to even suggest that I could assume that he would be unfaithful to his wife because there was no “law” restraining him, so also it is offensive to Christians to suggest that because we don’t think that we have to do anything to be saved, that then we will feel no restraint in sinning.

     With minor variations, that is what many Mormons have told me.  Spencer W. Kimball made this point in his book, Miracle of Forgiveness.  After describing the teaching that man is saved alone by the grace of God and that belief alone in Jesus is all that is needed as “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan”, he goes on to say:  “It could give license for sin.” (p.207)

     But that is not what genuine faith produces.  Faith creates a tremendous love in people – a love that doesn’t want to go against God.  In fact, I would submit that people who believe that they are saved alone by the grace of God are more restrained.   They are more restrained because love is stronger than law.

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17
Oct
08

Is Faith a Work?

 

     A couple of months ago (August 8th), I talked about the relationship of faith and works.  There I made the point that the Bible says good works are fruits of faith – that they result from faith.   Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone.  Some Mormons feel that this is a distinction without any meaning – that it doesn’t really matter if we see works as part of faith itself or as a result of faith.  To Christians, however, there is a huge difference between the two – the difference between works being part of the cause of salvation compared to them being the effect of salvation.  It’s important to keep clear the difference between causes and effects.

     Now, however, I want to address the question posed in the title of this post, namely, is faith itself a work?  More than once it has been stated by Mormons that just by our saying that we have to believe, we are saying that we have to do something to be saved.

     But that’s not what the Bible says.  It describes faith, not as something that we ourselves produce but rather something God creates within us.  For example, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says:  “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  A little bit earlier in that same letter, Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  (1 Cor. 2: 14)  From the context, it is evident that the spiritual things Paul is talking about is nothing less than the fact that Jesus died for our sins.  Without the Holy Ghost we cannot know that – or believe that.

     Another way that the Bible shows that faith itself is not a work is by making works and faith mutually exclusive.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The rule of grammar is that the “it” refers back to the complete concept of “grace are ye saved through faith”.  Included in the gift of God is faith.  Salvation and faith is not of ourselves. 

     Or look at how Romans 11:6 makes grace and works exclusive of each other.  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.”  If faith was a work then we are not saved by grace because works and grace don’t mix.

     Faith in Jesus’ saving work is not a work we must do in order to be saved.  Faith that Jesus saved us is something God creates in us.

06
Oct
08

General Conference

 

     This past weekend the LDS Church held their semi-annual General Conference.  Every six months the leaders of the LDS Church (called General Authorities) give a number of talks over two days.  Thousands of Mormons attend these talks in Salt Lake City, while millions of others listen to them through satellite feeds, the Internet, etc.  General Conference weekend is a very big event in Mormonism.

      How big?  Elder Mark E. Petersen, said:  “A general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far more significant than most people realize. . .

      . . .it is one of the most important events of the present day.  Many do not regard it, even among the Latter-day Saints.  But for those who appreciate its true significance, it is of transcending importance, for in it PROPHETS OF GOD SPEAK, living prophets.

      When God gives a message to mankind, it is not something to be lightly cast aside.  Whether He speaks personally, or through His prophets, He himself said, it is the same.

     And in this conference HIS PROPHETS SPEAK!”  (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 63.)

     These conference talks are published in the next month’s edition of the Ensign, the LDS magazine.  Many Mormons will faithfully study these issues.  As Ezra Taft Benson said, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. . .Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is that of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.”

      It is important for those Christians who are witnessing to Mormons to realize the importance of General Conference.  In line with that, it is beneficial to get the Conference editions of the Ensign and read them.  That is what many of your LDS friends will be doing.

26
Aug
08

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)

25
Aug
08

TRANSLATION IS NOT INTERPRETATION

 

    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.    

22
Aug
08

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.

16
Aug
08

Judging a Prophet’s Words

      This is a continuation of my last post.  There I talked about how the fruit of a prophet – the fruit by which we recognize whether a prophet is true or false – is not his character or even his success, but his words.  But how do we go about looking at his words?

     The LDS church cites James 1:5 and tells people to pray about it.  But nowhere in the context does James apply this to judging a prophet’s words.  No, when the subject is judging whether or not a prophet is true the Bible is consistent in its approach.  You judge his words by comparing them with the Bible. 

      Isaiah 8:19-20: “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?  20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  The law and the testimony were terms for Old Testament Scripture.  That was the standard to be used.  They were not told to pray about it.

     We see the same thing in the New Testament.  In Acts 16 Paul comes to the Greek city of Berea.  In regard to his visit we read:  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” (v.11)  They examined Paul’s word in light of scripture to determine the truthfulness of them.  Searching the Scriptures rather than praying about it was their method of discerning truth.  For a fuller discussion of this see http://www.thecityofzion.com/postoffice/DiscerningTruth/GodsWay/359p3.htm

     When one compares Joseph Smith’s teachings and subsequent LDS teaching to the Bible, there are major conflicts.  The Bible says we are saved without works, the Book of Mormon says we are saved by grace after all we can do.  Mormonism teaches that God was once a man – the Bible teaches that God has always been God.  The Bible says that there is only one God – Mormonism teaches that there are countless gods.  On and on it goes.

     One can’t help but think that Joseph Smith saw these conflicts and that is why he taught that many plain and precious things were taken from the Bible.  Or why Mormonism teaches that “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” 

     When his teachings are compared with the teachings of the Bible, Joseph Smith is revealed as a false prophet.




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