What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Archive for January, 2009

1 Nephi 14:9 – The Great and Abominable Church- Which One Is It?

Posted by JLFuller on January 24, 2009

Is there one evil and corrupt church that is the church of the devil and which one do Mormons think it is? The Book of Mormon passage (1st Nephi 14: 9) that many misunderstand and from which many people (a few Mormons too) think seperates Mormons from everyone else really provides a clearer understanding of this doctrine.  It says Behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.” Some cite comments made by a few very early church members and leaders, right after the church was founded, as supporting the notion that this is one particular church. They were in error. The LDS Church does not teach and does not believe that any other established church as we know them is the Great and Abominable Church.  Rather we believe the “church” spoken of is all the people who fight against God. The next verse helps to clarify. 

Verse 10 continues. ” Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.I suppose some used this verse to suggest that there are only two players – Mormons and everyone else. But that just isn’t so and never has been.  

Verse 12 further identifies who the players are. “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.” 

Just as is said, the number of the people in God’s church is few and they are on all the face of the earth. We interpret that as meaning members of God’s Church are all those that seek after Him and seek to have Him guide their lives. They are many good people who abide by and seek to live their lives according to God’s will in whatever light that has been given them. These can be and are people in every religious denomination. The others, members of the Great and Abominable Church, are those who corrupt, persecute, defame, malign and abuse people with whom they disagree and over whom they seek advantage or dominion. They fight against godliness. They seek to destroy and enslave. In short, they seek the things of this world and reject God.  

We believe  the gospel has always been on the earth, But it was only in its fullness for certain periods of time and then only according to how much the people could accept and live. We believe that to hear, know and understand the gospel but not live it, or abide by it, results in condemnation. In many cases, giving the people everything would just set them up to fail. So as an act of a loving father, God only allowed as much as the people could live.  But it would have been available if the people were ready for it. 

The advent of Jesus Christ restored the full gospel to the earth once again. But because of the wickedness of the people, and the Great and Abominable church, it was lost when the last apostle died. The record of the entire gospel – which we know was under attack even during the time of Christ and the Apostles – was further attacked afterward. Eventually, much of the record of the Gospel was removed or distorted and only a part of it remains in the traditional canon today. God had said it would happen but that He would restore it in the end times. The Book of Mormon is that restored Gospel. It was being kept by a separate group of God’s people on the American continent.   

Within the group of people identified in Nephi as those who are not members of the Great and Abominable Church, you find the Mormons. While we were still in our pre-mortal life, we took upon ourselves the obligation to take this message to the rest of the world. We understand and accept that some will find a certain resonance with what we claim and will want to learn more. Others, for various reasons, will not.  That doesn’t make them part of the other group though. They may have hardened their hearts and been swayed by the craftiness of men. It is expected.

All people learn and are ready to receive in their own time. It may mean those who reject the message in this life will learn of the fullness of the gospel after they pass over to the other side where they will be taught by Christ’s missionaries as it says in John 5:25. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”

So, we Mormons are very much a part of the Church of the Lamb of God just as Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics and Jews and all the other good and godly people of the earth. We also accept that membership in any one church or religious group does not exclude a person from membership in the Great and Abominable Church too. Now I understand some people are going say this is too black and white and that there are many shades of gray. That is true. There are many interpretations of scripture that lead to long and deep discussions. But for a short hand version of who Mormons are and how we see ourselves fitting into the world, this I think works – for now.  I invite others to put a finer point on my comments if they wish to do so. I am coachable. 

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The Journal of Discourses – Not an Authorized Source of Mormon Doctrine

Posted by JLFuller on January 12, 2009

Just about everyone who questions LDS doctrine cites the JoD as an authorized source of true Mormon doctrine but is it a reliable source of current Mormon beliefs and practices? No, it is not. So I suggest that people who quote from it refrain from saying it is.  If it is important enough for you to comment on, check with an authoritative organ of the Church for an authentic answer to your questions or response to a statement before you publish what you think we believe.  We understand people make mistakes. We all do. Certainly I err and have to revisit something I said to clarify. But deliberately and knowingly misinforming others is not a mistake.  Don’t get caught up in bearing false witness. 

So why isn’t it authoritative? The JoD was written and printed in Great Britian between 1854 and 1886.  According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a MacMillian publication edited by religion professors at BYU and some others, “It served as the printed word of the LDS Church for members who had no access to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. It most often published sermons of Church leaders which were not always considered to be official statements of doctrine.”  At best it is an historic resource which often contains authorized doctrine of the times, but not always. 

Former BYU Religion Department Dean Dr. Robert Millet  presented a paper in 2004 to the faculty on Church doctrine. In it he again re-iterated how offical doctrine is determined. In his presentation he said   “…let me affirm at the outset that I understand implicitly that the right and authority to declare, interpret, and clarify doctrine rest with living apostles and prophets.” Dr. Millet re-affirmned what LDS members have been told for decades and in fact longer than that.  The prophet and the Twelve, when acting in concert, are the sole source of doctrine. Other members have no authority to declare what doctrine is. I should emphasize the living part of his statement.  There are no other authoritative sources. Our recently departed President and prophet, Gorden B. Hinckley said that a living prophet was better than a dead one, and so it is.

Authoritative sources are Church published teaching resources such as manuals and other printed documents, pamphlets, letters from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, presentations made at semi annual Conference or statements or proclamations issued by the Church. There are many highly reliable sources to which one can turn to report on Church doctrine such as Church magazines, official Church organ publications and schools such as BYU, presentations by individual General Authorities and other Church leaders. However, unless the message presented originates from one of the sources of authorized doctrine, it cannot be considered authentic. That means personal opinions don’t count even if they come from a high ranking leader. I encourage readers to read Dr. Millet’s paper and read his footnotes as a means of confirming what he said. 

Now, so I don’t mix messages here, counsel from our leaders is important. Guidance from our bishops, stake and branch presidents and others is intended to aid us in understanding gospel principles. We believe in taking their guidance and using it as an aid in our lives. When they provide us with guidance they will refer us to where their guidance comes from. We as members and they as leaders note, or should note,  when we state our opinions or those of others and if our message is not clear we hasten to clarify. Teachers are provided with training and teaching aids and manuals along with authoritative sources, from which their message is taken. In all cases, presenters of the message should have spoken with the aid and presense of The Holy Ghost after sincere prayer and supplication to the Lord. We as receivers of their message are admonished to pray for confirmation by the Holy Ghost of what is  said.

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What if Mormons are right and Catholics and Protestants wrong?

Posted by JLFuller on January 9, 2009

Eamonn McCann, an Irish writer, writes in the Belfast Telegraph in August 2008, concerning the Catholic response to The Church of Jesus Christ’s of Latter Day Saints’ doctrine of baptism for the dead. The LDS Church has sought the baptism and other records owned by the Catholic Church to use in doing this vicarious work. This practice and discussion has drawn a wave of comments from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In the article, McCann postulates that baptising babies makes less sense than baptising the dead. Indeeed, the baby is oblivious to the ordinance and requires an adult to act as mouth accepting the ordinance and making lifetime commitments in his stead. The infant has a lifetime to  learn about the complex belief system and then make up his mind as to whether he believes it or not and wishes to continue as a Catholic. The dead however are in a far different situation. I think the reader will find this an interesting article.

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