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Global Religious Trends (Are we less religious)

On Friday, I posted about an article I found that suggested that intelligent people are less likely to believe in God.  With all the comments I received, it got me wondering about religious trends in general.  While none of this is conclusive, it is, however, interesting.

Using Google’s search trends analyzer, I found that search trends for religious words were generally down accross the board.  In other words, fewer people are searching on these words today than there were in 2004 (as far back as these trends go).  What’s more, all this in the context of an ever-increasing trend toward online usage.  In short far more people are online today than in 2004, usage and familiarity with search engines has climbed in that time, broadband and internet access in general has increased, yet fewer people are searching on religious terms.

Here’s what I found (more below the charts)…

Search traffic for the term “Christian

For the term “Christianity

For the term “Religion

For the term “God

For the term “Mormon

Searches for the term Faith, Church, Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, and LDS were all down in general as well, some more than others (clearly there are myriad other search terms to look at – feel free to pick your own and peruse at will at http://trends.google.com).

Could this indicate a reduced global interest in religion in general?  Could it be another sign that as society evolves intellectually and scientifically, they push God away in general – trusting more in themselves and their own knowledge?

One possible alternative explination, is that churches in general have been slow to embrace the new medium and build up a suitable online offering.  In short, if pickin’s are slim, and search results find little of value, people will stop searching.  But is that just the optimist in me?  What do you think this means?

Rusty

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Is there Biblical Precedence for Polygamy?

In the recent post “A quest for spiritual knowledge“, the comments quickly became centered around two distinct topics.  The one being blacks and the priesthood, which was thoroughly covered within the comments on that post.  The other was regarding the practice of polygamy early in the church.  It was to this point that Matt G. asked:

Rusty, I looked up polygamy and polyandry in the Bible and didn’t find any other prophet teaching the practices. Could you show me where the prophets were teaching these as God’s inspired word?

Rather than answering within the already lengthy comments of that post, I’ve decided to address them in a fresh post, so as to allow the natural divergence of comments around these two separate topics, and since the topic is important enough to deserve higher exposure.

In response:

Matt,

Thank you so much for asking.  There are few things I enjoy more than to expose the scriptures, for as we see here, it becomes incredibly problematic that people don’t study the scriptures more thoroughly (which coincidentally was the topic of the originating post).  So many have made such a fuss over polygamy in the early days of the church, either about why it was practiced, or why it was revoked, and then turn around and profess belief in the Bible.  I say to them, you may believe in it, but you don’t understand it.

There are numerous scriptural precedents regarding polygamy taught biblically, and I’ll cover several of them.

There’s no better place to start than with the Lord himself, who in Deuteronomy gives instructions on how to successfully manage a plural marriage… (Deut. 21: 15-17).

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

The Lord cannot tolerate sin, so if Plural marriage were to be accounted as sin, why then would he here choose to counsel in how to do it successfully, wouldn’t he instead be condemning the practice?  Yet interestingly (but not coincidentally) there are times in the bible where he has said it was not to be, even earlier in Deuteronomy, he said:

Deut. 17: 15, 17

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

It could either be that the Lord was unable to make up his mind, or that there is a time and season for all things.  And what he has commanded once, is not necessarily to be for all times.  I find the latter far more likely, which therefore not only provides precedence for His commanding Polygamy in the early days of the church (at a time when this particular commandment served a particular purpose for the Lord to try the saints), but also sets precedence for the commandment of the practice to later be retracted.

At one point in the Bible the Lord told his disciples only to preach to Israelites.  He later told the prophet (Peter) to preach to all people.  Again, was it that the Lord couldn’t make up His mind?  The thought makes reason stare.  Rather, there is a time and a season for all things, and what matters, is that we follow the current set of commandments as clarified by the current, living prophet.  Another sound confirmation of the importance of a living prophet.

But let’s not stop there.  Let’s talk about David.

In  2 Samuel 12:1-27, we find some important scriptures in this regard.  One of which is vs. 7 and 8:

7  And Nathan said to David…Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

Here the prophet Nathan himself tells David the it was the Lord that “gave thee… thy master’s wives”.  What’s more, the Lord would have given him more of such political power, wives, and wealth.  If plural wives were a sin, why then were they a gift from God, and why would Nathan, who had arrived to condemn David for killing Uriah, not have condemned him then (or earlier) for plural marriage?

Let’s now talk about Solomon.  (1 Kings 11:1-8),

1. BUT king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love…

7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

Here the Lord accuses Solomon not of having plural wives, but of allowing them to turn his heart away from Him.

There are other instances as well, such as when Abraham married Hagar (Genesis 16:3), Keturah (Genesis 25:1) and other unnamed concubines (Genesis 25:6).  Or Jacob (Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 30:3-4Genesis 30:9).  Abijah had fourteen wives (2 Chron. 13:21) and yet he is described as a righteous king of Judah who honored the Lord (2 Chron. 13:8-12) and prosper in battle because of the Lord’s blessing (2 Chron. 13:16-18) to name a few.  It’s also interesting that Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3).

In short, it is clear from a true study of the bible that polygamy is not only not immoral, but (at times) sanctioned of the Lord, and a blessing from righteous living.  Having studied the scriptures, I do not find it odd that at one time the practice is taught and sanctioned, and at another time it isn’t.  Wasn’t the Law of Moses also done away, in place of something else?  Was the Law of Moses therefore bad, or merely tailored for the specific needs of the specific people alive at the time?

The prophet Joseph Smith once addressed this very issue with tremendous eloquence and inspiration with which I cannot compete.  It is therefore with his quote that I’ll conclude:

This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted-by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed…in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has-He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances

– Joseph Smith

Rusty

It is not the critic who counts

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/it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts/

What do Mormons believe about works?

Many have asked me what Mormons believe about “works”, and how we reconcile those beliefs with the notion of being saved by grace, through the mercy of Christ and His atonement.

Indeed, Mormons believe that our salvation is made possible by the mercy of Christ, and were it not for his everlasting Atonement, we could not be saved.  For man is carnal, mortal, and imperfect, and as such, will inevitably sin.  But the atonement of Christ makes it possible for us to be forgiven for our sins by paying the demands of justice if we will repent.

For as the scriptures tell us, God is Just, and it is always required that the laws of justice be satisfied, for there are consequences for sin (as we read throughout the scriptures).  But if man will repent, the Lord will intercede with the demands of justice, having paid the price already himself.  Such is mercy. 

But if man will not repent, he cannot be saved, for no unclean thing can dwell with god.  And not only must we repent of our sins, but we must strive to live the gospel and keep the commandments, and there are certain things we must do in order to earn our salvation.

Baptism, for instance, is required for salvation.  So is obedience.  For why would God give men commandments if he did not expect them to be obeyed?  And why would he require men to repent, or why would his servants, the prophets, so continually preach repentance, if repentance were not necessary for salvation, or if obedience were optional and there were no consequence for disobedience?

Hence we believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel (1st article of faith).

The following are just a very few verses I’ve selected from the Bible that help provide the scriptural basis for these beliefs.  But the burden of proof of this doctrine of works is not upon Mormons, for the scriptures I reference here (among many others) are clear and present.  Rather the burden is upon those who believe contrary to this scripture, to come up with some alternative explanation for these and other verses.

Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Hebrews 5:5-10 “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

Romans 2:13-16 “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”

2 Thessalonians 1:1-10 “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

James 1:22-25 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

Romans 2:5-11 “And revelation of the righteous judgment of God: Who will render to every man according to his deeds…”

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not every one 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 16:27 and Revelation 22:12-15 “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works.”

Luke 6:46-49 “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

John 7:16-17 “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine…”

John 14:15-21 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Acts 1-:34-36 “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

Titus 3:8 “That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”

1 John 1:6 “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.”

Revelation 22:14-15 “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.”

1 Samuel 15:22 “To obey is better than to sacrifice”

Matthew 7:15-20 “Ye shall no them by their fruits”

Matthew 24:13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”.

Galations 5:20-23 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest…of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

James 2:14-26 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Rusty

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Picking the lock of salvation

For those of you who weren’t aware, last week was the national HOPE conference in New York.  No, this isn’t a self-help conference teaching us how to increase our capacity to hope (I wish it were).  Rather, it’s a gathering of some of the most talented and well-known hackers around the planet.  HOPE stands for “Hackers on Planet Earth”.

At every HOPE conference there’s a popular area called “Lockpicking Village” where they discuss all the latest lock picking techniques. 

Reflecting on the whole thing, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to those who somehow think they can “slide” into heaven, somehow opening the “doors” of heaven without actually going through the mandatory prerequisite steps. 

A lock is made of tumblers in a tube, each of which must be in the correct place before the lock will turn.  Inserting just the right key will put those tumblers in their required positions, but inserting any other key, or a partial key, will only place a few of the tumblers, if any, in the necessary position, and no matter how hard you twist, or how long you wait, the lock simply won’t turn and the door simply won’t open.

So many religions teach the doctrine that man needs to do little, if anything, for salvation.  In fact, often they teach that it’s as simple as accepting Christ, or being baptized.  But first, baptism must be done by one holding the proper authority, but even then, that is only one of the tumblers in the lock.  There is more we must do.  Baptism and faith alone are insufficient for our exaltation; they’re only part of the lock.  Religions that teach such doctrine, therefore cannot adequately equip you to enter into the kingdom of God. 

The proof is in scripture itself, for we will, as Revelation 20:12-15 states, be “judged… according to their works”.

While the sacrifice of our Savior put the gate on the barrier, making entrance possible, it does not make entrance sure.  The surety of our salvation can only be gained by approaching that day armed with the right key, the one that satisfies the demands of all the tumblers in the gate, baptism by authority being one of them.

While this doctrine is far from traditional, it is prevalently backed by scripture.  And while critics are quick to protest, it is not the burden of Mormonism to back this claim, but the burden of anyone believing contrary to come up with a suitable explanation for each of the scriptures which clearly state otherwise (and which I list in detail here – a post that has gone almost entirely unchallenged).

But the miracle of Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that through Joseph Smith, the great latter-day prophet, the gospel of Christ was restored to the earth in its fullness along with all the keys, authority, ordinances and covenants necessary for us to do all we must do to enter the kingdom of our Father.

I invite you to learn more about this prophet Joseph Smith (here), partake for yourself in the miracle of Mormonism, and experience the rich blessings that come from understanding and living the fullness of the gospel.

Rusty

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What do Mormons really believe, part 3

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

3rd Article of Faith

Surely one of the most beautiful of beliefs and refreshing of realizations is the reality of the Atonement.  The third Article of Faith is meant to address the efficacy of the Atonement, and the profound role it plays in our lives.

We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved…  ALL mankind!  What more encouraging words could you possibly encounter?

That tells me that no matter where I am in life, no matter how far astray I may have gone, no matter what I’ve done, the atonement of Christ can save me from my sins.

How often Satan – ever our adversary – seeks to engulf us in the belief that we’ve gone too far, or done too much.  Enveloped with despair he tries to overwhelm us with our past, and blind us to the hope to which we are entitled because of the atonement.  But such is not the case.  Hope is ever ours to have.

Through the crucifixion of Christ and his unimaginable suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took upon himself the sins of the world, the sins of you and me.   All this that we might not have to pay the price for those sins – for indeed a price there must be, for mercy cannot rob justice.

But herein enters an important principle, the second part of this article of faith.  While the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for all mankind to be resurrected, a free gift with no prerequisite price to pay from us, the atonement of Christ is ours to have also, but is conditional.

For us to benefit from the Atonement, for us to “be saved”, we must first acknowledge and accept the Savior and His sacrifice.  He has cast us the lifeline, but we must exert ourselves to grab hold.  Said so simply, it sounds easy, but it requires genuine humility, which proves ever difficult for all.

And it doesn’t stop there… a portion of this principle that creates an unmistakable and compelling distinction between Mormonism and most other Christian beliefs.  The notion that after we have accepted Christ, and been baptized in His name, we must continue in the faith, abounding in good works, keeping the commandments of God, and continually repenting along the way.

But a life so led, where one struggles to stay on the path as he is frequently beset by the inevitable mistakes of mortality, is one that is acceptable in the eyes of God, and is one that leads to salvation.  We must first grab hold, and then endure to the end.

Rusty

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Staying in tune

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/staying-in-tune

Faith Fitness – day 2 (Optimism)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

Thanks for joining me again.  I hope that your finding yourself invigorated by your newfound appreciation for your divine worth.  You are magnificent, and incomprehensibly capable of achieving anything.

Now you’re ready to move on to step two – building up just a little more momentum.  The second exercise in building your capacity to believe and exercise faith is all about optimism.

First, let’s discuss the principle upon which this exercise is based.

Faith and pessimism are antithetical.  You cannot simultaneously be pessimistic and faithful.  The perniciousness of pessimism cripples your ability to hope (a crucial component for active faith), and fills you with a spirit of negativity.

Many people believe that the optimistic can be too much so, forcing them to be unrealistic.  But we need to watch ourselves, for faith is not based on reality, but our hope for things which are not seen.

When Peter sought to walk on water, as long as his eyes focused on Christ he maintained his belief that what he was doing was possible.  But when he cast his eyes toward the waves and the depth of the ocean beneath him – what he saw was reality.  What we perceive as reality blinds us to what CAN be.  And because reality told him that standing on water was not possible, pessimism and doubt shattered his foothold of faith, and he started sinking.

But optimism forces us to look beyond “reality”, and not in an ignorant, self-disillusioned manner.  While our physical eyes are trained to see “reality”, or what things ARE, optimism is the lens that lets us see what CAN be.

With optimism we see the bright side of things; we see the good in all that surrounds.  I testify that as you begin to perfect the practice of optimistic living, your world will become brighter.  You’ll be lifted up to the view of a vista that is abounding in opportunity, flush with goodness, dripping with wonder, and that perspective will change your life forever.

Optimism is empowering, for it lets you see the world as it could be.  And as the clarity of that vision begins to replace the dull reality that surrounds you, you’ll find yourself capable of believing that you can make a difference.  You’ll start to see the role you can play to connect the realm of reality to the wonder of what could be.

Now, armed with the testimony of who you truly are, and looking through the lens of opportunity, you’ll be prepared to move to the next step… HOPE.  The brilliant and empowering, propelling principle of hope.

So today’s exercise, is to be optimistic.  Focus your mind on forcing out the negative cloud of pessimism, look at the world not at what it is, but what it could be.  See the silver lining.  Enjoy the wonder and glory of a much brighter world.

Rusty

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The commercialization of religion

In my first post in the miracles of Mormonism series, I touched briefly on something that needs further exploration.

Like it or not, we humans are economically driven.  From the very moment that Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden and told that he would eat his bread only by the sweat of his brow, we became dependent upon the need for compensation.  Compensation allows us to live, survive, to feed and support our families, and to maintain a particular lifestyle.  We became inexorably tied to the laws of economics.

As mankind progressed, societies progressed.  Soon we outgrew hunting and gathering, began to farm and store our own food, trade, and specialize.  In the course of this specialization man began to look for all kinds of opportunities to make money.

It was only a matter of time before some would realize that religion, or the desire to believe in something, was a pretty fundamental need of mankind.  Where there is demand there will also be supply.  That’s how economics works; people will pay you for giving them what they want.

But there are lots of problems with this kind of commercialization when it comes to religion, and just as one could have predicted the emergence of the occupation of “preaching for money”, economics can also forecast some of the consequences of this model.

When you receive regular compensation for something, that something becomes your product.  If you are going to make a living off selling that product, then now you have to market that product.  In a very real way, you’re simply in business, and the basic rules of business and product marketing and management can now be extrapolated to you – even if what you’re selling is religion.

As a product manager myself, I can testify that once you start selling a product, you become very interested in selling more of that product.  After all, your sustenance depends upon it.  So you begin to naturally see how your product is received.  Over time, your product evolves. 

Soon you start carving out the portions that people don’t care for, or that are too “expensive”, and don’t offer sufficient return.  At the same time you start adding to your product things that you know your consumers want, things that will keep them buying your product, and things that will make your product more enticing to others.  You start to look at ways to expand your customer base and reach new market segments.

This kind of product evolution is inevitable and inescapable, and the economics are undeniable.  As long as one derives their sustenance from the customers they serve, they’re interests will be naturally shaped by their customer satisfaction.

A business cannot survive, after all, selling a product that nobody wants.

But when we’re talking about the commercialization of religion, where doctrine and teachings are the product being sold, then the evolution of that product becomes a scary thing, for the longer time goes by, the more that product begins to represent the will of the people, and not the purer, original version.

The commercialization of religion is a large part of what led to the great apostasy, or falling away, where the truth of the gospel could not be had in its fullness upon the face of the earth.  For the doctrines of man began to intercede with the will of the Father, and the original product of Christ – his true church, began to evolve.  Over time, unpopular principles began to fade away until they were gone entirely.  In their place came new principles that made the product more enticing to the people.  This evolution was sustained and propelled by leaders seeking increasingly to protect their own power and wealth than to maintain the purity of the gospel despite its difficulty.

The Bible tells us that straight is the way unto salvation, and few there be that find it, but broad is the way that leads to damnation.  But the commercialization of the doctrines of the church forced the opposite – they evolved to become widely popular, to appeal to the masses.  For the more customers purchasing the product, the larger the organization could grow, the more wealth could flow in, and the more power would be given to those who were already in authority.  Soon it would become an organization led by the profit of the world, and not by a prophet of God.

These evolutionary changes in doctrine over time are readily apparent to one who truly studies and understands the Bible.

Think for instance, on the doctrine that man is saved by grace alone, in spite of what works they do on earth.  If I derived my sustenance from my congregation, and my ability to appeal to the masses, what better doctrine is there!  Come to my church.  Be baptized.  Then, it doesn’t matter what you do, at least not in terms of your eternal salvation.  Act as you will, sin, it’s okay.  Just come to church!  What a marketable concept, even if the references in the Bible that speak to the contrary are clear, plain, and readily available (which I cover here). 

Does that sound like the path of God that is supposed to be straight and narrow, with few there be that find it (as described in scripture), or some man-made highway, manufactured to accommodate and capitalize on the greatest possible traffic?

What about baptizing infants.  Marketers today are learning more and more that they need to start early, marketing to toddlers, for if you can sell them on a brand while they’re young, you exponentially increase the likelihood that they will remain your customers as they grow older.  Is this a practice supported by doctrine, or by the commercialization of religion?

Is it heresy, or wisdom to ask such questions?  I submit that it’s our eternal salvation that’s at stake, and no matter how unpopular the question, if it needs to be asked, it should be, for none should trifle with the souls of man.

But such commercialization was not necessary, it was chosen.

One of the miracles of Mormonism is in its lay ministry.  It’s in the fact that none of the local or area leaders are paid for their work.  Missionaries aren’t paid for their time and labor.  They take two years out of their lives to teach the gospel, travel to foreign lands, learn foreign languages, and all at their own expense.  Bishops, teachers, priests, stake presidents, primary, Sunday school, and all those who are called to directly preside over and administer to their local congregations are entirely volunteer.  They did not ask for their positions, nor did they aspire to them.  They were simply asked to serve, and being willing, were called to sacrifice their own time and effort as the needs demand.  Such a notion gives even more context to the Mormon miracle I describe here.

So when the bishop gives guidance or counsel, or when missionaries exhort someone to pray and ask the Lord if the Church is true, if Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and if the Book of Mormon is true, there is no financial motive.  They have nothing to gain, save only an eternal friendship and the blessings that come to those who so unselfishly serve.

But in spite of a lay ministry, of an organization made up of volunteers, and not paid professionals, and in spite of the difficulty around being a Mormon, and being required to live and abide by the commandments of God, the church is flourishing.  The work of the Lord rolls forth, free from the grasp of economic principles that do not apply, and free from the evolutionary changes that corrupted the true gospel of Christ so long ago.  The church today has been restored in its fullness, back to the blessed “version 1.0” of the gospel of Christ, led not by the profit of man, but by a prophet of God.

I extend an invitation to all to ask such critical questions, to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray and ask God if it is not true.  I invite all to read and learn of Joseph Smith, the great latter day prophet who restored the church of Christ.  I invite all to discover for themselves the miracles of Mormonism.

[digg=http://digg.com/world_news/The_commercialization_of_religion]

Rusty

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Conceptual Distillation – is Mormonism true?

Let’s face it, life is full of gray.  It’s complex.  Everything we do simply entails so much.  Every decision we make can lead to a dizzying number of unforeseen outcomes.

In fact, there’s so much complexity around the decisions we make that it’s often amazing we make any decisions at all.  And as you might expect, the more important the decision is, the more complex it’s likely to be.

This principle is particularly present when those decisions involve the destiny of our own immortal souls.

The reasons for this are clear.  Not only are there such awesome, sometimes formidable, life changing consequences to decisions of such an eternal nature, but the adversary of all righteousness, Satan himself, tries tremendously hard to further convolute our thoughts, cloud our judgment, and confuse our course.

He attempts to put so many things before our mind at the same time, each with their own self-fabricated importance, that he obscures the true, essential elements of a decision.

It’s like my asking you to catch a ball.  It sounds easy, right?  So I grab a ball, and then take several steps back from you.  Then, at the same moment I toss you the ball, I simultaneously toss a dozen glass plates your way.  You’re mind is so distracted by the inborn fear of breaking glass, that you’re attention becomes immediately scattered, unable to process it all at once, you lose focus, and miss the ball.

It’s a simple concept really, with brilliant results.  If you missing the ball is my objective, of course.

In the same way, when it comes to those most important decisions in our lives, the ones with an eternal impact, such as choosing a church, Satan endeavors to put so much before your mind that you’ll inevitably lose focus on what matters most.  The core.  He knows that we’ll be so intent upon our innate, inborn tendency to want to reason it all out, resolve every conflict, that we too, will lose focus, and miss the ball.

But the reality is that there is no point in time at which ever conflict is resolved when it comes to knowing whether Mormonism, for instance, is true.  Even Christ himself, the very picture of perfection, in his omniscience and omnipotence, with the absolute purity of eternal truth behind him, was unable to convince even the majority of those who surrounded him.

So while here (on this blog), and anywhere else, we discuss so many different doctrines, and share so many varying views of scripture, all of which are important endeavors, they too, can prove to be only distractions in answering the real question – is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the true church? 

As with any decision of real value, there comes a time when you simply have to distill it down to the core questions.  From the occasionally convoluted conversations you must extract the essential elements upon which all else are founded.  It’s a process of purification.  What ARE the real questions?

  1. Is Joseph Smith a prophet?
  2. Is the Book of Mormon True?

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  Catch the ball.  Ignore the plates.  Ask the question.

For if Joseph Smith was a prophet, then the Book of Mormon is what he says it is, a sacred record of Christ’s visit to the Americas, in the western hemisphere, sacred scripture that confirms and compliments the record of his time in the eastern hemisphere.  If Joseph was a prophet then the church that he organized is true.  Or you can work the other way – begin with the Book of Mormon.  For if it is true, then from it you can derive the rest in the same way.

There are many people that are anxious to share with you their opinion.  But will you base your eternal exaltation upon the opinion of others?  There’s only one real way to know if these things are true.  Go the source, taste for yourself, and ask your father in heaven.

His mouth is not shut.  He can give you an answer.

There will be those who reply to this post and say “I didn’t get an answer”, or “my answer was different”. 

Does that make any difference to you?  My prayer is that you’ll let the plates fall where they may, that you’ll see through the obscurity and embrace the simplicity of the two essential questions before you, and that you’ll find out for yourself that your exaltation might be based on your own divine witness, and not an opinion of another.

To learn more about Joseph Smith, click here.  For more about the Book of Mormon, or to receive your free copy, click here.

My testimony to you is that they are true.  Both of them.  But don’t take my word for it either, make it your own.

Rusty

Don’t stare in your rear-view mirror

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/beware-the-rear-view-mirror/

It is what you make of it

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/it-is-what-you-make-of-it/

Spiritual Entropy

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/spiritual-entropy

Do Mormons have more than one god?

I’ve got a page (here), where I allow people to ask questions about Mormonism.  On June 27th, Mitch.4.Him asked the following:

Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt taught, “We were begotten by our Father in Heaven; the person of our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father; and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on, from generation to generation”

Isaiah 43:10 says “… before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me”.

I think your real question is “why do you preach polytheism (the belief in many gods) when Isaiah apparently teaches Monotheism (the belief in one god)”? 

Actually, this is a common question we receive from critics of the church who poorly understand Mormonism and incorrectly interpret this scripture.  For Mormons are not Polytheists, and the assertion that Isaiah was teaching Monotheism is an icorrect.  But first let me address the notion of polytheism.

Mormons are not Polytheistic, we worship only one God.  They’re confusing Polytheism with theosis (human deification, or the belief that we can become like God), which is what we really are.  The belief in theosis and being Monotheistic are not mutually exclusive, but are perfectly harmonious, and this scripture in Isaiah happens to point out why (I’ll get to that in a minute).

Additionally the belief in theosis is not, actually, unique to Mormons, but is shared among many early Christians and much of modern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox).

This official statement from the church on the idea that we can become like God was given in response to an interview by Fox News (here):

We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

This is theosis, or the belief that we can become like God. 

Next, the assertion that Isaiah was teaching Monotheism isn’t accurate.  Actually in Isaiah’s time, they were not Monotheistic either – so he wasn’t saying “there are no other gods”.

What he actually said was that before God, there were no gods, nor will there be any after him.  But if you think about it, God is eternal, which means there never was a time in which God did not exist, so there never was a “before god”, nor a scenario that would be “after God”.  But what then could he be talking about?

Further study of Isaiah reveals that this scripture is a comparison of Isaiah between the God of Israel (YHWH) and Ba’al, a deity worshiped by the Canaanites.  Ba’al had defeated Yaam, his preceding deity, to become chief of the Canaanite pantheon.  And as such, it was assumed he too could be superseded.  But Isaiah wanted to make it clear that YHWH did not replace his god, nor could he be replaced (hence – there was no god before me, nor will there be after me).  For he didn’t oust some prior diety to become God, and nobody else can remove him to take his place.

You’ll notice, therefore, that while he says there were no gods before him, or after him, there was no mention of any gods “during” him.

Hence, theosis, or the belief that we too can become like God, partaking of his divine nature (Peter), and becoming joint heirs with Christ (Paul), is not in contradiction to scripture, for in doing so, we do not replace god, we simply become like him.  Regardless, he is our only God today, and will be our God eternally, our relationship with His is everlasting, but doesn’t preclude our ability to become like him.  We are taught that we should become perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect, that we become joint heirs with Christ, inheriting all the father hath.

What a beautiful and magnificent doctrine, to know that our goal is greater than salvation from sin, but rather ultimate exaltation.

Such a notion expands our minds to behold all new vistas of opportunities, and provides further foundation to the real understanding of the true nature of God (which I’ll cover shortly), and the concept that we must do more than just believe and be baptized (which I cover here).  Actual exaltation and the opportunity for eternal progression requires a higher degree of dilligence, but is within our reach. 

After all, we are children of a living God, and were created in His divine image, is it not fitting that such a loving father would desire that we should inherit all that he hath?

Rusty

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Why do Mormons believe in Works?

Daniel, in the post “Do Mormons have more than one God?” (page 3 of the comments), asked a very important question pertaining to the mercy, the atonement of Christ, and the role of works in achieving exaltation.

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter.  He accurately notes that there are scriptures that tell us that it is by grace that we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9), and therefore asks about Mormonism’s apparent focus on works.

The answer to this is simple, and scriptural, but is hard for many accept because so many denominations have chosen to latch on to the scriptures about mercy, while disregarding those about works (which are actually greater in number).

Here are a couple passages that adequately encapsulate this doctrine:

Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works

James 2:14-26 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

On my post “What do Mormons believe about works?“, I list over 20 of such scriptural (biblical) passages that teach the necessity of works in salvation, and on which we base our beliefs.  (Please check it out, and see for yourself).

Indeed, there is an abundance of evidence supporting this doctrine as true (and Christian).  But it requires that we consider all scripture, which is somehow something many denominations choose not to do.  It’s a topic I cover in the post “The grand panorama of scripture“, discussing the importance of considering the whole of all scripture, and not basing beliefs off extractions of convenience. 

It’d be simple to build a religion based on only those passages that create the most convenient to accept doctrines.  The ones that require us to do the least. 

Indeed, I think this is predominantly the reason why this notion of works has become so unorthodox, in spite of its clear biblical backing.  It’s a doctrine that sells well.  And for religions that have paid clergy, this is important.  So over time, the natural focus of orthodox Christianity has shifted from those scriptures that teach about works, to those that focus on mercy.  (which I cover in the post “the commercialization of religion“).

This “evolution” of doctrine is extremely important to understanding Mormonism, for it was precisely because of this apostasy, or “falling away” from Christ’s original doctrine, that necessitated the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith.  Enough of the pure and simple principles of the gospel of Christ (such as this) have changed over time, that our ability to reach God based on Christianity’s teaching of scripture became impossible.

There came a time when the Lord had to step in and again call a prophet (a pattern also set forth in the Bible, but strangely absent from orthodox Christianity, which I cover and we discuss here).

So, you see, in truth, the notion of works, and the role they play in our salvation is not unique to Mormonism, but hails back to early Christianity… even the very teachings of Christ and his Prophets from ancient times, but is a doctrine that is disappointingly absent from orthodox Christianity today.

Rusty

P.S.  For additional study, see also the post and discussion on “The sufficiency paradox, understanding the atonement“, which covers the paradox created by Christianities current definition of “mercy” and sufficiency.  Also “Picking the lock of salvation“, in which I cover, and then we discuss, the role of Mercy and the unavoidable doctrine of works.

Also, and most importantly, www.josephsmith.com, to learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, and the pivotal role he played in the restoration of the gospel of Christ, and the organizing of His church on earth in these latter days.