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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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Awesome videos. Please take time to watch them. They are well thought out, and I think they have quite an impact.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I have issues with the Mormon ideas about and attitude towards modesty. I don't have issues with modesty itself, mind you. If I have a daughter, I certainly don't want her dressing like a hooker. But I don't want her to feel as if she's a slut if she wears a bikini to the beach like many other women, either. Modesty is a societal construct. If humanity was without sin, as it was before the fall, we'd all be naked. It wasn't until after they sinned that Adam and Eve felt shame for their nakedness, because sin had already begun to pervert sexuality and identity as male and female. The idea that God is offended by our bodies is ludicrous. Societies also change. What was immodest a century ago would certainly not be immodest now. Even Mormon standards of modesty have changed, as evidenced in the garments no longer looking like long johns. In "The Miracle of Forgiveness," I remember reading Kimball vilify women wearing shorts because showing her legs gave men temptation. Now plenty of Mormon women show off their calves. Different societies have different standards of modesty. There are many cultures today, usually in warmer climes, where women expose far more of themselves than is acceptable in America, and it is not wrong or wanton or inappropriate or anything else. There will always be perverts who see every bit of exposed sin as sexual, but if we were to always worry about that, we'd still be dressing like Victorian ladies. Part of my problem with Mormon modesty is that, because they are so behind societal standards, what is not sexual in society is sexual amongst Mormons. A girl in a bikini, exposing forbidden parts, becomes a sexual object, even if it is subconscious, yet society finds a woman in a bikini on the beach in summer perfectly natural. Men who would see her sexually would probably do so were she in jeans and a T shirt too, unless they are seeing her that way because she is being immodest in their eyes and therefore making herself a sexual object. This also means that a father or brother who have views on modesty that make socially acceptable dress sexual may see their own sisters and daughters as wearing something sexual and as making herself a sexual object, which can be terribly uncomfortable for both parties for whom that was never the intention or desire. If they saw her summer dress or bikini not as immodest but as socially normal, seeing a female family member dressed that way would not be a matter of dressing sexually anymore. I also strongly believe that modesty goes beyond a certain cross-cultural standard, as the Mormons would seem to believe. First of all, there isn't really a cross-cultural standard. And secondly, someone can meet the standard and be completely immodest and immoral in other ways, while someone can fall below the mark and be modest. For instance, a girl who never shows cleavage, leg, tummy, or shoulders could be extremely unchaste, whereas a girl simply wearing comfortable socially acceptable summer clothing and wanting a tan can be very chaste. I also believe there's a time and a place for things, mostly determined by the culture. For instance, I'd never wear short jean shorts to an interview for an office job or a bikini to church service. Both are inappropriate for those situations. But, neither of those things would be out of place on a beach. Similarly, I would probably not wear slacks and a button up shirt to a casual get-together with friends, but I'd wear it to a formal job interview. There's plenty of things to take into account with modesty, and as I said before, I definitely support modesty. Some things to consider are culture, setting, and perhaps who one is with, if wearing something in particular will be a problem for a certain person even if it wouldn't normally be for that setting, although I would also say that we shouldn't be so overly sensitive to that as to create more problems with modesty (such as making cultural norms sexual) and therefore ultimately hindering instead of helping. I certainly don't want my daughters to dress like sluts and be treated as such or my sons think women who dress and act like prostitutes are good dating material. But I also don't want to make women wearing bikinis out to be such a bad thing and then have my husband be uncomfortable if he sees any daughters we might have in a bikini. I don't want any potential sons to see a girl in a summer dress out at a street fair one summer and se he as a sexual object because they think she's immodest when really she just wants to look cute and feel comfortable. I strongly believe that is just as bad as immodesty.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are Mormons Christians--A Response to the New Era

There is an article from the New Era claiming that Mormons are Christian. Some of the claims in the article are uniformed and illogical. My response to the article is in blue italics 


Are Mormons Christians?

Of course we are Christians. Why would anyone say otherwise? Here are the facts.

If you live in Utah, you may be surprised. If you live where Latter-day Saints are a minority, you’ve probably heard it before—perhaps many times. But there are sincere people out there who believe the Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians. In fact, the accusation that we are not Christians is probably the most commonly heard criticism of the LDS Church and its doctrines today.
Why would anyone say such a thing? Isn’t the name of our church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Do we not worship Christ? Is not the Book of Mormon another testament of Jesus Christ? How could anyone seriously doubt that Latter-day Saints are Christians?
A name actually means little. Anyone can call themselves whatever they want to, it doesn't make them what they claim to be. More than a name must be seen. In this case, correct beliefs and biblical behavior and organization much be seen, as fundamentally and historically a Christian is a worshiper of, follower of, and believer in Christ and what he did as he showed himself to be and was taught about by his apostles, which record exists today in the Bible.
The purpose of this article is to help you understand why some people make this accusation. Knowing that, perhaps you can be more comfortable and knowledgeable in dealing with such views when you hear them expressed. But remember that the spirit of contention is always un-Christian (see D&C 10:63). This article is meant to provide information and understanding rather than ammunition for disputes.
On the contrary, Christians should be able to contend for their faith. If Elder Robinson means heated and unloving arguments or violence, he is certainly right, but "contention" insofar as defending the faith or expounding on it, including in the face is adversity, is extremely biblical. Paul's persistence in the face of adversity and his firm ground against false teachings such as in 2 Corinthians 11, and Jesus' many conflicts with the Pharisees, are prime examples of this.
There are a number of arguments used supposedly to “prove” that we are not Christian. It is important to recognize that none of them have anything to do with whether or not Latter-day Saints believe in Jesus Christ. Rather, what they basically boil down to is this: Latter-day Saints are different from the other Christian churches. Actually, I would say its not so much Christian churches and the Bible. I could care less what other Christian churches believe, I care what the Bible teaches, as does any other biblical Christian. (We understand that these differences exist because traditional Christianity has wandered from the truth over the centuries, but other denominations see things otherwise.) Interesting that here Robinson is effectively saying that Mormons are the only true Christians, and Christians aren't. There is also a lack of evidence for his claim when it comes to the Bible itself, though it could perhaps be made with specific denominations. The LDS leadership tend to miss this dearth of evidence, however, as lack of evidence and evidence to the contrary would argue against the point being made here. If they don't maintain this position of everyone but them holding all truth, they have no ground to stand on. Their arguments against the Latter-day Saints being Christian generally fall into six basic categories:

Exclusion by special definition

1 What is a Christian? The term is found three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16), but it is not defined in any of those passages. According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the term Christian may be defined in a number of ways, but the most common is “one who believes or professes … to believe in Jesus Christ and the truth as taught by him … one whose life is conformed to the doctrines of Christ.” The second most common meaning is “a member of a church or group professing Christian doctrine or belief.”
Under either of these two definitions, Latter-day Saints qualify as Christians. Well, except for the very important part about conforming to the doctrines of Christ and the truths taught by him. That seems to be important. However, if a special definition is created under which Christian means “only those who believe as I do,” then others might claim Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians—but all this would really mean is that while Mormons believe in Christ, we don’t believe exactly as they do. Excluding us in this way by inventing a special definition for the word Christian is like defining a duck as an aquatic bird with a broad, flat bill, webbed feet, and white feathers, and then concluding that mallards aren’t ducks because their feathers are the wrong color.
If the term Christian is used, as it is in standard English, to mean someone who accepts Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and the Savior of the world, then the charge that we aren’t Christians is false. There is a danger in this argument. If anyone claims belief to Christ being the Son of God and Savior, then they can call themselves Christians under the LDS definition. Yet, there are many people that the LDS would not accept as Christian who could and have claimed to believe that. LDS are wishing to broaden the definition so that it can include them, but they are doing so in a way that includes people who they themselves would possibly deny as being Christian. However, if the word Christian is given an overly narrow definition, then it is merely a way of saying LDS Christians differ in some degree from other Christians. No one “owns” the term Christian or has the right to deny it to others who worship Jesus as the divine Son of God. Actually, we do have a right to deny it to false teachers and those who follow false teachings--these are called heretics. Christians must be careful and discerning in this, as there are some open-handed issues amongst Christians that can be disagreed on but which do not mean that one side or the other is not Christian, but Paul himself denounces those who teach falsely of Christ and his gospel as cursed (Galatians 1:8-9) and says that they will face destruction (2 Peter 2:3).

Exclusion by misrepresentation

2 Some people insist on condemning Latter-day Saints for doctrines the Saints don’t even believe. They say, in effect, “This is what you Mormons believe.” Then they recite something that is certainly not taught by the Latter-day Saints. It’s easy to make LDS beliefs seem absurd if critics can make up whatever they want and pass it off as LDS doctrine.
While is is probably done sometimes, it is rarely done intentionally and is often not done at all by those who have actually taken time to do some research and/or who were once Mormon. Mormons themselves won't be swayed by lies, so its generally pointless to use them. The truth of some of the teachings and happenings of the church, especially in the days of Brigham Young, are absurd and even disgusting enough without having to make up lies. The key is not to assume that the claim is a lie, but to double-check to see if the claims can be cited and supported.
A good example of this kind of misrepresentation took place when the subject of the Latter-day Saint pioneers came up in my daughter Sarah’s school classroom a few years ago. One of her classmates said, “My daddy says Mormons are people who live in Utah and worship idols.” Sarah quickly answered back, “Well, I’m a Mormon, and we don’t worship idols.” But many of her classmates never did believe her, largely because they had already accepted the misrepresentation.
Another form of misrepresentation is to claim something is official LDS doctrine when it may merely be an individual opinion or even speculation. The official doctrine of the Latter-day Saints is clearly defined and readily accessible to all. Doctrines are official if they are found in the standard works of the Church, if they are sustained by the Church in general conference (D&C 26:2), or if they are taught by the First Presidency as a presidency. Policies and procedures are official whenever those who hold the keys and have been sustained by the Church to make them declare them so. Other churches claim the right to define and interpret their own doctrines and policies and to distinguish between official church teachings and the opinions of individual members. Surely the Latter-day Saints must be allowed the same privilege.
Interestingly, most of the claims that the church denounces as "opinion or speculation," such as blood atonement, Adam-God, or the curse of Cain, actually do fit these qualifications. They were taught by the First Presidency in general conferences as doctrine and revelation, published for the Saints by the First Presidency's approval, and in some cases, like with polygamy, are doctrine still in D&C but no longer implemented or believed to be commanded.

Name calling

3 Name calling has often been used in religious controversies. At one time, Catholics called Protestants “heretics,” and Protestants called Catholics “papists.” But this sort of tactic amounts to nothing more than saying, “Boo for your religion, and hurrah for mine.”
The negative term most frequently flung at the LDS is “cult,” a term which can suggest images of pagan priests and rituals. But the truth is there is no objective distinction by which a cult may be distinguished from a religion. Actually, it generally can, and the LDS church tends to fit the distinctions and definitions. There are many attributes of cults that the LDS fits, such as controlling its members, having dictating leadership that is not to be questioned even when wrong, scorning or ostracizing those who leave, discouraging members from researching and asking certain questions (in the case of the Mormon church, they label such forbidden material as anti-Mormon, which ironically is also name-calling, and they strongly imply or outright say that Satan is getting a hold on the members who read or see/listen to those sorts of things). There is also the Christian extension of the use of the word cult which says that they use many of the same words, terms, and scriptures, but their main theology is vastly different and not at all biblical. Use of the term cult does not tell us what a religion is, only how it is regarded by the person using the term. It simply means “a religion I don’t like.”
Though non-LDS scholars have made many attempts to define a “cult” in a way that would distinguish it from a “religion,” to date every such attempt has failed. So far the major difficulty has been that any definition of “cult” that fits the LDS Church also fits New Testament Christianity! But that’s not bad company to be in.
The only definition of the term "cult" that both Christianity and the Mormon church fit into is the general definition that pretty much every religion is a "cult," which is not a negative use of the word. Because of the negative connotations of the actual word "cult," however, that definition is largely unused, at least in America, except in certain fields such as history.

Exclusion by tradition

4 It is sometimes argued that to be truly Christian, modern churches must accept both biblical Christianity and the traditional Christianity of later history. In other words, one must accept not just biblical doctrines, but also the centuries of historical development—the councils, creeds, customs, theologians, and philosophers—that came along after New Testament times. Since the Latter-day Saints do not accept doctrines originating in the early Church after the death of the apostles and prophets, we are accused of not being “historical” or “traditional” Christians.
In fact, we believe that revelation to the early Church stopped because of the death of the Apostles and the growing apostasy, or falling away, from the truth. In the absence of Apostles, the church eventually turned to councils of philosophers and theologians, for guidance. These councils, after lengthy debates, in turn interpreted the gospel according to their best understanding. Often they drew upon the philosophies of respected men (like Plato), concluding, for example, that God has no body or physical nature; or that the three separate persons of the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—are only one being. The declarations of these councils are still generally accepted today by traditional Christian churches as official doctrines. Yet these creeds were formulated centuries after the deaths of the Apostles and the close of the New Testament.
This is a deplorably inaccurate representation of history and of Christianity. What the LDS church misses is that those councils were gathered to define doctrine based on the Bible, not based on their own ideas, and often done so specifically to combat heresies. There is, in fact, no evidence of a great apostasy, nor any logical reason that there would have been one just because the apostles died. Those they taught, the earliest Christians, were dying for their beliefs up until the time of the creeds, and in some areas continued to die for it despite their belief being legalized. They saw those beliefs as their salvation, and strongly combated heresies because the beliefs were of the utmost importance to them. The councils merely set those beliefs in stone.
There is no denying that there was selective apostasy. The need for the councils to fight against heresies shows that obvious fact. However, a complete falling away is simply illogical and not at all historical or provable. It is a claim made by the LDS church simply because there would be no need for a "restored church" if they didn't make the claim. 
Were the Twelve Apostles Christians? Of course. But if it were true that one must accept the whole package of historical Christianity in order to be a Christian, then it would be impossible for early Christians, including Jesus and his disciples, to qualify—since they lived centuries before these traditions came to be. On the other hand, if the New Testament Saints can be considered Christians without accepting all the traditions of men that came later, then so can the Latter-day Saints, and the historical exclusion is invalid.
Accepting ALL the historical teachings is actually not a qualification for being Christian. However, many of the early church fathers expounded upon doctrine within the Bible, and helped define Christian doctrine, such as naming the biblical concept of the Trinity (which was done nearly 150 years before the first council). Not every early church father was correct in every aspect, but they were essential to the development of Christian theology BASED ON THE BIBLE, and are therefore important. However, one can become a true Christian without knowing about them, as their accepted teachings are in the Bible and it is belief in Christ as he is taught about in the Bible and what he did as explained in the Bible that saves, because only Christ is the way, the truth, and the life...not the church fathers.

The canonical or biblical exclusion

5 The term “canon of scripture” refers to the collection of books accepted by any group as the authoritative word of God. For most Christians the canon of scripture is limited to the Bible. But Latter-day Saints have a larger canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The canonical exclusion, in its simplest form, says that since Latter-day Saints have books of scripture in addition to the “traditional” Christian Bible, they cannot be Christians.
One of the problems with this canonical exclusion lies in the assumption that there is only one “traditional” Christian Bible. Over the centuries, there have been a number of different versions of the Bible, and many Christian churches and individuals have disagreed about which books should be included. Even today, the Bible used by Catholics contains a number of different books than the Bible used by Protestants. Yet Catholics and Protestants continue to call each other Christians—even though they have different canons of scripture.
First of all, different versions of the Bible do not necessarily make the Bible non-"traditional." The different versions exist for different reasons, and most of them are good reasons. For instance, for a while the Bible was only available in Latin, which only priests and highly educated people, such as noble men, could read, so the masses were excluded. This led to the Bible eventually being put into English--thus a different version of the Bible than the "traditional" version of that time. Yet, no one can reasonably argue that this is a bad reason for a different version. The King James Version was used for quite a while, but as our language is no longer spoken like it was in the time of King James, and as more ancient copies and fragments of the Bible have been found to help make the Bible even more clear and accurate where it wasn't necessarily before because only later manuscripts were available, the need for new translations became obvious. There are good translations and bad translations, but it doesn't take much research to find out which is which, and all of them teach the same doctrines and contain the same stories, parables, books, etc., which is what is essential to the Bible. I could quote one version of a verse, and you another, and the meaning of the verses would be the same if taken from any good translation.
Second, the Catholic church includes the apocrypha in their canon, which most other Christians don't because the apocrypha isn't generally considered inspired or prophetic, as they come from the "quiet" period between the last book of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus. It is the decision of the Catholic church to use those books, and they are certainly not wrong for Christians to study, but their status as actual scripture is questionable and not widely accepted. Beyond that, the canon of the Catholic church and the Protestants is the same.
When revelation stopped after the death of the early Apostles, people were forced to draw one of two conclusions: (1) either revelation had stopped because God had already said everything they would ever need, or (2) revelation had stopped because the church lacked apostles and prophets to speak for him. Traditional Christians accept the first explanation; Latter-day Saints accept the second.
Sometimes critics cite Revelation 22:18–19 [Rev. 22:18–19] as evidence that the Bible forbids adding to or taking away from the canon of scripture. In these verses, John curses those who would add to or take away from “this book.” But when John wrote Revelation, the Bible in its present form did not yet exist. He was simply referring to his own book, the Book of Revelation, rather than to the whole Bible.
The truth is that prophets have usually added to the scriptures—almost all the biblical apostles and prophets did this. There is, in fact, no biblical statement whatever closing the canon of scripture or prohibiting additional revelation or additional scripture after the New Testament.
There is the fact that God inspired John (the author of Revelation, the final book of the Bible) to write that in the book, knowing it would become the final book of the Bible. There is also the fact that the Bible begins with the beginning and ends with the end to consider. It is a complete story. Everything in between the beginning and the end is centered on Christ--the Old Testament looks forward to Christ, and the New Testament looks at Christ and then looks back at Christ, which we are still doing today. Once Christ came, he fulfilled the Law and the prophets (the old covenant), which was the Old Testament, and established his new covenant through his atonement, which is the New Testament. We still are living in that New Covenant, and need nothing more from Christ than that. The need for anything more is simply not there.
This does not mean that revelation has ceased, as the gift of prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament. However, the need for further scripture is not there. There are no current situations which the Bible cannot speak to, and we have the revelation of salvation within the Bible. Any prophecy through the gift given by the Spirit is meant to edify and guide the church (1 Corinthians chs 12-14), not to be an office exclusive to a single leader or to be made into additional scripture.
Some non-LDS Christians believe that the Bible contains all religious truth. However, the Bible itself says nothing of the sort. The word Bible never appears in the Bible—for the Bible never refers to itself. Thus all these claims about the Bible are unbiblical. The Bible itself never claims to be perfect, never claims to be sufficient for salvation, and never claims to grant its readers authority to speak or act for God. Rather, such claims are made by those who have lost priesthood authority and have lost direct revelation and, instead of trying to find them again, are trying desperately to maintain that their loss doesn’t matter.
Obviously, Elder Robinson had not closely read the Bible as he made these claims. Let's look at a few scriptures that put a little doubt on his words.
Matthew 24:35
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 
Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
2 Timothy 3:15
and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Obviously, the Bible itself--Jesus himself--says that scripture is God-breathed, alive and active, enduring, and contains the gospel. The simple question, what is the gospel (the good news), is answered here:
1 Corinthians 15: 2-4
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 
The Bible contains these all-important teachings for salvation...obviously. Understanding and accepting this gospel is necessary for salvation. The bible teaches that it is through faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible presents the gospel. Salvation is therefore completely contained in the Bible, if the reader or hearer of the truth believes it.
As for the question of priesthood, Christ is the only High Priest. The High Priests before Christ were charged with sacrificing animals for the sins of all the people one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, but that sacrifice couldn't actually cleanse sins, it was a representation of the future sacrifice of Christ. When Christ sacrificed himself, he became the High Priest. Since his Spirit is in us and we live our lives dead to the world and alive in Christ as such, we become a royal and holy priesthood through Christ. To examine this, I would urge someone to take a look at the book of Hebrews, particularly chapters 4-8, although the whole book would be best. 1 Peter 2 and the first chapter of Revelation refer to believers as a holy/royal priesthood, and there is no exclusion based on age, gender, or "worthiness." In truth, it is the LDS that lack a true priesthood and are desperately trying to claim otherwise.

The doctrinal exclusion

6 This type of argument claims that since the Latter-day Saints do not always interpret the Bible as other Christians do, we must not be Christians. But, in fact, other denominations also differ among themselves doctrinally, and it is unreasonable to demand that Latter-day Saints conform to a single standard of “Christian” doctrine when no such single standard exists.
Minor disagreements exist. Only salvific doctrines on the Bible, which ARE clear, must be agreed upon. Some of these doctrines include the nature of God, monotheism, the nature of Christ, Christ's atonement on the cross, and salvation. The Mormon church obviously do not agree on these essential doctrines, more or less the minor issues.
For example, the Latter-day Saints are accused of worshiping a “different god” because we do not believe in the traditional Trinity. “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (A of F 1:1) as taught in the New Testament. What Latter-day Saints do not believe is the non-Biblical doctrine formulated by the councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451) centuries after the time of Jesus—the doctrine that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence. We do not believe it because it is not scriptural. As Harper’s Bible Dictionary states: “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”
The doctrine of the Trinity actually is Biblical, it is the word Trinity that is not to be found in the New Testament. References for the concept of the Trinity include John 1:1, 14, 18, Phillippians 2:6-11, and many many others. Christ's name Immanuel actually means "God with us." There are many instances in the gospels of Jews, who believe there is only one God and he alone is to be worshiped according to the ten commandments, worshiped Jesus. After doubting Thomas made certain that Jesus really was back from the dead, he called Jesus "my God," and Jesus accepted the title. Jesus also stated that those who had seen him had seen the father. Jesus calls himself by the divine name "I AM" multiple times in the gospels, particularly throughout John (John 8:58, for instance). This is the reason that the leaders of the Jews wished to stone him and kill him more than once, because they understood he was saying he was God (John 5:18). There is also the simple fact of monotheism. If there is only one God, which the Bible is emphatic on (Isaiah 43:10, which exists in the Dead Sea Scrolls from before the supposed great apostasy) then Christ cannot be equal to God or claim to be a god without claiming to be the one and only God. The Bible, such as John 1:18, says that Jesus is that one and only God.
Jesus didn’t teach the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. The New Testament writers didn’t have any idea of it. The New Testament writers actually did worship Jesus as God and refer to him as God (2 Peter 1:1, 1 John 5:20, Colossians 2:9). Considering their monotheism...well, we've already been over that. The doctrine itself wasn’t invented until centuries later. So one can’t say the Latter-day Saints are not true Christians for not accepting it, unless one also excludes Jesus, his disciples, and the New Testament Church, who similarly did not know or teach it.
Latter-day Saints do believe that God the Father has a physical body. This view is attacked as “non-Christian” by critics who often cite John 4:24, which states in the King James version that “God is a spirit.” However, since there is no indefinite article (a, or an) in the Greek language from which this verse is translated, the consensus among biblical scholars is that there should not be an indefinite article at John 4:24. It should simply read “God is spirit.” In other words, this scripture does not limit God to being only a spirit, but merely includes spirit as one of his attributes. After all, we also read that “God is light” (1 Jn. 1:5) and “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8), and yet no one interprets these verses to mean that God is only light, or God is only love. Certainly, the member of the Godhead called the Holy Ghost is spirit, but that fact tells us nothing about whether or not God the Father has a physical body.
This argument is flawed, as it implies that since being spirit is not his ONLY attribute, that he is not a spirit. That would be akin to saying that since being love is not his ONLY attribute, that he is not love. In fact, it also seems flawed to limit God to a body just because we have bodies. It seems that God could choose what he is or how he presents himself. Additionally, his ability to be present everywhere at once would be impossible in a body such as ours, though it seems the LDS diminish this in God and assign it exclusively to the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, while the Bible makes distinction between God and the Spirit, it is interesting to note that the Spirit is referred to as God's spirit. I would not refer to my spirit and mean something that was not me, so I do not understand why the LDS refer to the Spirit of God and do not mean it to be God, but rather a separate being altogether.
Finally, quite often we hear that Latter-day Saints are not Christians because true Christians believe in salvation by grace, while the Latter-day Saints believe in salvation through our own good works. But this is a misunderstanding. Yes, Latter-day Saints do believe we must serve God with all our “heart, might, mind, and strength” (D&C 4:2). But the Book of Mormon makes perfectly clear that it is impossible for us to completely earn or deserve our blessings from God (Mosiah 2:21, 24); that redemption can never come through individual effort alone, but only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 2:3, 5–8); and that—after all we can do (Alma 24:11)—we are saved by grace (2 Ne. 10:24; 2 Ne. 25:23).
There it is..."after all we can do." That is impossible according to the scriptures and to logic, since we never can do all we can do, for one. If this merely means that after all of our failed efforts to do all we can do, the grace of God kicks in, there is still a flaw. Isaiah 64:6 says that all of our works are as filthy rags, so relying on filthy rags--a better translation would be menstrual rags (think bloody tampon, gross)--in addition to the saving and perfect work and grace of Jesus Christ seems absolutely ridiculous. 
Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. 
If we boast in what we ourselves have done BEFORE grace, then we are taking credit from Jesus Christ. We are not supposed to be able to do that. Boasting of filthy rags doesn't seem like much to boast about, after all. Instead, Christians belief that we are saved by faith alone, through grace along, through Christ alone (justification), but that we are saved from sins to a new life through the Spirit (sanctification). The changes in a person may not be quick, and none of us will ever be perfect in this life because we still have our sinful nature to combat, but there will be a change and will be spiritual fruits such as those described in Galatians 5. We do not expect to have to obtain this alone, or have the help of the Spirit only when we are doing everything right and are in full and constant repentance, as the Mormon church teaches. Instead, the Spirit dwells in us (John 14:17, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:22, 2 Timothy 1:14) and there is no indication in scripture that it will leave believers. Through the Spirit, we live in Christ.
Christ did all the work for us. While we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10) they do not save us. We will be receive reward and punishment based on our works, but only our faith in Christ determines our actual salvation. For instance, someone who goes to hell who was a good person will be punished far less than someone who was a murdered, and someone who goes to heaven but was not receptive to the work of the Spirit in their lives will not be rewarded as richly as someone who sought to live out their beliefs throughout their Christian life. However, because of the nature of being forgiven or not forgiven based on belief in Christ is the prerequisite for heaven and hell, works themselves do not determine whether someone goes to heaven or goes to hell, as opposed to Mormon belief where a combination of works and belief determines the kingdom of heaven a person is placed into.


We have discussed arguments some people use for claiming that Latter-day Saints are not Christians. Notice that not one of these addresses the question of whether we accept Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and Savior. Our critics don’t address this—the only issue that really matters—for the LDS position here is an unassailable matter of record. Our first article of faith [A of F 1:1] declares our belief in Jesus Christ. We meet every Sunday and partake of the sacrament to renew our faith in and our commitment to Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
I have frequently asked non-LDS critics exactly which Book of Mormon teachings about Jesus Christ they disagree with. Invariably the response has been that it isn’t what the Book of Mormon says that is offensive to them—it is the Book of Mormon itself. This is because most non-Christian LDS doctrines aren't contained in the Book of Mormon, and in fact borrows heavily from the Bible. We have issues with the Book of Mormon itself because it is a deceptive gateway into the religion for converts and because it is a book of fiction purported as scripture. Its historical reliability is deplorable, and much of it has been proven simply untrue, such as Native Americans descending from Lamanites. To present it as ancient scripture from prophets when it clearly isn't is deceptive and takes away from the completeness of the Bible. Most anti-Mormons reject the LDS scriptures without knowing or caring what those scriptures actually teach about Christ. You see, it isn’t really the LDS doctrine of Christ that is objectionable; rather, it is the claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the Book of Mormon is God’s word, and that the gospel has been restored to the earth in the latter days.
Both the Book of Mormon as scripture and Joseph Smith as a prophet bear witness to Jesus Christ as Savior. The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price bear that same great witness, as do all of the modern prophets and apostles. Though all the world may say that Latter-day Saints do not know or love or worship Jesus Christ, the truth is that we do. If this is not enough to be counted as Christian, then that word has lost its meaning.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Wrath of God

This blog applies not just to Mormons, but to many kinds of people with many kinds of beliefs. I’ve been thinking about the wrath of God a lot lately. It’s not a popular doctrine in America anymore, and those who do know much about it largely don’t understand it.

A lot of people think that God is completely full of wrath, anger, and destruction in the Old Testament but not at all in the New Testament. This is simply wrong. We do see the love of God in the Old Testament, and if you don’t believe me, read Psalms, or even read the Old Testament with an eye to what he does for those who believe in and rely on him. In the New Testament, Jesus himself talks about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and the New Testament makes it obvious that Jesus took on the wrath of God for the sins of humanity and then closes with a book that details the wrath of God pouring out his wrath as Jesus comes tattooed and furious as he makes the blood of the wicked run like rivers.

We protest this as if it’s unjust and without logic. Then we turn around and want justice for wrongs done to us. What good father would not seek justice for his daughter if she is raped? If you haven’t watched the movie “Taken,” do so. It’s about a father going after his daughter when she’s kidnapped and sold for sex trafficking on her trip to Europe. Her father hunts her down like an avenging angel, and woe betide any and all who stand in his way. Watching the final scenes, as he kills those who are trying to snatch his daughter away, and if I remember right that includes the man who was only minutes away from raping her, I know I didn’t sit there and think, “Well that’s not fair of him to do that to those people.” I was cheering him on, sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for justice to be served and for him to take his daughter from those who would hurt her, knowing he did it all out of love.

I have heard so many times that Jesus was loving to everyone—that he never got angry or condemned people. People these days have this idea of Jesus as a tolerant and indulgent person, speaking only loving things and never harshly. These people need to sit down and read the gospels a little more closely, because they’re so wrong it’s not even funny. As I already said, Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else. He got angry. He threw tables and kicked people out of their own shops in anger. He warned of false prophets and false righteousness. He called people hypocrites and vipers. If you can get the subtlety while reading, he even mocked self-righteous people, though he always did so with truth and with the intent of causing repentance in those he mocked and causing those who were not self-righteous to avoid becoming so.

Can you honestly say you’re a good person in every way, inside and out? If you say yes, you’re prideful and self righteous, which are some of the worst sins because they keep us from seeing other sins. Everyone should say no. You have lied. You have cheated. You have probably stolen. You’ve raised your voice in unrighteous anger. You’ve done something illegal. You’ve probably committed adultery, either literally or by lusting after someone who wasn’t your spouse. The Bible says that God hates sin. How could he not hate sin, and still be just and perfect and right? We hate sin, although we often do so imperfectly. He hates it perfectly. He will not abide sin to live with him. That means that we all don’t deserve to live with him, and we all have his wrath upon us. None of us can fix that ourselves, because we will continue to sin our whole lives in one way or another. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go before God and say, “Look how good I am,” and have him say, “Well, no, look how bad you are. You broke this commandment this time, and this one that time, and really you broke the first two every time you broke the other ones…”
There’s only one way to fix this, and God did it for us because he loves us even as he hates the sin and wickedness in us. 

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Martin Luther calls this the “Great Exchange” because our wickedness was given to the only righteous person who ever lived—and only God is completely righteous, remember—so that our sin could be put to death and Christ’s righteousness could become our own. This is why we are saved from hell, to sin.
All this is also why there are huge problems with the teachings of Mormonism. They don’t really have a hell. They don’t really acknowledge the wrath of God. They don’t even like the term “fear of God,” which is kind of ironic because Proverbs says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In Mormon theology, even the worst sinners get a level of heaven. While it’s not the sort of place you’d want to make your goal in their theology, it’s still heaven. It’s still paradise. All these unrepentant murderers and rapist get to enjoy, to at least some degree, the rest of eternity. I don’t think it’s even taught that they’re fully excluded from the presence of the Godhead, although I believe it’s thought to be limited. Even their “outer darkness” is not really a place of eternal torment, which is why they tend to call it outer darkness instead of hell. And perhaps worst of all, even those who are good people, who fear God, who had faith their whole lives, who pursued righteousness through Christ, are not good enough if they weren’t or don’t become Mormon and if they didn’t do or accept the works required. They just get stuck in paradise just like all the unrepentant rapists and murderers; their paradise is just a little nicer.

How is that justice on God’s part? How is that love?

We do need to have a fear of God. Not a fear that makes us want nothing to do with him, but the sort of fear where you respect and are in awe of the power he commands and what he could do to you, personally, with it if you remain an unrepentant sinner. You will be to him like a daughter’s rapist would be to the father, because you hurt and are in opposition to what he loves and what is good. I know, most of us aren’t rapists. But every kind of sin is a sin against God, and all are sinners regardless of the degree of sin. We will be punished according to the degree of our sinfulness—an unrepentant murderer will be punished far worse than an unrepentant generally good person—but we are all guilty.

The question is not whether a good God will punish the unrepentant sinner. The answer is obvious when we consider the nature of justice and wrongdoing. The real question is whether you will accept the gift he gives you out of love, the promise to impart perfect righteousness upon you through your faith in the greatest sacrifice this world has ever seen.