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One of the key components to LDS theology is that of scripture being an open canon. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bible Dictionary, scripture is defined as follows:
The word scripture means a writing, and is used to denote a writing recognized by the Church as sacred and inspired. It is so applied to the books of the O.T. by the writers of the N.T. (Matt. 22: 29; John 5: 39; 2 Tim. 3: 15). For an account of the process by which the books of the O.T. and N.T. came to be recognized as scripture, see Canon. Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).
Moroni 10:2-53 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.4 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.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil” (Jordan Utah South regional conference, 2 Mar. 1997)
The student of the New Testament should be primarily an historian. The centre and core of all the Bible is history. Everything else that the Bible contains is fitted into an historical framework and leads up to an historical climax. The Bible is primarily a record of events. (History and Faith by J Gresham Machen)
In the previous quote Mr Machen defines history as a main framework for building faith. Similarly, the people over at Living Hope Ministries in Brigham City Utah feel the same way. They recently made a video that strives to discredit the Book of Mormon due to lack of historical evidences found to support the Book vs. the Bible that has many historical evidences to support it.
As a counter-attack, people at the FAIR LDS site have put out a video on how many things in the Bible can not be historically proven while acknowledging that most things in the Book of Mormon can not be supported historically. (As a side note, there is an interesting site called The Nephi Project where George Potter traces Lehi’s trail through the Arabian desert by using the Book of Mormon as a reference.)
The question then is: Does one need historical evidence to believe and have faith?
My initial response is that one doesn’t need to have historical evidence to believe. The definition of faith, according to the Bible in Hebrews 11:1 is that it is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” The Bible doesn’t support history as something needed to build faith.
Secondly, I feel that Even if something can be historically proven, one still has to have the witness from the Spirit in order to believe on it.I’m reminded of the classic Book of Mormon scripture in Moroni 10 that says “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Therefore, it appears that a witness from the Holy Spirit is the most essential element to one’s faith.
I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with my faith when I try to reason with both Bible and Book of Mormon stories that seem to have no “evidence.” However, I always fall back on the witness I’ve received from the Holy Ghost that both books are true and they come from God. I know they are both true because I’ve felt and seen the fruits of the Spirit in my life as I’ve read and applied principles found in both books. As historical “evidences” appear they are an added bonus to my faith, but not the main source.
What has your experience been with either the Bible or the Book of Mormon? Do you feel historical evidence is necessary to have faith?
This morning I was reading an excellent talk given by John H Groberg a few years back called “The Power of God’s Love.” If you saw the movie “The Other Side of Heaven,” you will remember many stories he shares in this excellent talk. I encourage you to read through it.
What impressed me today were the following phrases:
Since all love emanates from God, we are born with the capacity and the desire to love and to be loved.
Only as we feel God’s love and fill our hearts with His love can we be truly happy.
The more we obey God, the more we desire to help others. The more we help others, the more we love God and on and on. Conversely, the more we disobey God and the more selfish we are, the less love we feel.
…trying to find love without helping and sacrificing for others is like trying to live without eating—it is against the laws of nature and cannot succeed.
When we understand who God is, who we are, how He loves us, and what His plan is for us, fear evaporates. When we get the tiniest glimpse of these truths, our concern over worldly things vanishes.
I learned that just as rockets must overcome the pull of gravity to roar into space, so we must overcome the pull of the world to soar into the eternal realms of understanding and love. I realized my mortal life might end there, but there was no panic. I knew life would continue, and whether here or there didn’t really matter. What did matter was how much love I had in my heart.
…when we are ready, His pure love instantly moves across time and space, reaches down, and pulls us up from the depths of any tumultuous sea of darkness, sin, sorrow, death, or despair we may find ourselves in and brings us into the light and life and love of eternity.
As I read this, my mind went back to various times throughout my life that I’ve felt the Love of God so much that I knew without a doubt that there was a God and He loved me. I remembered times in my life when all I wanted to do was help other people and had no worldly cares because of the love of God that was in me. It’s a truly amazing experience. But, as Groberg states, the pull of the world comes and it is easy to forget that love sometimes.
How does one bring God’s love back into life then? Personally, I think an answer is found in the Book of Mosiah chapter 4 verses 11-12. In verse 11, King Benjamin says (paraphrased) that if we have tasted of God’s love and want to retain it we have to do the following:
Acknowledge our “nothingness” before him in humility
Praise Him for his goodness
Pray to Him
Stand strong in the faith.
In my life I’ve found that the best way to remember God is to read the scriptures daily and start with a sincere prayer. I pray to God (well, try to anyways) as I would another person and thank Him for his love and patience He’s had towards me throughout my life. I pray about my family, friends, my heart to be softened so I will love all people and see them as He does. I pray for spiritual discernement and understanding. I try to obey His commandments as best I know how as well. Many times I feel the love of God in my heart very strongly. Other times I don’t. I believe that standing strong in the faith comes into play when we aren’t feeling the love as strongly, but we continue to try to develop a relationship with God. And conversly, when everything is going well it is important to remember to thank God and be grateful and continue on in study, prayer, and obedience.
These are a few thoughts experiences that have helped me. What are some things that you do to retain and/or bring back the love of God into your life?
What would you do if you heard of someone taking their son up into the mountains and tying him to a pile of rocks to sacrifice him to God? That probably wouldn’t fly over too well, yet Christians, Muslims, and Jews all revere Abraham as a prophet.
What about a man that killed a high-ranking official and then stole valuable records from him and fled into the wilderness, claiming that God told him to do all of these things? That’s Nephi’s story in the Book of Mormon.
How about a more recent one? A man who claimed authority from God to translate additional scripture, build temples, and practice poligamy. That’s part of Joseph Smith’s story.
These are a few examples. Kaimi over at By Common Consent wrote more examples from the Old Testament as well.
So why is it that some people believe in Abraham, but not the New Testament and Jesus, yet others believe in the Bible, but reject the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith? I believe it comes down to what people want to believe, along with what they are willing to allow the Spirit to teach them.
I believe strongly in the power of the Holy Spirit to tell you the truth of all things. Although specifically referring to the Apocropha, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 91 gives a good example of using the Spirit to decipher and determine which scriptures to follow. Below is part of the section:
4 Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him aunderstand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth;5 And whoso is enlightened by the aSpirit shall obtain benefit therefrom;6 And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited….
This morning I was reading in the Bible and the following verse caused me to ponder about life. This verse is in James 4:14:
…For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
As I read this verse in the Bible, I thought about Jacob in the Book of Mormon when he wrote at the end of his life in Jacob 7:26:
…the time passed away with us and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream…
As I reflected on life and the meaning of life, I also thought about a recent professor from Carnegie Melon who has been giving lectures recently called “The Last Lecture.” He has been diagnosed with cancer and has 3 – 6 months to live. He was recently interviewed on Good Morning America. The interview is included below:
For his full presentation that he gives, you can watch it here:
As he states and as James and Jacob state in the scriptures, life goes by quickly. As seen in the video, he talks a lot about achieving our dreams and our goals. If you notice, he focuses a lot on helping others. Let’s take some time today and reflect on our dreams and how we would treat those around us and act as if today is the last day.
One excersize I’ve seen before is to write down the things that you would want to be known for after you are gone and strive each day to reach that goal. Here’s an example:
I want to be known for loving God, loving and respecting others including my family, friends, and all people. I want to be known as someone who was honest in business and respectful towards people of all races, religion, and nationalities. I would like to be known as someone who didn’t give up on a good cause and who perservered through adversity. Someone who smiled and laughed often and who made others feel comfortable and at ease. I would like to be known as someone who inspired others through the things I read, talked about, and did. At the end of my days, I’d like to enter in the kingdom of the Lord as he says “well done, thou good and faithful servant….”
Try writing one for yourself. It’s a good experience. After you write it, take time to think about it often.
In my last post I shared how Mormons and Evangelicals can get along. I read on another blog somewhere about a Baptist preacher a few months ago and thought this was interesting to share. This Baptist Preacher seems to have found a way to still believe in the Evangelical Jesus and the Book of Mormon Jesus. The following links are very interesting:
Staunch members of the Church of Jesus Christ may wonder how he can have a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and not become one. On the other hand, Christians may wonder why he could believe in the Book of Mormon and still claim to be a Christian.
I can personally understand how he can opt not to become a member of the LDS church because there are many revelations that came after the Book of Mormon that are not included in the Book of Mormon. Many of the truths found in the Book of Mormon are found in the Bible as well.
This is yet another example of how one can bridge the gap between Mormons and Evangelical Christians.
My wife and I have most recently been reading Truman G Madsen’s book entitled “Christ and the Inner Life.” This is a very good book and some of the concepts from it I’ve written about in previous posts.
I’ll share some quotes from the book that recently caught my attention:
I say to you that when he (Jesus) said to the woman of Samaria and to others, “He that believeth on me, shall never thirst”; I say to you that when on the cross he looked down and back, under the searing sun, and said, “I thirst,” he was reflecting both the promise and the need that all of us have. We, too, thirst until we ache. We, too, are living and dying on deserts.
A few paragraphs later, Madsen further concludes by saying:
May God help us to walk in the light; and, when we do not feel that we have it, to walk in the memory of it with integrity.
I thought it was interesting to note that Jesus, who had stated those who follow Him will never thirst was left alone and thirsted not only physically, but spiritually on the cross when he said “Father why hast thou forsaken me?” While his enemies scoffed and ridiculed him telling him to save himself. At this moment Jesus didn’t feel like he had the light anymore as His father had withdrawn himself from him. Jesus, who was all-powerful could have used his powers to save himself and destroy his enemies, but he didn’t because he had integrity. Jesus proved to be conquerer by holding on to the memory of the light he had felt and his mission and finished his mission with integrity.
How often do we feel like we’re alone in life? How often do we feel the darkness of sin, doubt, or discouragement and cry out to God and feel that we are yet alone? How often do we just simply not feel like walking with God, or doubt that He is there walking with us? What do we do when we feel that God has forsaken us?
I like what Madsen says about walking in the memory of the light. When all seems to be lost, the memories may be all that we have to rely on for a season.
First, we need to make sure we’re in the light. In a previous post, I shared ways to “plug” into the light throughy keeping the commandments and scripture study. I would add sincere prayer to this as well. We should continue to do these things even when we don’t feel like it because these are ways to stay in God’s light and feel His Holy Spirit.
Second, we need to remember. We’re probably all familiar with scriptures relating both those who remembered and those who forgot. I’ll share a few examples that come to mind.
Poor examples in the scriptures include: Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, King David and Solomon, the Isrealites during Moses’ time. In each of these individuals’ lives they had marvelous spiritual experiences. David and Laman and Lemuel both saw heavenly beings with their eyes. However due to negligence in keeping their eyes focused towards God, each of these individuals erred greatly and suffered because of it. A side note is to remember that repentance is always there for us, but the further we fall from God’s light and love, the harder it is to get back.
Good examples in the scriptures of those who remembered in spite of hardship and despair include: Paul, Nephi, Moroni, and Joseph Smith. There are of course numerous other examples, but these are the ones who come to mind.
In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi turns to God in prayer when he feels his strength slacken, Paul states numerous times in the Bible to count it a joy to suffer for the Lord and reflects on Jesus’ sacrifice to help him “stay the course”, Moroni refuses to deny Jesus despite the fact he is the last believer left in his world. Joseph Smith certainly wasn’t perfect by any means, but when times were hard and he felt like God wasn’t there for him anymore he didn’t give up on God, rather he turned to him in prayer and in turn received revelation.
There are numerous other means and ways given to us to remember God today. Temple attendance and partaking the sacrament (in the prayer we promise to “always remember Him”) are two more examples.
I know life probably isn’t easy for you, and it’s definitely not always easy for me. But I know that life would be much harder without God in my life and the belief I have in Jesus as well. As I’ve built memories with them, and try to further develop my relationship with them on a daily basis through scripture study and prayer as well as weekly partaking of the sacrament, I feel that life is much better. I also believe that when we develop these habits it makes it that much easier to look back on the good feelings and spiritual strength we receive gradually over time. In addition, when we don’t feel the Spirit for a season we realize our dependance on God and become grateful for His mercy.
When we’re down and don’t feel the light anymore I hope we can all remember to call upon God and keep walking in His light with integrity.
Recently I was reading in Hebrews as well as in Alma in the Book of Mormon and found some significant temple imagery as well. Here are some verses that stuck out to me:
These are very beautiful scriptures that are filled with temple imagery (garments washed white, the veil is represents Christ’s flesh, covenants, etc.). In addition scriptures such as Hebrews 9:5 talk about how there are certain things they can’t talk about regarding sacred things, just as LDS are told not to disclose certain sacred things about the temple. All throughout Hebrews is excellent temple imagery and is worth a good read.
In Hebrews chapters 6-10, Paul discusses the temple ordinances conducted in the Law of Moses and in chapter ten says that through the blood of Jesus we enter into the holiest and that the veil represents his flesh.
In Hebrews 9:12 it states that Jesus “entered into the holy place” and therefore obtained eternal redemption for us.
Having read this, one could argue that there isn’t a need for temple ordinances anymore because Jesus already died and this has replaced the need for a temple. Furthermore, if it is the blood of Jesus that saves us, what need is there for temple ordinances?
What are your thoughts on this?
One of the main concerns many people have from other faiths is that for certain sins within the Mormon church the members need to confess to their Bishop. LDS bishops are considered “judges of Israel” and therefore the concept is they sit in judgement in place of the Lord. This practice isn’t uncommon as I know the Catholic church also has confession.
I’m unfamiliar with the history of confession and if someone knows, that would be great to add to the comments. I did however go through the scriptures and see what I could find scripturally in support of or against confession to a person rather than the lord.
|Morm. 8: 20||man shall not . . . judge: for judgment is mine.|
|D&C 20: 13||by them (the scriptures) shall the world be judged.|
|John 12: 47||I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world.|
|Mosiah 29: 12||better that a man should be judged of God than of man.|
Scriptures of People judging in place of Lord:
|Ex. 18: 13||Moses sat to judge the people.|
|Obad. 1: 21||saviours shall . . . judge the mount of Esau.|
|1 Cor. 6: 2||saints shall judge the world.|
|1 Cor. 6: 3||know ye not that we shall judge angels.|
|1 Ne. 12: 9||twelve apostles . . . shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel.|
|D&C 29: 12||to judge the whole house of Israel.|
|D&C 58: 17||appointed to be a judge in Israel.|
|Morm. 3: 18||twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged . . . by the twelve whom Jesus chose.|
|Morm. 3: 19||this people . . . judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land.|
Lord is judge:
|Isa. 33: 22||Lord is our judge.|
|John 5: 22||Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.|
|D&C 29: 12||to judge (Christ’s apostles) the whole house of Israel.|
|D&C 88: 99||(1 Pet. 4: 6; D&C 138: 34) be judged according to men in the flesh.|
|D&C 137: 9||Lord, will judge all men according to their works.|
|2 Ne. 28: 23||stand before the throne of God, and be judged.|
|1 Ne. 15: 33||stand before God, to be judged.|
|Alma 11: 41||rise from the dead and . . . be judged.|
|Alma 41: 3||men should be judged according to their works.|
I would love to hear peoples’ thoughts on why or why not is it necessary to confess sins to clergy?
This scripture is in 1 Nephi 2:16:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
Just a little preface for those who may not be familiar with this scripture. Nephi’s father, Lehi had just had a vision that was difficult for his family to understand. In this example, Nephi turns to the Lord rather than to science, other men, etc. to learn the Lord’s mysteries. As a result, the Lord visits him and softens his heart. This experience serves as a building block for the rest of Nephi’s life as one reads through the Book of Nephi and sees how strong Nephi is in the Lord throughout his life.
As I read over this again this morning I thought about my own life. What are the “mysteries” that I’ve experienced and what are some that I’ve seen others struggle with? Examples include: is there a God? Which church is true? Is the Book of Mormon true? The Bible? Why am I sick? What job should I take? Who should I marry? What school should I go to? Why do we have temples and what is the meaning of what we do in temples? How can I experience God’s love? How can I love my enemy? How can I trust in something I can’t see (Jesus, God, etc.)? Why did I lose my job? Why don’t I feel happy?
I could go on, but the point is that “mysteries” to me are basically anything we don’t understand (which is about 99% of life!). Since there are so many things in life that are incomprehensible, that makes it even more important to turn to the Lord.
In the very next verse (1 Nephi 2:17) Nephi describes how we can know the mysteries of God, which is through the power of the Holy Ghost. Other scriptures state that the Holy Ghost will “teach us all things,” and by the power of the Holy Ghost we’ll “know the truth of all things.”
Receiving an answer and recognizing the answer from the Lord through the Holy Ghost may not come all at once. It didn’t for Nephi, but eventually the Lord visited him and said in 1 Nephi 2:19:
Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
Notice that the Lord didn’t simply give Nephi an answer, but it was because Nephi was:
1. Humble (i.e. didn’t rely on the philosophies of men and science but relied on the Lord)
2. Never gave up (he didn’t just ask once and call it good and then blame the Lord for not answering. He diligently sought)
3. He had faith (he believed the Lord would answer him)
I encourage all of us to follow Nephi’s pattern when we have a question or do not understand something whether it be gospel or spiritually related or something else in our lives such as our children, job, friends, spouse, or anything else.
One thing I’d like to add in conclusion. Although we can apply this formula to virtually any question we have in our lives, these scriptures are specifically referring to the “mysteries of God.” People ask questions such as “Was Joseph Smith really a Prophet?” “Is the Book of Mormon a true Book?” “Did Jesus really exist and atone for the sins of the world?” “Is there a God?” ”How do I recognize answers to prayer?” “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
Whatever questions we are asking ourselves, I hope we can apply these principles in our lives and turn to the Lord rather than man or science. I don’t know much about God’s mysteries and many of life’s mysteries, but the little I do know has been revealed to me through the Holy Spirit when I follow this pattern to know the mysteries of God.