What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Posts Tagged ‘God’

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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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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Pastoral Behavior – Not Theology

Posted by JLFuller on August 25, 2008

I am legitimately criticized for having a less than respectful opinion of a major part of traditional Christianity’s pastors. I have formed my opinion based on their behavior not their theology. In my mind, I have a picture of a high school graduate who couldn’t get accepted into a real four year college where he would be taught how to think and had to settle on the trade school version called bible college where he was taught only what to think. My opinion is based on my experience with many such people. I was a case officer in a government agency and interacted professionally with many of these folks. I have to say it was a mixed bag of experiences and some left me with a very distasteful opinion of their abilities.

 

These less than well educated leaders in the traditional Christian, (read Evangelical) community are the people who created the bulk of anti-Mormon sentiments extant. It takes only a little effort to find out what Mormons actually believe but yet they continue to regurgitate the old, lame, uninformed pap that was thrown at us by their grandfathers. I have said that if these people are bound and determined to hate us anyway they should at least get our theology and practices right. It’s kind of like the cop who tells the father of the perpetrator he arrested that if he is going to sue make sure he gets the name right.

 

Oddly enough, these same denominations are the churches of the slave owners of the Old South, modern segregationists and supporters of the Ku Klux Klan. They have a visceral reaction to Mormons, Jews, Indians, Catholics and others they perceive as undesirables. The Southern Baptists for example, have a laundry list of churches that are OK to hate. They actually teach this crap from the pulpit. They have an online book store with 26 pages of hate filled derogatory offerings for sale to their adherents.  It is unsettling to me as an American that so many look to these people for leadership. You will notice that none of what I said was theological in nature but rather are comments on officially sanctioned behaviors.

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Does Behavior Matter? More Hate Filled Evangelicals

Posted by JLFuller on August 19, 2008

For some time now, there have been groups of anti-Mormons who parade in front of the Temple, the Conference Center at conference time and protest at the dedication of Church buildings around the country. They engage in highly confrontational, in-your-face tactics at our events and claim they are just informational. OK, I accept they have doctrinal differences with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They say they are only interested in informing the LDS membership and others of errors they perceive in our Church and believe their methods are justified. Apparently they think they have some role in deciding what others are allowed believe. In any event, I fail to see how such confrontations can do anything but alienate others. Then again I don’t think they intend to bridge any divides. 

 

One such group, Mormon Research Ministries, says they consider the term anti-Mormon  offense and liken it to a racial slur. Evidently they see themselves as some kind of victim. But  thier verbal violence and in-your-face confrontations make a mockery of legitimate victims of religious persecution. They prefer the term critic as though they were providing peer reviewed commentaries. I suggest anyone who observes this group’s behavior will conclude the term anti-Mormon fits – regardless of what they want us to believe.

 

This confrontation tactic is not a new strategy. It is in fact an old one. We have seen it elsewhere such as anti-war demonstrations as well as by such groups as NOW, Code Pink, the Black Panther Party, The Nation of Islam and others. Even the American Nazi Party used this tactic in their 1977 confrontation of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. So both radical ends of the spectrum have found the tactic useful. Groups in the mainstream find other more constructive ways to express opinion and differences with others.

 

Recently at the Mormon Miracle Pageant event in Manti, Utah, anti-Mormon women dressed up as Joseph Smith’s wives and paraded in front of attendees as a way of expressing their views of Joseph Smith and his polygamist beliefs. I can’t comment on the accuracy of what they attempted to convey and I suggest they can’t either. I don’t think any one knows the whole story. To this writer it appears MRM had a nickels worth of opinion and wanted us to believe it was a dollars worth of fact. MRM writer Aaron Shafovaloff told me the resource they used was Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness although in reading Compton I found he denounces the very methods MRM uses.

 

Compton says “… I also dislike Mormon history that systematically censors out anything “positive.” Mormon history is filled with wonderful people who have performed authentically Christ like actions. There are many stories of heroism and sacrifice. While some church leaders have been authoritarian and controlling others have been warm and inclusive. Anyone who continually hammers on only the negative is guilty of censorship and cover up, just as is the person who censors out the negative. Both write unrealistic and unbelievable history. Furthermore, the person who includes only the negative can be guilty of sensationalism and the low moral atmosphere of yellow journalism.”   www.lds-mormon.com/compton.

 

I don’t know if the message MRM wants to convey holds water or not or how much is accurate and how much is contrived or taken out of context. I have doubts about the accuracy because MRM does not provide the other side which is a sign their intent was just to spread more propaganda. In fact, when it comes to LDS theology and history we  see only negative comments and articles coming from MRM. So when they present a piece I have serious doubts about its legitimacy. They certainly are not balanced and, to my way of thinking, are not credible. I find it too hard to get past their behavior to seriously consider what they say. I think a lot of people are like me. It certainly is not in keeping with the Savior’s way of treating other people. Mormons believe creating conflict is Satan’s way and that Christ rejects it.

 

But, right or wrong, there they were. Their method was intended to be provocative and so it was. As I read the reports of the event and saw the photos taken, I couldn’t help but think that these were likely fine people. But a lot of fine people are poorly led. The issue I take with them is not their doctrine or belief about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or anyone else. I object to the blatantly offense manner they choose to express themselves and their beliefs. Let them believe what they will. But how do attendees protect themselves from these openly hostile behaviors? This was a family event with small children, elderly and invited guests to a beautiful, spiritual event intended to praise God and honor Mormon forbearers.

 

MRM’s blog MormonCoffee.com has pictures and commentary of the event.  Shafovaloff reports on the event if readers care to follow this link – www.blog.mrm.org. As in many of these staged events the outcome is often predicted in advance to have been a “roaring success” according to those who put it on. However those not connected with the event often have a different view. I wonder if it is even worth the effort. It certainly rallies the troops, and I suppose such expressions raise money and keep some people’s interest up.  But isn’t that like preaching to the choir? What kind of person is impressed with behavior like this?

 

Nation of Islam’s (Lewis Farrakhan) Million Man March of a few years ago claimed to have over a million participants. But the National Park Service who monitored and licensed the event reported a significantly smaller number of less than half that. In Farrakhan’s case success was defined according to someone’s preference rather than the actual outcome. Who knows whether this MRM event was a success? I suppose it depends on how you define success and who you think was listening.

 

All this brings me to the point I try to make on this blog and wherever I comment or participate in a discussion. I ask if we are getting closer or farther apart? Does the discussion lead us to becoming more Christ-like? So I ask it here too. In the case of the Manti event, is the divide between LDS and the protesters narrower or wider and whose interest does it benefit, Satan’s or Christ’s. 

 

I have offered Shafovaloff the chance to say what he wants in response to my piece. In fact I sent him a draft of what I said here so he would know what to respond to. I think that is only fair given I mentioned him and his site by name. In the past, others have claimed that the end justifies the means. They believe they have a duty to educate unknowing Mormons about some unsavory behaviors, as they see them, and that such behaviors are indicative of the falseness of our religion. They think Mormons are oblivious to the failings of the people who preceded us. We are not. When it comes to Joseph and Brigham, I don’t think we have the whole story. In fact I am sure we don’t. We don’t know enough to judge. I don’t know and I am OK with it until someone with gravitas and says otherwise. I want to hear the other side before I draw conclusions. Until then, these stories are only half-told.

 

So, in answer to my question, does behavior matter? Of course it does. There is a threshold which legitimate discourse must meet to be considered worthy of discussion. That is, participants must respect the premise enough to consider all sides of a question and practice a modicum of restraint in arriving at conclusions. MRM’s behavior is analogous to inviting oneself over a colleague’s home and forcing themselves verbally upon him. Honest, responsible people do not behave this way – or so it seems to me.

 

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Mormons Who Go Bad – Loosing one’s Faith

Posted by JLFuller on August 10, 2008

In a bishops interview we are asked if we are living the principles of the Gospel. That is, praying, paying a full tithing, attending our meetings, living a chaste life if unmarried, observing God sanctioned sexual behavior within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman, observing the sanctity of the Sabbath, reading the scriptures daily, regular temple worship for those with a recommend and so forth. Yet I have yet to talk with anyone who espouses the former-Mormon-turned-anti-Mormon point of view who kept the vows they made with God when they entered the waters of baptism, received confirmation and took upon themselves Temple covenants.

 

  The very manifestations of the Holy Ghost that we so regularly need are based on how well we live the promises we make to God. When we make these covenants we essentially agree to live by a higher standard than others do. We chose to rise above the normal human understanding of things and seek to understand God by changing the natural man. We acknowledge that the natural man is an enemy to God and promise to work towards being a more holy person and that we desire to be a Son of God in the biblical sense Paul talks about – that is, more Christ like. When we break our covenants we give up the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In fact I suggest we regress to a point of no promise. In essence we loose our faith.

 

  We lose it for a variety of reasons but I suggest it is mostly due to sexually inappropriate behavior brought on by pornography which in turn leads to other worldly behaviors, adhering to worldly ideas and rejecting the counsel of the prophet and apostles. We kind of go our own way. One really devastating thing I see among some members is a commitment to the “intellectual honesty” meme. My reasoning is based on twenty five years experience working with dysfunctional people on a professional basis. These people got into trouble because they came to a place where they felt entitled to their behavior and believed they could get away with what ever they wanted to do. They bought off on the big lie.      

 

 The purpose in clinging tightly to our covenants is not to force people into a way of thinking but rather to open up the pathway to heavenly communication. The Gospel does not aim to dictate how to live but to make it so God can enter our lives and direct us. But all is hinged on us living the principles of the Gospel and rejecting the worldliness we see all around us. Worldliness is not normal for holy beings but it is normal for the natural man who is God’s enemy.

 

 Some are going to say that they can do all the things I mention above in any other faith. Of course others outside the Church can elevate themselves to a higher level of living and become more Christ like. But they can only go so far. No other faith has the authority to bind on earth and make it binding in heaven too. No one else can prepare people for a celestial existence. No one else has the authority of the priesthood. Only Christ has that authority and only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the Gospel in its fullness. If you reject this after having made the covenants of baptism and the additional covenants found within the temple I suggest you are in deep trouble. You don’t go back to a state of just not knowing as we see in the other non-members who don’t know. You have in fact rejected God. That is different than merely not knowing Him.

 

Some say they left the Church because they found God as a member of something else. But when you examine their lives you see a completely different human being than they portray to the public. More often than not you see a public “Christian” and a worldly real person underneath. I have never found it to be otherwise. But then I have only worked with a few hundred members, former members and their families. I could be wrong. One caveat – being a member in name only does not automatically include a person in the ranks of those I talk about here.

 

So, what does all this mean? Does it mean all good Mormons should reject those who have fallen away? Should we act coolly to them and their families? Certainly not. If anything we are required to show an extra measure of love and kindness to them in hopes of welcoming them back into full fellowship. But the reality is that some of these folks can do a lot misinforming and damage to Christ and the Church. They have placed us in a precarious position. On one hand we are admonished to encourage them and even be anxious for their full fellowship. On the other hand we are encouraged to inform the misinformed of the disinformation some spread about us. And so it is my sense that the honest of heart in the former member ranks make every attempt for re-instatement into the Church. They should call upon God for His guidance and follow it. But by no means should we as members be shy about correcting the damage others inflict on the Church keeping in mind the Saviors words that doing unto the least of our brethren is like doing unto Him.  

 

 (Note: More Mormons are disciplined in the Church for illegal and inappropriate sexual behaviors and financial misdealing than any other reasons according to one source although I am not aware of any publicly available statistics to support my contention. I found that to be the case with the population I supervised as a case manager too. Disciplining means being disfellowshipped or excommunicated.)

 

 

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Solomon Spaulding, The B of Mormon – Joseph Smith was Functionally Illiterate

Posted by JLFuller on August 4, 2008

Joseph Smith Jr could not have written the B of M nor could he have used Spaulding as the basis for it. He was functionally illiterate. He didn’t have the skills. I think even most anti-Mormons gave up on that years ago – but you never know. So, just in case there are people who don’t know we landed on the moon in 1969, that Dwight D. Eisenhower is no longer president and the Soviet Union collapsed, here is a brief quote from Lance D. Chase that gives the history.   

“The Spaulding Manuscript is a fictional story about a group of Romans who, while sailing to England early in the fourth century A.D., were blown off course and landed in eastern North America. One of them kept a record of their experiences among eastern and midwestern American Indian tribes. The 175-page manuscript was first published as a 115-page monograph in 1885, some seventy years after the death of its author, Solomon Spaulding (sometimes spelled Spalding). The only known manuscript was lost from 1839 until its discovery in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1884. It was promptly published by both the Latter-day Saints and Reorganized Latter Day Saint churches to refute the theory of some critics that it had served as an original source document for the Book of Mormon, supposedly supplied to Joseph Smith by Sidney Rigdon.” http://farms.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=51&chapid=445 

Anyone who has read or is otherwise familiar with the Joseph Smith Jr. story should recognize he could not have written or created a work as sophisticated as The Book of Mormon or The Pearl Of Great Price nor could he have edited the Inspired Edition of bible. And just as he could not have written the B of M he could not have used the Spaulding manuscript as the basis for the B of M. Smith was not competant to do either given with his skill level. He had what is considered today to be an inadequate education. He was, in fact, functionally illiterate. I invite readers to go to The Joseph Smith Papers Project and read some of his own hand written journals and other writings. What is presented was written almost ten years after the B of M was written – all this is after he had been tutored and was a more experienced writer – even then he never met a punctuation mark he liked. I think you will see that what I say is correct. Certainly the LDS Church has said for years that in his youth his lack of education made it impossible for him to create such a work. The implication is that he had some help. 

Some commentators have agreed. But they suggest the help he received was from his Church associates such as Martin Harris or Sidney Rigdon both of whom held responsible positions in the nascent Church. What they do not say is that both of these men left the Church over disagreements with Smith and denounced him. But neither ever renounced* their previous testimonies about where the Book of Mormon came from or that it was translated by Joseph Smith in the manner he and they always claimed. That is, the Book of Mormon was presented to Joseph by an angel of the Lord on gold and brass plates and that Joseph translated them using the methods he described. 

*I have not found any secular source claiming these men ever renounced their stories about the origins of the B of M. If anyone has such information I would like to see it. 

Go to the Oberlin College website to see what they have to say about the Spaulding Manuscript. It is in thier library.

http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/faq/spaulding_origins.html

 

 

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Does God Answer Questions?

Posted by JLFuller on August 2, 2008

Some say He is dead or that He doesn’t speak to man anymore. But yet they pray and expect miracles. Some people are very quick to limit God. One lady had her questions answered. http://www.mormon.org/mormonorg/eng/exhibit#Jennifer_prayer.

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Are Non-Christians Lost Forever?

Posted by JLFuller on July 28, 2008

Many a pastor has shouted from the pulpit that non-believers are hell bound and will not be retrieved. But the following verses seem to contradict that notion.

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.”

1 Peter 3:18‑20: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”

1Peter 4:6: The gospel is taught to the dead so that they will be judged “according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

Which makes more sense – a loving God that would create billions of beings knowing they were going to suffer eternal torment for something they had no control over or a loving God who had a plan to redeem all by sacrificing His Son for the salvation of these same children including those who never heard of Him? I suggest God’s plan is self evident by the passages above.

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The Great Apostasy

Posted by JLFuller on July 26, 2008

Did the ancient Christian church devolve into an apostate religion?   
2 Thesalonians 2 says yes.
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,  2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members, and other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed and the priesthood authority —including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was taken from the earth ( 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3).  Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority and revelation, error crept into Church teachings.  Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost, resulting in a period called the Great Apostasy.

This apostasy led to the formation of many churches with conflicting teachings.  Without the full gospel or the priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  False ideas were taught as truth, and much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost.  The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten.  Each generation inherited a state of apostasy, as people were influenced by what previous generations passed on, including changes to Christ’s gospel.  Some inspired people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized that practices and doctrines had been changed or lost and tried to reform the churches to which they belonged.  Without the priesthood authority, however, Christ’s gospel could not be returned to its original form. 

After centuries of spiritual darkness, a restoration of truth was needed.  Under the Direction of our Heavenly Father, the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored on the earth through the Prophet  Joseph Smith.  God has promised it will never be taken from His children again. www.lds.org.

Intersted readers will want to read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus.  A brief synopsis can be found by following the link. Dr. Ehrman is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the early Church and the life of Jesus. He is not LDS. 

 

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