What’s This Mormon Thing?

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Posts Tagged ‘religious prejudice’

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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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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What is an Opinion Worth?

Posted by JLFuller on June 30, 2008

Some consider mine of little value because I do not accept the premise they are trying to sell. I read some, just not the Edsel versions. I have read some early Christian writers such as Orien, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. I intend to read more. A current writer, Helen Dekker, a minister of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands and formerly of the World Council of Churches is interesting. I don’t agree with her premise that Christ was a man filled with God but was not God though. Tolerance is key in her work. I have recently found a website called Early Church Fathers at http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html that is interesting. It is operated by Christian Classics Ethereal Library which is not a Mormon organization. Their series is titled Early Church Fathers and is in electronic format and downloadable. I have found that traditional Christianity, the kind not represented by Evangelicals, is usually the best place to go for another view point. I will read a well thought out and researched piece by just about any writer as long as he isn’t trying to float a propaganda balloon. Which brings me back to some of the loudest most obnoxious of the internet commentators. I would rather discuss religion with a Moslem than many of these people. In fact I am. We don’t have much in common when it comes to religion but they are willing to explain things. At least I now know the difference between Koran and Qur’an. The latter spelling is preferred in the English speaking Muslim community. It is a more accurate translation from Arabic.  
Back on task. I admit it – I am reaching a tipping point with folks who take a nickels worth of opinion and claim it is a dollars worth of facts. I find nothing useful in discussing religion with people who deliberately misinform, prefer ill-conceived notions when corrected versions are available to them and exercise distorted thinking especially when it is accompanied by destructive behavior towards others. I guess some just need to stew in their own juices a while longer before they are done.
 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

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Pre-conceived Notions

Posted by JLFuller on June 19, 2008

“We used to have on the front of the Old Testament syllabus at Duke* a cartoon and it showed a young man lying on the floor thumbing through his scriptures and his wife was standing over him and he’s saying to her ‘Go away, leave me alone. I’m looking for a biblical text to support my pre-conceived notion!’ Roger R. Keller, Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding at BYU  www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2003_Grace_of_Apologetics.html

 

In his piece, Dr. Keller takes from the Book of Mormon: He quotes 3 Nephi 11: 29-30: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the Spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine that such things should be done away.”

 

I think refusing to consider the other side of the story is not a doctrinal thing – it is a form of non-verbal violence. Non-verbal violence is similar to passive-aggressive behavior or more accurately sabotage. The perpetrator’s behavior in effect is communicating a willingness to breach the minimum decorum we expect from each other. That is, I will trust and honor you and be trustworthy in return. In our discussions here, refusing to accommodate another persons most sacred beliefs and in fact denigrating them publicly, is defacto aggression. It is an anger response. That is not to say we all have to agree with everyone else, we just have to accommodate the legitimacy of their closely held beliefs. The real world effect of such destructive behavior is the diminution of the bond that makes communities work. Notice again I am not talking about doctrine. The focus is behavioral. We may all have differences of opinion and consider one element of fact as more persuasive than another and come to entirely different positions. That is to be expected. But what we cannot do, and must not do, is reject the other persons right to have his position respected and given due consideration.  

 

If I use the term pro-social, most people understand what that means. If I use the term anti-social, they understand that too. Overt hostile words are anti-social. Most people understand that to be a bad thing and they understand why. But there are some who insist that because they have a right to make such comments that it is a good thing too. To those people I ask “good for whom?” Good for the recipient of your brutish behavior? Is it good for you to just get it off your chest? I don’t see any benefit in alienating people you disagree with. What is it you hope to accomplish? Do you think the other guy is listening? Do you think other readers/listeners are impressed? No my friends, there is a better way. It is more challenging but it works where other methods fail. The other way is Christ’s way. Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith..”

 

I came across a fellow writing on his blog recently, lamenting that only 2500 or so of his denomination at any one time ever took a week off to go to another city and witness. Mormons, on the other hand, had 50,000 to 60,000 people serving two year missions and they paid their own way. The difference I suggest is adherents to his denomination and others who follow that example are quite willing and anxious to openly attack other denominations with whom they disagree. I suggest that by their behavior they repel the Holy Spirit when they do so. Notice I said nothing about doctrine – only behavior.

 

Many years ago, four California Highway Patrol Officer were gunned down by two killers. Asked why they killed the officers, one commented “Because they got stupid. They deserved it”. The killers based their behavior on weaknesses they perceived in others. The officers did not intend to use deadly force against the killers unless there was no other way and their thinking dictated how they responded. I have often heard “killer” type comments made by others when they are talking about Mormons and others they disagree with. In essence, “We talk about them this way because…”  You can fill in the rest.

 

* Duke University, Durham North Carolina

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