What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Posts Tagged ‘Protestant’

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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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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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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