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Recently I was preparing for a lesson with my Sunday School class of 16-18 year olds.  We’re studying the New Testament this year.  I found it interesting that in the early Christian church, there was continuous revelation.  The example in this lesson is found in the book of Acts chapter 15.

In this example, Paul and Barnabas come across some church members who are still requiring circumcision as in the Law of Moses.  Paul and Barnabas are not certain if that should be a requirement, so they go to Jerusalem and meet with the apostles for guidance on the matter.  After the apostles discuss the matter, they make a decision through guidance by the Holy Spirit (verses 19-28) and then they write an epistle for Paul and Barnabas to bring back to the church members for sustaining (verses 22-31).  They also send an apostle (Judas) back with them to deliver the message.

This process of revelation to the church is similar for the LDS church of Jesus Christ.  From what I understand, apostles contemplate an issue, pray for guidance by the Spirit, come up with a decision, then present it to the church for sustaining.  On occasion, there will be a letter sent out to congregations from the apostles and read by the local bishop, or the apostles or prophet may read it to the whole body of the church in General Conference (or General Relief Society Conference as President Hinckley did with the Family Proclamation). 

Rarely will revelation actually be canonized.  Over the last 150 years, I can only think of a few revelations that were canonized: Official Declaration 1: that announced the disbanding of polygamy in the 1890s, Doctrine and Covenants section 138 that addresses a vision given to President Joseph F. Smith (Joseph Smith’s nephew) regarding where our spirits go after we die, and Official Declaration 2 that announces that the Priesthood can be given to all worthy males (prior to this revelation black men could not hold the Priesthood). 

I have seen Mormon church antagonists take off-the-wall things that a prophet (usually Brigham Young) said or wrote in a book and highlight that as official church doctrine.  LDS apologists will be quick to answer that in that situation, the prophet wasn’t inspired and spoke without the Spirit on that occasion and since it isn’t canonized it is not official revelation.

However, there are many things that Mormon prophets and apostles have officially stated either through a letter to congregations or announced in General Conference that are not necessarily canonized.  Therefore, I can see how it could be hard for members of other faiths to see a distinction between what is revelation and what is opinion.

Personally, I feel that revelation is official as it is outlined in the New Testament example I shared.  If the apostles have gathered together, prayed, and received guidance from the Spirit on a matter, then announced it to the church officially through writing, it is “official”.  If an LDS leader decides to write a book, or say something off the cuff that’s wacky then that is not official revelation.

What are your thoughts?

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In a recent article in The National Catholic Weekly magazine, a writer brought up the great marketing the LDS church is doing in New York City.  His article highlights the Mormon.org billboards that are all over as well as on the taxis, etc.  and how great of a missionary tool it is.  Something he wrote about in his article stood out to me about his perspective on the traditional Mormon missionary strategy.  He writes:

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, showcases video and print portraits of young, diverse and energetic Mormons — and steers clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants or talk of theology —

“Steering clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants…” is the line that stood out to me.

What is the image that most people who aren’t LDS think of when they see the Mormon missionaries knocking on doors like they have done the same way for probably close to 100 years now?  Is that still an effective marketing tool, or should the church shake it up and allow missionaries to wear clothes that match the culture where they are?

 I know from personal experience that I felt much more at ease being a missionary without my white shirt and nametag than when I was wearing it.  I was a Mormon missionary in Germany for two years and I also lived in Switzerland and worked for awhile after my mission as well.  When I was a mormon missionary, people would bar the windows and lock the doors and bring the kids out of the streets the moment we walked into the neighborhood.  The white shirt and black nametag turned them off.

However, when I was dressed in my normal clothes as a “regular” person after my mission, I had many more missionary discussions with people who opened up to me because they perceived that I was a “normal” person. 

On the other hand, the Mormon missionaries have been branded by the white shirt and nametag and for people who are searching for them, they are easy to identify.

What are your thoughts on changing the Mormon missionary strategy and having Mormon missionaries wear “normal” clothes while proselyting?

Kudos to the people over at the TimesandSeasons blog! They were featured in the Salt Lake News Tribune last week as naming Harry Reid “Mormon of the Year.”

While I completely disagree with his politics, I can see how he could have that title. He has definitely caused a big stir this year and has been in the headlines frequently for wanting to push the healthcare bill along. Most recently, he was under fire for his comments about Barrack Obama’s skin color.

Others in the running for Mormon of the Year were: Glenn Beck, Stephanie Meyer, Jon Huntsman Jr., and others. My personal vote would have gone to Glenn Beck. I think he has caused even more of a stir than Reid has this past year. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine back in September too.

Any way you look at it, there were quite a few LDS people making news last year.

Just for fun I thought I’d let you vote on who the most famous Mormon today is. Here’s the poll:

Until I started blogging about 1 1/2 years ago I hadn’t heard of a lot of the stuff that’s out there such as “Adam/God Theory” and “Blood Atonement” that many anti-Mormons spread. The accusation of “earning” one’s salvation was something new to me as well that I had never heard of.

Faith is an interesting thing because it makes up so much of what a person does and how he or she views the world. When that faith is openly attacked the natural instinct is to bristle up and throw back some more punches.

Most “anti-Mormon literature” as we like to call it, is in my opinion ridiculous and pulled from obscure quotes by various prophets and not at all what we teach today. It’s the equivalent of taking some quote from one of the Christian crusaders and using it against all Christians.

However, there are many other of our fellow Christians who are well-intended in their approach with Mormons and who sincerely want to help us. Yesterday I read a great post over at Clean Cut that summarized a speech given by Dr Craig Blomberg. (If you don’t remember who Dr Blomberg is, he co-wrote “How Wide the Divide?“, which is a book on Mormon vs. Evangelical doctrine written by a Mormon and an Evangelical). In his speech, Bloomberg speaks to a large body of Christians in a talk entitled “What would Jesus Say to a Mormon?” I’ll have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about reading it because most people point fingers at us and try to tell us why we’re wrong. Dr Bloomberg did, what I think Jesus would have all of us do. He showed a genuine love for the LDS people and acknowledged their Christian beliefs. To view a summary of the 10 points he feels Jesus would say to Mormons you can also visit this blog.

I feel that although Blomberg doesn’t believe everything Mormons do he does exactly what a good Christian should do in my opinion and he sees the good and the common ground and builds on that rather than attacking the differences.  I also feel he did a great job in his top 10 list of pointing out things we as Mormons can definitely learn from, but he also showed other Christians that in many ways Mormons aren’t so far off from what they believe as well. 

What do you think about Blomberg’s approach?

Also, how to you feel about his top 10 list?  Do you feel it’s accurate?

For us as Mormons, how can we learn from this in our discussions with fellow Christians?

5-23-09

I just read another great post related to this topic that was written last fall.  It shares Dr Blomberg’s feelings of how the Mormon/Evangelical divide is from his perspective 11 years after having written the book.  Check out the site here.

Last Sunday I went with my family to an exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum called “Illuminating the Word.”  It was very, very interesting.  This project was a re-creation of the St John’s Bible as it would have originally been created with colligraphers.  In addition, there were artists who depicted their feelings from the Bible in paintings and writings on the pages next to the colligraphy as well.  I was very impressed and inspired as to how many people the Bible has touched and continues to touch and how the Lord has preserved His word through the Bible.

The translation the artists chose was the New Revised Standard Version because it most accurately alligns with the King James Version but is written in modern-day language.  I thought it was very interesting how the artist who wrote Genisis chapter 2 decided to include on the side an excerpt from 2 Corinthians 3:18 as written in the NRSV version.  It reads as follows:

…and all of us with unveiled faces seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…

Now, for those of you who have been through the temple, this will be very interesting.  First, I found it interesting she decided to insert this verse in the Adam and Eve story and secondly the verses themselves reflected the temple ceremony and purpose as well.

Most LDS people use the King James Version of the Bible, so I decided to take a look and see what the KJV said in this verse.  It reads as follows:

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, I also found a site that has about 10 other translations of this particular verse here.

Personally, I like the NRSV version best because it has such clear imagery and accurately describes one of the main purposes for me in attending the temple.

What are your thoughts?

I was looking up something from Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith that he gave in 1835 and I came across Jerry Stokes’ website.  In his website he compares these lectures to the Word of Faith movement (which I’ve never heard of before) and says it is heretical.  I will have to agree with him that many things stated in the Lectures on Faith are heretical to mainstream Christianity, which is a given for LDS theology.  One of the things he points out as being heretical is the fact that Joseph Smith states that one of God’s main attributes is faith and that without faith He would cease to be God.  This concept is found in Lecture 1 verses 13 – 17 and is quoted below:

13. As we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive. But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth. Thus says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, 11:3 —

14. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

15. By this we understand that the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity, that all created things exist; so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth exist by reason of faith as it existed in Him.

16. Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute — for it is an attribute — from the Deity, and he would cease to exist.

17. Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity? This is the testimony of all the sacred writers, and the lesson which they have been endeavouring to teach to man.

I can understand Mr Stokes’ concern coming from a Christian perspective.  He may be appalled to hear that Jehovah, who created the world, would need faith.  After all, the Greek meaning of the word faith is “conviction of religious truth or of God.”  If Jehovah is all-powerful and all-knowing and He is the being who we worship, what need is there for Him to have faith in Himself?  Furthermore, does this lesson God’s stature and is it blasphemous to say that God has faith just as man does?

I don’t think it is wrong to say God has faith.  By definition, faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  For example, we read in the first book of the Bible (Gen 1:1-2) that God created the heaven and earth and the earth was without form.  The Hebrew definition of “without form” means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; fig. a worthless thing; adv. in vain” .  Therefore, God hoped for and had faith in himself that the earth would be made and he created the beautiful world that we live in out of chaos (or nothing depending on your belief).  This fits into the definition of faith that we just discussed. 

Now, does saying this lessen God’s stature and elevate man’s in relation to God?  Not at all.  In fact, this proves the majesty of God and shows us our relationship to Him.  We are humans and have seeds of divinity in that we have the power to have faith and create things, etc.  But no one can create a world. 

Now, I will admit that I disagree with Joseph Smith’s statement that God would “cease to exist” if He didn’t have faith.  In the scriptures we read that God is never-changing and always exsisting.  God would be God regardless of whether He created worlds or not.

Overall, I believe in Joseph Smith’s statements on faith and man’s relationship to God.  I believe that man has great potential and that we are children of God and therefore have seeds of divinity within us. 

What are your thoughts?  Do you think God has faith and is it wrong to say that He has faith?  Do you have any other examples from the scriptures where God or Jesus showed faith?

In the book “How Wide the Divide,” Craig Blomberg from a Denver seminary and Stephen Robinson, from BYU (both have PhD’s in religion) attempt to “bridge the gap” between Evangelicals and Mormons.  The first step is to have a correct understanding of what the other believes.  The following is an excerpt from their book:

Since very few Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals are theologically bilingual, the same misunderstandings tend to be compounded over and over, which is grist for the mills of prejudice on both sides…(How Wide the Divide, page 14)

In an attempt for both Evangelicals and LDS people to learn about each other’s beliefs, both Blomberg and Robinson share a modern-day translation of “Articles of Faith” for both religions.  I will now share their thoughts.  Feel free to share yours in your comments.

LDS Articles of Faith Translated for Christians of other Faiths

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  We accept the biblical doctrine that God is three and that God is also one, but we reject the post-New Testament attempts to explain how these two truths are to be reconciled
  2. We believe that humankind fell through the transgression of Adam and Eve and that humans in their present state are subject to sin, death and corruption.  However, we believe that individuals are accountable for thier own sins, not for guilt inherited from Adam and Eve.  We accept both divine justice and human accountability, but we do not believe in original sin.
  3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, fallen humanity may be saved by accepting and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No one is predestined either to salvation or to damnation; anyone may be saved who responds appropriately to the good news of Christ.
  4. We believe that we respond appropirately to Christ and we accept his gospel by having faith in and being faithful to Christ as Son of God and Savior, that is, by accepting him as Lord and Savior and making him Lord of and in our lives.  We cannot merit salvation of ourselves, nor is it possible to “earn” the grace by which we are saved, but the obedience of faith, a godly walk and conversation, is a necessary component of faith in Christ.  Jesus will save us from our sins but not with our sins.  Beyond having faith in Christ, we must also repent of sin, consent to baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and receive the regenerating and sanctifying gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
  5. We believe that the Christianity of the first century, New Testament Christianity, is true Christianity.  As such, it is the only standard by which to define Chrisitanity, as opposed to defining it by post-New Testament councils and creeds.  We believe that the priesthood authority, church organization, spiritual gifts, sacraments (i.e. ordinances) and doctrines of the modern church must be as they were in the New Testament church.  This obviously includes the presence of apostles and prophets who receive direct, continuing revelation for the church in the world.
  6. We accept the Bible (the King James Version) as the inspired word of God–every book, every chapter, every verse of it–as revealed to the apostles and prophets who wrote it.  We also hold the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to be the word of God.
  7. We believe in the divine conception, subsitutionary atonement, sacrificial death, bodily resurrection and present glory of Jesus Christ and that he will return to this earth in judgment and in his glory to cleanse it from all wickedness and to establish his personal millennial reign.  Both the saved and the lost will be resurrected, the former at Christ’s coming or during his reign, the latter at the end of th millennium.
  8. We believe that the church established by Christ in the New Testament was changed by later Chrisitan intellectuals who believed the simple New Testament proclamation to be inadequate.  Feeling the language of Scripture to be unsophisticated, incomplete, vague, ambiguous or imprecise, the second, thrud and fourth-century church sougt to “improve” the New Testament gospel by the standards of Hellenistic philosophy, but compromised it instead.
  9. We believe that the Lord in preparation for his imminent second coming has “restored” New Testament Chrisitanity in the latter days through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Nevertheless, all honest Christians of whatever deonmination, not just LDS Christians, will be among the saved at the last day…(How Wide the Divide, pgs 16-17)

Evangelical “Article of Faith” or “Confession Statement”

  1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  2. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
  3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory.
  4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  6. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  7. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (How Wide the Divide pgs 29-30)

Today in church our bishop and some of his family members shared experiences they had while visiting Uganda, Africa.  It impressed me how he shared his testimony of how the love of God is shown in all people throughout the world and how he was so grateful for his relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

His experiences and testimony reminded me of a scripture in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 26:33, which reads:

…for he (the Lord) doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he ainviteth them ball to ccome unto him and partake of his goodness; and he ddenieth none that come unto him, black and white, ebond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the fheathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

This scripture reminded me of another statement made by the Baptist Preacher who believes in the Book of Mormon, John Ridenour.  In this statement, he submits that God is non-denomonational and that God doesn’t really care about doctrine as much as he cares about how we treat each other.  A part of his statement is included below:

How does God think?

When He looks down over my city, Kansas City, Missouri, He doesn’t see Baptist churches or Lutheran churches or Catholic churches or Pentecostal churches or Mormon churches. He sees His children. That’s it. God is not “denominational.” We have over 100 denominations in our city but I submit-the Lord recognizes none of them. That is, His Church is built upon the rock of revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 13). I submit-when the Lord looks down upon any city, He sees His Church-and all who have had a personal revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, are members of His Church. I’m saying–I want to view His church as the Lord sees His church–based upon a revelation of His Lordship, not doctrinal agreement. Why wait ‘till we all get to heaven to think like God thinks?

I’m also saying-too often we’re divided by doctrine. That ought not be. He who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior is my brother in the faith. Fellowship is centered around His Lordship, not doctrine. Again–all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, regardless of creed, color, or class, are my brothers and sisters. I like the way C.S. Lewis said it in his classic book “Mere Christianity.” Lewis says, “…it’s not that we Christians disagree; it’s that we disagree on the importance of our disagreements…” How true! Example…

For some of the brethren, it’s very important that we believe in baptismal regeneration before we will fellowship; for others it’s very important that we believe in irresistible grace (the Calvinist point of view of Salvation) before we can fellowship; with others, the will of man (Armenian point of view) plays a crucial role in one’s salvation. With some of us, we embrace the “second blessing” typically known as “the deeper life experience.” Methodists call it sanctification. Others of us do not believe in the second blessing experience. Some of us believe in the “baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit” with the evidence of glossalalia; others of us don’t. Some of us are pre-millennial regarding our views on the Second Coming; some of us are post-millennial; a few of us are amillennial. A few of us think esoteric temple rites have a role to play in the afterlife.

See what I mean? Fellowship too often is based upon doctrine.

We as mortals will never come close to seeing things the way that God does, but I think that the Book of Mormon scripture along with this statement by John Ridenour are very positive steps in starting to see things the way God does.  One of the beauties and magnificence of God is that he sees all people the same whether they believe or not.  He loves unconditionally in a way that we will never comprehend and His arms are always stretched out ready to receive us.  I believe that God blesses all people, and those who take steps of faith towards Him come to know and love Him.  As a result, we come to love and appreciate all people and see them as God sees them.

Now, I’m sure most people will agree that God loves everyone and is not partial towards one group of people, as the Bible teaches, but it leaves the questions: which doctrines and religions are recognized by God? Which ones are not?  Does it even matter?

All I can speak from is personal experience, and I firmly believe the path I’m on is the correct path.  I believe that God appeared to Joseph Smith and re-established the Church of Jesus Christ.  I believe this as a result of personal study and sincere prayer and many experiences.   However, I do not believe that the LDS church has a monopoly on truth and there are many things which haven’t been revealed to us as to how heaven works. 

I know many people in other faiths who say they’ve had just as personal of experiences and a witness from God that their path is the correct path.  I don’t doubt that God has just as close of a relationship with them as He does with me.  But if we believe there is one faith, one Lord, one baptism, etc. how can we say that God is not denominational?

So I was over at Rusty’s Blog and they have a cool website with a timeline of all the youtube videos.  I checked out the “Mormon” timeline and the very first one was Mormon Rap.  I remember when I was a kid and this first came out.  I haven’t heard it for 20 years but it brought back good memories and a smile listening to it again.  There are quite a few YouTube versions, but here’s a good one if you’re up for some reminiscing.  If you’ve never heard it before, be warned…it’s cheesy, but fun if you know the Mormon “lingo.”

Have fun!

06-24-08

I posted this just for fun the other day and who’d of thought it would be mentioned in an article by the Deseret News’ “Mormon Times” online.  If you read at the very end she links my “Mormon Rap” post to her article.

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