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Writing on an open canon, line upon line

One of the foundational principles taught in scripture is that we are given “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”, but many overlook the magnificent implications of this profound principle.

The unstated, but astoundingly clear premise of this principle is simply “what I have given you, is not all I have to give” and “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach”, followed with a resounding and exhilarating “…there’s more”.

What beautiful and compelling doctrine, for at its heart is the promise of continued revelation, and the assurance that what he has already taught us, will be added upon.

That refreshing realization revitalizes our search for truth and renews our need for a religion whose philosophy embraces the ideals of ongoing communication from God.

For God has always communicated with Man, through prophets, an ancient and historically proven  pattern.  And as he does so, they record his words, as they did in Ancient Isreal which brought us the Bible.

And within the Bible Christ himself declared that he had other sheep that should hear his voice, other people to visit and teach.   Those too heard his voice, and recorded his words, bringing us the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, and another witness that God gives man line upon line, precept upon precept.

And finally, the Lord restored his pattern of prophets to the earth, through Joseph Smith, thus renewing the ongoing availability of prophetic guidance and instruction to the true followers of Christ, that our divinely outlined “line upon line” instruction may be endlessly fed by inspired leaders of God.

That’s the miracle of Mormonism, wholeheartedly embracing the principle of progression, line upon line, precept upon precept, ever looking for that next line, that next precept, rather than the devestatign proclamation that “we’ve had enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  Click here “Discussing an open canon” for further reflection and discussion on the subject.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open cannon on “Gods words never cease

Are Mormons Christian? What truly defines a Christian?

This post is a continuation of the series “Are Mormons Christian“.

In the comments on the post “Are Mormons Christian? Do doctrinal difference define us“, the Pondering Pastor and I began a most crucial discussion that strikes at the very heart of this matter.

The post was about the importance of having a commonality of definitions of terms for accurate communication.  How differences in belief do not disqualify someone from the definition of Christianity, since in truth, we all differ to some varying degree. 

If our doctrine differs by degrees, is it therefore possible to be 50% Christian, or 80%, depending on how greatly your doctrine departs from what is orthodox?  And is orthodoxy truly the best measure?  Wasn’t Christ himself unorthodox in his day?  How about Luther?

So to say to one “you’re not a Christian”, simply because their beliefs diverge from your own, is a definition that does us no good.

But then what is a good definition?  If the exact alignment of the details of our doctrine cannot qualify us as Christian, what can?  What is fair?  What is the righteous way to judge?

Fortunately, that answer has already been given.  Surely the Lord knew that so many varying beliefs would sprout up, and as such, gave us the mechanism with which we may judge.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)

That is how you know a Christian.  Not by what they say they believe, but by what they demonstrate of their beliefs through their actions.

For as Matthew continues “…not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21)

In that chapter the Lord clearly teaches that men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.  If you’re finding grapes, you’re not in a thorn bush, but a vineyard.   “…neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”, but a “good tree bringeth forth good fruit”.  Hence, by their fruits ye shall know them.

Much can be discussed about doctrine.  What you believe, how you interpret scripture, what manner of baptism you subscribe to, etc.  But those don’t define a Christian.  Being Christ-like is what makes a Christian. 

For actions are the evidence of faith.   Remember, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)

And as we read in John “though ye believe not me, believe the works:  that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:38)”

That is the one true, fair, and righteous way to define a Christian.  By their works, not their talk.  “I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).

Rusty

Conference Countdown – Ways to participate

As I mentioned here, General Conference is fast approaching, and we’ll yet again have the incredible opportunity to listen to a living prophet and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with many other general authorities of the church, and hear what specific instructions they have for us, knowing the unique trials facing us today.

To ensure that the maximum numbers of people are able to participate, the Church has gone to great lengths to make conference available in almost every conceivable format and in almost 100 different languages.

First and foremost, you can watch the live worldwide broadcast (click here for a broadcast schedule – pdf), but it will also be available on the radio, as video streams, audio streams, and even an all new media player option.

 

NEW MEDIA PLAYER!

Their new media player constantly monitors your network and optimizes the stream quality accordingly so you get continuous play (no pauses).  And in addition to live video, it also gives you a number of great new features, including…

 

  • Instant access to completed talks
  • Instant access to completed conference sessions
  • Access to other video archives (so many good videos)
  • Let’s you pause and restart whenever you want

Click here to get the new media player (also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and American Sign Language).

Click here to see all your viewing links and options, including a list of all languages covered.

The 178th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), will follow the following schedule (all times MST, click here for more time zone information).

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

10:00 a.m. – General Session
2:00 p.m. – General Session
6:00 p.m.  – Priesthood Session (not publicly broadcast, but viewable at most Stake Centers)

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

9:30 a.m. – Music and the Spoken Word (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
10:00 a.m. – General Session
2:00 p.m. – General Session

Don’t miss it.
Rusty

Is “anti” contrary to Christianity?

You can be “non” without being “anti”. 

I’m not a protestant (I’m Mormon), but that doesn’t make me anti-protestant.  The two are mutually exclusive.  And there’s a big difference from being “non” (like being non-Mormon), and being anti.  One is innocent, without malice, while the other is focused upon criticism and destruction.

I recently commented on another post, that as I study the life of the Savior, what I find is not a pattern of him being “anti” anything.  He didn’t seek opportunities to refute others.  Instead, he demonstrated a life of building, creating, of going around teaching the gospel, creating truth and testimony, performing miracles.  The times when he DID become more hostile or accusatory are when others sought him out to refute him, or to persecute him.  They were the “anti’s”.  Instead, His life was one of tolerance and love, understanding and empathy.  His conversations were not crammed with criticism.

Such were the teachings of Rabbi Gamaliel of Tarsus as described in Acts who counseled Saul and others against persecuting the saints.  Acts chapter 5 describes an event where Gamaliel encouraged moderation, saying “take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men… refrain from these men, and let them alone:  for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  But ifit be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against god.” (Acts 5:38-39)

This is wisdom.  This is the character of Christ, whereas “anti” is an attribute of the adversary.  The one is centered around moderation, love, patience, kindness, tolerance, and understanding, the other centered around destruction, negativism, criticism, and judgement.

Theodore Roosevelt said it well:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles, or how the doer of deeds might have done them better.  No, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again…  Who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

If you’re going to be “anti”, be anti about principles and morals, things like “anti-abortion”, “anti-dishonesty”, “anti-drug abuse”, but don’t be anti about people or religions, for such is not the character of Christ.  As the Lord taught Peter, we must have compassion, and forgive all men their trespasses.

 

Rusty

Sacramental cleansing

At my nephew’s baptism this last weekend, my brother in law spoke and used a wonderfully vivid analogy I’d like to expound upon.

He lives in Hawaii, and as you might expect, regularly visits the beach with his family.  He explained that each day, hundreds of people would come to the beach.  They’d spend hours playing on the sand, building castles and sculptures, and digging holes.  At the end of the day, the beach would be left scarred, nearly completely covered with signs of such daily use.

But no matter how scarred the beach became, early the next day, there it was, clear and clean, as though no one had ever stepped foot on it before.

He explained that late at night, high tide would come in, and the waves from the ocean would crash against the sand, washing away the marks of the past, and leaving in its wake a clear and pristine surface, ready again for another day.

He observed how much this is like baptism, and after baptism, the sacrament.  During the week, our lives naturally begin to show signs of wear, the signs of life, proof of our imperfections… the scars of mortality. 

Still, each week, we have the opportunity to present ourselves at the feet of our Savior, to cast our burdens upon him, to take His name upon us, and to wash away the marks of the past.

Spiritual entropy is unavoidable, but in His divine mercy and love, He has provided a mechanism whereby we might regularly cleanse ourselves, and become pure again.

Our gratitude to Him for such a reachable and attainable instrument should cause our hearts to swell and our minds to expand, but all too often the commonness of the sacrament causes it to lose value in our eyes. 

It’s the law of scarcity.  Those things that we perceive of being most scarce, we place the highest value upon.  Yet here is something directly within our grasp that is powerful beyond comprehension, and available to us on a weekly basis.

How grateful I am for the magnificence of the sacrament, for the love it symbolizes.  May I try harder each week, to present myself in the environment of the sacrament with a bit more humility, a bit more gratitude, a bit more self reflection, and a bit more reverence, that each week my life might be freed of the scars of the past.

Rusty

Testimony of the First Presidency – Conference Highlights

In the wake of the magnificent 178th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many highlight videos have been posted to YouTube, successfully leveraging this new media to proclaim the gospel, and teach the truth, that a whole new generation, intimately familiar with this style of on-demand communication, might be equal benefactors in such magnificent content.

A few of these I’ll highlight here, as they are strong and compelling predecessors to my weekend post – Are Mormons Christian.

For now, here are sections of the testimony of our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and his counselors, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and President Henry B. Eyring.  The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_Zpu-VeuCE

Small and simple things

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/small-and-simple-things

Countdown to conference – Conference Overview

With conference fast approaching, I’ve decided to do a daily “Countdown to conference” post, each of which will be focused on helping us prepare, in one area or another, for this momentous occasion.

Since a large portion of my visitors are not LDS, I wanted to dedicate the first post in this series to explaining what General Conference is all about.

Twice a year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a vast conference.  During this semiannual event, we have the privilege of hearing directly from modern-day apostles and a living prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with other General Authorities and general officers of the Church.

They will provide us with messages of inspiration and guidance, specific and unique to our needs in our times, just as did the prophets of ancient times.

The scriptures tell us that “by their fruits ye shall know them”.  One of the surest ways to get a better understanding of Mormonism is by participating yourself in this vast conference, a unique opportunity to hear from the words of a prophet and apostles in our very day.

Conference is a time when members and non-members alike, can each join and benefit in hearing the revealed truth and inspired counsel of a prophet and apostles of God.

Stay tuned for more information, and for ongoing conference coverage and conversations on the talks given.

Rusty

Video – Christ in America

Here’s a video from YouTube, a collection of beautiful works of art, with music and an overlay of spoken scripture (some of my favorites).

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhbrR2FtP1o

 

How wonderful to have access to the full record of Christ’s visit and teachings to the ancient inhabitants of the American continent.

To get your own Book of Mormon, or to learn more about it, click here.

Rusty

Did Mormons invent Wing Dings?

Wing Dings font...

Wing Dings font...

 

A little while ago, I was talking to a non-Mormon coworker.  He, of course, knew I was Mormon, and as we were talking, he said (in all seriousness): “I heard that Mormons are the ones that invented the Wing Dings font as a secret language”.

In case you’re not familiar, Wing Dings are a font available in Microsoft Word (since version 3.1) that renders letters as symbols.

I thought it was amazing that somehow, somewhere, somebody started this rumor.  I couldn’t help but laugh, as I took the opportunity to explain the inaccuracy of his understanding.

First, to set the record straight, for everyone out there wondering if Mormons invented Wing Dings… no, we didn’t.  In fact, Microsoft created Wing Dings by combining characters licensed from Charles Bigelow and Kris Holmes (both Type designers).

But while this particular misconception was harmless (cute, even), many are not.  Many are created as propaganda and are proliferated around the internet (and conversations), and can become a great stumbling block to genuine people seeking the truth.

And so I renew my invitation… to all those who have questions about Mormonism, who have heard things that sound suspicious, ask (here).  We’ll answer you together. 

As Joseph Smith said “The standard of truth has been erected.  No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.  Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and columny may defame.  But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent.  Till it has penetrated every continent, swept every country, visited every clime, and sounded in every ear.  Till the work of the Lord shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say ‘the work is done’”.

Rusty

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“.

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