About Me

My photo
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 18, 2014

An Atheist's Response to the Book of Mormon

I still have a number of Mormon friends on Facebook, and some of them post a lot of articles related to their religion. It's always interesting to me to see what is currently persuasive or interesting to LDS members. It gives me a chance to see articles like this one, called "An atheist's response to the first 31 pages of the Book of Mormon."

And seeing such articles, I can respond to or critique them, usually after a face-palm, head shaking, or internal ranting.

This one is supposedly a letter from an atheist to a Mormon, from when she was on her mission and visited him and his wife. He was supposedly raised Lutheran, but from a Christian perspective, I think its obvious that he had limited understanding of Christianity and the Bible, or he wouldn't hold some of the views expressed in this letter. I also take leave to doubt that this is really a letter from an atheist, because it sounds very, very Mormon-ish.

My responses will be in (parenthesis and italics.)

To [Miss Mormon],

I hope the following helps to keep you motivated and inspired. I hope it is confirmation that Mormon beliefs are justifiable, and deserve to be respected alongside other Christian denominations:
(If Mormon beliefs are justifiable, why wouldn't he accept them? Why would he want to confirm her beliefs for her? You see why I am skeptical that this is really from an un-converted atheist.)

I just read the first 31 pages of the Book of Mormon, and was entranced by 1 Nephi chapters 8 and 10. I feel as thought I could almost stop there, and come away with something. That something is this:

The Book of Mormon should be read by all Christians.

As an Atheist, that's not the effect I thought the book would have on me. Nevertheless, I can imagine the amount of "push back" Mormons have to face, trying to convince a "Christian" to read it. What a shame. Because it is the most clearly written Christian Biblical Document. If Christians would be willing to read the text, compare it to what they already believe, most would not only agree with it, but would find that it strengthens their faith even further. (The only reason that Christians would agree with things in the Book of Mormon is because most of the theology was taken either directly from the Bible or from 19th century reformation preaching. However, it is only faith-strengthening if we accept the Book of Mormon as legitimate, historical, and truly penned by prophets of God. Otherwise, it is just a work of biblical-sounding 19th century fiction, which isn't particularly useful for strengthening faith. Further, experience to the contrary. I know a number of Christians who have read all or part of the Book of Mormon and do not find that it strengthens their faith, because they reject it as scripture.)1 Nephi 10 provides a greater and more straight forward message than Paul's letter to the Romans. And Romans is considered to be the definitive New Testament Epistle. The Reformation was based on Romans. But Nephi chapter 10 tops it. (I just don't see this. The prophecies contained in this chapter is found in the Bible; for instance, that the Jews would return to Israel, that a Messiah would come, that he would be preceded by John the baptist, etc etc. Other parts are contained clearly in Romans and other parts of the Bible, such as the statement that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all mankind is in a lost and fallen state without Jesus. This chapter is an extremely simplistic summary; it no way tops the beautiful and deeper doctrines laid out through the epistle of Romans.)

There are really only two hangups to widespread Christian acceptance of the Book of Mormon. The first, is the fact that, the Book of Mormon isn't already in the Bible. If the chapters of the book of Mormon were placed within the standard bible , and Christians just grew up knowing that 1 Nephi was found after Malachi and Jeremiah or Habakkuk...they would bite into it hook line and sinker. It would be accepted as biblical cannon. What could possibly make them object?
(Placement in the Bible would require that it be legitimate scripture written by authentic prophets who really lived. There are many reasons to reject the Book of Mormon on both of those criteria. For instance, Nephi and his family do things that are in direct disobedience to God's commandments to Israel, which calls into question his status as a prophet inspired of God. Another is the complete lack of evidence that these people really lived and really came to the Americas, and the existence of evidence to the contrary, for instance, the DNA of Native Americans.)

The second hangup ins that the origin of the book of Mormon is still relatively new. But they confuse the translation of Joseph Smith in the 1800's with the 600 BC time frame of 1 Nephi. If Christians could accept 1 Nephi as 600 BC writing they would accept what it says. Can you imagine the level of excitement they would have if the dead sea scrolls contained excerpts from 1 Nephi? (ignoring the continental logistical problem). If the ancient text was carbon dated to 600 BC with the quote, " six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jew--even a Messiah...a Savior of the world"... what christian would protest that? They would consider it the greatest confirmation of the actual existence of Christ!
(We can't accept 1 Nephi as truly historical for many reasons. All evidence points to the Book of Mormon being a work of 19th century fiction, and a relatively simplistic one at that, drawing heavily on the King James Bible, the theology of the time, and the questions and speculations found in the area at that time (e.g. the origin of Native Americans, the book Views of the Hebrews).)

And as for the "craziness" of the Mormon origin story, is it no worse than any biblical story? Christians believe that God carved and wrote the ten commandments on stone tablets. But gold plates are somehow impossible? (Gold plates are completely unhistorical and can't be proven. It's not a question of a miracle of God, it's a question of whether people really recorded things that way, and if they kept records in the amount that the Book of Mormon claimed, why don't we have examples of it?) Christians believe that God sent Daniel and St. John visions. But Nephi's father can't have visions? (Funny thing is, those visions were had by Joseph Smith Sr. before the Book of Mormon was written. What's more likely? That God happened to send J.S. Sr. those same visions for some unknown reason and then the Smith family for some reason didn't use that to proclaim God's provision and foresight, or that Joseph Smith borrowed those so-called visions and wrote them into the Book of Mormon, just like many other things he borrowed from the people and culture around him?) Saul a persecutor of Christians can play a surprise role in God's message, but Joseph Smith can't? (The question isn't whether he can, it's whether he did. And he didn't. All evidence is that he was a womanizing charlatan who wanted money, even after becoming a so-called prophet.) Christians see Christ as an all powerful Savior of the whole human race. But Jesus isn't allowed to VISIT the whole human race? (He's certainly allowed to, but he didn't. There's no reason to think he did, and no reason to need to believe that he did, especially if the record of it is so tangibly false.) I just don't see and of these "Mormon" things as being anymore preposterous than anything else that is already accepted by all Christians.
(This paragraph kind of feels like the token "skepticism" of an atheist, but really sounds like a Mormon argument.)

Finally, it is massively ironic that, Christians reject Mormons in the same way Jews rejected Christians. Christians see Christianity as strengthening and clarifying the Jewish faith, but fail to even consider the strengthening and clarifying that Mormonism could do to their christian faith. (I do not see Christianity as strengthening and clarifying the Jewish faith. I see it as fulfilling their scriptures. I see it as an Old Covenant and a New Covenant. There is nothing in the New Testament that contradicts the Old. There is nothing in the New Covenant that is not in harmony with the Old. Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies, he became everything that their rituals symbolized. The same cannot be said of Mormonism in comparison to Christianity. There are blatant contradictions, as opposed to fulfillment or clarification. Mormonism even contradicts and perverts the Jewish traditions that pointed to Jesus, like the temple or the priesthood. There is a profound difference there.)


When I see things like this, I want to go a little Jesus-in-the-temple-with-a-whip, to be perfectly honest. Assuming that this letter is even authentic, it's ignorant and misrepresents the problems that Christians actually have with the Book of Mormon and the Mormon religion.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Missionary Visit 10/10/14

I hadn't had the missionaries over for a few months. I was busy, it was overwhelming trying to take care of my son while visiting with the missionaries. My son's sleep schedule was still terrible.

Things have gotten a little easier though, I think. My son only woke me up twice between the time I went to sleep and 7:00am last night, which is getting towards being typical now that he's eating solid food. Getting multiple 3 hour stretches at night and a total of 8+ hours makes a huge difference in what you can handle. Not only that, my son is crawling and playing with toys with supervision but without needing direct interaction on a regular basis now, so I don't have to worry about him as much when there's people over.

With all that, when the missionaries showed up at my door yesterday, I decided to schedule a meeting with them. They came over this afternoon.

The last set had been under the impression that I was merely inactive; they knew I'd grown up in the church and stopped attending, and now attended a Christian church, but they'd never asked why I left or checked for my records. This set did check before coming over, so one of their first questions was about my relationship with the church.

"I grew up in it, and most of my family are members, but I left when I was 19," I explained simply and bluntly. "I'm not hostile to the church or anything, I just don't believe in it. I had my records removed about a year after I left, and my husband attend a Christian church now."

They handled that pretty well. They didn't run screaming, at any rate.

I made a point to make sure they knew that they were welcome, and to be as non-confrontational as possible even when I disagreed in order to not scare them off.

Anyways, the big point of their little lesson was on building faith, so they went to Alma 32. I have generally forgotten how inane the BoM is since I haven't read it through since leaving, but I really had a hard time with what they read because of the quality, more than anything.

Here's the verses we went through.

21 And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and withpatience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

Okay, I have no problem with the first verse. It echoes Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

But then it gets kind of weird to me. Why would I desire to believe his words if I had no reason to think they were true, to hope in them? (vs 27) 

And then apparently there's a seed swelling under my breasts. (vs 28) That is just a weird way to say it. Why in this world is it breasts, plural? Merriam-Webster shows the difference clearly. Breast, singular, can  mean,

": the front part of a person's body between the neck and the stomach
: the chest thought of as the place where emotions are felt"

But plural, well, we don't have more than one chest or more than one front part of our body between the neck and stomach. Breasts, plural, is talking about...well...duh.

I know, I know, it's a little nit-picky, but it's just weird.

Anyways...why is the seed going to start enlarging and making me feel it under my *snort* *clears throat* breasts? Why am I going to think it's good? What does that even mean? I mean, what are these swelling motions? Why are they good? Why does it tell me that the word--whatever word Alma's talking about (his? the BoM? scriptures in general?)--is good?

My best guess is that what is trying to be said is that, if we live what's being taught, we'll see the good of it on our lives. That's what the sisters seemed to be thinking it was saying. There were a lot of vague pronouns thrown around ("it" was said quite a lot), so sometimes it was hard to know what "it" was. The word? What word? What am I doing with the word?

And then we have this whole bit about a seed being good just because is grows. (vs 30-32) Well, why? Why can't bad seeds sprout and grow? I mean, aren't there such things as thorns, poisonous plants, etc? Wouldn't the most deceptive seed the devil could plant be one that does sprout and that seems to produce good fruit, but actually isn't good and the fruit, while it may appear pleasing the way it did to Eve, actually produces a path that leads towards damnation? The reasoning behind bad seeds not growing just seems so...well, non-existent.

What struck me with vs 42 is that it seems to be making the fruit of living according to the word (which I'm just going to assume is now talking about scripture) as something that comes from your own work. That is so different from Galatians 5, which talks about the fruit as being of the Spirit.

And in all this, I still don't know why in the world I'm supposed to do this vague experiment! I don't know for sure what is going to happen to show me that this "word" is true (other than something having to do with my breasts?), or that it's good, or that I should have faith in it!


We moved on from there to, of course, Moroni 10:4-5. As usual, that brought up the whole pray-and-get-answers-through-feelings thing, which they then both testified to. 

This is where I brought up my objection to all of this (since making fun of the text for using the word "breasts" in that particular context didn't seem very constructive). I explained to them that, while I 100% agreed with the power of prayer and the ability to learn truth and for God to reveal it to us, I am not in agreement that the knowledge of truth comes through feelings alone. I shared 1 John 4:1 and Jeremiah 17:9, and explained that I believe feelings can far too easily be deceptive by either coming from our own possibly sinful or incorrect feelings from our heart, or by a false spirit creating those feelings in us to deceive us. I explained that I believe that God gives us a number of other means of discerning truth, and emphasized the Bible as one of those standards of truth and that if something contradicts the Bible then I'm going to trust the Bible on it.

Thankfully, they understood where I was coming from. I didn't push them to agree with it, and didn't push their theology on it. The important thing for me was to lay that groundwork so that they know that I'm not just going to pray and, if and when I feel good about things, come back to the church. But, they also know that I'm willing to seek and find truth, particularly through one thing that they also believe in (to some extent).

The lesson more or less ended there. One of the sisters asked me what I expected out of meeting with them since I no longer believe, and when I hesitated, she said, "Are you just wanting to have discussions with us?"

"Yes," I affirmed. "You guys are totally welcome, and I'm interested in talking with you. And even if you're just in the neighborhood and need water or something, feel free to stop by." They're on a bike route, and seemed to appreciate that.

Because I'm not really an investigator, they said they'd probably come every other week or so when they have extra time, but didn't schedule anything. I got the impression that I'm essentially second-class, as far as their priorities with meetings go. Investigators get first dibs on their schedule, and I get to be a fill-in for empty slots. That's okay. The last set of missionaries pushed for every week, which was extra overwhelming on top of everything else, so once every 2-3 weeks feels much more doable.

I just hope it wasn't code for "we're actually not coming back."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can We Trust the New Testament

This sermon, entitled "Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then," is by Dr. Daniel Wallace, one of the leading Greek scholars in the world. His organization is currently photographing every single page of ancient New Testament manuscripts in existence, and are currently at around 300,000 pages and nowhere near finished.

Please listen to what he has to say. And then, if you are a Mormon or a skeptic of Christian scripture, consider whether the Bible is translated correctly based on the evidence. Then you can face the theological implications of that with intellectual honesty.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

The LDS church recently released an article on LDS.org with the same title as this post. It is one of a series of essays addressing historical issues within the church, all of which have caused people to question or even leave their faith.

The Book of Abraham isn't one of the ones that was much of a factor in my choice to leave, but the bit I've learned of it was one of the many nails in the coffin. When reading the essay on the church's website, I was flabbergasted at things they said, over and over, and many are worth noting.

Here's some quick background first (although you should just read the essay). The early Mormons purchased four mummies and some papyri from a travelling entrepreneur in Kirtland, and Joseph Smith declared the papyri to be the Book of Abraham, which he then began to translate. The Rosetta Stone had not yet been found, so Egyptian was as yet unreadable. Joseph Smith's translation process included writing out many of the hieroglyphs with their "meanings" next to them, which still exists. When the early Mormons left Nauvoo, the artifacts didn't travel with them, and eventually a portion of them were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, but the surviving pieces were later discovered at another museum and repossessed by the church.

Even before the fragments were rediscovered and reclaimed, Egyptologists had been asserting that Joseph Smith's explanations for the facsimiles were wrong. When the fragments were examined by Egyptologists, who by that time could translate ancient Egyptian, they were found to be merely ancient funerary texts commonly buried with mummies, and were dated sometime between 300 B.C. and 100 A.D; long after Abraham's time.

By His Own Hand...

The article asserts many hypotheses for the discrepancies between what is on the fragments of papyrus versus what Joseph Smith "translated" into the Book of Abraham. Most of these hypotheses are shut down by one statement in the introduction to the Book of Abraham.

"...written by [Abraham's] own hand, upon papyrus."

It is clear that Joseph Smith really did assert that the papyrus contained the actual Book of Abraham and that he was literally translating them, and wasn't just a catalyst for revelation. In the History of the Church vol. 2 pg 236, it says,

" I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,—a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth." (emphasis mine)
 In light of these two statements, these assertions from the essay seem quite weak:

"...the fragments do not have to be as old as Abraham for the book of Abraham and its illustrations to be authentic."
"...the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection, and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri."

 Denial of Biblical Teachings and Legendary Embellishment

The essay asserts that,
"The book of Abraham’s status as scripture ultimately rests on faith in the saving truths found within the book itself as witnessed by the Holy Ghost."
Yet the Book of Abraham contradicts the Bible in a few ways. I was utterly floored when reading the essay when blatantly affirmed the denial of creation ex nihilo, which is made clear in the opening chapter of the Bible. The existence of preexisting matter would mean that God is not alone eternal and affirms the teachings of the church that there are generations of gods who have each formed their own "worlds," even though another of their essays denies that exact teaching.

There was a point that matter, time, and space did not exist. The Bible says so, and science and logic support this. To deny such a thing is a glaring error.

To make it worse, some of the "support" for the Book of Abraham given in the essay is from legendary embellishments on the stories of Abraham that date well over a thousand years after Abraham was in Egypt. We see in the legends that cropped up about Jesus a couple hundred years after his death that legendary, late stories are unreliable, yet this is exactly what the LDS church is using to support this book of "scripture."

And again, the Bible is denied when the Book of Abraham teaches about "Abraham’s being 62 years old when he left Haran, not 75 as the biblical account states."

Denial of both biblical truth and about scientific reality is a red flag if I ever saw one.

It's False, But You Should Believe It's True

That is exactly how the conclusion reads. After admitting the reality of the papyri being simply an Egyptian funerary text (and then downplaying that reality repeatedly), the essay concludes by essentially saying that the truth contained in the book--the Bible-contradicting, reality-contradicting "truths"--are the only way to tell if it's truly a book of scripture, and that that truth can't be found in history or scholarship.

I would bet that if it had been historically verifiable, they would be trumpeting the support for its truth.

Some of the best support for the Bible includes its historicity and it's manuscript evidence.The Book of Abraham is nothing like that, and even has reasons to disbelieve it's historicity and authenticity.

And yet we're supposed to believe it's true.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Gospel Topic Essays

Over the last few months, the LDS church has been releasing essays on sensitive historical issues within the church, all of which have caused people to begin questioning and even leave the church in the past. This is essentially the church's way of giving people a reason to stay when they find these issues, which has become a lot more likely with the plethora of information available on the internet. Many Mormons have been and would be shocked to know that some of these topics even need to be addressed, so firmly have the believed and so thoroughly have they been taught the official versions.

The essays include:

Are Mormons Christian?
First Vision Accounts
Book of Mormon Translation
Race and the Priesthood
Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah
Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
Becoming Like God
Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

There may be a couple more in progress.

It is interesting to not a few things. First, that these are posted on the church's official website, www.lds.org. This means that these have almost certainly at least been reviewed and approved by some of the general authorities, perhaps even Monson, if not contributed to by any general authorities. Second, these have been produced by anonymous scholars.

In some instances, these essays being produced by scholars makes a certain amount of sense. There is history involved, after all, as well as DNA studies and other such things. But in some cases and in some areas of each issue, it would be easy for Monson or even an apostle to declare the matter decided by revelation. For instance, the Book of Abraham issue has a few competing hypotheses, and the correct one could be settled by revelation. And don't Mormons love to quote James 1:5, which says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." They assert that this means that we can ask God about something that we need knowledge of (as opposed to wisdom) and that God will reveal it. Shouldn't that be even more true when it comes to God's mouthpiece on this earth?

But no. We see scholars writing anonymous essays, often glossing over the issues so that they seem as minor as possible and even giving multiple possibilities for the resolution of those issues. The merit of those possibilities is hardly examined.

The irony of these essays is that they have been causing people to leave the church in droves. It only takes a little thoughtfulness and perhaps some research to see the weakness of the proffered explanations or the contrast with the actual teachings and experiences during Sunday school and General Conference. I saw the greatest reaction, within my own circle of Mormon friends, from the Race and the Priesthood essay, which never actually apologizes for the church's racism and which essentially admits that the prophets who aren't supposed to lead the church astray because they're true prophets actually did lead the church astray for about a century, at least in this matter.

I'll be going over some of these essays in greater detail, but I would encourage anyone reading this--especially Mormons--to take a look at these essays and think very hard about what they're saying and what aspects of the church probably call for closer research in light of the content of the essays.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Logic Behind Joining the Mormon Church" Analysis

This is a blog post that a Mormon I know shared on her Facebook the other day. It got many cringes as I read it. So, my analysis will be in (parenthesis), italics, and blue. 

About a month ago, my wife and kids were standing in line at Disneyland waiting to go on the newly renovated Thunder Mountain. Normally standing in line for an hour is really boring but not this time! We were blessed to have a couple standing behind us that decided they would like to bag on Mormons for awhile. My ears are big…so I got to hear everything, and since they were unaware of us being Mormons, it was nice and unfiltered. The quick synopsis is “Mormons are soooo weird”, but in all of it I never heard any logical reason for why we were so weird…

I’m not one of those people that can just accept something without working it out in my own mind. I’ve got to work things over and look at all angles in order to come to a conclusion and devote myself to an ideology.  Many people will obviously disagree with my reasoning but I’d like to present some of the logic behind why I continue to be a “Mormon”.
I’ve studied every single major religion and many of it’s factions. I’ve gone straight to the source in my studies of these religions because I know that I’ll never get an accurate depiction of a religion from its detractors. (You don't normally get a totally accurate depiction from the source, either.) I’ve read from Catholic Catechisms, Hindu Sacred Texts, The Koran, and from Primal Religion writings. I’ve studied under non-LDS PhD’s in religious studies and have poured over the Bible. I’ve traveled personally to Basilicas and Cathedrals, to Mosques and Synagogues, and to Mandirs or Temples. I’ve talked with the people at these places about their origins and I’ve studied their history. They were devoted to God, and I loved them for it.

“One True Church”

The only conclusion I could come to in all of this was that each of these religions had one common origin. Their stories of creation and their moral laws seemed to all coincide with one another and each of them had a desire to become more and more like deity. The Bible has shown this pattern over and over again throughout it’s history. God would reveal His plan for us. People would then follow the prophet that revealed the plan and they’d become righteous because of it. Then…over time, people would splinter off and start their own religion because they personally disagreed with a few of the commandments or teachings of the originally established church or religion. (This is actually a very Mormon idea of biblical history. You see people going off to already established pagan religions in the Bible, but you almost never see them start a new religion.) New churches were started for any and every sort of reason. King Henry the 8th started the entire Church of England because he wanted to divorce his current wife Catherine of Aragon and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. Does this mean the Church of England is devoid of any truth? No…not at all. They still had pieces of the “one common origin” as did all of the factions that broke off from them in subsequent years [Baptists, Episcopal's, Methodists 7th Day Adventists Quakers, and many of the Evangelical churches of our day]. (One of the things that Mormons often miss about many Christian denominations is that we all believe in the same essentials. Those Christians that know the Bible well accept people of other denominations as Christians if they believe in those same essentials, and consider differences to be "in house" or "in family" differences.)
After studying all of the world religions, I came to the conclusion that Christianity made the only claim that appealed to my eternal perspective on life. Other religions fell short of promising a future worth pursuing for myself. But there was a big problem in my mind. As of today there are about 50,000 different Christian denominations, while the Apostle Paul is telling the Ephesians that there is only “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism”. [Eph 4:5] It wasn’t logical to me that there would be so many churches if Christ himself setup just one. (This isn't about a denomination, this is about salvation. As I stated above, people of multiple denominations can be Christian -- can be saved -- regardless of which of those denominations they attend. Each and every one of those saved Christians of those many churches believe in one Lord, have faith in the same essentials and the same Jesus, and are baptized by the same Spirit.)
Some people get ticked off at referring to a “one true church” but isn’t that what Christ would have called His Church when he established it? Don’t you think that if Thomas came up to Him and said… “Lord, I think I’m not liking this doctrine your teaching about baptism, so I’m going to go start the Church of Thomas”…does anyone think that Christ would have considered Thomas’s church part of the “one true church”? One denomination just became two denominations because of a doctrinal disagreement but it doesn’t make Christ’s church any less true. If Christ was who He said He was, then His Church is the “one common origin” found within the religions of the world. His “gospel” was not just revealed when He was on the earth, but had been given to prophets since the beginning of time. (What in the world does he think this "one common origin" is? All religions outside of biblical Christianity reject Jesus or believe in him wrongly. Not all prophets point to Jesus. Heck, even in the Old Testament, they often didn't realize that everything was pointing towards and building up to the Messiah. Many things only made sense in retrospect. The "gospel" is the good news of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection for our sins and salvation. That wasn't fully revealed and understood until it happened!)

So Where Is The Church That Christ Established?

I figured I’d look to see which if any Christian churches claimed to be the “one true church”. Only a few made this claim. Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Again, a "one true church" doesn't matter as far as denomination. There is one true Jesus, and those who follow him. Many people of various denominations fit that definition.) A few others may make the claim but don’t have enough content to mention here. Now its time to determine whether any of the three measure up to the Church of Jesus Christ from a couple thousand years ago. Some of the most important attributes I looked at from the New Testament consisted of the following:

Paid Ministry

I could not find anywhere in the New Testament in which servants of the Lord were paid. (Paul actually very specifically said that those whose full time job is ministry can be paid for it, and even deserve to be paid for it (1 Corinthians 9:11-14, 1 Timothy 5:17-18). It's pretty obvious what he means when he says that, "The worker deserves his wages." Further, the LDS church DOES have paid ministry. The general authorities get paid a stipend, plus they are involved in all of the business aspects of the church, which brings them further income, on top of often already being retired businessmen. Some of the general authorities own multiple million-dollar homes.) Peter was a fisherman and Paul was a tentmaker. They had to make a living first and then preach the gospel. In fact, multiple scriptures speak against receiving money for preaching the gospel. Paul specifically says that we should preach the gospel “without charge” in 1 Cor 9:18 “that we abuse not our power in the gospel”. (Paul did not say that people should not be paid for preaching. He said that he chose not to. Only a few verses before, he said that it is allowed (vs 11-14), and that he chose not to use that right (vs 15).) If you look at it logically, how can a man that is relying on money from his church members as his livelihood make perfectly unbiased decisions when it comes to church matters. (A pastor and other members of paid ministry should be subject to oversight, including being transparent with the membership. The LDS church is not. It's highest members are paid, and members don't know exactly what the tithes go towards.) Every member that leaves his church represents less food on the table. Money…especially when it comes to survival…can be a very influential foe. The pastor of the Saddleback mega church might summarize what I’m trying to say best. He paid back all of the money he made from his church after his book went viral and then summarized his decision by saying, “The Bible teaches that we are to love people and use money, but we often get that reversed and you start loving money and using people to get more money.  Money is simply a tool to be used for good.” – Rick Warren  (Founder of Saddleback Church) When money is involved in church governance, compromises are sure to be made because of man’s fallen and natural condition.

Nature of God

I couldn’t find “The Trinity” anywhere in the scriptures. (If he means that he didn't find the word, well, "monotheism" isn't in the scriptures either, yet the scriptures clearly teach it. I've referenced the Trinity a few times before, so I'd recommend reviewing that, but the long and short is that the concept of the Trinity is clearly within the Bible.) Where I did find it was in the ecumenical councils of the early 2nd and 3rd centuries. Tertullian [known as an "early Christian father"] is supposed to have first coined the phrase and it was made famous through the well know Nicene and Athanasian councils. I couldn’t logically get to know God based on a concept that was voted on by politicians and then ratified by a Roman conquerer, emperor, and pagan. (The councils were actually convened to fight against heresy. They made official what was taught in scripture and believed by believers, in order to fight again those who would teach heresy.) The creeds that Constantine oversaw were driven by political agendas and every historian knew it. I once undertook a project to go through the New Testament and write a “G” at the top right or left corner of every page whenever there was a reference to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ being two distinct individuals. In my scriptures [KJV] virtually every page in the “4 Gospels” has a “G” at the top right or left corner. (The idea of the Trinity isn't that the Father and Jesus are the same exact person, who just appear at separate times. That's a heresy called modalism. The biblical concept of the Trinity is that both the Father and Jesus are one God. One God, three persons. One essence. He's not a man, like us, but the person who is Jesus became a man. Again, see my other blog posts on the Trinity. And maybe get a good book on systematic theology, such as the one by Wayne Grudem.) The description of God I found in the Mormon church was logical. Two distinct beings with glorified bodies. Not just a spirit essence that was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The creeds that defined the Trinity told me that God was incomprehensible, but John 17:3 said that I need to know Him in order to find eternal life. (You can know someone without fully comprehending them. God specifically says things like "my thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9) and "I am not a man."  (Hosea 11:9))

I’m Saved If You’re Saved

Almost every page in the New Testament emphasizes the need for us to work the works of righteousness. However, many churches teach that our works are unnecessary. I’ve been told that I need to “confess the Lord Jesus Christ with my mouth” and that I would be saved. I have done that. However… is not the act of me opening my mouth and confessing the Lord’s name a work in and of itself? Do I not need to repent? What of baptism or serving others? Can I honestly do none of those things and expect to be received into the Kingdom of God? Every logical bone in my body tells me that the only way I can show my faith in God is to do the works that He has asked me to do. Throw Revelation 22:12 and Revelation 20:12 on top of that logic and I can see no logic in someone telling me that I do not need to do any works as a servant of Jesus Christ. (All of this is something that Mormons fail to understand and accept scripture on. Passages like Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Titus 3:4-7 make it clear that works can't earn salvation. All we can do is have faith to accept it. If faith is a "work," then sure, we have to work for our salvation. But that's the only work required. However, true faith, true salvation, changes us. We become a new man, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18), and the Spirit works in us to bear fruit, to sanctify us. But in no way do our works, which are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) earn our salvation, but someone who is truly saved and being changed by the Spirit will manifest good works. There is some great preaching on this by good pastors. Here's one example from my pastor.)

The Mormon Church Is The Most Liberal With Salvation

I am being told that I am damned to go to hell on a regular basis. People that care about me are “praying for my soul” because I have “been deceived”, and because of that deception I have no chance at salvation. This is very interesting, because Mormons believe that very few people will go to hell. They actually believe that everyone will be saved and inherit a glory that will suit them and make them happy. Mormons don’t have sunday school classes devoted to tearing down other religions or damning them for eternity. (Most other churches don't, either.) Instead, they focus on the doctrine as it is found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. (Funny, since Jesus preached on hell more than anyone else in the Bible, including making it clear that those who don't believe in him will go there, yet Mormons pretty much reject that many will go to hell.) They serve missions only for the opportunity to serve others and try to add a measure of truth to a person’s existing testimony of the Savior. (That's disingenuous. They serve missions to try to bring more people into the Mormon church.) It is logical to me that the Saviors Church would focus on building others up instead of tearing others down. (That is true, but if people are going to hell outside of belief in the true and living savior, then the most loving thing a believer can do is warn those who don't believe and teach them about the truth. What do you think Peter was doing in his amazing sermon to a bunch of pagans on Mars Hill in Acts?)

Families Are Forever

Mormons are known for believing that they will know and love their families in the hereafter. Most people believe this in their heart regardless of what their pastor might say on Sunday. (Family is forever insofar as family that is saved will be together in eternity. They don't have to be "sealed" to be together if they are all saved. That's just silly. However, family as we have it on earth isn't necessary in heaven.) It is logical for me to look toward a church that has an eternal perspective regarding the family. The Mormon church is the only Christian church that I know of that builds temples in order to perform baptisms for the dead (1 Cor 15:29) [something that was practiced in the early Christian church] (Actually, Paul is most likely referencing a pagan practice. He was trying to make a point about the resurrection, not teach that baptism for the dead is necessary. In fact, it would be pointless since we're judged after death, not given a second chance (Hebrews 9:27). Temples aren't necessary in Christianity (Acts 17:14-25) because we are the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), and Mormon temples aren't anything like the Old Testament temple, which was for sacrifices and which pointed to Jesus. Jesus fulfilled that need.) and seal families together for time and eternity. (Not a biblical teaching at all.) Mormons believe that they retain their identity in the next life and that our relationships will only be magnified, not diminished. This concept of an after life is far more logical than believing that we will all somehow coalesce into one giant cloud of God’s glory and lose our identity to become full time trumpet blowers or harpists. (The Bible doesn't teach that, so anyone who believes that has a bad understanding of scripture. Revelations explains a lot about the after life.)
There are many other logical reasons why I continue to be grateful for the Mormon church. The resemblance it has to the New Testament Church that Christ established is unparalleled and it makes me happy. (It's actually not much like the New Testament church at all. I explain a bit about that here.)
To the couple standing behind me at Disneyland; I’m hoping this article finds you somewhere in the world of social media and that you can understand a little more about why the little family in front of you loves being Mormon. End post.

Back to me. This post is full of a lot of misconceptions rooted in incorrect Mormon teachings. I'd encourage someone who believes these things to look closer at them, and not in the same way as this guy thinks he did, but actually looking into history, scholarship, and solid Bible-based theology. Please check out everything I've linked to in my analysis.

Meetings With the Missionaries: 5/15/14

This meeting was pretty uneventful. They were doing exchanges again, and Sister T was once again the one who was gone. They didn't have much time, since they'd arrived late and had another meeting to get to. They brought up church, including asking us why we attend church. We explained that we attend, in large part, to learn from people (mainly our preaching pastor) who have more knowledge of the Bible than we do. Our pastor goes through whole books or sections of the Bible at a time; he even spent a couple of years going through Luke once. It's great.

They invited us to church. I may go; not because I want to, so much as because it would be interesting for a few reasons. One would be to see how different it seems to me now that I no longer believe it all. Another would be because I want to keep track of how often certain key words are said, outside of the closing phrase of prayers. I'm betting Mormon key words like Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, restoration, etc. are said much more than words like Jesus Christ, Bible, etc.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Meetings With the Missionaries: 5/8/14

Sorry this one is late. This was a particularly interesting meeting, too.

They were doing exchanges, so one of the regular sisters wasn't with us. I really liked the young woman that came instead. She was very friendly. I handed them my new list of questions, and they didn't run for cover upon reading through them, so that's a good start.

Sister M, one of the regulars, wanted to know what I thought about some of questions I had given them last week before they give me their answers. The first she asked was what I thought we would need a modern day prophet for. My answer was straightforward: I don't believe we need a modern day prophet, because the revelation we need is complete in the Bible.

The second she brought up was my question about why the priesthood wouldn't have been passed on. Here I explained that my belief in what the priesthood is is different than theirs. I briefly explained the universal priesthood, reading 1 Peter 2:5, and explained that all believers received this priesthood by virtue of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which gives us God's power and authority. She asked how the priesthood is received, and I said that all who are saved receive it.

This began an interesting and important discussion about how one is saved.

Sister M: What is salvation?
Me: Salvation is being saved from death, sin, and hell and to heaven and life with God through faith in Jesus.
Sister M: So you only have to believe to be saved?
Me: Yes.
Here I read Ephesians 2:8-9 for them, which they had obviously not considered before. There was a thoughtful silence.
Visiting sister: So...what if someone believes in Jesus, and then goes out and murders someone?
Me: If someone becomes a murderer, do y think they really have faith in Jesus?
Visiting sister: No.
Me: Exactly. Real faith changes a person. Real faith works. But like that verse I just read to you says, it's the faith that saves.

They had a few more questions about the concept, punctuated by long thoughtful silences as they tried to digest what I was saying. Then my baby got fussy, so they left with the promise of another meeting at the same time in a week.

I was both surprised and pleased by the direction that the meeting went. It was very unplanned, but understanding salvation is obviously important. I plan on putting together a few more verses on the idea for them to look up and consider before the next meeting.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Meetings with the Missionaries: 5/1/14 Meeting

After scheduling issues and a meeting that got nowhere because they were on exchanges, we finally had a good one today.

One of the first things I explained to them is that part of why I'm not committing to read the Book of Mormon at this point is because I think God can answer my prayers about it even if I'm not reading it, especially since I have read it before. They asked me a few questions about what I'd be willing to do if I decided that what they're teaching me is truth, and they were satisfied enough with my answers (I'll follow truth where it leads) to stop asking me to commit to reading.

They also asked me what I was expecting from the meetings, since I grew up in the church and they don't want to just be teaching me things I already know or even believe and not answer the questions I really have. I told them I pretty much just want them to go through their lessons and I'll ask questions, and that led to them suggesting that I go through the pamphlet (The Restoration) they gave me the first time they stopped by and write down all the questions that I have for them. I'm not sure they know how much they got themselves into, but it sounded like a great idea, so I agreed to it.

They suggested we start with one section today, and asked me to choose a section. I chose the section on the great apostasy, and we only got through the first paragraph. They didn't even try to answer any of the questions; they simply wrote them down and promised to get back to me at our next meeting.

Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members. Other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority--including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church--was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.

 The first two sentences weren't a problem for me. The third was where I started having questions for them.

One of the most basic questions I asked was if there was any historical proof of a great apostasy. I explained that the Bible, including the New Testament, has the most manuscript evidence of any ancient document, and that there are a lot of historical records from that time. I therefore wondered if there was anything that proved such a massive apostasy. I know the answer to that--there's no such proof--but I'm interested to see what they come back with on that one.

I asked if there was any reason that the authority wouldn't have been passed on. (I didn't want to get into their teachings on priesthood yet, since that's in another section.) I pointed out that there obviously were people other than the apostles who had authority in the early church, since many of the New Testament writers weren't part of the Twelve, and that the Apostles were alive through the writing of the New Testament.

We also talked a bit about the need for continuing revelation. I explained that I believe the Bible is a whole picture, beginning at the beginning of things and ending at the end times, and that it all points to Jesus. Jesus is the culmination or climax of the Old Testament, so prophets of the type in the Old Testament aren't needed anymore, and pointed out Luke 16:16 to support that. The New Testament then contains everything we need to understand the New Covenant through Jesus and to look forward to the end.

One of the sisters asked me if I'd ever considered if we needed a modern prophet and what that role would look like. I explained that I do believe that the gift of prophecy still exists as a spiritual gift, but that we don't need prophets in the Old Testament sense because their purpose was ultimately to point to Jesus. I had to explain the difference between the two types of prophets. I also explained that I believe that the Bible contains everything we need for salvation, so a prophet of the sort in the Old Testament is no longer necessary.

I then moved on to the assertion that error crept into church teachings. I had two questions about that. One was, again, if there was any historical evidence to support this. The second was what sort of error they believe crept in. I'm betting we'll be talking about the Council of Nicaea next week in answer to that one.

We decided that was enough questions to start with for one week, and didn't move on to the next paragraphs in that section.

At that point, seeking answers through prayer came up again, and I explained to them very clearly why I wasn't comfortable getting answers through feelings/impressions alone. I read a few verses to them, including Jeremiah 17:9 and 1 John 4:1, to explain why I feel that those aren't trustworthy on their own, as well as pointing out that sometimes truth doesn't always feel good and sometimes things feel good that aren't true.

They brought up how sometimes good things feel good and bad things feel bad, and I pointed out that people can still be deceived, giving the example of how a Jehovah's Witness is probably a fairly good person doing good things but still deceived, and they might be able to say their testimony is based on the same sort of feelings that they (the missionaries) have had.

I talked to them about other ways that we have been given to find truth, emphasizing my trust in God's Word in seeking truth and supporting that with Acts 17:11. I reminded them that Jesus said one of the ways we love God is with our mind, so truth should be reasonable and logical and provable, which I explained is a lot of why I'm wanting to ask them so many questions about their beliefs. I gave the Big Bang as an example of how evidence can support God's truths, so I seek evidence where it's reasonable to do so as well. They understood everything I said and couldn't contradict it, so they accepted it and even said I had some very good points.

I also gave them an example of how prayer can be answered through experiences. Recently, we were worrying about transportation as my husband is starting a new job, and a very good one. Attendance is pretty much the biggest thing that would cause him to lose this job, and his car is near the point of dying. He talked to the friend who helped him get that job (this friend attends our church), and the friend urged him to make sure he had reliable transportation. We were literally about to walk out the door to buy a car on a loan, which we had been hoping to avoid, when the friend called back and said, "My brother literally just called me to tell me he's giving away a vehicle and to ask if I know anyone who can use it." The vehicle has some maintenance needs, but not nearly as bad as my husband's current vehicle, so it was a blessing to receive it.

We concluded we me again committing to going through the pamphlet and writing down questions for them. They promised they'd get back to me next week with whatever answers they find for the questions I asked this week. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Visits with Missionaries: 4/5/14 Meeting

Let me put this in context before I get into the meeting my husband and I had with the local sister missionaries.

A week or so ago, we ran into some missionaries while we were on a walk. They were on a Spanish-speaking mission, but took our address and names to let the English-speaking missionaries know that we were open to contact.

On Thursday, the sister missionaries showed up at our door. It was good it was the sisters, because my husband was at work, so I wouldn't have been able to invite male missionaries in. They shared a pamphlet, which they went through with me using the pictures to summarize what the pamphlet shared. It was very basic Mormon doctrine; the apostasy, the restoration, priesthood, the challenge to pray for truth. Verses taken out of context to mean things they actually don't. You know the drill.

I let them know, in the course of conversation, that my family was Mormon. Since I had a quad and other Mormon books, and my brother is on a mission, it was natural to share that information. They knew I knew at least the basics of their religion; I didn't hide that. They asked if I'd be willing to be baptized if I discovered the church to be true. I said yes, which was true; they just didn't know that I've already discovered the church to not be true.

I invited them to come back on Saturday, the 5th, when my husband would be home too. They showed up right after the second session of General Conference was done. My goal is to stay in a student-like role with them by asking them a lot of questions about what they teach and bringing Bible verses and such to their attention, in the context of asking them how those verses relate to what they're teaching. It's very easy to cause the missionaries to stop coming if you evangelize them too aggressively.

Steven is less familiar with LDS teachings and was less comfortable than me with interacting them, plus he had the baby, so he mostly listened and answered direct questions while letting me handle the actual conversation.

They shared the Book of Mormon with us. (I'm glad they didn't look at our movie rack first, since it has DNA vs. The Book of Mormon and the Bible vs. The Book of Mormon on it.) They brought us to the introduction of the Book of Mormon, and had me read the first paragraph and the last two out loud.

The first paragraph includes the claim that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel. I asked them how they think it contains the fullness if it doesn't have important LDS doctrines like temple marriage. Their answer was essentially that it contains the most important basics, like faith, repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end. I asked them if they feel that it teaches those things differently than the Bible, or if there's things about those basics that the Bible doesn't contain. One of them said she doesn't know the Bible as well as she should, but she thinks those things are a little clearer in the Book of Mormon.

I didn't point out that most of the clearest teachings in the Book of Mormon regarding those subjects are either exactly like or very similar to sections of the New Testament.

The last two paragraphs have a challenge to pray about the truth of the Book of Mormon. It says,

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.

 This brought up the idea of using feelings to get an answer to prayer. I then asked a number of questions regarding this.

Q: There are a number of religions that believe in the power of prayer, and the people within these religions often feel that they've received a witness of their faith and that their religion is true. For instance, a Muslim would be sure that Islam is true. How do you think the feelings you get as a witness are different than those people from other religions get?

A: They didn't really have much of an answer. The best they could come up with was that maybe things that are good get affirmed, but that true seeking would eventually lead to full truth. And then they gave their testimony that their church really is true.

Q: There are more ways than feelings to determine truth, and things that can support faith. For instance, I have faith in God, but I have evidences, such as the Big Bang showing that the universe really began like Genesis says, to show me that its reasonable to have such faith. Do you have any evidences like this for the truth of the Book of Mormon and the church?

A: Essentially, after some more floundering, they said the fruits of the church are evidence. They then, once again, testified of the truth of the church.

Q: The Bible says that there are false spirits that can deceive. How can you know that the good feelings you get in answer to prayer are the real Spirit rather than a false Spirit deceiving you?

A: They didn't actually have much of an answer for this one, although they really tried. One of them tried to say that they didn't think a false spirit would affirm good things, but I pointed out that something that seemed good but was really false would be the perfect thing to deceive someone with. Once again, they fell back on their testimony.

I don't think they even saw the irony of the fact that they couldn't actually tell me why a testimony based on feelings was valid, but that they kept using their testimonies based on feelings to tell me that I could get a testimony based on feelings. I didn't keep challenging their answers, though, because I didn't want them to feel attacked. It was clear that they knew they'd had a hard time with the answers and maybe hadn't given good ones, because they kept telling me that I'd asked good questions, and they didn't seem confidant that the answers they'd given had been adequate. That's all I want for now; I want them questioning.

They ended, of course, by challenging us to read the Book of Mormon. I've read it before, and Steven has read some of it, but they of course still wanted us to do it. I wouldn't commit, mostly because I knew I'd be lying to them if I did. I told them we're busy, my husband is starting a new job in a couple of weeks, we're currently working on the New Testament, and I've already read it and he's read some of it; all of that is true. I didn't add that I feel that reading the Book of Mormon again is a waste of time, at least at this point in my life. The only reason I'd be reading it again is to be more familiar with it to use in evangelizing to Mormons.

I also told them that I really wanted to continue to be able to ask them questions and meet with them more, and that we'd certainly be praying. They eventually asked if they could read a little out of the Book of Mormon with us when they meet with us, and we said that would be fine.

We scheduled out our next meeting (which I've since realized will probably have to be rescheduled, since we'll have family visiting from out of town). At least I didn't scare them off with my questions that they couldn't really answer.

Next meeting, I intend to talk with them a bit about the reasons that I'm not comfortable having prayers answered by feelings alone. I'm going to point out that there are ways other than feelings to know truth; we don't need to pray about whether 2+2=4 is true, after all, and we learned ways to determine whether sources were reliable when we did research in school and none of those ways were how we felt about the source. Besides, sometimes truth hurts or doesn't feel good, so good feelings don't always accompany truth. I'm planning to share the Bible's warning that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), that loving God includes the mind (Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27), and that God's Word can be used to determine truth (Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 3:16). I'm going to explain that the Bible doesn't say anywhere that feelings alone are valid answer to prayer. I'm going to tell them that I'd like to use the other ways God gave us of determining truth, because I believe these things to be guided by prayer and that all truth is God's truth, and that I want to use those other ways to determine truth.

To my Christian readers, prayers would be appreciated. This is the first time I've done this with missionaries, and my husband hasn't really evangelized at all, so this is new territory for us. Pray that, at the least, we will plant good seeds, and that these seeds might lead to salvation at some point.