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I received an email from a close family member of mine who is of a different Christian faith requesting that I listen to the sermon given by a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity.

In the sermon, the gentleman discusses the differences between Muslim and Christianity and basically (without saying it, but implying it) that all Muslims had better convert quickly or go to Hell.  One of the reasons this man feels the Muslims are heading to Hell is because they do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

He goes on to quote Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on the Trinity as well, stating that a Muslim would say “Amen!” to Jefferson’s point of view on the Trinity.

Here are some of Jefferson’s thoughts:

—– To John Adams, 1813

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one . . .

—– To Van der Kemp, 1820

The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself. Very soon after his death it became muffled up in mysteries, and has been ever since kept in concealment from the vulgar eye. To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.

I’ll have to admit that I also said “Amen!” when I heard the former Muslim-converted-to-Christian man share Jefferson’s quotes.  It falls right in line with the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Mormons believe.

Mormons believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the LDS or Mormon Church) is the restored church that Jefferson wished for.  Personally, I feel that the LDS church probably isn’t an exact restoration of how it was when Jesus walked the earth, but it’s the closest one we have on the planet now.  Also, I believe that the LDS view of the Trinity makes a lot more sense than what standard Christians believe.

Mormons believe that there is a God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who make up the Godhead.  Each one is an individual personage and makes a lot more sense than the more common explanations of the Trinity that are very complicated, as Jefferson points out.

So…what do you think?  If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, would he have been a Mormon?

Baptisms for the Dead have been a part of the Mormon church almost from the beginning.  For those who are not familiar with the Mormon view of baptisms for the dead feel free to review this link for articles and scriptural references on baptisms for the dead.  Here is a very short history on where Baptisms for the Dead originated:

Joseph Smith had received a vision of the celestial kingdom in which he saw his brother Alvin, who had died before Joseph had received the gold plates (see D&C 137). Joseph was surprised to see Alvin in the celestial kingdom, because Alvin had not been baptized before he died. The Lord explained to Joseph that all people who would have received the gospel, been baptized, and lived righteously if they had been given the opportunity will be able to be in the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:7). Joseph later learned that baptisms for the dead could be done vicariously, using people on the earth as proxies.

Recently there was an article that covered members of the Jewish community being upset with the LDS church because an LDS member had done what is called “baptisms for the dead” in a Mormon temple for a  holocaust victim.  According to the article the LDS member who did the baptisms had seriously violated the church’s policy on baptizing deceased members of the Jewish faith as there had been an agreement between top Jewish and Mormon leaders.

If this LDS member is like me, he never heard anything about an apparent agreement between the Jews and Mormons not to have deceased members of the Jewish faith get proxy baptisms.

Some members of the Jewish community were outraged and suggested that the Mormon church should do away with baptisms for the dead.  This sentiment is also found within members of the Catholic church and other Evangelical churches.

Personally, I highly doubt that the Mormon church would do away with baptisms for the dead.  It is one of the key aspects of the religion.

Furthermore, I don’t see the reason why members of other faiths are so opposed to baptisms for the dead.  The way I see it, if they don’t believe in baptisms for the dead, then it is irrelevant if the Mormons do it in their temples.

What are your thoughts?

 

Last week’s article was about how to develop Charity (which we identified is the pure love of Christ) in one’s life.  This week, I thought it would be appropriate to share how you can measure the extent that you have Christ’s love in your heart.  These suggestions were given by members of our Stake Presidency on how to measure if one has pure love, or charity in their heart:

1. You feel a sincere desire to help others

2. Praying daily for charity

3. Looking for opportunities to serve, first within your own home and then with your neighbors

4. Being kind and patient in word and deed (even when it is hard)

5. Thinking about others’ needs

He had about 4-5 more that he discussed, but he talked so fast I couldn’t write them all down!

Some additional ideas I considered afterwards include:

1. Willingness to forgive

2. Not judging others

What other ways would you suggest as a good way to measure if on has the pure love of Jesus?

We had a pretty interesting discussion to close out our last Elders meeting in 2011.  It was a lesson on judgment and the second coming.  As you can imagine, many interesting things were said.  Some off the wall about what would happen leading up to the Second Coming, and others that were scripturally based.

One brother kept bringing something up though that caused me to reflect on an issue I hear quite frequently from fellow Christian friends of other denomonations, specifically on how they feel Mormons think they can earn their salvation and also become Gods.

The brother kept asking questions about what we needed to do in order to be saved.  He asked about the steps such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and going through the temple.  In his mind, it sounded to me like he thought he was home free once he made those steps.  He also made mention in reference to the scripture that if we make these steps, we will become Gods and have everything equal with God.

Although I am a Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, I completely disagree with these statements.  For starters, we will never be equal to God.  I believe that God (Heavenly Father), and Jesus Christ (also a God) are separate beings who are far superior to us and always will be.  Even though we are created in their image, we will never be equal to them.  I feel that it is damaging and dangerous to put ourselves at the same level with them in that it sets us up for pride and it is erroneous doctrine.

Some LDS or Mormon prophets (most notably, Lorenzo Snow) have come out and stated that we can become gods and that God was once like us.  Mormons are also quick to point to the scripture in the Bible that states in both the Old and New Testamant “ye are gods…” and use that as evidence that one can be a god.

A closer reading of the scriptures shows that every time Jesus or Heavenly Father are mentioned, the “g” in god is capitalized.  In the scripture that says we “are gods” the “g” is lower case.  To me, this means that we can become “like” God and have power and authority over certain things that He gives us, but we will always be inferior to Him and function under his jurisdiction.  Another way of looking at it is what we learn in the Mormon temple about us becoming “kings and priests” unto god, but not a God in the sense that He is God.

Regarding earning salvation, there are certainly actions we must take to receive the gospel into our hearts.  However, we will always be in debt to God the Father and Jesus for their sacrifice so that we have the opportunity to be saved.  Although we should always take actions to be obedient and close to the Holy Spirit, it is through the grace and mercy of Jesus that salvation comes.  The moment we start thinking we’re the ones accomplishing the task of being saved, we run into pride issues and this is also erronous doctrine to think we can earn our salvation.

Perhaps since I’ve been able to learn more from fellow Christian friends through this blog and other sources such as friends and family in other faiths, I am a bit more sensitive to the subject of Mormons earning their salvation and becoming Gods than I was before.  After that discussion we had in class, I can see why members of other faiths are alarmed when they attend a Morm0n church.

For those of you inside the church, do you think there is an issue with people feeling they have to earn their salvation?  What can we do to overcome this error in doctrine?

For those outside of the LDS church, have you had any experiences with Mormons thinking they can earn their salvation?  If so, please share your experience and how it makes you feel.

In the New Testament, James defines pure religion as visiting people in their afflictions, and also keeping oneself unspotted from the world.

With that thought in mind, I contacted one of my aging grandparents, whose health is steadily declining.  I received a phone call from my grandparent a few weeks ago, but the excuses I used for not getting back in touch included work, church service, raising kids, spending time with my wife, not being able to reach out because when I finally do get time it’s about 9:00 p.m. and my grandparent is in bed.

So the days turned into weeks and I would say almost daily to my wife “I should call my Grandpa” and finally she told me to quit saying that and just schedule it on my calendar, which I did.

When I called, there was a different voice on the phone than what I was used to hearing and I was confused.  I asked if I had the right number and he told me I did, but my Grandpa was too sick to talk.  However, when my Grandpa heard it was me on the phone, he motioned to the caregiver and he passed the phone over, warning me that there were sores all over my grandpa’s mouth and it was hard to understand him.

The voice I heard on the other end was frail and muffled.  I was humbled that despite his very poor circumstances, he wanted to make time for a conversation with me.  I reflected on all the good things my father taught me, which he had learned from my grandfather.  I was lucky enough to also live in the same town as my grandparents, so I got to know them very well as a young kid and teenager.  They sacrificed a lot for all of us.

The conversation was pretty short as he needed to get some rest, but I reflected on the call.  Why did it take me so long to call?  If I were living in the same town as him, would I be too busy to stop by regularly? 

I then reflected on the scripture on pure religion.

James does NOT say that pure religion is going to church, holding a high calling or position of authority, paying tithing, and a whole list of other things that one could name in association with being “religious”.  Rather, James says a key part of pure religion is visiting those who are afflicted.

It takes extra effort to go above and beyond and schedule time to visit those who are sick and afflicted.  It takes another step to go and visit with a heart filled with pure love as Jesus would have us do.  Many times the elderly seem helpless and have certain quarks or things that are annoying.  It takes the love of Jesus to look past those things and remember that at one point in our lives, whether we were teenagers, young kids, or helpless babies that our parents and/or grandparents took time to selflessly give us love and care.

It’s easy to get caught up in many things in life, but I hope that we all can remember to schedule time to regularly visit, talk with, or serve our aging parents and/or grandparents or other elderly people we may know who are suffering before it’s too late and we have regrets.  This time, I was fortunate enough to have reached out in time, but it took me way to long to do so.  My plan is to schedule time regularly on my calendar so I make it a regular habit.

What are some suggestions and ways that you go about caring for the elderly?

Growing up in a Mormon society and household, modesty was something that was spoken of frequently.  Since the majority of the population and culture I was in was predominately LDS, or Mormon, it was against the social norm to wear tight, or revealing clothing and when going out in the sun, bikinis were nearly unheard of.

When I went to an LDS, or Mormon college I found that although the school had a dress and honor code that reflected a similar dress standard as what I was accustomed to, there were many LDS girls who didn’t adhere to the standard when off-campus and especially at parties.  At first, I was very shocked that an LDS girl would wear a bikini to the pool, or a skimpy dress to a party, but I heard over and over again that where they grew up (in a predominately non-LDS environment) it was o.k. to dress this way.  This was what they felt comfortable in and if someone had a problem with it, so be it. I also heard girls who would dress this way act shocked that guys would be drooling all over them, or treating them disrespectfully.

I found the video below very interesting.  The presentation discusses the things that happen to a man’s brain when he sees a girl in a bikini vs. a girl fully clothed.  Take a few minutes to watch:

So what do you think?  Do you think Christian women should continue to wear revealing swimwear and that it is up to the guys to control themselves, or do you think women should cover up more and help the guys out a little?

An article entitled “Almost Everyone’s Doing It” in Relevant magazine includes a poll that shows 80% of Evangelical singles admit to having pre-marital sex.  What was even more surprising was another poll in the article showed that 65% of women who have abortions in the US identify themselves as Christian, but that’s a side topic.

The article goes on to try and determine what the reason is for such high pre-martial sexual relationships in Christians such as the influence from media, peer pressure, and how the average age of people getting married has gone up from the early 20’s to the late 20’s and it is just too hard to wait that long.

Out of curiosity, I thought I would look for statistics on LDS or Mormon singles.  The only official study I found was from 20 years ago that stated 58% of LDS single women admit to having pre-marital sex.  Since that study is pretty old and only relevant for LDS women, I would assume that if you threw men into the study and fast-forwarded it 20 years the statistics would be close to the same or maybe higher than the most recent study previously cited.

I definitely understand how hard it can be to wait to have sex until after marriage.  I remember hanging out with a bunch of LDS guys one night when I was single.  At the time, I was probably around 28 or 29.  The topic of sex came up and as it turned out, me and one other guy were the only ones who hadn’t had sex yet.  Even though I didn’t have sex before I was married, I was approached on quite a few occasions at the LDS school, BYU and (at the time) Rick’s College.  Therefore, the results of this study do not surprise me.

I think there are many factors involved in why the amount of single Christians are having more pre-marital sex.  From my experience as a single throughout all my 20’s and into my 30’s, I will share what I observed.

First, as humans, and especially in our 20’s, we have a very strong desire for sex.  I went to Mormon schools where almost everyone was in the same age deomographic and the hormones are running high.

Next, there is pressure either blatantly, or subliminally through media in the form of books, magazines, movies, music, etc. to be sexual.  If we just “go with the flow” so to speak and not turn off the media when we see it, or worse yet, seek it out, then it is no wonder that we at some point act on the thoughts that are in our head.

Next, I do think the later age of getting married does have relevance.  Back in our parents’ day, they were married on average in their early 20’s.  That is nearly 10 years younger and therfore, 10 years longer our generation has to wait.

Finally, I think many LDS Christians that I have seen feel they can sin now and repent later.  This is a whole other topic of discussion, but to keep it short and simple, this way of thinking is damning to our souls and our society.

The question then, is how can we overturn or correct these statistics?  Personally, I think an emphasis needs to really be placed on having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If we have that relationship, we’ll do all we can to stay close with Him.  Even with that relationship, it is difficult to turn away, but personally I know that when you are in a situation where you can choose sex or choose God, God will give you strength to walk away. 

Why do you think pre-marital sex is on the rise for Christians and what do you think needs to happen in order to bring those statistics down?

Recently I had a close member of my family give me a movie called “Joseph Smith vs. the Bible” (actually, they left it in my car).  Since I’ve rarely had a Christian give me something about Mormons that wasn’t propaganda to try and convince Mormons they’re wrong, I really had no desire to watch it.  However, I did browse around to see if there were any reviews on the movie so I could have an idea what it was about if my family member asked me again.

Just as I had thought, the movie, according to both Christian reviews and LDS reviews, the movie was heavily one-sided.  The reviews do a good job of summarizing the movie and explaining what it is about, but in a nutshell, the host uses scripture to prove that Joseph Smith is a false prophet based on a few things he said such as the temple being built in Jackson County, Missouri (which it hasn’t been), and the Book of Mormon prophets saying Jesus would be born in Jerusulem rather than Bethlehem, along with a few other things.  He does have a random LDS guy on there that he talks with who isn’t really an expert or knowledgeable on some of the anti-Mormon stuff out there, but other than that, it appears pretty one-sided to both Christian and LDS viewers.

As a practicing Mormon, I could get offended and throw the movie back asking my family why in the world would you think I would want to see this?  I could even go further and start pointing out flaws in the Bible and prophets who fail the test so to speak.  However, I do not think that is the appropriate thing to do.

When a Christian gives me anti-Mormon information, these are the steps I usually try and follow.

1. Try and see things from their perspective

If you are a Mormon, chances are the Christian is trying to help you “see the light” so to speak.  Also, consider that some of Mormon theology is based on the fact that the Bible doesn’t have the complete truth, which is complete blasphemy for a Christian as the Bible is their source of authority on Jesus.  Therefore, they are trying usually with good intentions (I try and give the benefit of the doubt) to help you get on the right path. 

If you are a Christian, realize that a practicing Mormon will probably get a bit offended as for Mormons, authority comes from the voice of the prophets and by you attacking Joseph Smith, you are attacking a fundamental concept of their faith.  Just as you fee offended when a Mormon may say the Bible isn’t completely true, the Mormon will most likely feel the same way with an attack to the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith.

2. Do a bit of research on the book or movie, etc. before reading or watching it

For Mormons who receive the literature, if you feel comfortable watching it, go ahead and check it out.  Pay attention to the message and the feelings you have as you watch.  My experience has been that it usually is negative and not a positive experience as I feel it is usually trying to attack my faith and make Mormons look stupid.  Therefore, I just politely decline.

3. Return the information to the person politely

If I do not decline the original offer, I usually give it back.  When I return it, I acknowledge that they are trying to help me and I thank them for thinking of me.  However, I simply say I have read the reviews of the book or movie and choose not to watch this.

4. Share testimony

After I give it back, I share a quick testimony.  Something very simple like just saying that I’ve prayed and feel the path I’m on is the right one for me.  Sometimes I don’t even go into the fact I’ve prayed and had an answer and I just simply state that I firmly believe the path I’m on is right and leave it at that.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who have been offered anti-mormon literature (or who have offered it if you aren’t a Mormon).  For the LDS readers, what steps do you take?  For Christians who may have given anti-Mormon literature out, what were your intentions and how the the LDS person react?

In the LDS faith, people are not baptized until they are at the age of accountability, which according to LDS scripture is the age of 8.   According to that scripture, the parents are commanded to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to their children and baptize children when they turn 8 years old or there is a sin on the head of the parents.

When reading a post about Catholic and LDS baptisms, the writer mentions someone close to her who was baptized as a Mormon at the age of 8 and felt like he didn’t have a choice in the matter.  He says he went along with it because it was the social norm and the thing to do and you “go along with it”.  Therefore, the baptism is essentially meaningless for the individual.

For me, I remember my parents teaching me about being baptized and also learning about it in class at Sunday school while I was 7 years old.  While I didn’t understand everything about the commitment it was (and probably still don’t for that matter!) I do remember being excited and that baptism was a good thing.  I remember practicing with my Dad how to hold onto his arm and keep my hand up so water wouldn’t get into my nose.  I also especially remember my baptism because I had to go under 3 times before I was totally immersed (for Mormon’s the baptism isn’t valid unless you go completely under water).

I wonder though what would have happened if I didn’t want to get baptized.  Would my parents have made me get baptized?  I also wonder if there are examples out there of parents who have kids who reached the age of 8 and decided not to get baptized.

What would you do if your child didn’t want to get baptized (assuming you had taught them about baptism and what it means, etc.)?

In one of my most recent posts, there was mention of Glenn Beck and how he has helped bridge the gap between Christians and Mormons.  Just days after I wrote that post, an evangelical member of my family contacted me about something Beck had shown the other day on end times from both a Christian and Muslim perspective.  Her exact words were “God sure is using Glenn Beck to wake up the American people”.  I decided to check out what she was referring to.

In this particular broadcast, Beck lays out end times from a Christian perspective and a Muslim perspective.  He basically points out that the individual Christians refer to as the Anti-Christ is praised by the Muslims as a prophet.  The mark of the beast Christians are warned to stay away from, is something that is welcomed by the Muslims and receiving the mark is an honor. 

To me, this is interesting but didn’t see a reason to get frantic or distressed over anything.   My perspective is that if I live my life in line with the gospel I shouldn’t worry.

It seems to me that most evangelical Christians are very well-versed in end-times prophesies and dedicate ministries to end times.  I was referred to the Olive Tree Ministries by my family member as well as Understanding the Times.  Both of these sites dedicate everything to current events and things happening that prove the end is near. 

I found it interesting that within myself I do not feel a strong sense of urgency or distress.  I wondered if that was me just being careless or if that is how it should be so I decided to look into what LDS prophets have said about the end times.  I found a great video entitled “Be not Troubled”  that is part of the lesson material from the Doctrine and Covenants manual entitled “Looking Forth for the Great Day of the Lord to Come“.  I found comfort in the scriptures and the video knowing that if I’m prepared I have no need to worry.

What are your thoughts?  Should we worry about the Anti-Christ and the end of the world?  What is your take on preparing for the Second Coming?

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