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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mormon Definitions vs. Christian Definitions: Are They the Same?

Mormon Definitions, Christian Definitions

Atonement: Jesus suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and then dying on the cross so that he could be resurrected to allow for all to have general salvation and for all to work for their individual salvation.
Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the grave on the third day to give us forgiveness and freedom if we have faith.

Aaronic Priesthood: The "lower" priesthood, sometimes also called the Levitical priesthood, usually given to boys upon turning 12 and including responsibilities such as blessing and passing the sacrament and, for the 16+ boys, baptizing.
A priesthood in the Bible established only for descendants of Aaron and which was for sacrifice in the Tabernacle or Temple. The men of the tribe of Levi would help the priests of Aaron in their duties and in minor sacrifices.

Baptism: An ordinance required for individual salvation, a literal washing away of sins.
An act of declaration to outwardly show the inner cleansing of the Spirit, not required for salvation but strongly suggested if the individual is able.

Bible: The Word of God only as far as it is translated correctly (Articles of Faith). Just one book of scripture on LDS canon.
The inspired and complete Word of God.

Celestial Kingdom: The highest of the three levels of heaven.
There is no Celestial Kingdom, only celestial beings, e.g. angels

Church: The LDS church as a denomination, including its whole structure and laws.
The body of believers in Christ.

Damnation: Eternal progression being stopped. E.g., after resurrection, one is cut short from continuing in their journey to godhood.
Being sent to hell.

Elohim: The name of God the Father.
The title or word for God in Hebrew. 

Godhead: The three gods working together as three separate beings who are one in purpose; God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost.
The Trinity. One God, with three separate personages, or manifestations.

Gospel: The laws and ordinances of the LDS church.
The "good news" of Jesus Christ.

Jehovah: The person of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
The English version of the sacred name YHWH, or Yahweh, which is God's name, the great "I AM."

Jesus: The firstborn of God the Father, our spirit brother, and third person of the Godhead.
The Word made flesh, God among us

Marriage: An eternal institution necessary to reach the Celestial Kingdom.
A covenant between a man and a woman that doesn't continue after death because it is unnecessary.

Melchizedek Priesthood: The greater priesthood of the LDS church, held by adult men and including the responsibilities of performing of all higher ordinances.
A priesthood held only by Jesus, as he is our High Priest (there's only ever one) and he was not born of the tribe of Levi. Melchizedek was a "type" of Christ, or a shadow of what was to come.

Pre-existence: Our existence with God's as his literal spirit children before coming to earth to receive bodies and earn our salvation.
There was no pre-existence. We are created, and while he knows us before we exist, we do not exist until we are in our mother's wombs.  

General salvation--through grace, all will be resurrected and then judged according to their deeds and placed into the appropriate level (or glory or kingdom) of heaven.
Individual salvation--through grace plus obedience (works), the individual can earn their level of heaven. Only acceptance of the Mormon Church as the only true church and reception of its ordinances will guarantee a place in the highest level of heaven.
"There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:350)

Forgiveness of sins so that we can live with God, since He cannot abide sin in heaven due to His perfect nature. We obtain forgiveness through faith alone.

Satan: Spirit brother of Jesus, who rebelled against God's plan because he wanted the glory.
A fallen angel.

Are the definitions the same? Not at all. They use Christian/Biblical words, but they do not have Biblical meaning.

Blood on my Hands

Acts 20: 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

I have spent a lot of time in counter-Mormon ministries on Facebook and on this blog. However, neither of those minister to my friends and family. None of them challenge people I know and love personally to either ignore me and ignore truth, or to challenge their faith. I would not be able to look God in the eye on judgment day and say, "I tried to bring them your gospel."

Mathew 24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Luke 6:26Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

I've been wanting people--my family, mostly--to "speak well of me." I don't want to be concerned about that anymore.

My dad told me yesterday that there's not an argument I could give him that a Christian hasn't given him before. I want to prove him wrong, so that he either has to reject me or reject what he thought. He might reject me. They all might reject me. But I don't want to face God and have to tell Him that I was more worried about being rejected by my family than by Him.

What do I have to lose? If what I believe turns out to be untrue after death, then I have no way of preparing for what is. If there's nothing after death, I won't have any regrets. I know what I believe about after life after death, and I have no excuse not to practice what I preach.

I think I'll start by just posting scriptures on Facebook that contradict the Mormon beliefs. I've heard of so many people leaving the Church just by seeing the truth of the New Testament.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mormons, Masons, and Temples

What is freemasonry?

At the time of the Crusades, a group of knights pledged themselves to protecting pilgrims to the Holy Lands because pilgrims were being slaughtered on their way there. These knights lived a Holy Order, and they become known as "The Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon" or, for short, the "Knights Templar." Their practices in the temple did not resemble the practices performed by the Jews in the Temple. They  became rich and wealthy and not always so knightly, and eventually they fell.

Later on, in the construction of the great Gothic cathedrals and other impressive structures of the Dark Ages, masons who were free from serfdom came together and worked together, becoming exclusive and creating lodges to talk about their trade. They required a person to be initiated into their ranks. They started claiming ties to the Knights Templar to give themselves credence.

In the Renaissance, many men of reputation wanted entrance into the lodges. Free-masonry was open to all men of learning and wealth who were initiated through their rites and rituals. Their symbols included the compass and the square, and the plumb line, being the tools of masonry and the symbols of the standards they wished to keep. They used secret grips, handshakes, and passwords. These were kept so secret that when a man who was going to publish the secrets mysteriously disappeared and died in America a few centuries later, the popularity of Masonry steeply declined.

Here are some terms and phrases in Masonry that might sound familiar to a Mormon, especially one who has been through the temple for endowments:
"mystic veil which has long been lifted"
"compass and square"
"they put on an apron"
"hat, sash, yoke, and apron"
"brethren will be properly clothed"
"make the sign"
"under no less penalty"
"the left arm...forming a square"
"drop the left arm suddenly"
"Holy Bible, square, and compass"
"raise the hands and drop...repeat three times...(saying) 'O Lord' "
"whispers the password...in the ear"
"all rise"
"confirmation will make it known by the usual sign of the Mason (raise the right hand)"
"those opposed, by the same sign"
"found worthy"
"three distinct knocks"
"let him enter"
"should you attempt to reveal the secrets"
"own free will"
"I (state name) of my own free will...in the presence of Almighty God...that I will always hail, ever conceal, and never reveal"
"as the sun rules the day and the moon governs the night"
"by the signs and tokens"
"Has it a name?" "It has" "Will you give it to me?" "I did not receive it."
"a new name"
"deeply impressed upon the mind"
"let us report"
"orders of the priesthood"
"the veils are now pushed apart to admit the candidate"
"High Priest"
"the New Era"

So what goes on in the Mormon temples? Many of the rituals and rites are sacred--though the LDS like to say "sacred, not secret."

One of the first and least secretive is Baptisms for the Dead. I performed this one when I was still LDS. A member of the church gets baptized on behalf of someone who was dead who wasn't Mormon (regardless of whatever it was they might have been) so that they can have a chance to be saved in the afterlife. This is especially interesting because the Book of Mormon teaches that there are no more chances after this life (Alma 34:32-25, Mosiah 3:24-27). The only Bible reference to baptizing for the dead is when Paul is speaking of non-believers ("they" vs. "we") practicing it, in trying to convince believers of the resurrection.

The second common ceremony is the Endowment Ceremony, in which patrons are "endowed" with special knowledge. The first part of this ceremony involves a washing, which used to be literal, but which is now symbolic. This is followed by being the garments, which originally were meant to only be worn in the temple, and which have evolved as American culture's modesty standards did. The garments have Masonic symbols sewn on them. A person is then given a secret name, which will act as their password into heaven. Next, they watch a film on salvation. This film used to include a depiction of Satan hiring a Christian minister to deceive people. After this, more symbolic temple clothes are worn, and the person is taught special "signs" and "tokens" which include secret handshakes and arm movements which they will later be "tested" on in a ritual symbolic of entering heaven. This is a very Masonic ceremony. However, some of these stranger ceremonies were removed, particular the penalty ceremony in which temple-goers would represent their own deaths if they revealed the ceremony secrets (removed early 1990's), and an oath which promises to avenge the death of Joseph Smith.

Sealings are where a man and wife, and perhaps their children if they weren't born into a sealed marriage, are sealed together for eternity, in contradiction to the teaching in the Bible from Jesus himself that marriage as we know it on earth will no continue in heaven.

The final ordinance is the second sealing, which is offered to people only by invitation and which guarantees the recipient of the highest degree of glory in heaven. It is not public knowledge whether this is still performed in temples today.

All of this is so Masonic and secret in nature for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, many of these rituals were "revealed" to Joseph Smith after he became a Mason. Even his last words were Masonic: "O Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?" is the Masonic cry for help. Second, none of these are at all like what was done in the Temple of Solomon. Claiming that they are the restored true church but having strange rituals that are not at all Biblical is certainly contradictory to that claim and would probably scare away potential converts who knew the details.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


“Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
(Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 1, p. xl)
  Ensign, Dec 1984
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed to the world consistently since its beginning that there was an apostasy of the church founded by Jesus during his Palestinian ministry and led by his Apostles following his ascension. 1 This is a fundamental belief of the Latter-day Saints. If there had not been an apostasy, there would have been no need for a restoration.
"The doctrines which its inspired leaders taught were corrupted and changed by others not of similar inspiration, the authority to act in God’s name was taken from the earth, and none of the Christian systems that existed after those developments, though they did some good things, enjoyed divine endorsement as the Lord’s own church.
In the face of these and many other teachings of apostasy and perversions of pure doctrines, its obvious that the LDS church hinges on the reality of a "great apostasy."
 The funny thing is...there's absolutely no evidence outside of the LDS church to support the idea. You would think that non-Christian scholars would have been able to objectively find this evidence by now if it existed.
What sort of evidence would there be supporting such a large-scale apostasy?
  • Major contradictions and differences between current New Testament translations and ancient documents found dating from around the time of the apostasy or before.
  • Contradictions between documents from similar time periods.
  • Lack of manuscript evidence.
  • Major contradictions between the current Old Testament and ancient documents found from B.C.
  • Possibly, papal bulls or other evidence of the Catholic church ordering changes and keeping it secret from the public.
However, none of this sort of evidence is to be found. In fact, all evidence is to the contrary. While some can argue that the choosing of canon wasn't inspired, the actual question of translation is straightforward. The Old Testament is amazingly preserved. The Dead Sea Scrolls prove this. They contain portions or whole copies of almost every Old Testament book, and show that our current Hebrew texts used for translation are extremely accurate today. Translation from there is just based on language-to-language accuracy in translation, which is why there are differences in translations.
The New Testament, while lacking original manuscripts, has an abundance of manuscript evidence. None of these show any notable discrepancies or doctrinal changes in varying locations and times.
The Catholic church had no need to order changes to be made. Only the priests could read the Bible since it was in Latin, and they taught it how they were taught to. The public had to take the church at its word.
The LDS church likes to say that the Council of Nicaea, which produced the Nicene Creed, was where the idea of the Trinity and other false or confusing doctrines began, but that the earliest Christians believed in the Godhead the way the LDS church now presents it. That is a blatant twisting of history to fit an agenda. In reality, the idea of the Trinity is backed up in both the Old and New Testaments (though predominantly the New). And, as stated before, manuscript evidence backs up that the Bible is not unreliable in its translation. See my blog "More About the Trinity" (http://escapedlds.blogspot.com/2010/11/more-on-trinity.html) for examples of Biblical support.
Since the Church is the entity that claims that there was a "Great Apostasy," it would be on them to give evidence. However, all of  their evidence involves generalized and incorrect statements on historical happenings or misinterpretations of New Testament verses (such as in the Ensign article above).
Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
The church did not need to be restored. Once Jesus started it, he said even the gates of hell couldn't bring it down. There was no need for a restoration of the true Gospel, and therefore another of the foundations of the Mormon Church is faulty.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mormons to Atheists

A lot of Mormons who leave the church become atheists, or at least agnostic. It makes sense, really. Generally there's a great sense of betrayal when the truth is found. Anger and bitterness easily become part of your emotional make-up for a long, long time, even if its only under the surface and hidden away in a corner. At the least, you feel mistrust of religion and people who claim to know God--how can you trust them when you've already been so thoroughly misled once already?

I could never have become atheist. I have a hard time understanding the idea of such meaninglessness. You're born in a world that somehow became something from nothing, which is supposed to be impossible. The basic goodness we see across civilizations (e.g. no murder in cold blood, at least within your tribe or unit or class; no adultery; no stealing; no lying) comes from the need to survive cohesively rather than from any higher moral standard. Morality beyond that is at least somewhat subjective, though most people will try not to damage themselves and others with their words and deeds. Everything is lost at death, and there is no life beyond. Everything is meaningless. It makes the world feel like rubber to me--fake.

Here's a summation of atheism I heard today, and while some atheists may take offense at it and may have reasons why its not really completely correct, it sums up why I can't accept the non-existence of a designer of this universe.
"The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.”

At least agnostics believes in something greater out there, they just don't have much definition of what, except maybe their ideas of being a good person to please it.

I have questions about my Christian faith often. I learned to question my faith instead of believe blindly. But it sure makes a lot more sense to me than the universe and humanity coming into existence from nothing without the catalyst of something uncreated.

That doesn't mean I have to deny reality. I just see God behind it. 

Romans 1:20 New International Version

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Salvation--4/17 Sermon: "Access Granted"

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I love my pastor. It has been on my heart to write about salvation this week, but I kept waiting, feeling like it wasn't quite yet time yet. Then I get to church, and because it is Palm Sunday and the Sunday before Easter, my pastor spoke on salvation. The title of the sermon? "Access Granted."

On the stage was a beautiful big door. I have to wonder where they got it and who made it, because it was a gorgeous door, the sort of door you'd see in a really really nice house where a master carpenter lovingly put time and effort into making something beautiful and lasting. This door represented the door between us and God.

When Adam and Eve (man and woman) first walked the earth, there was an open door between them and God. They could literally walk with God. They were in total submission to and in perfect relationship with God. The only thing He asked of them was that they did not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. By doing so, they would essentially take on the role of "gods," being able to say what was right and wrong and not be in complete submission to and love for God the Creator in all things. They would be able to know and do sin. This was not a good thing. We are not and can never be God, so to take on the responsibilities of knowing good and evil separated us from God, who is perfect. But they were tempted by Satan, who tempted them with this promise of false godhood, and they gave in.

The door closed. Access Denied.

Since then, men and women have been trying to find a way to open that door. Many keys have been invented and pursued: religion, philosophy, good works, self sacrifice, reincarnation... Yet none of those things can open that door, because we will never be good enough. We can never perfect ourselves in this imperfect state. We are not God.

But then Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross for us.
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.  47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 Jesus took on our sins, offering forgiveness of all the wrong things we have done. We can't offer that to ourselves, we can only receive that by accepting it from Jesus. This is why belief, faith, in Jesus is the only requirement for salvation, and no works can ever do for us what Jesus' great work did.

In the Temple in Jerusalem, the innermost room was called the Holy of Holies. In it, once a year, the High Priest would enter alone to made sacrifice for sins and ask for forgiveness for the sins of all the people. This had to be repeated every year because it was a sacrifice done by sinful humans for sinful humans, and it was just an example, a type, of what was to come. The High Priest had to be purified and repentant in order to safely enter the Holy of Holies, as he was coming into the presence of God. To enter, he had to pass a thick, tall veil that protected the outside world from the overwhelming presence of God.

The moment Jesus died, the Bible tells us the veil was torn--from top to bottom. (Mormons have sewed it back up and put it back in their temple.) The significance of it being torn from top to bottom is that it couldn't have been people doing it: it was God. The people of god no longer needed protection from God's presence because there had been atonement made for the sin that separated God from man. God could and does enter into believers, making them his temple now.

Jesus opened the door. Access Granted.

We have the tendency to still think that only good people go to heaven. Yet look at the thief on the cross. The Romans didn't idly toss any criminal onto a cross. They generally only used crosses in areas where there were people not subject to Roman rule, and only for the worst criminals, traitors, and rebels. They were placed on hills or on roadsides to make a point of the might and strength of Rome for people who saw them. It was a terrible, ignominious, drawn-out, horrific, and shameful death. These criminals who were crucified with Jesus would have been arrested, tried, and sentenced in hearings not unlike those held in American courts today. They truly deserved their punishment. They were not good people just trying to survive by stealing some grapes in the marketplace, they were lowlife robbers.

Yet when the one defended Jesus in the face of the other's mockery and bitterness, and then asked Jesus to remember him, something amazing happened. Jesus didn't say, "well, this may be difficult, but you're going to have to make amends, go through a long and arduous repentance process, and then be a good person from now on." No. He promised that the man would be with him in paradise that day.

Good people don't go to heaven. Forgiven people do.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Got my tattoo!

This may make my family reunion this summer interesting...But if they wish to judge me because I have put the cross of Jesus on my body instead of judging me on whether or not my heart is right with God, then on their own heads be it. I just hope that any disapproval will be expressed to me personally instead of my mom having to defend me again, as has happened in the past.

Interestingly, when I looked up "tattoos" on lds.org, this is the first link I got:
  • Your body is a gift from God; it is the temple for your spirit. Tattoos are like graffiti on the temple.
  • Getting a tattoo has spiritual and financial costs.
  • Not getting a tattoo shows you follow the prophet’s counsel.
  • People who get tattoos regret it sooner or later and often go through the expensive and painful process of trying to have them removed.
Thousands of years ago, the Lord told His people, “Ye shall not … print any marks upon you” (Lev. 19:28). Today, President Gordon B. Hinckley has given the same message: “You are a child of God. Your body is His creation. Would you disfigure that creation with portrayals of people, animals, and words painted into your skin?
“I promise you that the time will come, if you have tattoos, that you will regret your actions. They cannot be washed off. They are permanent. Only by an expensive and painful process can they be removed. If you are tattooed, then probably for the remainder of your life you will carry it with you. I believe the time will come when it will be an embarrassment to you. Avoid it” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 11).
Embarrassment. Regret. Permanent. Painful. Getting a tattoo doesn’t sound like much fun. Besides being expensive and painful, a tattoo can affect getting a job or even your eligibility to serve a mission (see Tattoos and Your Mission” on p. 44 of this issue).
Some teens who responded to this question have parents or grandparents who have lived with tattoos for many years and wish they hadn’t gotten them. Even if a tattoo seems cool or seems like something that would help you fit in with certain people, sooner or later you will regret having it.
To learn what’s wrong with tattoos, read Alma 3. It doesn’t say “tattoos,” but it talks about the Amlicites, who “marked themselves” to show that they had left the faithful Nephites and joined the Lamanites. That mark was a sign of their “rebellion against God.” That’s the problem with getting a tattoo. Those who get tattoos disobey the prophet and, instead, follow the fads of the world.
Your body is a sacred creation (see 1 Cor. 3:16–17). Keeping it clean invites the Spirit to be with you and shows reverence for Heavenly Father and the gift He has given you. Those are some of the reasons the prophet has asked us not to get a tattoo.
If you are still considering getting one, pray for guidance and talk to your parents about it. One thing is for sure: you will never regret following the prophet’s counsel."

Notice the scriptures that are referenced. The first is from the Old Testament and is part of the Law, and is in the same section that requires beards to be kept a certain way and other things we aren't required to follow today. The next is from the Book of Mormon, and equates tattoos to rebelling against God. They misuse the final New Testament scripture by implying that defiling the temple means getting a tattoo. Elsewhere in the New Testament, defiling the temple of the body means participating in sexual immorality and other similar sins.

Also, its interesting and ridiculous that they say you will always regret and be embarrassed by having gotten a tattoo. I know people in their fifties who got tattoos and have no regret. I've seen many tattoos that were gotten with a purpose. One friend of mine got his tattoo in memory of his best friend and best man at his wedding, who passed away from cancer. I see no reason why he would ever regret that. I s

I see no reason why I would ever regret or be embarrassed by having the cross of Jesus in a discrete place on my body. Its not huge. Its easily covered. It is in a place that I will eventually not show to people even on warm summer days, when I get very old. Its in a place that is slow to get wrinkles and will probably never get stretch marks. And it represents my faith in Christ. As my husband pointed out, if I live to see the end times, there's no way I will be able to pretend to believe in anything other than Christ, and I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why is the Mormon Church a Cult?

This comes from http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html. Italics are my commentary on how the church fits these lists.

 Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.(The General Authorities are answerable only to themselves. The membership must accept what they are told, even if its wrong. They are even told that they are blessed for doing something even if they know their church leader is wrong in asking them to do it.)
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. ("Anti-Mormon" sources are defined as anything that is not church-published and/or pro-Mormon and/or something that does not match the current desired public Mormon image. Members are strongly discouraged from researching anything anti-Mormon. Investigators are encouraged to use the church as their primary source for answers about the church.)
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement. (In any country where they can get away with it, most markedly in their home country of America, they do not publish their budget.)
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions. (Food storage, anyone? More than their obsessive preparation for natural disasters and end times, they always love to point out past and present persecution. They always manage to forget that they started it.)
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil. (Most people who leave will lose good relations with at least one friend or family member who is Mormon. Most are thought to have been weak, sinful, or misled. Members very rarely actually ask an ex-Mormon why they left. They assume any reasonable answers the apostate will give them are just excuses, and personal shortcomings are the real reason.)
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances. (Guilt-trips, constant worries about worthiness, absolute control of everyday life...once you leave, you experience ostracism, criticism, lies, verbal abuse, abandonment...)
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader. (Oh, goodness. Sources galore! This blog alone is testament to that, and its one of many.)
  8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".(As I said, constant worries about worthiness. This is because the church teaches salvation through faith+works, and then gives a huge long list of required works and ways to be and things to do.)
  9. The group/leader is always right. (Always. Don't question the prophet. If you do, you've "gone astray.")
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible. (Pretty sure that's why they call him a prophet and a mouthpiece of God and say that if he says it, it might as well be God saying it.)

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration. (You will hear Mormons say time and again that their testimony is too strong to be swayed by anything else. Many base their most important life decisions on what the church says is okay.)
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens. ("I am a Mormon and I follow Thomas S. Monson and I believe he is a prophet of God." The title "Mormon" becomes an identity.)
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution". (It can't  be freedom of speech or even true. Nothing will make the church or the prophet less true. If they're criticized, they're true because it means Satan is causing persecution. If they're praised, they're true because people recognize truth.)
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior. (Fast and testimony meeting, anyone?)
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement. (If its not taught by the church, its not true.)
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests. (Not sure where to begin with this one. Missions that take two years out of young people's lives in which they can only call their own family only twice a year? Temple marriages being demanded, and demanded at a young age even though the young people may not be ready?)
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor. (Well, I know plenty of Mormons with good humor and who enjoy a good time. My family on my mom's side is a great example. But they look down on many harmless enjoyable things because of all their rules.)
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader. (Yeah, that does happen. Especially if the non-member family or friends know that their friend or family member has joined a cult. Other Mormons become the new friends and family.)
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful. (Polygamy!! Discrimination!! This abounds in the Mormon church! Mormons are currently discriminating against gays most strongly. Much of America does so, but the Bible teaches to love everyone and that all are sinners and all need a savior. Why are gays an exception? Until the 1970's, it was blacks that met this discrimination.)
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided. (I lost a friend when I left. Many Mormons I was once friends with do not seek any significant contact with me now. How strongly contact is avoided depends on the individual. Many people experience much worse than I ever have.) 

This part my commentary is not about the Mormon church, but my experiences in what churches do follow this. 

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

  1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive. (Biblical Christianity)
  2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know. (Biblical Christianity--I can get a financial statement for last year from my church.)
  3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight. (Biblical Christianity--there is a team of staff and pastors at my church to hold each other accountable.)
  4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them. (Biblical Christianity)
  5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them. (While Biblical Christianity does have its critics, very few people can say that those who actually try to follow Christ are bad people. Most of the blacker things in Christian history were perpetuated by power- and money-hungry and institutions.)
  6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened. (Biblical Christianity. While my husband's family didn't like him joining a cult and it strained their relationship with him and made it hard for them to get to know me, they never stopped expressing that they loved him, they still saw him, and most importantly, they prayed for both of us to come to the truth. I loved what my husband's brother said about his fears when Steven joined the church because of me: "I only prayed that he would  break up with you for about two days. Then I realized that wasn't good and I didn't know if God wanted that, so instead I prayed every night that you would see the truth. I'm so happy you did.")
  7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others. (Biblical Christianity. My pastor knows he's know all-knowing or perfect. He knows its the Book he holds and not he himself that holds that answers. He is an imperfect man, but I know he can admit being wrong like any other good man.)
  8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem. (Biblical Christianity. A good look at the Bible confirms this. The relationship with God is on an individual level. There's never feelings of unworthiness in a Christian who understands Biblical salvation. I know I always come home from church feeling uplifted and encouraged.)
  9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice. (Biblical Christianity. While its made up of imperfect individuals, a mature Christian knows that sometimes they have to say "I'm wrong, how can I do better?")
  10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.  (Biblical Christianity. I'm not criticized for attending another church, listening to other pastors, or reading books from a variety of authors. I'm encouraged to research other beliefs to better understand my own.)

While I freely acknowledge that Biblical Christianity is not the only safe belief system, its certainly is one of them, and probably the largest one, considering that the two other largest religions/faiths/worldviews in the world (Islam and Hinduism) ostracize or even execute people who leave them and show many of the negative traits of a group or leader.

I know I put my pastor up as an example multiple times, but I have a lot of love and respect for my pastor and know he is a good example of a Christian pastor. I know he's only one of many.

Christians also label Mormonism as a cult because it claims Christian beliefs but in truth does not follow the most important ones. Many denominations differ on the little things, but to be Christian, you have to believe a few things:
1)That there is only one God and no other.
2)That Christ came as God in flesh to atone for the sins of the world and reconcile men to God.
3)That salvation from sins is through faith alone, through grace alone, through Christ's atonement on the cross.

No other beliefs are necessary for salvation from sins, though having sound theological understanding based in Bible understanding using exegesis is definitely not something to look down on.

Mormons, however, believe that:
1)God used to be a man, had his own Heavenly Father, and that we can become gods.
2)That Christ is separate from God and a God in his own right.
3)That salvation is through faith+works and grace just makes up for what you can't do on your own (which means theoretically someone could do it on their own if they're amazingly good enough) and that the atonement took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Obviously, there's a huge difference in these essential core doctrines. This is why biblical Christians cannot accept Mormons as Christian and why they are called a cult.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Cross and Gesthemane: A Mormon Misconception

This image is commonly seen in Mormon churches in America, and perhaps throughout the world. Its not just a nice picture based on what the Bible says about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death: it is their belief that Jesus atoned for sins here, rather than on the cross. This is Mormon teaching that is largely based on Luke 22:44. "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." The LDS take this to literally mean that Jesus was sweating blood (when its actually a simile Luke the Physician used to explain how heavily Jesus was sweating due to his emotions) and that he was sweating blood because he was in pain while atoning for the sins of the world.

However, not only is this single reference used incorrectly, there's many many verses that show that Jesus took on our sins on the cross, not in the Garden. The simple explanation for this is that death had to be involved to erase sins, which is why animal sacrifices were used to atone for sins before Jesus' death.

Ephesians 2:16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Colossians 1:20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 2:14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

The LDS see the cross as a sign of torture and shame, although apparently their belief in Jesus' pain and suffering in the Garden isn't seen the same way. You will never see a devout Mormon wear a cross or have one in their home or a Mormon church or especially a Mormon temple have the cross of Jesus in it, but you can see paintings and statuettes of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Yes, Jesus' death on the cross was a shameful, offensive, and horrific death.
Galatians 5:11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.

But more than that, the cross is the place of our salvation, of God's glory, of the ultimate expression of the love God has for us! That is beautiful! We should not see the cross as our shame, but as our hope in Jesus.

Let us not be the fools and the enemies of these verses, but instead accept and rejoice what happened on the cross for our salvation.

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Phillipians 3:18For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Praise to the Man

1. Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah,
Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.
Blessed to open that last dispensation,
Kings shall exalt him and nations revere!

Hail to the prophet, ascended to heaven.
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods he can plan for his brethren;
death cannot conquer the hero again.

2. Praise to his memory he died as a martyr.
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood which was shed by assassins,
plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame.


3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood,
Jesus anointed that prophet and seer.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true he will enter his kingdom,
crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.


4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know Brother Joseph again.


Although Mormons don't actively worship Joseph Smith, I can now understand why outsiders often think so. I mean, just read those lyrics closely. So many of the things said are doctrinely incorrect and/or supposed to apply to Jesus and Jesus alone, such as having an everlasting and endless priesthood (Hebrews 7). Here's some further quotes that put Joseph Smith up and praise him.

Probably one of Joseph Smith's most famous quotes to non-Mormons.
"Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet . . . " (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409)

The History of the Church contains some statements which show that Joseph Smith felt he was almost equal with God:
I am a lawyer; I am a big lawyer and comprehend heaven, earth and hell, to bring forth knowledge that shall cover up all lawyers, doctors arid other big bodies (vol. 5, p. 289).
Don't employ lawyers, or pay them for their knowledge, for I have learned that they don't know anything. I know more than they all (vol. 5, p. 467).
I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth-diamond truth; and God is my "right hand man" (vol. 6, p. 78).

One of the more interesting quotes by Brigham Young: "...and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fullness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is Antichrist," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 312).
Compare to:
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist...

More from Brigham Young:
 "...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289).

"Well, now, examine the character of the Savior, and examine the characters of those who have written the Old and New Testament; and then compare them with the character of Joseph Smith, the founder of this work . . . and you will find that his character stands as fair as that of any man's mentioned in the Bible. We can find no person who presents a better character to the world when the facts are known than Joseph Smith, Jun., the prophet, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, who was murdered with him" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, p. 203). 

According to Heber C. Kimball, people someday would "prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God, and also upon Brigham Young, our Governor in the Territory of Deseret (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 88)." 

"If Joseph was verily a prophet . . . then his knowledge is of the most vital importance to the entire world. No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., p. 189).

Now notice, all of these are either Joseph Smith himself, or subsequent prophets, all speaking to the members of the church. This makes what they say authoritative to the LDS people. And even moreso, notice how much of what they say makes Joseph equal to Jesus!

This takes salvation away from Jesus alone and also gives it to Joseph Smith. This is wrong. 

Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Joseph Smith is nothing like Jesus. He was a polygamist. He kept it secret from his wife for years, and when she did find out, he miraculously had the D&C 132 revelation which actually threatened his wife with damnation if she didn't accept polygamy.

Actually, here's Joseph Smith on the LDS family history website. Notice how many marriages it says he has.https://www.familysearch.org/search/treeDetails/show?uri=http://tree.familysearch.org:8080/www-af-webservice/person/7762167
Interestingly, some of these women are disappearing from his page, but on their personal pages, they're still listing him as a husband.

Joseph Smith made himself a general of Nauvoo. He could make laws and fielded his own army. He always wanted money--he is famous for his money-digging in his earlier years, and actually is on recorded as having been tried for using a seer stone to try to find money, which was illegal at that time because it was associated with magic and witchcraft. He even had himself crowned king in a secret society he founded in Nauvoo. He wanted power, money, and women. He wasn't even a real martyr--he literally went down shooting. I believe he successfully shot two bullets into the attacking mob, according to the History of the Church. Then he tried to run for it through the window. That is not martyrdom. And this is history, I'm not laying out false claims with no back-up. It can all be proven.

Joseph Smith deserves no praise. He is not a key to attaining salvation. He is a false prophet. He was not led by God, but by his own ambition. He was nothing like Jesus!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Body, My Temple

The LDS have some interesting and strict rules about appearances. While some make sense, such as modesty, others don't.

I believe very strongly--and everything I've read in the New Testament supports this--is that our appearance doesn't matter so much as long as our hearts are right with God. He cares about a relationship, not about how we look. The outward appearance is only a problem if it reflects something on the inside that isn't right with God, such as sexual immorality, rebelliousness, disregard, or lack of good stewardship.

I heard all my life as a Mormon that I should never get more than one piercing and that only in my ear, guys should never get piercings, tattoos were a big no-no, and modesty was all-important. Why? "Your body is a temple."

Okay, well, let's look at that. Why is my body a temple?
1 Corinthians 6:19 "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?"
1 Peter 2:5 "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

Believers in Christ are temples because God the Spirit lives in us. Through this, we share in Christ's priesthood and are saved through his living sacrifice for sin. We are to give our lives to Christ as "spiritual sacrifices," as was done in the ancient temple. We are not sacred temples because our bodies are sacred, but because our bodies house the most sacred being in existence.

Colossians 2:
 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. 

I feel like that should say it all, but I also feel I must explain. Let me rephrase what this is saying. Rules that may seem wise are not necessarily as good as they seem. Rules that restrain a believer so that they appear good on the outside do not necessarily make things right on the inside!

Not even six months after leaving the church, I got a second piercing in my ears. It wasn't a rebellious act; I'd said for years that if I ever were to get another piercing for any reason, it would be a second one in my ears so I could wear studs with my hanging earrings that I'm so fond of. Now, I'm very seriously thinking about a couple tattoos (maybe only one, and I doubt more than two), beginning with one of the cross of Jesus on the upper right of my left shoulder blade. Please tell me where the sin in that is? If I regret it later in life, that's my own fault. However, I seriously doubt that God will love me less or count it as a sin against me.

Rules like the requirements of appearance imposed by the LDS church simply give people room to judge others, and to appear perfect on the outside while they are lost and broken within. There's a reason that Utah is the state the proscribes the most Prozac and does the most boob jobs--the LDS are under so much pressure to look just right in everyone else's eyes, both physically and in their lifestyles, that they are put under tremendous and unwarranted pressure. Its just not right.

So, I will probably get my tattoo. If I don't, its not going to be because I think God will count it as a sin against me, but because I decide its not right for me.

What's Taboo is Just Done in Secret

This is going to be a somewhat explicit blog, so feel free to skip anything that might make you uncomfortable.

Before I even begin to say anything else, let me say this--I do not support sexual immorality, lack of ethics, or anything else ungodly!

However, I also see worse things come when those things are made completely taboo, or when things that aren't necessarily bad are made to seem that way.

For instance, masturbation. Yep, I said the word. Its awkward. But that's okay. Hopefully we're all adults here. There is nowhere in the Bible that says that masturbation is a sin. There is a story about a man marrying a woman, having sex with her, and pulling out and "spilling his seed on the ground," but that was not masturbation, and the reason it was wrong was because it was his legal responsibility to give her children. I believe she was his brother's widow. Marriage and sex with your brother's widow was to make sure you could provide for her and to make sure she had children that could later on. Therefore, having sex with her just to have sex was not the man's right, and was disobeying the Law, and was punished for it. That's a far cry from masturbation.

Interestingly, masturbation is healthy, especially in people who aren't having frequent sex. In fact, men can actually get health issues if they don't get a release often enough. This isn't to say the frequently pleasuring yourself every day is necessary or even good, as it can interfere with daily life activities, but its not a sin to do it when the need arises, either. Guilt tripping over this being done, especially with young people, is not what God wants for us.

On the other hand, encouraging your kid to do it instead of just letting him discover it on his own, and encouraging or allowing the use of porn in doing so, is not smart. Porn is addicting. Some couples use it together, and that's their choice, but it brings something more than just a man and his wife seeking their pleasure into it--it brings other people into it, even if its just on the TV screen or computer. (Which is why I don't oppose reasonable use of toys, as its still just between the individuals and/or the couple.) Lack of self-control and an addiction to something sexual is not what God wants for us, either.

Its interesting to note that Utah is the number 1 state for porn subscriptions. (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705288350/Utah-No-1-in-online-porn-subscriptions-report-says.html) They oppress masturbation and exploration of pleasure, often even within a marriage, and men (and women) seeking for a release then have to do so in secret. When you're already doing something you feel guilty for in secret, its that much easier to move on to the next step of finding an aid to get that release.

I think the same goes for sex. I hate abstinence-only sex education. Something like 85% of kids won't stay virgins through graduation. Even amongst Mormons its about 50%. Why not teach kids to be responsible and take care of themselves correctly if they choose to do it? Interestingly, Scandinavia has some of the lowest STD and teen pregnancy rates of developed countries because they do exactly that. I think they also have more kids that choose to wait because the kids are given the understanding of possible natural consequences and then given the responsibility for their own choices.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I have a wonderful friend whose wonderful mother took this approach. Her mother made my friend promise that she'd tell her when she started having sex, made sure she got the education as to the possible natural consequences, and then left the responsibility up to her. While my friend did engage in sex before she graduated high school, she waited until she was 17, got protection and birth control beforehand, thought the decision through, did it first with a man she had been with a while already and loved very much, and is still with the same man. They've been together longer than my husband and I.

This isn't the exception to the rule when you give someone education and responsibility, it is the rule. Anyone with eyes to see whose bothered to pay attention can see that there's a happy medium between controlling every aspect of your child's life and not caring what they do, and that is giving your child the best education and guidance you can and then giving them responsibility to do with it what they will.

This applies to religion too. I've seen no real joy come from the guilt-tripping put on by the many rules of the LDS church, and I've seen nothing exceptional in the happiness (or lack thereof) in the lives of the people who follow the rules as well as they can. I've seen much pain and suffering come from the "repentance process" of the church, either resulting in greater brainwashing as the individual pursues the very difficult to obtain forgiveness, or resulting in the individual becoming dissatisfied with the church and themselves.

I have seen joy in pursuing Christ and love. I have seen lives changed, including my own. I've seen people drawn out of sin, not through guilt or pressure, but through love and desire. I've seen marriages improve, I've seen tempers become more mild, I've seen love poured out on those who didn't think they deserved it. I've seen peace and healing and acceptance. I'm not saying Christians are perfect by any means, and I know a lot of people who call themselves Christians don't act like it. But when you find someone who is actually trying to follow Christ, you move away from the taboo and the secrecy and the guilt and the rules, and you move into one of the most beautiful, life-changing, healing, and forgiving relationships you could ever find.