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Our little 6 year old daughter came home after church a few weeks ago and asked my wife why she was crying while the Primary was singing the song “Gethsemane”.  She said she felt good inside but also felt like crying.

As a father, I was so glad to hear this.  We spend so much time praying for her and trying to teach her how to strengthen her relationship with God and know Him through prayer and scripture study, church attendance, serving others, etc.  She has often asked me how she can understand if God is speaking to her so it was a perfect teaching opportunity to share with her that He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, which speaks to our spirits through feelings such as she experienced during the song.

I’ve included a very good video that has the song to help us as we each take time this weekend to reflect on the gift of the atonement that Jesus gave us.

Have a blessed and happy Easter!

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There are probably thousands of different definitions of the word “Christian.” We have chosen the same inclusive definition as is used by public opinion pollsters and government census offices: A “Christian”  includes any group or individual who seriously, devoutly, prayerfully describes themselves as Christian. Under this definition, Christianity includes: Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, United Church members, even a small minority of Unitarian Universalists, etc. (www.religioustolerance.org

According to this definition there shouldn’t be a divide between the various Christian faiths and Mormonism (LDS).  However, those who follow the LDS faith know they are not included and perhaps do not want to be included in the mainstream Christian faiths.  Recently there has been a push from the LDS leaders to emphasize their belief in Jesus Christ and embrace Christianity and Christians (from my experience) are not eager to welcome Mormonism to their fold.  This is due to some major theological differences and attitudes that I have observed, some of which I will address.

Theological Differences and Attitudes

  • Christians believe in Creeds (that include the Trinity theology and more) Mormons do not believe in Creeds, rather they believe in revelation from modern Prophets and apostles.
  • Christians may or may not believe in baptism as being necessary for salvation.  Mormons believe in ordinances such as baptism, the sacrament, marriage, etc.
  • Christians believe the “church of Christ” or the body of Christ are all the Christian sects who believe in Jesus.  Mormons believe the “one true Church of Christ” is the LDS faith.
  • Christians do not believe in a pre-existance and Jesus being our elder brother.  Mormons do.
  • Both Christians and Mormons are passionate about their belief in Jesus and try to help others “see the light.” However, the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus are not the same person if you ask a Christian. 
  • Mormons believe in universal salvation to a certain extent.  Christians believe those who confess Jesus are going to heaven.  Those who don’t are going to hell.
  • Mormons believe God has revealed scripture and will continue to reveal scripture through his prophets.  Christians believe the Bible to be the only word of God.

Through the years and during the past few months I’ve been reading blogs online, these differences along with other differences tend to be what Christians and Mormons alike tend to focus on.  Focusing on differences, however, causes a big riff between both Christians and Mormons (and any other people who have differences for that matter).  Is there a way to find common ground?  Is there a way to join forces for common good?  I believe there is.  I’ll outline ways I’ve found that we can bridge the Mormon/Evangelical Divide.

Bridging the Divide

  • Build on Common Beliefs

Regardless of who we believe Jesus is one can not argue that whether or not He’s the same Jesus that following His teachings will result in blessings.  Personally I’ve seen miracles happen in the name of Jesus in both Mormon and Evangelical circles.  In addition, I’ve seen God bless the lives of people who follow Jesus’ teachings in both circles.  Love, faith, kindness, service, patience, prayer, etc.  These are all common things both Mormons and Evangelicals can find common ground on. 

  • Don’t debate points of Doctrine

Mormons especially should be the last to argue with their fellow Christian friends about points of Doctrine.  In the Book of Mormon, Jesus clearly states that disputing points of doctrine should be done away with.  Trying to prove a point through scriptural debate will not lead to conversion and personally I’ve found that when I try to prove my point as being right and the other’s as being wrong, the Holy Spirit leaves and then I’m left to my own devises.  Building ourselves up to put others down leads to nowhere fast.

  • Don’t criticize others’ beliefs and religious practices

This ones a huge one.  I’ve heard Mormons criticize other Christians and put themselves on a pedastal by saying they’re in the “one true church,” that their baptism is the only baptism, that miracles can only happen through the priesthood, and much more.  Similarly, I’ve heard Christians mock Mormons for their “boring” religious practices in church and also scoff at their temple practices.  There are many more beliefs I’ve heard both sides criticize, but regardless of what one believes, we need to make sure we don’t condemn another for their belief.

  • Look for the good in every conversation

It is evident that there will be differences in belief, but even if we believe differently, it is very helpful to look for the good in every conversation we engage in.  There will usually be something both parties agree on and can build on.

  • Know when not to talk, or to walk away

I’ve seen both Mormons and Christians who simply do not want to stop arguing and want to prove their point as being right.  This is when it is time to be silent as Jesus was many times when people mocked him.  Sometimes it’s better to simply not respond to an argumentative blog post, or discussion.  Sometimes it’s best to be silent and walk away.

I’ve found personally that when I follow these guidelines I have much more in common with not only other Christians, but people from all faiths and beliefs as well.   I hope this post helps both Evangelical Christians and LDS to engage in uplifting discussions and bridge the divide. 

For some other great posts on this topic I recommend the following blogs:

http://summatheologica.wordpress.com/2008/05/04/the-temptation-to-debate/#comment-358

and

http://mormonmatters.org/2008/05/03/the-nature-of-god-and-bible-bashing-sharing/

 

 

 

Because of the recent media on the Fundamentalist LDS group that “got busted” in Texas for abuse and polygamy the LDS church has made efforts to distance itself from this sect.  Below is a recent interview with the LDS public affairs representative regarding the churches current stance on polygamy and how it wants the world to view the LDS church:

 

Polygamy is a huge issue and it is a great concern still for members of the LDS church.  Some have concerns with polygamy and say the LDS church still “practices” polygamy in the sense that it is still a revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants section 132.  In addition, people are still married in temples for eternity to spouses after one spouse passes away, so polygamy is technically still a part of LDS doctrine. 

Depending on the Christian you speak with, they will either denounce or embrace polygamy.  Generally speaking, the Christian world claims the Bible to be the only word of God.  The Bible contains polygamy all throughout it’s text and depending on which Christian denomonation you speak with, they can argue for or against it.  Here’s a christian website discussing the issue: http://www.gotquestions.org/polygamy.html.  Here’s another website that has people, including pastors arguing for polygamy and that true Christianity should allow polygamy with other Christians arguing against it: http://www.answering-christianity.com/ntpoly.htm.  As you can see in many cases interpretations of scripture are a matter of semantics as to whether God truly “approved” polygamy in the Bible or not and are up for interpretation.

Those who follow the LDS faith could have an easier time answering the polygamy question than their fellow Christians due to the fact they believe in modern, continuing revelation. 

Joseph Smith stated “I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 324). The LDS website also says polygamy isn’t allowed unless God directs it.  Therefore, God can take away polygamy or ordain it through his prophets as he did through Nathan in the Bible (2 Samuel 12:8).  Currently the LDS church doesn’t practice polygamy on grounds of a reveleation from a prophet named Wilford Woodruff that is contained in the Doctrine and Covenants in the “Official Declaration 1.”

However, there are still some questions that remain for both LDS christians and other Christians who believe in the Bible:

If the LDS church wants to take such a strong stance against polygamy, shouldn’t the church completely take it out of it’s doctrine, since it is still supported in D&C 132?  Why or why not?

Also, if one is to consider himself/herself a true Christian, should they believe in polygamy because it is supported in the Bible?  Why or why not?

 

Recently one of the members of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons or LDS) gave an excellent talk entitled “Faith of our Father.”  This talk is excellent for those in the LDS church and all Christians.  I was especially moved by the following remarks:

When my own family contemplates the phrase “faith of our fathers,” often it is the Lutheran faith that comes to mind. For generations our ancestors belonged to that denomination. In fact, my son recently discovered that one of our family lines connects back to Martin Luther himself.

We honor and respect sincere souls from all religions, no matter where or when they lived, who have loved God, even without having the fulness of the gospel. We lift our voices in gratitude for their selflessness and courage. We embrace them as brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father.

We believe that it is a fundamental human right to worship “Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”4

As I reflected on these comments my thoughts turned to my sister and brother-in-law who are members of a non-denominational Christian church.  They are youth ministers and feel called to help youth know Jesus.  I’ve been touched as they’ve shared their experiences with me of miracles they’ve seen with prayer, healings they’ve witnessed, places the Lord has called them to go, etc.  It has been a great example to me of how to turn one’s heart over to the Lord and serve as He would serve.  If you want to check out their website it is under my “Evangelical” section of this blog under “Ignite.”  You can read more about their ministry and how the Lord is working in their lives.

Next, I thought about my mother who is a member of another Christian faith.  She is another great example of following her heart and following the Lord.  She is always calling me with some great scriptures she has read and something she’s heard from one of her favorite pastors on Christian radio.  I also love praying together with her and the sincerity she as a Christian shows for the Lord. She is another great example of a righteous woman who has turned her heart to the Lord.  I’m grateful for her example.

I then thought of some of my friends from other faiths who have helped me throughout my life.  Many of whom have commented on this blog from time to time.  One such friend commented in one of my earlier posts entitled “Receiving and Recognizing Answers to Prayer” when she made a comment on how prayer is a sacred conversation.  Some more of my Christian friends made some good comments and analogies on the “Making our Hearts a Manger” post a couple months ago.

Also, there are many of you who frequent this site who are at varying stages in spirituality…most are Christian and a few do not profess any faith that I have learned from and respect.  Some of you I’ve emailed personally and responded to personally and I appreciate your example of continuing to learn and grow and the desire to be closer to Jesus.  It helps me with my relationship with the Lord. 

I want to thank you personally for sharing what you have learned and continue to learn.  I feel we all are from the same God who created us and that He works through us as we are willing to learn and come to Him through prayer.  Sincere seekers of truth in all religions and faiths sharing their ideas and spiritual growth are what makes us all grow closer to God and Jesus Christ.  I hope we can all continue to learn and grow together.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints boldy declares itself as the only true and living church.  Furthermore, Joseph Smith boldly states that God the Father and Jesus Christ declared that the christian churches only had a portion of the truth and that he should join none of them.  Therefore, The Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) declares that it’s baptism and confirmation is the only valid one in order to receive exhaltation. 

Obviously, a member of the LDS church isn’t following their religion if they judge someone for joining another religion as it states in the Articles of Faith to let everyone worship whatever or whoever they want to

However, in this article it discusses the droves of people that join other churches and many other churches and faiths claim the Holy Spirit told them to start their specific denomonation or join their religion. 

As stated in Bruce Nielson’s blog, some may argue about the definition of what a “church” really is.  However, I think whether a church is a congregation, or an actual building it is irrelevant.

I believe that God answers prayers of people of all faiths and leads them closer to Him if they ask in faith.  However, if they are recieving answers to their prayers and feel led by God to join a certain faith, how is it that God can lead someone to something that he told Joseph Smith was wrong? 

My theory is that God loves all truth no matter where it is and will lead all of us according to what we are willing to receive and that God has revealed much truth in forms of religion, science, and other means as well.  I also believe He has much more to reveal as soon as we are ready to receive it.  What are your thoughts?

I recently posted a blog on Grace vs. Works (https://graceforgrace.com/2008/02/19/do-you-believe-living-a-good-life-is-more-important-than-grace-or-less/).

I wanted to highlight a blog that answers this question very effectively.  I like this post because it not only answers the question, but other scriptures that have lead people to debate this topic.  Check out the blog here:

 http://thoughtsonlds.blogspot.com/2008/01/thoughts-on-grace-vs-works.html

What is Christianity?  In my opinion, it is living and adhering to the truths that Jesus taught.  We all know the truths.  Even those who aren’t Christian can’t deny their truth and goodness.  Love your neighbor as yourself; love your enemies, love God, the fruits of the Spirit; the virtues taught by Paul (belief, hope, charity, faith); repentance…the list goes on and on, but you get the idea.   

Some of you may have seen the recent not-so-Christian-comments on my blog from some of my friends from other “christian” faiths.  I know some of you have read them and one of you has commented on how un-christlike many of the comments seem to be.  It caused me to reflect and was brought to my attention again today as I was reading an article entitled “Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem.” 

In this article the author discusses her up-bringing in a christian denomonation of another faith.  She said her church would show videos on how Mormonism was akin to devil worshipping and how anyone who affiliates with a Mormon or supports one will bring down the wrath of God so to speak. 

If this is what’s being taught in Christian churches and schools it’s no wonder I receive comments of hatred against my beliefs.  They’ve all been conditioned to react in this way. 

On the flip side being raised a Mormon I was conditioned to believe in “the one true church.”  I know that in the past I’ve offended many Christians due to my arrogance and assumptions that what I believe is the only way to Heaven as well.  I apologize to my Christian friends for this.

My call is to all athiests, agnostics, Jews, Budhists, Christians…everyone.  Let’s open our eyes and start at the basics.  If we believe in something higher than ourselves, let’s start acting like it.  If someone believes/looks like/behaves/ or is something differently than us; responding with hate will not solve anything.  Hate breeds hate. 

I used to listen to the rock group, Creed back in the day.  They have a line from their song “What’s this Life For?” that goes “…we all live under the reign of one King.”

Whatever we believe this “King” is, let’s join together and shed our prejudices and our labels we’ve put on others.  Let’s all take steps towards loving and living “Christian” virtues.  Whether you proclaim yourself to be a Christian or athiest, you can’t deny that the virtues taught by Christ are essential to humanity. 

Will you join me in this endeavor?

After we finished excersizing today I collapsed to the floor by our bookshelves in the living room and said “Whew!  I’m going to sleep right here!”  I turned my head to the side and was about to close my eyes when I noticed one of my old German poetry books from college.  I hadn’t looked in it probably since college and so I picked it up and it opened to the following short poem by Angelus Silesius .

It Depends on You (by Angelus Silesius)

Oh, if only your heart could become a manger, God would once again become a child on earth.

The imagery and words immediately brought varying thoughts to my mind.

First, the image of a manger.  When we read in Luke chapter 2, we read of Joseph and Mary trying to find room in the busy inns.  In contrast, they find a humble location and a place in a manger.  In addition, I looked up words similar to “manger” in the thesarus and words such as “bassinet” and “cradle” are synonomous to manger.  I asked myself, is my heart like the inn or like the manger?  What can I do to clear it out and make it a place that God can rest?

The next thing I thought of was the part stating that “God would become once again as a child on earth.”  I thought of the numerous scriptures that Jesus spoke of us becoming like a child.  My favorite scripture is in Mosiah 3:19 when it talks about putting away our natural man and becoming patient, meek, humble, and willing to accept everything God gives us…the good and the not-so-good.

I’d like to hear what you thought of as you read the poem or my comments. 

How can we make room in our hearts for the Savior?

What can we do to become humble and meek like a child?

Why is it important, or is it even important to do these things? 

My 4th great-grandfather, Edward Partridge was a wealthy business owner when missionaries, including Parley P Pratt introduced him to the gospel.  Upon his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Edward forsook all he had including his business and his family disowned him.  However, Edward was steadfast stating: “I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit.” As a result, “my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1 (Jan. 1835), p. 61)

Two months after joining the church Edward became the first bishop.  He spent much time traveling throughout the United States to various branches of the church and administering to the poor.  He ultimately gave his life in service to his fellow man as he became ill but felt “he could not spend time to be sick.” (Woman’s Exponent, beginning 13 (1 Dec. 1884), pp. 102–3)

Since that time the LDS church has grown to become a leading and respected church in the humanitarian community.  The bishop of the church now assists the needs of millions of people both of the LDS faith and those not of the faith. 

Below are some articles that include statistics of the Church in their humanitarian efforts throughout the world:

Official Church Website

Humanitarian Update

Church News

I am personally grateful to have the example of Edward Partridge, who sacrificed all he had for the gospel.  I am also grateful to be a part of a church that reaches out and blesses the lives of so many of God’s children. 

I recently read a blog today from a person I don’t know, but that I can tell is an earnest seeker of truth. 

His post was entitled “Restructuring the Church for Explosive Growth.”  In his post he poses the question “What if we were to build a system from scratch that was simply designed to make disciples, create community and fully release each other’s gifts? What would the church look like? The church would look strangely similar to the first church.”

In his blog, he also suggests that a true church of Christ needs three things to work, namely:

Structure One – Body Church. This is a group of people (15-25) who live life together (like a body), regular share meals (like a family) and consistently gather in homes to build each other up under the direct headship of Christ.

Structure Two – Discipleship Training Center (the city church) – This is the School of Tyrannus idea where the teachers and trainers of a cluster of body churches (3-5) hold constant trainings designed to “make disciples” “teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded” and would be overseen by a group of city-wide elders.

Structure Three – The Apostolic Team – This is a diverse team of people with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching gifts that take responsibility for the health and well-being of many different city and body churches while using most of their resources to expand into new areas without ever neglecting the needs of existing works.

I agree with his analysis and suggestions of the three ways to have a church more closely aligned with Christ’s original church.  The good news is that this church already exists.  A short analysis of the three points and how they relate to this church are included below:

“Body Church”

 All members of this church are assigned other members to visit and care for in each others’ homes as well as instruct each other through the scriptures as led by the Holy Spirit.  In addition, every member is required to pay a tithe and fast offering which goes towards the needy in the congregation similar to the original Church of Christ.

“Discipleship Training Center”

He proposes that a group of Elders from various congregations within the same city come together to teach and train each other under the direction of Jesus Christ.  Again, this organization is found in a church in existance today.  The congregations are called “wards” and a group of wards within a city are called a Stake.  Elders from the stakes and wards meet regularly and train each other as directed by the Holy Ghost.  Weekly the elders in a ward meet as a quorum and quarterly they meet together as a stake to be instructed and led.

“Apostolic Team”

In this church there is a prophet and twelve apostles that lead and direct the church as a whole.  The whole church has over a thousand stakes and each stake has an evangelist, or patriarch that gives patriarchal blessings…prophetic blessings in a sense, to the members of the stake.  In addition, the apostles and the quorom of the seventy in this church share the message of Jesus Christ throughout the world. 

I appreciate the insights made on this blog as to what the true, original church of Jesus Christ should look like.  In addition to what has been stated, I will add a few more scriptures and insights from the Bible as to what the true Church of Jesus Christ should look like. 

According to the Bible, the original church was organized with Jesus Christ as the head, twelve apostles, and a quoroum of the seventy.  After Jesus died, Peter became the authorized leader of the church under the direction of Jesus.  The apostles ordained Elders, Pastors, Prophets, Teachers, and Evangelists (see Ephesians 4:11) in the original Church of Jesus Christ. 

In addition, the members of the church lived the law of consecration and had “all things in common,” and “sold their possesions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”(Acts 2:45

The original Church of Jesus Christ aslo had the following characteristics: the members were called saints (Ephesians 4:11-14); saints received church callings by the laying on of hands (Acts 13:1-3); people healed by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil (Mark 6:13) (James 5:14); temple worship (Acts 2:46); the saints saw visions of angels on numerous occasions (Acts 12:7-9; 27:23-24) and Stephen even saw a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ (Acts 7:55); baptism was essential for salvation and one was baptized before receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37-39); the structure of the church had one chief apostle or prophet, which was Peter and then twelve apostles were essential (Acts 1: 15-26).  For more information on what was found in the original church, see “17 Points of the true Church.”

The good news is that the original Church of Jesus Christ has been restored again.  I invite this person to view the restored Church of Jesus Christ’s websites and to pray for guideance from the Holy Spirit as to whether this church is the true church.  I promise that if his approach is sincere with a desire to follow the Savior, he will know through the Holy Ghost that this church is indeed the restored Church of Jesus Christ.   

From personal experience as a member of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, I can testify to my fellow friend of another faith that this is indeed the restored original church of Jesus Christ.  I’ve seen many miracles and felt overwhelming feelings of joy and love while serving others in this church.  This church is what he is looking for if he’s seeking an organization that is the same that existed in the original church.  If he approaches the investigation with faith and nothing wavering he will receive a confirmation that this is the true church. 

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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