Are Mormons Christian? A look at the question itself

Why is this question so important?  Why does it deserve its own post?  Does it really matter what another person says about me?

Absolutely.  Particularly in cases when it leads to the confusion of others who are sincere.

Labels are a powerful thing. 

For example, we’ve all known for a painfully prolonged period of time that we are in a recession.  We’ve all felt it.  We’ve even called it that.  But Monday morning (Dec 1, 08), when the National Bureau of Economic Research made it official, announcing that we are in a recession, and have been since Dec ’07, the Dow plummeted almost 700 points by the end of the day.  Nothing was different that day, from the day before, other than the fact that now it had been given an official label from a trusted source, and because of that label, the market lost almost a billion dollars in just one day.

 Labels are powerful things.

So are words.  Words are the way we convey meaning, how we communicate.  And the words we choose have strong bearing on those that they’re given to.  If you ever doubt the ability of words to affect human events, think for a moment about Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf.  On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the Bible.  Words are powerful, and the words you choose determine the way people look at things.

So when a trusted source, say a pastor, preacher, priest, or even a close friend tells you that Mormons are not Christian, that’s a big deal.  For many people, particularly those who lack the personal motivation and courage to research it themselves, that singular statement is sufficient for their wholesale dismissal of Mormonism.  And those who made those statements will be accountable for that impact.

But who can say if someone else is Christian or not?  Who has that authority?  Certainly not a man.  Only Christ has that capacity to judge. 

There are several excuses offered up to justify such statements, each of which will be covered in the other supporting posts in this series.   But in the end, they are just excuses, the skin of reason, stuffed with lies.  For none of us are in the position to judge another.

But why then do so many work so hard, to perpetuate such claims? 

Because it’s an effective mechanism for deterring souls from finding the truth.  It’s a superficial argument meant to take advantage of members of congregations or peers who are willing to take their word, rather than finding out for themselves.  Often it’s an illustration of the effects of commercialized religion’s influence on ecclesiastical leaders.  For their very business stands to fail, and their structures crumble around them unless they can stop the onslaught of the growth of the LDS church.   And they’re incented (financially) to sufficiently pollute public opinion with baseless propaganda, such as statements and claims that Christians are only those who are exactly like them.  Why?  Why not rely upon solid doctrine, sound reason, and pure facts, trusting in the truth to make itself evident?  Why resort to labels, and name calling? 

And so it behooves us as Latter-day Saints (Mormons), to have a public voice, to speak out, to ensure the facts are heard, that people may know that indeed, Mormons are Christian.  Mine is the intent to teach the truth about Mormonism, with God as my witness, that the truth may be made known and the children of men may determine for themselves, rather than trusting in labels others would force upon us in their endeavors to ensnare and mislead.

Please, take the time to read the posts in this series.  And if you still doubt the Christian claims of Mormonism, tell me why, that I we may address it openly together.

But it is my testimony to all that Christ lives, and I believe in Him.

Rusty

Are Mormons Christian?

Many honest and sincere people have asked this question of me, and so I wanted to ensure that I had a post that adequately answered this very appropriate and important question.

The answer is a resounding and emphatic YES!

Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that He is the Son of God.  We believe that He is our Savior and our Redeemer.  We believe that only in, and through, and of Him can we be saved. 

This is why our church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is named after him (and not after a man).  He is at its center, and at its head; He guides it with his own hands, and it is Him in whom we put our trust.

The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, witnesses of Him.  From within its profoundly divine pages can be found references such as the following: 

2nd Nephi 25:26:  “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

Mosiah 3:17:  “…there shall be no other name given nor any other means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”

We believe in the testimony of the prophets, of both ancient and latter-day, as they witness of Christ…

Doctrine and Covenants 76:22:  “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him:  That he lives!

Here is the testimony of a living prophet, on the Lord Jesus Christ, given at this last General Conference.

 

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_Zpu-VeuCE]

 

And meager as it may be in comparison to these powerful witnesses, I add my witness to theirs, that Christ lives, that he is the Son of God, that he is our savior and our redeemer, and that it is through his unthinkable atoning sacrifice our salvation might be made possible, that this is His church, His work, and that most certainly, Mormons are Christian, in both word, and in deed.

Rusty

For further exploration of this important topic, as well as for focused segmented discussions, please see the post “Mormon Christians“.

Holding on for dear life

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/holding-on-for-dear-life/

Mormon website ranks above all other religions

There’s an article on LDSMediaTalk.com (here), which points out that LDS.org ranks the highest of all religions organization’s websites.  At least according to Alexa (www.alexa.com), a well-known company that measures traffic, “reach”, and ranking of top websites.

According to the article, the following religions rank in this order (note:  the smaller the number, the higher the rank)…

  • 3,095 LDS.org (peaking as high as 2,500 in October… conference time)
  • 19,072 Watchtower.org (Jehovas Witnesses)
  • 25,990 Catholic.org
  • 62,988 Anglican/Episcopal
  • 71,175 Assemblies of God
  • 80,000 Sevent-day Adventist
  • 90,394 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Other sites for Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians were even farther down the list.

Of the three core missions of the church (proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem the dead), the church is perhaps most well known for their leading efforts in missionary work.  The Lord was clear in His command to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, to feed His sheep, and to teach and baptize the nations.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), have always given every effort to take that charge seriously.

With some 55,000 dedicated missionaries world-wide, speaking 157 languages, the Lords church doesn’t stop there.  Instead, the latter-day prophets and apostles encourage every member to get involved using new media, to teach and spread the good news of the gospel.

It’s inspiring to see the Lords work move forth, and to learn that the world as a whole is responding to this new endeavor.  What a marvelous time it is to be a Mormon.

Rusty

 

The living Christ, a living Prophet – Conference Conclusion

 

This video, while intended to introduce conference, provides an equally compelling conclusion to this marvelous event.  A powerful introduction and testimony by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Living Christ and a living prophet.

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pG2TxKrwAY

 

And here it is in text format:

A general conference of the church is a declaration to all the world that Jesus is the Christ.  That He and His Father, the God and Father of us all, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith, in fulfillment of that ancient promise.  That the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth would again restore His church on earth, and again come in like manner as those Judean saints had seen him ascend into heaven.

This conference, and every other conference like it, is a declaration that he condescended to come to earth, in poverty and humility, to face sorrow and rejection, disappointment and death, in order that we might be saved from those very fates as our eternity unfolds.  That with His stripes we are healed. 

This conference proclaims to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people his messianic promise, that his mercy endureth forever. 

To all of you who think you are lost, or without hope, or who think you have done too much, that was too wrong, for too long.  To every one of you who worry that you’re stranded somewhere on the wintery plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process.  This conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain “my hand is stretched out still.”

I testify of this reaching, rescuing, merciful Jesus.  That this is His redeeming church, based on His redeeming love.  It is no trivial matter for this church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it.  It is true light shining in a dark world.  And it shines from these proceedings. 

And that as those in the Book of Mormon declared, “There came prophets again among the people, who were sent from the Lord to speak it, yeah, there came prophets in the land again”.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland
Quorum of the 12 Apostles

Stand close together, and lift where you stand

 

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the first presidency, gave a brilliant address tonight in the General Priesthood meeting.

He recounted a story of a number of priesthood holders who were asked to move a piano from the sacrament meeting room into the cultural hall of a local chapel.

The several men that were attempting to move this piano were having an awful time trying to figure out how to properly balance it while moving it.  Many ideas were tried, but to no success.

At long last, a friend of his said simply “Everybody stand close together, and lift where you stand”.

Sounding simple enough, they tried the approach, and sure enough, the piano was stable, balanced, and was easily moved.

Pondering those simple words later, he realized the tremendous lesson held within them.

All we have to do is stand close together, each of us in our place, and lift, where we stand.  Whatever our role, whatever our calling, whatever our talents, whatever our positions, if we each will simply “lift” where we stand, we will have the power to do great things, and move the work of the Lord along.

As he strongly and eloquently emphasized that we should not aspire to something greater than our current position, thinking that somehow we’d have a better impact somewhere else, nor should we shirk and hide from callings the Lord would offer us.  At the source of each of these is selfishness.

Instead, we must each serve in the capacity to which we have been called, exerting the greatest possible effort. For the Lord has assigned us to that position for a wise purpose in Him, and we should trust in the Lord, and serve Him fully, with full purpose of heart.

He made the highly quotable comment: “The Lord loves the noble servant, not the self serving noble.”

How simple, but how great is this counsel to stand close together, and lift where we stand.

Rusty

Pres. Monson’s advice…Learn, Do, Be

 

Tonight in the Priesthood session of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson, our living prophet gave us this simple, but inspired counsel.

1. Learn what you should learn.
2. Do what you should do.
3. Be what we should be.

You can click the image above to view a larger image that can be used as a desktop wallpaper.  The drawing is done by Nathan Sharp, whose work I cover here.

You can listen to his talk (as well as others from the October 2008 General Priesthood Meeting, very soon here.

Rusty

Conference Countdown – Engaging your children

New General Conference Activity Pack!

Believe me, I know how it goes (I’ve got 6 “childrens” myself), so I’ve been there.

You get all settled in to enjoy conference and then spend all your time preventing the mini-disasters that naturally result from a roomful of kids watching anything other than Sponge Bob Square Pants.

As comical as it is (if you were a bystander, they weren’t your kids, and you didn’t really care what the prophet was trying to tell you), it sure would be nice if they’d “shhhh”, at least just a bit so you could hear.

Even better, if there was some way to get them involved, and help them keep their little (emphasis intended) attentions focused through the drier parts.

Now there is.

Perhaps you’ve seen these circulating in prior conferences, but if you haven’t, there’s an UNOFFICIAL “General Conference Activity Packet” you can download and print for your kids (actually, print an extra copy for yourself, it, uh, helps if they see you do it too… 😉

The packet contains all kinds of great activities that keep them engaged, like…

  • Identifying the prophet and his counselors
  • Coloring the ties of those who talk,
  • Mazes
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Matching the apostles photo to their name
  • Apostle name matches, and word search
  • Scripture matching
  • Deciphering hidden messages
  • Topic Bingo

And much more.

You can access (download and print) the General Conference Activity Packet direct here.  Also, there’s a good memory matching game with the apostles photos here.

Be sure to visit the author’s blog here (thanks again, and nice work).

Rusty

Putting the Lord first

There are these three churches that I drive by every day on the way to the gym that are of various Christian denominations (not LDS).  In front of each are those billboard signs, you know, with the name of the church at the top, and then changeable messages on the bottom.

I always enjoy reading what they have to say, and while sometimes they’re just plain corny, there are other times, like today, when they really hit home.

Today, one sign read:

“Give unto God what is right, not what is left.”

Every day we’re bombarded with so many demands, so many expectations, so many projects, so many desires.  It’s a non-stop stream of “things to do”, each demanding a portion of our day.  The natural result?  At the end of the day, we’ve only given back to the Lord what was left of our time, if any.

But this message encourages us place the Lord first, to prioritize into our lives those things that matter most, including those spiritual refueling elements like scripture study, private prayer, family prayer, and more overt acts, like service, missionary work, fulfilling our callings, etc.

I firmly believe that as we prioritize those things in our lives, all of the other things, become that much easier.  It feels less and less like a scramble, and more and more like a flow.  Our prioritization of spiritual things illustrates the magnitude of our faith, and as we show the Lord our commitment, he, in turn, magnifies our efforts across the broad spectrum of our other activities.

Try, for a week, putting those things at the TOP of your list, and see if you can tell a difference.

Rusty

Mormon.org has been redesigned

In case you didn’t notice, www.Mormon.org recently underwent a redesign.  While the old site was really good, this new one takes a really clean, simple approach.  Things are easy to find, and what’s more, there’s LOTS of videos (really illustrating the church’s savvy recently on leveraging online video – e.g. their YouTube channel reaching the youth).  This really makes learning about the gospel, and what Mormonism is all about, very easy, very comfortable, very non-invasive, and a very rich experience.

For those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, www.Mormon.org is really focused on the fundamentals of Mormon doctrine.  Basically answering the questions “what is Mormonism all about?”, while www.LDS.org is focused primarily on being a resource for Latter-day Saints (Mormons) for lots more in depth information, manuals, and much, much more.

The new www.Mormon.org website breaks down their content by 5 main categories, each of which are then broken down into further detail.  Each page is very explanatory and almost all of them have rich video content.  If you haven’t yet seen it, click here.

Also, don’t forget to look at the bottom of the site to see the videos on “Mormons Worship Jesus Christ”, “Mormons are Christian”, “Jesus Christ is Real”, “God Speaks Today”, “Gods Words Never Cease”, “Answers to Life’s Great Questions”, and many other videos.

Or click on one of the Main topics below to see the many sub-options and videos under each category.

The Restoration of the truth:

“God is your Father in Heaven. He knows you personally. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and your Savior. His life and teachings are the way to peace and happiness.”

Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness:

“God’s plan of salvation and happiness helps you understand the purpose of life and your relationship with Him. Centered on Jesus Christ, God’s plan teaches where you came from, the purpose of life, and what happens when you die.”

Jesus Christ:  Our Savior

“Our loving Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to show us how to live meaningful and happy lives and experience eternal joy after this life.”

The Commandments

“Your Heavenly Father loves you and wants to bless you in all aspects of your life. He has given commandments through His prophets to help you live a happy life”

Membership in Christ’s Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized to perfect and bless the lives of God’s children.

 

Rusty

I can finally breathe

As I mentioned when I posted those pictures of me in the hospital (here), last Friday I went in for septoplasty.  I’d broken my nose when I was about 10 years old, and now, 25 years later, I finally went in to get my deviated septum fixed.

In spite of my smiling pictures, the experience was less than enjoyable.  It’s funny how much we take breathing for granted.  Then, to keep your septum straight (after they re-break it), they shove these over-large, two-inch-long plastic doohickeys up your nose and then send you home to “rest”.

At long last, almost 6 days later, I went in yesterday to have these doohickeys removed (doohickey is the medical term for these nasal devices).

Like a good boy, I sat in the chair while the doctor plunged forward with his little doctor-tweezers, suggesting that I “hold still”.  I cannot describe what came next, and I was confused for a fraction of a second that a human could be so cruel, and then I took a breath.

My brain was flooded with more oxygen than I ever remember acquiring.  It was miraculous.  The doctor (having fun now, of course) began laughing at my stunned silence and shocked expression.  I let him laugh, I was too busy breathing.  After 25 years of obstructed airflow, I suddenly felt what it was like to take a full breath of air.  It was almost intoxicating.  It’s something you cannot describe.

After leaving the office, I went to the parking lot and sat in my car.  For 30 minutes.  Just breathing.

And then I was angry at myself for having not done it earlier, realizing I had deprived myself for so many long years of this amount of oxygen.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I suddenly realized how much this is like the restored gospel of Christ.  Without the fullness of the restored gospel, we’re receiving only partial access to truth, eternal principles, divine guidance, and the blessings associated with each of these.  We go on, assuming this is simply what it’s like, this is all there is, and doing our best to manage with what we’ve got.

But then, when we experience the fullness of the restored gospel, embracing the truths that lie within it, those obstructions are removed, and we witness the full force of the beautiful, rich, and empowering gospel of Christ.  It hits you hard, wakes you up, and suddenly, having the fullness about you, you realize the limitations of what you had before, and perhaps even regret that it took so long.

Those who grow up in the gospel, often take for granted the amount of life-giving “oxygen” they’ve been blessed with.

But whether you come to embrace the fully restored gospel sooner, or later, it only matters that you do it sometime.  It’s just that the sooner you do, the longer you’ll have to enjoy such unobstructed spiritual “breathing”.

How grateful I am for Joseph Smith, who restored the Church of Jesus Christ, and that while I went 25 years with only partial access to oxygen, I was able to experience the fullness of the gospel all the while.

I so strongly hope, that all may “breathe” as I do.

Rusty

What I learned from 9-11

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/what-i-learned-from-9-11

Elect of Elohim

The following poem, by Orson F. Whitney, is a beautiful and clear presentation of the grand council in heaven, and the eventst that took place there.  So great is the importance of this grand council, and the roles we played there, and how wonderful it is, as Latter-day Saints, to be blessed with such a clear understanding of that time long ago.

Elect of Elohim
Orson F Whitney

In solemn counsel sat the Gods
From Kolob’s height supreme
Celestial light blazed forth afar,
Over countless kokobeam.

And faintest tinge the fiery fringe
Of that resplendent day
Lumed the dark abysmal realm
Where earth in chaos lay.

“Father”, the voice like music fell
clear as the murmuring flow
of mountain streamlet trickling down
from heights of virgin snow

“Father”, it said “Since one must die
thy children to redeem
from worlds all formless now and void
where myriad life shall teem

and mighty Michael foremost fall
that mortal man may be
and chosen Savior yet must send
lo, here am I, send Me”.

“I ask, I seek no recompense,
save that which then were mine
Mine be the willing sacrifice
The endless glory thine.”

Still rang that voice, when sudden rose
Aloft a towering form
Proudly erect, as lowering peak
Loomed by the gathering storm

A presence bright and beautiful
With eye of flashing fire
With lips whose haughty curl bespoke
A sense of inward ire.

“Send Me”, it said, it’s courtly smile
And scarce concealed disdain
And none shall hence from heaven to earth
That shall not rise again.

My saving plan exemption scorns,
Mans will, nay, mine alone
As recompense I claim the right
To sit on yonder throne.

Ceased Lucifer, the breathless hush
Resumed and denser grew,
All eyes were turned the general gaze
One common magnet drew

A moment there was solemn pause,
Listened eternity
While rolled from lips omnipotent
The Fathers firm decree.

Jehovah, my messenger son Ahman,
Thee I send
And one shall go thy face before
While twelve thy steps attend

And many more on that far shore
Thy pathway shall restore
That I the first the last may come
And earth My glory share

By arm divine, both mine and thine
The lost shalt thou restore
That man redeemd with God may be
As God forever more

On thee alone mans fate depends
The fate of beings all
Thou shalt not fail though thou art free
Free, but too great to fall.

Return and to the parent fold
This wandering planet bring
And earth shall hail thee conqueror
And heaven proclaim thee king

Twas done, from congregations vast
Tulmoltus murmurs rose
Waves of conflicting sound
As when two meeting seas oppose

Twas finished, but the heavens wept
And still their annals tell
How one was choice of Elohim
Over one who fighting fell.
 

P. S.  This poem can be found in the book “The Holy Temple”, by Boyd K. Packer.

Missionary work on an iPhone!

I’m always looking for ways to leverage new technology to spread the gospel, and the iPhone is creating some unique ways to do just that.

There’s an application you can download on the iTunes App Store called Graffitio.  Much like the name would suggest, Graffitio allows you create “graffiti” on “virtual walls” all around the world.

Here’s how it works. 

When you launch Graffitio on your iPhone, it uses the phones location awareness (GPS) to see exactly where you are, and then shows you all the virtual “walls” in your vicinity.  A wall is simply a location that someone has decided to make a comment about.  Usually these are restaurants, stores, parks, etc.  You can click on one of these “walls” and see what others have said about it.  For instance, if you particularly like a given restaurant, you may decide to add a small note describing your experience.  Then others in the area will be able to see your comments on that particular restaurant.  If a wall doesn’t exist for that restaurant, you simply click a button, the iPhone sees where you are, you create a name for the wall (the name of the restaurant), and add your comments.  Now others in the area will see there’s a social “wall” for that restaurant, and can add their comments to yours.

Now, here’s where the missionary work comes in.

There are countless LDS locations around the world.  Some of them are historical, while others (such as temples) are unique or significant in some other way.

My challenge is for iPhone users around the world to visit these locations, and create “walls” for them.  Then share your testimony, or brief context about that location.  Now others in the area will be able to see your walls, read your testimony or thoughts, and know why that area is significant.

It can be as simple as taking your iPhone to church (I know, don’t say it), and creating a wall for your chapel, listing meeting times, and a personal invitation to come to sacrament meeting.

By doing this, we’ll be exposing important LDS locations around the world, and adding our voice to an all new social medium.

So, go out there, and start writing your own graffiti! 

When you do create a wall, come back here and let us know about it, so that we can all watch this virtual “structure” expand across the globe!

Oh, and make sure to forward this to all iPhone wielding Mormons.

Rusty

 

P.S.  I’ll be going to Temple Square to do my part as well, we’ll see if someone beats me to it, if so, that’s great, I’ll add my comments to yours!

P.P.S.  The image above was a quick mock-up I did, Grafffitio doesn’t yet support images, but I’m sure they will soon.

To launch iTunes and download Graffitio, click here.

New Mormon Meetinghouse locator

URL:  maps.lds.org

In case you haven’t noticed, the church has been rapidly building and deploying all kinds of exciting new technologies.  I intend to cover a few of these over the next little while (as infatuated as I am with technology).  It’s wonderful to see the church leveraging the powerful technology available to us today in order to move the work of the Lord along.

The first that I’ll cover, is a new (and upcoming) way of locating places of worship anywhere in the world.  The site is actually a “mashup” (a site that merges technology/information from disparate locations) and works wonderfully.

This new interface creates a far more visual, interactive way to find meetinghouses.  It lets you toggle between Google maps or Microsoft maps, depending on your preference, and lets you switch between the two at will.  Doing this lets you use the great pan/tilt/zoom features of Microsoft, including their Aerial mode for satellite imagery (birds-eye view doesn’t seem to be available yet), or use Google’s satellite or map view (or merge the two).  Interestingly, the Google Maps view doesn’t currently work in Google’s new Chrome browser, but I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon, but Microsoft maps do work (PP, that’s a paradox).  Still it’s in beta, so some bugs will likely exist.

What’s cool though, is if you know of a chapel that’s not yet shown on the map they even give you an interface to add one.

Searching yields results divided into two categories “closest meetinghouses”, showing the three nearest locations, and “Assigned Congregations” showing a list of locations you can attend living in the selected location, along with language-specific worship services, young single adult wards, and student wards.

It even contains local leader contact information, and will give you directions.

If you haven’t yet seen it, check it out.

Rusty