A look at some of the fundamental teachings of Mormonism.

What do Mormons believe – 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 in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

7th Article of Faith

These gifts of the spirit enriched the saints in times past and continue to do so today.  In the same way that we believe in living prophets, we believe that God works among men today just as he did in times past, that he is unchanged, the same yesterday, today, and forever, and as such these gifts which were enjoyed in biblical times can be enjoyed today as well.

These important gifts of the spirit, like other gifts from our Father, are given for a purpose, for the edification of man.

Among these, and more unique to Mormon doctrine, is the notion of continued revelation (a discussion of which you can find here and here, in discussing the two prior articles of faith). 

I can think of few other principles that are more endearing to my heart than the simple notion that there is a kind and loving, eternal Father in Heaven who will speak directly to me, as his son, at times when I am in need, as I so often am.

Mathew (7:8-11) recorded these beautiful words…  “What man is there of you whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?”  But rather “…ask and it shall be given you”.

We find the same refreshing doctrine taught in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally”.

The promise of personal revelation is vital to our lives as we struggle to discern between truth and error, between right and wrong.  How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in these decisions, that divine guidance can be mine… given directly to me.  How often I fear we take for granted the simple phrase “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you”.

I’m convinced that the more we involve God in our personal lives, the more rich our lives will be, and the more abundant shall the spirit (and its gifts) be with us.

On a grander scale, how urgent and important ongoing revelation is to the Christ’s church on earth.  He has said “Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).  Left to our own carnal devices, man is constantly in error.  Entropy of truth is unavoidable without the staying hand of ongoing revelation to those who are in authority, such as prophets, apostles, etc.

Christ taught his disciples that “upon this rock will I build my church”, speaking of revelation (Matthew 16:16-18), and such it is so, the same in times of old as it is today.

Therefore how important it is that we give strict heed to the counsel of the prophet, seeking in all things to confirm that which is right through our own personal revelation.

Rusty

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

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

Faith fitness – day 1 (Testimony)

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).

Fantastic.  You’ve all joined me again.  That must mean you’re ready to improve the fitness of your faith and increase your capacity to believe.

From now on, let us refer to ourselves as FAITH CADETS.  Oh, okay, so that’s a bit much…

Still, I want to emphasize the importance of becoming lifelong students of faith.  Faith is a foundational principle.  Our ability to understand, accept, and live accountably for the deeper principles of exaltation is directly proportional to the soundness of our faith.

Like a muscle, your faith will either grow, or atrophy depending on how much you exercise it.  When our faith falls into disuse, it too grows weaker.  That’s the unavoidable law of entropy.  Those of the strongest faith are those who use it regularly, those who make it a part of their daily lives, and not just some vague principle taught in Sunday school.   

It is up to us to take faith from principle… to practice.

Before we begin today’s exercise, we need understand an important part of faith – that faith is founded upon testimony of truth.  Faith not founded on pure doctrine is merely self-disillusionment.

So what pure doctrine must we know to exercise faith?  I propose at LEAST the following.

1. Believe in God

In order for you to exercise faith, and believe in anything (to the point where you can actually affect change, simply through belief), you must first believe in God. 

I’m not talking about a flippant “yeah, I think God is real, and I accept it because it’s been told to me so many times”.  I’m talking about a pure and solid testimony that God lives.  You have to know that at the core of your being.  You have to have sought Him out and felt His love.  You need to accept unequivocally that HE IS REAL.

This is the first and foremost step in building your capacity to believe.  No other step can be achieved successfully without this.  Even if your personal relationship with him is still young and underdeveloped, that’s okay; it will grow as you complete these exercises.

2. Believe that you are a child of God

As a child of God, He loves you.  He is interested in your success, he is omnicaring as much as he is omniscient and omnipotent, and He is anxious to help you.

It means you are of royal birth… divinity is your heritage.  It’s your nature.  You are of infinite worth.  Once you realize that you are an actual son or daughter of God, your whole bodies shall be filled with a natural self-confidence, and you’ll have a sure acceptance that you can do or be anything.  For with God, nothing is impossible.  So too with you, in partnership with Him as your Father, is nothing impossible.

You have to believe that with His help, you are capable of works far beyond that of your native capacity.

3. Perspective on weakness

For you to exercise faith fully, you must understand your own limitations, and their perspective.  Our weaknesses are not some symbolic representation of our own ineptitude.  They’re gifts from God.  God said “I give unto men weakness that they might learn to know me”.  We’ve each been given our own set of “building blocks“, and it’s up to use to learn to use (and overcome) what we’ve been given.

But we should not fall victim to the belief that we are failures, just because we have weaknesses.  We have to abandon our self-imposed limitations, those beliefs we harbor against ourselves that obstruct our progress in life. 

This perspective is crucial feeling the full effects of the testimony of God, and our relationship to Him.

As these basic beliefs become indelibly imprinted in the foundation of your soul, they will begin to pervade your subconsciousness.  Hope will flow through you and optimism will envelope you.  Faith will naturally follow.

Today’s exercise…. Make sure you have a testimony of these three core things.  A solid testimony.  And don’t forget to stretch.  For afterall, can any of us really say that we cannot better understand our relationship with god?  We must stretch ourselves, push your capacity, and build this foundation.

That will prepare you for tomorrow.

Rusty

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

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

The sufficiency paradox, understanding the atonement

The atonement is the single greatest event in history, nothing else even compares, and as the single most important and relevant event in each of our own individual lives, it deserves our attention.

Unfortunately, amongst the various Christian denominations, there are lots of differences and views about the atonement, and many inaccurate understandings of how, exactly, it works.

As I have endeavored to teach the doctrine of the atonement, and how it pertains to mercy and justice, and the role of works in achieving exaltation, there has understandably been a lot of “firm” disputations voiced here by followers of other Christian faiths (those outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS, or Mormons).

Their (and the traditional) view of the atonement is one of what they call “sufficiency”.  In short, Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, and we do nothing to deserve or earn it, and that the atonement in and of itself is sufficient for our salvation – nothing need be done by us.

We seem to agree right up to that last qualifier.  Mormons too agree that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, and that we do nothing to deserve or earn it.  But we do believe that we must accept it, for it to have efficacy in our life.  And in that regard, the notion of “works” enters the picture.  The idea that we must “do” something in order for the atonement to take effect (not mentioning the myriad biblical references to works as a requirement to salvation which I explore here:  What do Mormons believe about works?).

But this is where I always get met with opposition, for it flies in the face of the view that Mercy and the atonement is sufficient, and there is nothing we must do for it to take effect.  As these discussions continue, I inevitably ask the unavoidable question “If the Atonement is sufficient, and there is nothing we must do, then I am already saved, as are all Mormons (in truth, all humanity), correct?”  But that is always met with a “No”, and the statement that Mormons are not saved (as in the discussion on this post: How to tell if it’s the spirit or yourself). 

But to say in one breath that Christ’s atonement is sufficient without anything being required by us, and then in the next to say that it doesn’t work for one particular group of people, creates a belief paradox.  An irreconcilable contradiction.  For if one believes in “sufficiency”, but that a particular group of people isn’t saved, then it begs the question “Then why are they not saved?”

The answer must be because that particular group has not “done” something that they needed, that there is some unmet requirement, in short, that the necessary “works” have not been fulfilled.  So that in the process of attempting to refute the notion of works in salvation, they simultaneously validate the notion themselves.

There is one other possible explanation, which was presented in the comments of that last link (How to tell if it’s the spirit or yourself).   Jim B. who regularly posts very thorough doctrinal analysis about this topic, claims that we “can’t embrace the gospel without divine enablement”.

This implies, of course, that I because haven’t accepted their beliefs, I haven’t been divinely enabled.  Which would be to say that God plays favorites, and he loves some more than others, or seeks some, and not others, as opposed to loving all man equally, as one would expect from our understanding of the Character of God. 

Jim goes on in another comment to say “I am saved by grace, through faith, and it is all a gift of God’s grace.  I have merited nothing from God.  I did not desire God until he desired me.”  But then states that I am not saved.  Why?  Does God does not desire me?

But again, this creates a paradox, for in order to validate the belief in this doctrine of “sufficiency” (at least as it has been explained), you have to claim that all are saved.  But when they try to say that all are NOT saved, they’re left in contradiction to the first statement, which they attempt to explain by saying that either one hasn’t done the right things, or that God plays favorites – in either case defeating the belief of sufficiency.

But a true understanding of the atonement and its actual sufficiency doesn’t necessitate a rejection of the notion of works.  The two principles are perfectly harmonious.  Many mistakenly believe that this reconciliation between the atonement and works means that Mormons think that they earn their salvation.  But this is not true.

We too believe that no matter what works we do, no matter how hard we try, without the atonement salvation is impossible.  Only in and through the atonement of Christ can man be saved.  The Book of Mormon teaches this point repeatedly: “…remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come” (Helaman 5:9).  There is “no redemption for mankind save it were through the death and sufferings of Christ, and the atonement of his blood” (Alma 21:9), and many others.

But what then of works?  What about all these scriptures (listed here) that say “the dead were judged … according to their works (Revelation 20:12-15), and that salvation is “unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:5-10), and that only “doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13-16), and that God shall “render to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:5-11), and that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), and many others.  After all, they were “commandments”, not “recommendations”.

As I explain in detail here (“Picking the lock of salvation?“), the atonement of Christ made a gateway into the kingdom of God, but at those gates, we are required to present a key (symbolically speaking), we are required to have done certain things (e.g. baptism).  Without the gate, it wouldn’t matter what keys you have, and therefore, only “through” the atonement (or gate) can we enter the Kingdom of God.  But nowhere does it imply that the gate is sufficient in and of itself, to the contrary, the bible teaches that we must be baptized, keep the commandments, and do other things that qualify us, or give us the keys necessary to open that gate and enter the kingdom of God.

So you see, a true understanding of the Atonement of Christ need not create such a paradox.  We needn’t assume that these scriptures about works are somehow incongruous with the scriptures about Mercy.  As I explain here “The grand panorama of scripture” all scripture must be considered together (we cannot cherry pick only those doctrines that are most convenient).  And the principles and doctrines of Mormonism are sufficient to encompass the full breadth and depth of all scriptures, without such contradictions and paradoxes.  That’s the miracle of Mormonism.  That God, working today as he did in times of old, gave us prophets and apostles, inspired men of God who receive direct revelation to clarify such points of doctrine as this – even the most important.  To correct those beliefs that have mutated and changed over the years based on the philosophies of man and their committee-based cannon.

My invitation is to all people, to consider these things, to learn about the prophet Joseph Smith, to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray for yourself, if they are not true, that we all might glory in the beauty of clear doctrine, and avoid such confusing paradoxes, particularly as they pertain to the most important event ever to occur, even the very atonement of Christ.

Rusty

What’s in the Book of Mormon?

If you’re a frequent visitor to my Blog, you’ll know I like to create series of posts.  Most of them are ongoing.  For instance, I’ve got a series on Faith “Faith Fitness“, and a series on the Mormon articles of faith, and others.

In this series, I’m going to cover principles and teachings found in the Book of Mormon. 

Whether you’re Mormon or not, the principles taught in this book are compelling and eternal – even if you don’t consider it a divine work (which I do).  What’s more, they provide a powerful second witness to the Bible, and help us gain further understanding of the teachings of the gospel of Christ.

To be clear, if you’re wondering what is taught in the Book of Mormon, this is not meant to be a substitute for simply picking one up (they’re free), but rather to be simple inspirational insights and commentary into its contents.

This post will serve as an index to all posts in the series, the first of which I intend to provide shortly. To make sure and not miss an issue, feel free to subscribe using one of the links below.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Rusty

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

Are Mormons Christian? Do doctrinal differences define us?

The second post in the series “Christian Mormons“, answering the question “Are Mormons Christian“.

There’s a reason this post comes second, only after “a look at the question itself“, because all of the other supporting posts, answering the questions of critics, stem from one common theme… we’re different.

I’m a Product Manager in practice, so I’m well acquainted with the idea that our differences define us.  In business, the whole idea is to “differentiate”, and indeed, there are many differences between Mormonism and orthodox Christianity.  This series is NOT about trying to prove that Mormons are the same as orthodox Christians, for we’re not.  This is a series of posts about Mormons being Christian, for we are.

The dictionary describes a Christian as one who believes in Jesus Christ and follows His teachings – which we do.

Why does it matter what a dictionary says?  Because as humans we rely on words to communicate.  To share complex ideas.  But our ability to communicate is only as good as another’s ability to understand us.  And that relies upon having socially accepted definitions of terms.  A dictionary.

If individuals or organizations chose to simply abandon what are otherwise socially acceptable definitions, and create their own, then as a whole, our ability to effectively communicate is diminished, and confusion ensues.

For instance, if someone asks, “are Mormons Christian?”, and what they really mean is “Do Mormons believe in Jesus Christ”, then to reply “no” would be an outright lie, even if you disagree with our faith.  And to knowingly lie is a sin, and has consequences.

It is this that matters to me.  The honesty of what you (as a non-Mormon) convey about Mormonism.  If your answer to that question was something akin to “technically yes, although there are several substantial differences between what they believe about Jesus Christ, and what orthodox Christianity believes…”, then you’re being honest, and that would be totally acceptable.

But the problem is, conspiring men don’t do this.  They perpetuate falsity by simply stating “no”, and as such, are caught (at least by our Father) in a lie.

Another example…  If someone came to me and asked “Are Hawaiians American?  I could answer “no”.  For in truth we have many critical differences.   I mean, they have their own language.  They often don’t even look like us.  I mean let’s be real, in a number of crucial ways, they’re very, very different… I mean they don’t even live on the same continent for goodness sake.

So, clearly, I could choose to create a definition contrary to society, and that would emphasize my individual belief, and could stubbornly convey that at every opportunity.  But would it be helpful?  Honest?

In short, while it’s true that our differences define us, we have more in common than not.  And of those things that we hold in common, is the belief in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Redeemer, and that only through Him can we be saved.  We believe in Jesus Christ, and work to follow his teachings, which just happens to be the definition of “Christian”.  Hence, in answer to the question “Are Mormons Christian”.  Yes. 

Any answer otherwise is dishonest.

 

Rusty

Did Joseph Smith think that he was better than Jesus?

Daniel, in the post “Do Mormons have more than one God“, asked why Joseph Smith said he did a better job than Paul and Jesus for keeping the church together.

Daniel,

Thanks for asking this question.  First and foremost, this was not the belief, or attitude, or teaching of the prophet Joseph Smith.  In fact, Joseph Smith said the following:

“Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord?  Who is perfect?  Who is pure?  Who is holy as He was?  Are they to be found?  He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven – no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart… Where is one like Christ?  He cannot be found on earth.”  (History of the Church, 2:23)

He later said:  “None ever were perfect but Jesus; and why was He perfect?  Because He was the Son of God, and had the fullness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man.” (Ibid 4:358)

So then, what’s all this about?

It’s about a statement that was taken out of context and is commonly proliferated in anti-Mormon literature for the intent to mislead. 

So what did Joseph Smith say?

His quote “I am the only man that has been able to keep the whole church together… Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it.”

Taken as an independent sentence, one would think the Prophet was insinuating that he was better than even Jesus.  But as we see from his quote above (and numerous others, along with his very life and teachings), this was not his belief.

So then what was the real context of the quote?

Joseph Smith was speaking tounge-in-cheek in a discourse and testimony against the dissenters at Nauvoo.  He was speaking against the very people who had beaten, tarred, feathered, spit upon, and would ultimately kill him.

In so doing, he had just read Corinthians, chapter 11, in which the apostle Paul said “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly:  and indeed bear with me.  I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.  That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.  Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also…. Are they ministers of Christ (I speak as a fool) I am more;  in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”

Understanding that this was Joseph’s introduction to the congregation puts his comments into perspective.  Like Paul, he was asking the saints to “bear with him” in his “folly”, while he “boasted foolishly” about his “labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent”.  His quoting of this passage was to provide the context that what he was about to say would not be “after the Lord, but as it were foolishly”, to “glory in the flesh”, as Paul had done.  It was to mock the fools with foolishness, while making the point that no matter what they do to him, he would prevail.

So, as you see, Joseph’s attitude was not that he was in any way, shape, or form, better than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is perfect – the only perfect person to ever walk the earth.

But there’s a larger point to this.  And that point, aptly illustrated here, is that the content composed by critics of the church cannot be trusted.  It was built to mislead, that is the sole intent, and so they’ll go to any measure to do so, even when dishonest. 

I’ve seen some of the most ridiculous claims propagated around the internet, and by congregational leaders.  It’s one of the primary aims of this blog, to be one source to which people can turn to get answers to things they hear, such as this, hence the page “Ask a Mormon“.

For truly, Joseph Smith had more respect, understanding, admiration, and deep desire to worship Jesus Christ than I can ever comprehend.  He was a prophet of God, called by the Lord Himself.  As such, his testimony of the Lord was pure and powerful.  You can read more about it at www.josephsmith.com.

Rusty

P.S.  Related posts:  “Is ‘anti’ contrary to Christianity?” discussing the un-Christian nature of critics (or “anti’s”.  Also, “Commercialized Religion” discussing the motivation behind such anti material.

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

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

The Mormon Miracle

As I mentioned earlier in my post about distinguishing between the superficial fluff of emotion and the divine communication of the spirit to our hearts (here), we need to beware of emotions.  We need to strive diligently to learn the specific ways the Spirit speaks to us.

For emotion can be a dangerous thing.  It can be wonderful, sure.  It’s what gives life its flavor, after all.  But like most wonderful things, the adversary has found a way of twisting it and using it against us.

Talented leaders know how to leverage emotion to their advantage.  Learn to tap into the superficial springs of emotion in the souls of men, and you can easily get people to follow you.

Why do you think so many religious meetings are accompanied by live bands, shouting and gregarious displays of emotion, and led by charismatic, high-energy preachers who are adept at holding an audience in the palm of their hands?  They walk around, grip the congregation with compelling prose and strong vocal fluctuations that often escalate into very “high-volume” orations.  Most of the time, the better the entertainer, the greater their following (one of the problems due to the economics of a paid clergy, or the commercialization of religion, which I explore here).

But it’s also one of the miracles behind the explosion and sustained momentum of the Mormon Church.  We’re not well known for our highly engaging and entertaining sacrament meetings to say the least.

Mormon bishops (our local leaders who run the weekly church meetings and the local affairs of the church) are not professional religionists, nor are any of the local church leaders – it’s a lay ministry.  They didn’t seek their positions; they didn’t one day wake up and decide they wanted to lead a congregation because they were adept at such things. 

Rather, one day they were simply called by a stake president (also unpaid and who himself was called in a similar manner) to serve as a bishop for their local congregation for a period of time. 

They each come from different walks of life, and since they’re not paid, they still have to keep their jobs to provide for their families.  They’re asked to do much, and sacrifice much, with no monetary reward.  They’re not professional orators.  And even if they were, they don’t often speak to the congregation.

Instead, instruction for Mormon Sacrament Meetings is provided by the general membership of the church.  The bishop will call and ask certain members to speak on an upcoming Sunday, ranging throughout the congregation so that all who are willing and able might have the experience of teaching the gospel.  Our youth, even as young as 12 years old are called to participate and give short talks on subjects provided by the bishop to the whole congregation.

As you can imagine, these talks aren’t always terribly compelling in their delivery.  But the Mormon Miracle, as I call it, is that it doesn’t matter.

It’s the difference between superficial emotion elicited by a talented orator, and the pure accompaniment of the Holy Ghost that naturally surrounds the teaching of true principles and the administration of true ordinances.   

The membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints flourishes not because of a structure built from talented public speakers whose sustenance is derived from their ability to hold a congregation and keep them coming back.

No, instead, our leaders earn their wages independent from their congregations, and the congregations return and grow because their meetings are rich with the pure doctrines of Jesus Christ, undiluted by the teachings of man, and not ornamented with fancy delivery.

If you have never been to a Mormon Sacrament meeting, then click here to find your closest chapel, and I invite you to witness the Mormon Miracle for yourself.   If you go with an open heart, and not in the spirit of contention, you too will recognize the beauty behind the simplicity, and feel the power of pure principles.

Rusty

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

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.

I know that my redeemer lives

Today, instead of some flowery metaphor, or some humorous take on the news, or anything else, I simply wanted to bear testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that He lives.  That this mighty man born under such lowly circumstances in Bethlehem, was far more than just a man, and his life far more than just a sweet story of sacrifice and inspiration.

Rather, it laid the breastwork for our salvation.  It provided the foundation upon which we can build our own lives, overcome both sin and death, and be exalted with our families in the presence of our Father in heaven for all eternity.

His death on the cross, His atonement in Gethsemane, and the gospel truths that he taught are eternal, and were given specifically for your and my benefit because of his great love.  What’s more, the fullness of His teachings, of His gospel has been restored to the earth today.

I know of Him not because I’ve seen him in the flesh, but because I’ve been blessed to feel and observe the constant and unmistakable influence of His hands so regularly in my life that I would be blind to not recognize it.

I’ve felt the rich confirmation of the spirit as I’ve pondered His life, and the role of his life in my own.  I know that He cares about me and you in ways that we cannot possibly comprehend, and that he’s anxious for each of us to be able to unequivocally sing the words:

I know that my redeemer lives.

Rusty

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.


Bookmark and Share

 

Discussing an open canon

As I describe here “Writing an open canon, line upon line“, one of the foundational principles taught in scripture is the notion that we are instructed line upon line, precept upon precept. 

The premise of this principle is that we don’t have it all.  That there is more to come and it will be distributed by degrees (the subject for a future post).

It’s the assumption of “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach… there’s more.”

But most traditional Christian denominations believe that there is no more, accepting instead the idea of a closed canon. 

What a dreadful thought, at least to one who has witnessed the incredible clarity gained through additional scripture (which is why “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established”).    

But because this comes up so frequently in discussions here, I decided it was worthy of a dedicated post, so that we could explore it together.  Hopefully we will each gain appreciation for the other’s views.  I can only assume I am egregiously ignorant in understanding the notion of a closed canon, for the premises upon which it is based just seem so rejectable.

It seems to me, that in order to accept a closed cannon, you must accept at least one of the following:

God has already told us all there is to tell

Under this premise, I could accept that perhaps additional scripture is unnecessary. 

But I can’t get past the mere idea of this.  First, if we had been given it all, we would not be given line upon line, but rather the whole truth all at once, which seems absurd, realistically, to assume that the sum-total of God’s knowledge could somehow fit within a single volume of scripture.  My goodness, even if it were a bazillion pages long, it couldn’t even come close to containing the full breadth and depth of God’s eternal knowledge.  To assume that “well, this is all there is” seems shockingly arrogant. 

I cannot accept that somehow God has run out of things to say.

God is unable to speak to man today

Surely, if he were simply unable, this could account for the ongoing silence anticipated by accepting a closed canon.  But that contradicts the very notion of an omnipotent God.

I cannot accept that God has run out of ways or the ability to communicate.

God us unwilling to speak to man today

Perhaps if he’s not unable, then he’s unwilling, but why would that be?  Why would he so clearly establish a pattern of prophets and others who record the revelations of God, and which become known as scripture.  Why would he be unwilling to communicate through revelation today, for the bible said that it is “upon this rock” the rock of revelation that his very church shall be built, and in countless references has he instructed man to turn to God, to ask God, to Knock, and in return he will answer, and open.

I cannot accept that God is simply unwilling to communicate.

God’s words today are less important

If you accept that there’s no way on earth or in heaven that the Bible can contain the sum total of all God’s knowledge, and that he HAS told us he’d continue to instruct us line upon line, precept upon precept… if you accept that god is neither unable, or unwilling to speak to man today, then it seems you must accept the principle of revelation.

But if you accept the principle of revelation, to say the canon is closed, is to say that the words he says today are somehow less important than those he said in the past, as if they’re somehow drowned out by words he spoke some 2,000 years ago.  Why would his words to man spoken 2,000 years ago be worthy of canonization, but the words he speaks to man today, are not? 

If God lives (and I attest that he does), then he speaks, and if he speaks, then his words are of equal, if not greater importance for us today, for they are given directly TO us, in our time, for our benefit, and in consideration of our specific needs and circumstance.

How is man somehow able to decide which of his words should be “canon” and which of his words are unworthy?

But I have a testimony that the words of God are all true, and that there is no end to his instruction, and that all instruction from God must be considered equal, eternal, and ongoing, and as such, am happy to belong to a religion that embraces an open canon, that it may never be found saying “we have enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open canon, and “Writing an open canon, line upon line

What do mormons really believe?

(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 😉

I’ve decided that over the next several days, I’m going to elaborate a bit on what Mormons believe, using the Articles of Faith as my guide.  This series of posts is meant to both assist in setting the record straight about Mormonism (if you’re not LDS, and have seen the plethora of false information online), and to helping those of us that are LDS appreciate the simple beauty behind our most basic beliefs.

(For context, the Articles of Faith were written by Joseph Smith and published in March of 1842 in an effort to provide a brief view of Mormon teachings… see here).

The first article of faith states: 

 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Yes, that means we’re Christian.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that He lives, that He was resurrected after having been crucified on the cross.  We believe that He is our savior, and that through His atoning sacrifice, our sins might be forgiven that we might be made clean through His mercy. 

We believe that he is the literal Son of God, and that God is a real being of flesh and bone, who created the earth, and that we are all His children (see we are of royal birth).  Mormons believe that God is not some vague, cosmic energy, but is a real person that we can see, feel, and speak to.

What a beautiful thing that is, to know that we are made in the image of God.  Knowledge of such a divine heritage should fill us with hope, fortify our confidence, and alter the perspective we have on ourselves, and others.

And how wonderful it is to know that God is a literal, tangible being.  Somehow that makes him approachable, being able to see him as a kind and gentle Father who is concerned at all times for our eternal welfare (see God is Omnicaring).

We also believe in the Holy Ghost, that He is a personage of spirit, and as such, is able to dwell within us.  Think upon that for a moment.  Through living a righteous life, we are able to have the Holy Ghost actually dwell within us.  What a marvelous gift.  A measure of divinity placed within each of us providing a direct conduit straight to our Father in Heaven.

While it’s so easy to take the first article of faith for granted, being so basic, I find it to be of remarkable substance and encouragement.  I am a child of God, who sent His Son to atone for my sins, and provided me the Holy Ghost as a companion to show the way during dark times.  Armed with such knowledge, we should all feel a little bolder, a little more confident, and a little more determined.

Rusty

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

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

Bookmark and Share

Is there evidence for the Book of Mormon – the answer may surprise you

Tina, on the post “Seeking for evidence” asked today:

Please give me the name of one renowned historian who takes the Book of Mormon serious.

Tina, I appreciate your question.  I have your answer.  Before I share it, I think it’s important to note why so many ask this question.

The Book of Mormon presents a serious challenge to orthodox Christianity.  It is said to be another witness of Jesus Christ, a record of His dealings with the Ancient American inhabitants.  If scripture, it provides clarity to the bible in ways which create occasional, but important contradictions to the traditions and beliefs that have evolved over the centuries by all other Christian denominations.

If the Book of Mormon is true, then not only does it call into question the beliefs of so many, but it has eternal implications for you, and calls for meaningful, but difficult changes to your life.

As such, it would be much easier if we could simply dismiss it, rather than undertake the spiritual responsibility of studying it ourselves, and asking God if it is true.  That makes us vulnerable, and we all prefer to have our beliefs validated, and not challenged.

If it could simply be dismissed, that would be so much easier.  If we could just say “there is insufficient archeological evidence to support such claims” then we give ourselves reason to move on.  And so rather than seek the answer from God, we seek answers from men, from science.  We say “give me evidence, give me proof”, even when we know that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Indeed, faith is the evidence, not things we can see.

Still, we want a sign, and archeology is the easiest, and often the first place to turn.  Why?  Because we’ve been raised under the misconception that the Americas don’t have the archeological evidence to support the massive amounts of people, or the advanced technology as recorded in the Book of Mormon.

Indeed, even today, textbooks teach that pre-Columbian America was largely uninhabited.  But as we continuously find throughout all the sciences, things previously accepted as facts (like a flat world), end up not being factual at all.

While there are numerous new findings (archeological, anthropological, and otherwise) that I could recount (and will at some point), perhaps the single best source I could refer you to is a new book, recently published, and that is now a National Bestseller. It’s called “1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann.  Coincidentally, Mann is not LDS, and didn’t intend to validate the Book of Mormon with his work, even though that’s precisely what he did.

The Washington Post said “1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas…”  The book explains that contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled, but were here in huge numbers, larger even than any contemporary European city.  That the people shaped the earth around them, had immaculately clean streets, running water, and were even the first to genetically engineer crops.  But for decades, archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others have been bringing forward a different story.  1491 brings it all together in one read.

One interesting revelation brought by these scientists, is the realization that rather than the first Americans having come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C, but rather that they came by boat.  Interestingly, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes it.

Another interesting revelation is that the reason early European visitors found an empty landscape, was not because they’d found the natural, unchanging state of native America, but rather the end product of a vast society decimated by wars and epidemics – perhaps the greatest in human history.  Again, remarkably, that’s just how the Book of Mormon explains it.

Mann describes discovering gigantic ancient cities, with huge, 14 foot walls thrown up as fortifications.  Again, just how the Book of Mormon describes Moroni’s fortifications of the Nephite cities.

It was believed that the Inca, for instance, fell to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy.  But these findings clearly show that they actually had a highly refined metallurgy, just as the Book of Mormon states.

About the book, “Publishers Weekly” stated that “Mann also shows that the Maya constructed huge cities and governed them with a cohesive set of political ideals. Most notably, according to Mann, the Haudenosaunee, in what is now the Northeast U.S., constructed a loose confederation of tribes governed by the principles of individual liberty and social equality.”  Again, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes the creation of the Nephite nation, and Moroni’s “standard of liberty” which united the cities, even placing them in the right area.

So while it would be convenient to dismiss the Book of Mormon based on the old, uninformed notion that there isn’t sufficient archeological evidence to validate its claims, in fact, the opposite is true.

So true in fact, that the new evidence not only validates the description of early America as recorded in the Book of Mormon, but validates the prophetic nature of the Joseph Smith.  For it must be remembered that we’re talking about a book written by Joseph Smith (actually translated from ancient plates) hundreds of years ago.  Long before any of this evidence was to surface, at a time when such writings were in stark contrast to current beliefs.  But here we are, hundreds of years later, finding detailed evidence validating that work.

It’s been surprising to many.

Publishers Weekly further commented about the book:  “In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America.  Reviewing the latest, not widely reported research in Indean demography, origins and ecology, Mann zestfully demonstrates that long before any European explorers set foot in the New World, native American cultures were flourishing with a high degree of sophistication.  The new researchers have turned received wisdom on its head.”

I’ll be posting additional similarities illustrated in the Book (and elsewhere) to further eliminate this “easy out”, but if you prefer not to wait, here’s the link to it on Amazon.

Most importantly, however, are two simply points.  The first is the principle that we should not require the validation of science (or signs) to substantiate our faith.  It’s sure nice when it does, but true faith needs no such validation.  Second, having removed the easy dismissal of the Book of Mormon, it is upon each of us to then undertake the spiritual responsibility to consider the work for ourselves.  To study, and read it for ourselves.  And then to ask God, for ourselves, if it is not true.   It’s simply too important not to.

Indeed, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5).  The Book of Mormon itself contains a promise.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things be not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)

Rusty

P.S.  for more information about the Book of Mormon, or to request a copy, click here.

See also “Discussing an open canon” for coverage and discussions about the common  misconception that the canon of scripture is closed.