Sunday, July 29, 2018

Is the Bible All the Word of God We Have?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe “the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God (Articles of Faith 8). We love the Bible, but we believe that the Lord speaks to all of his children and many of their written words have been recorded as scripture. We also believe that the Lord continues to speak to his prophets today and their words are scripture (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38). Thousands of years prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, the Lord knew that when that many would try to disprove the Book of Mormon by saying that the Bible was all that is needed. He told an ancient American prophet:

And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. (2 Nephi 29:3-13)

Many Christians will point out that John in his book of revelation said that anyone that adds to the Bible would be cursed. (Revelation 22:18) but John was referring to the prophecies contained in that one book, not the entire bible. The Bible as we have it was not published until hundreds of years after John’s revelation was published. If what John wrote about adding to the bible is to be taken literally to mean the bible, then we would have to discard everything after the writings of Moses because he said the same thing about his writings (Deuteronomy 12:32). It is foolish to limit the Lord’s ability to call prophets and speak to us and give us revelation to help us with our needs today.

The Book of Mormon is a second witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ. The title page declares that it was:

Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God. . . to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations. (Book of Mormon – Title Page)

The Bible as we have it today has been changed many times and was subject to mistranslation and interpretation by those who wrote the ancient texts. John Wycliffe was the first to completely translate the Bible into English in the 14th century. William Tyndale was the first to print the Bible in English in 1525. King Henry VIII commissioned the “Great Bible” that was taken mainly from Tyndale’s version of the old and new testaments. Several other versions of the bible were also published (the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible are two examples). In 1604, King James I commissioned the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, made up of 47 scholars, to publish a new translation of the Bible and in 1611 the King James Bible was published and became the official version used by most Christian churches. The purpose of the King James Bible was to overcome the “perceived problems of earlier translations”. Each of these Bible versions differed in which books were included in the compiled texts. (History of the King James Version)

Because the Bible was subject to the interpretations of the men that translated the texts, errors and misinterpretations were included in the bible. The Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God and is correct and without error. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book”. (Why is the Book of Mormon the Most Correct of Any Book on Earth?)

Back to my original question – is the Bible all the word of God that we have? My answer is no. The scriptures testify that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If that is true then if he called and spoke to prophets anciently why would he not do so today? Our testimony is that he does speak through his prophets today and those words are recorded and published as scripture. Not only do we have the Bible, but we have the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. We also have the Doctrine and Covenants (which is a compilation of the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith) and the Pearl of Great Price which contains the writings of Moses and Abraham and other writings from the Prophet Joseph Smith.

All of these prove that “I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?” (2 Nephi 29:7)
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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Why Do Mormons Believe in A Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?

One of the fundamental differences between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christian Churches is we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ as established by the Savior during his mortal ministry did not survive after the Apostles were all killed. After the Apostles died, the priesthood authority they held died with them and no one was left that was “authorized” to administer the saving ordinances and lead the church. The Church of Jesus Christ had ceased to exist; an apostasy had occurred.

With the loss of the priesthood authority, changes in doctrine began and as the Apostle Paul had warned that they would be “removed from the grace of Christ unto another gospel . . . and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). Paul also warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Some of the perversions that those teachers with “itching ears” brought in were the concept of the trinity, the purpose and manner of baptism, the doctrine of predestination, the idea of selling indulgences to absolve sin, and the idea that revelation had ceased and the heavens were sealed. It took hundreds of years for the teachings of Jesus Christ to be totally perverted and unrecognizable. There were many who professed differing teaching on these principles and in 325 AD, Constantine convened the Nicaean Council to try to come up with some agreement on what teachings were accepted and which ones were rejected. This council was not based on revelation from heaven but on the philosophies espoused by leaders of the church at the time.

President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote of the affect this apostasy:

“Following the Savior’s death, the Church He had established drifted into apostasy. Fulfilled were the words of Isaiah, who said, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5).

“Paul’s letters cried out for strength among the followers of Christ, lest they fall into the ways of the wicked one. But a spirit of apostasy ultimately prevailed.5

“The centuries rolled on. A cloud of darkness settled over the earth. Isaiah described it: “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isa. 60:2).

“It was a season of plunder and suffering, marked by long and bloody conflict. … It was an age of hopelessness, a time of masters and serfs.

“The first thousand years passed, and the second millennium dawned. Its earlier centuries were a continuation of the former. It was a time fraught with fear and suffering.” (Teachings of the Presidents: Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 1)

Then President Hinckley writes of the reformation and finally the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“Somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation.

“Reformers worked to change the [Christian] church, notably such men as Luther, Melanchthon, Hus, Zwingli, and Tyndale. These were men of great courage, some of whom suffered cruel deaths because of their beliefs. Protestantism was born with its cry for reformation. When that reformation was not realized, the reformers organized churches of their own. They did so without priesthood authority. Their one desire was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped.

“After centuries of darkness and pain and struggle, the time was ripe for the restoration of the gospel. Ancient prophets had spoken of this long-awaited day.

“All of the history of the past had pointed to this season. The centuries with all of their suffering and all their hope had come and gone. The Almighty Judge of the nations, the Living God, determined that the times of which the prophets had spoken had arrived. Daniel had foreseen a stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands and which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth [see Daniel 2:35, 44].” (Teachings of the Presidents: Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 1)

An important principle that we need to understand is that the Church that Christ established when he was on the earth was not the first time it had been established. Another name for the Church of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it has existed from the beginning of time.

Fundamental to the beliefs of the LDS faith is that prior to being born on this earth we lived with Heavenly Father as his spirit children. The Lord tells Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. “ (Jeremiah 1:5). We read in the Book of Abraham of a council that was held in heaven prior to the earth even being created that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught and understood be everyone there:

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.

And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Abraham 3:22-28)

These scriptures show that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has always existed. It was taught to Adam and Eve after they were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Moses 5:5-16), and again to Enoch (Moses 7:7-11), to Noah (Moses 8:19), to Abraham (Abraham 2:8-11), and to Moses (Moses 8:19). The Lord ushered in a new dispensation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by calling a new prophet to lead his church and each dispensation eventually experienced an apostasy and lost the priesthood authority to administer the gospel ordinances. Jesus Christ established his Gospel in the meridian times and that Gospel was lost through apostasy when the Apostles died.

Because the priesthood, the authority from God to act in his name, was lost no reformer would have been able to establish the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. None of the reformers ever claimed authority from God to establish his church. In the spring of 1820 a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith decided to ask God which church he should join and went to pray. That day ushered in a new dispensation when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and told him that none of the existing churches were true and that he should join none of them. The Lord Jesus Christ told Joseph further that all the existing churches “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach the doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History).

For the first time in 1800 years the heavens were opened and a new prophet was called and given the authority to establish the true Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. On May 18, 1829 John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood and the power to baptize. John the Baptist said he was under the direction of Peter, James, and John who held the keys to the higher priesthood and that that priesthood would also be given to them (Doctrine and Covenants 13). Later that same month, Peter, James and John did appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

The Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to officially establish his true church again on the earth and on April 6, 1830 was organized according to the laws of the state of New York. (see Doctrine and Covenants Introduction and Doctrine and Covenants 20:1). The Lord Jesus Christ has declared that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30)

The Apostle Peter told the people in temple in Jerusalem to “repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” and that they should accept Christ “whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21). That time of restitution of all things is here and so is the Church of Jesus Christ.

Why do Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe in a restored gospel of Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is because the Church of Jesus Christ that the Savior established when he was on the earth was lost after all the Apostles were killed and the priesthood authority that they held was taken from the earth. The only way to re-establish the true church would be through a new dispensation of the gospel and the calling of a new prophet and restoring the priesthood to act in God’s name again. Members of Christ’s church again have the mandate to take his Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people and to prepare the earth for the second coming of the Savior Jesus Christ.
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Is God Really Incomprehensible?

My wife and I have been called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have been assigned to serve in the Indiana, Indianapolis Mission for 23 months. I have been thinking of why we want to serve this mission. My wife and I both served as missionaries before we were married and we have always planned on serving together when the time was right. We just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary and I am now retired, so the time is right. Another reason for serving is we want to be an example to our grandchildren (and future generations as well) that missions are a priority for us and it should be for them as well. I believe the most important reason we want to serve our mission is we are both firm believers in the message that The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth again and we have living prophets and the priesthood authority to administer the saving ordinances that will allow us to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ as families after this mortal life.

In six weeks my wife and I will begin our mission when we enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo. The first week of training will be for our individual responsibilities (Sue as the mission nurse and me as an office assistant) and the second week we will receive the same training as the younger missionaries receive before they go out to their individual missions.

Beginning today and for the next five weeks I would like to attempt to explain some of the differences between the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other churches. I have wondered why traditional Christians have such a hard time understanding what we believe because to me our understanding of God and our purpose is so simple it is easy to understand and makes much more sense than traditional Christian beliefs.

The topics that I will be discussing include: the nature of God and Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the apostacy and restoration, is the bible all there is?, do we need a prophet today?, is there only one true church of Jesus Christ?, and what should Christ’s Church look like today?

I want to start this discussion with the topic of the nature of God. I do this because what members of the LDS Church believe about God is fundamental to all the other doctrines we have in the church and is one of the biggest disagreements we have with other Christian churches.

As a teenager my family attended the Methodist Church and though I tried to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, it never made much sense to me? Let’s start with what traditional Christian churches teach about the nature of God.

“The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is not one but three coeternal consubstantial persons[3] or hypostases[4]—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios).[5] In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is.[6][7][8] Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian.
“According to this central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three Persons: while distinct in their relations with each other ("it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds"),[9] they are stated to be one in all else, co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and each is God, whole and entire.[10] Accordingly, the whole work of creation and grace in Christianity is seen as a single operation common to all three divine persons, in which each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, so that all things are "from the Father", "through the Son" and "in the Holy Spirit" (Wikipedia-Trinity)
And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the "mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God". To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. . .
“The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity". The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God." In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature."
“The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "Father", "Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son." They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds. The divine Unity is Triune.
“The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance." Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship." "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.” (The Revelation of God as Trinity)
Now compare those descriptions of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost to what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (or the Mormons) teaches about what we believe:
“The Trinity is a common Christian belief that the Godhead is one being represented by three persons. Mormons do believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. But Mormons do not believe in the traditional concept of the Trinity. Here’s why.
“Mormons do not believe in the Trinity concept because it is not supported by scripture. It was not until the councils of Nicaea (AD 325) and Chalcedon (AD 451) that the doctrine of the Trinity was defined. The formal doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the New Testament because the idea was only introduced hundreds of years later. Mormons center their faith instead on the Godhead as three distinct personages as supported by scripture.
“Mormons believe that God the FatherJesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct personages. They are separate beings united in the purpose of bringing all of God’s children back to His presence, but They are not one singular being. Together They comprise the Godhead.
“Remember the story in Matthew when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist? It’s a perfect example of three distinct beings acting together—as a Godhead—to accomplish the will of Heavenly Father.
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16–17).
“In that moment, all three members of the Godhead were present. Christ, being baptized; the Holy Ghost, as indicated by the sign of the dove; and Heavenly Father’s voice emanating from the heavens.” (Do Mormons Believe in the Trinity?)
This teaching explains that we are literally children of God, Our Heavenly Father:
“The vast family of humankind was created with divine potential and in the image of our Father, who wants His children to thrive, to become like Him, and to return to live with Him. We instinctively desire this same thing; we long for a reunion with a home and family we can’t quite remember.
“The idea of God as our Father is not allegorical; it is literal. Our mortal bodies are remarkable scientific wonders and works of art—they are widely diverse, mortal bodies patterned after God’s own glorified, immortal body, as indicated in Genesis 1:26, where God says, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” And Moses also wrote of having seen God and talking to Him “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). The New Testament likewise reveals Jesus Christ to have been begotten by God and created in His image. During His life on earth, Christ’s earthly body—which looked like ours—reflected this parentage. We are like our Father and His Son, whose combined work is to help us achieve eternal, exalted life with Them in heaven.” (What is the nature of God?)
And finally from the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22)
I would ask anyone to read these two definitions of God tell me that the traditional Christian teaching makes more sense than the LDS’s teaching of the nature of God. How can something that is incomprehensible and a mystery of faith and teaches that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are literally one in the same person be understood? That really is a mystery!
The LDS’s teaching is simple, beautiful, and true. Everyone who lives here on this earth lived prior to birth as spirit children of God, our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ was the Father’s firstborn and is our older brother. Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created this earth for us so we would be able to come here and prove that we can keep God’s commandments and receive the necessary ordinances that will allow us to return to live in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ after this mortal life is over. Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and is the “I AM” that appeared to Moses and the other prophets. (John 8:58) In his mortal ministry, Christ was born of Mary and worked out the Atonement which allows us to overcome spiritual death on condition of repentance and acceptance of him as our Savior and obedience to his commandments. Christ was crucified and rose the 3rd day and was the first fruit of the resurrection which is a free gift to all.
We are all sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, and we are commanded to love everyone as Christ loved us. To God and Christ there is no distinction between bond and free, male and female, wealth or stature, living or dead; they love all of us. Heavenly Father has even provided a way for those that did not know about Jesus Christ or his church and did not have the opportunity to accept his Gospel and receive the saving ordinances. All of Heavenly Father’s children will have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel in this life or in the spirit world before the resurrection and the necessary ordinances will be performed for them in the temples of the Lord by those of us that are still here in mortality.
Everyone’s, living and dead, responsibility is to come unto Christ through baptism by those holding the proper authority, to receive the blessings of the house of the Lord to be sealed as families, and to do our best to keep the commandments and endure to the end. None of us live sinless lives and through the grace of Jesus Christ we overcome those sins and can be cleansed through his atoning blood and finally we can be found worthy to enter into the presence of God and live as eternal families.
To me this is beautiful and makes perfect sense. I would ask anyone to explain how the traditional Christian teaching of the trinity, the purpose of this life, and what the afterlife will be like makes more sense.
If you like this, I invite you to share it with your social media friends. Your comments and questions are welcome.