Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Blog Address

My new blog is here: http://strongreasons.wordpress.com/


I'll be moving some of my favorite posts from here to there and my blogging will be done there from here on. Please visit me there! Anyone who has linked to this blog, please update the address.


Goodbye, google!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Google Opposes Prop. 8

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/our-position-on-californias-no-on-8.html


Google officially opposes Proposition 8. As a consequence, I will no longer be using their services. This blog, unfortunately, is owned by google. I will, therefore, be closing down and moving my blog to a different owner who does not publicly push the gay agenda.

If any of you who support Prop. 8 have a blog with blogger.com, I would suggest you do the same. Google is making money through our blog usage. The money they make is then used to support a cause we don't believe in.

Best Wishes,

Andrew Miller


PS I will shortly announce where my new blog will be located.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Human Sacrifice

For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. (Alma 34:10)


First, does this scripture seem to imply that the Zoramits were familiar with human sacrifice?

Second, Does this fit into a Mesoamerican, Ancient Near East, or 19th century rural USA world view best?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Redefining Marriage

Well, Connecticut has joined the club. When will judges stop legislating from the bench? Is the constitution hanging by a thread?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bible Translations

It isn't uncommon for critics to suggest that all Bible translations are essentially the same. While I certainly think that all major translations have some validity (I am not a KJV-only supporter), I do not believe that there aren't major differences here and there. Occasionally, some translations show real bias. While I, overall, applaud the New International Version (NIV), it certainly has some problems. Consider the following:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (NIV 1 Peter 4:6)


Did Jesus preach the gospel to people after they died, or before? The NIV adds the word "now" which does not exist in any Greek manuscript of this verse. Notwithstanding the volumes of information from early Christianity about posthumous preaching and salvation (see HERE), the NIV study Bible note asserts that this edition to the text was made because “it is necessary to make it clear that the preaching was done not after these people had died, but while they were still alive.” The note then dogmatically asserts, “There will be no opportunity for people to be saved after death.”

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (NIV Philippians 2:6)


Compared to:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (KJV Philippians 2:6)



Did Jesus think it was reasonable to be equal with God ("thought it not robbery") or not? Was Jesus "in very nature God" (a loose translation at best!) or "in the form of God"? The NIV is clearly translating the creeds into the text.

Keep these verses in mind the next time someone criticizes the statement that "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ante-Nicene Mysteries and Their New Testament Sources

Here is a rough draft of the paper I'll be presenting this November at the Sane Symposium.

It is a rough rough draft. So, it has a way to go still, but I thought I'd show you what I've been working on.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pillar of Fire and the First Vision

I recently bought all 6 volumes of Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant A. Gardner. I've only read about 100 pages of the first volume so far, but I am highly impressed. I do not agree with every take Brother Gardner has on different issues, but I have found it very insightful with very useful information and references. It's like someone has pulled together into one place all of the scholarly information on the Book of Mormon. I highly recommend it.

Gardner cites John Welch in his commentary on Lehi's vision in 1 Nephi 1 in specific reference to the pillar of fire that came down "and dwelt upon a rock before him" (1 Nephi 1:6-7):


As Lehi prayed, he beheld a pillar of fire dwelling upon a rock in front of him. From this pillar Lehi saw and heard many powerful things, but Nephi does not elaborate on who or what Lehi saw in this pillar of fire. Joseph Smith described how God, angels, and spirits appear in fiery manifestations; he taught, for instance, "spirits can only be revealed in flaming fire and glory." From ancient sources, too, one learns that the appearance of fire, especially a pillar of fire, was a frequent mode of heavenly manifestation, sometimes of God and other times of his messengers or of the holy beings who surrounded him. (Cited in Gardner, Second Witness, Vol. 1, page 68).


After reading this, something came to my remembrance--Joseph Smith's first recorded recollection of the First Vision.

[T]he Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in < the > attitude of calling upon the Lord < in the 16th [15th?] year of my age > a pillar of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the < Lord > opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord... (Joseph Smith, "A History of the Life of Joseph Smith," in Joseph Smith Letterbook 1).


The Prophet struggled to describe what he saw. He first wrote that he saw a "pillar of fire" but then crossed out "fire" and replaced it with "light."

On another occasion he related his experience to the "prophet Matthias" who claimed he was "Joshua the Jewish Minister:"

A pillar of fire appeared above my head; which presently rested down upon me, and filled me with un-speakable joy. A personage appeared in the midst of this pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed. Another personage soon appeared like unto the first: he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee. He testified also unto me that Jesus Christ is the son of God. I saw many angels in this vision. I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication... (see http://www.lds-mormon.com/fv.shtml)


In an account written by Orson Pratt, he state that Joseph thought the trees would burn up:

He expected to have seen the leaves and boughs of the trees consumed, as soon as the light came in contact with them; but perceiving that it did not produce that effect, he was encouraged with the hope of being able to endure its presence. It continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and he was enveloped in the midst of it. (see http://www.lds-mormon.com/fv.shtml)


This isn't earth shattering or anything, just thought it was interesting that Joseph Smith's accounts of the vision, like Lehi's account in the Book of Mormon, accurately portray the pillar of fire concept.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eloquent Witness

I recently bought Hugh Nibley's latest book entitled "Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple" (See HERE). It's a good thing that something so little as death hasn't slowed Brother Nibley's publishing down! Let me give you a little preview of the Book here.


It is well known that Hugh Nibley was the LDS apologist of all time. It's a little less well known that he had some really critical things to say, at times, about the church as an institution. Notwithstanding his criticism, he always sustained his leaders. An interview reported in the book contains, in part, the following:

MIDGLEY: Are you concerned with the leadership of the Church?
NIBLEY: Nope, not a bit. I certainly am not. The leadership of the Church is Jesus Christ, and he know what he is doing. Don't worry.
MIDGLEY: I am tempted to ask you if you would sustain Judas?
NIBLEY: Of course I would sustain Judas. He was on of the apostles.
MIDGLEY: But he was a devil.
NIBLEY: Remember what the Lord said. "I [have] chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil" (John 6:70). But he chose him. The Lord has his purposes in these things. If we sustained only perfect people, we wouldn't sustain anybody. The Lord has his purposes in these things.(p. 40)


I really like this philosophy. I've had church leaders before who really didn't see things the same way I do. Some of the "brethren" at times have seen things differently than I do. I'm not saying that any of them are "Judas" (so to speak), but should I not sustain them? Isn't it Jesus' Church? If Christ calls someone who isn't perfect, or even someone who is wicked, to a position over me, who am I to oppose it?

What think ye?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kefa--a seer stone?

When Jesus met Simon son of Jona, he gave him a new name--Cephas. "Cephas" (Aramaic--kefa) is the equivalent of "Peter." The name means "stone." According to Hugh Nibley, kefa is an Aramaic word that refers to a green crystal used for divination. In other words, kefa doesn't just mean "stone" but more precisely it means "seer stone."

The Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:42 is more interesting now, isn't it?

"And [Andrew] brought [Peter] to Jesus, and When Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone..."

So, two questions:

Is Hugh Nibley right about kefa?
If so, how do you explain Joseph Smith's uncanny ability to get these things right?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Study it Out in Your Mind Part 2

Not only do LDS believe that we must study LDS teachings out in our mind before we can receive confirming revelation from God, but the scriptures teach that revelation comes to our mind.

"Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." (D&C 8:2)

I have found that one of the ways I can distinguish personal revelation from my own thoughts or emotions is by noticing if the revelation comes to my mind and my heart. I ask myself, Does it makes sense? Does it seem right? Does it enlighten my understanding? Does it taste good?

"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." (Alma 32:28)

To say that the mind or understanding has no place in the "Mormon testimony" is another false caricature of anti-Mormons. Mormonism teaches that "studying it out in your mind" is a prerequisite to gaining revelation that comes to "the heart AND the mind" and that "enlightens our understanding." It's not "just feelings."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Must Study It Out in Your Mind

It is a straw man argument to claim that we LDS base our belief on “feelings” alone without any thought based on some magical prayer given on some solitary occasion. As a matter of fact, according to our own doctrine it can’t happen that way. A section in the Doctrine and Covenants says:

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:7-8)

My testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith as a prophet and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being the restoration of primitive Christianity has come in this way. To suggest that LDS testimony is built on some post-movie like emotions without any thought or study is blatantly false. As for me, my testimony is the product largely of much thought, study, pondering, and prayer. Such truth-confirming revelation doesn’t come in a vacuum, but comes as a natural reward for our efforts to commune with and understand God.

“If any man wants to do God’s will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak on my own authority.” (John 7:17). That’s what Jesus taught. I can tell you that there has never been a person who has wanted to know and do God’s will more than I, and I can confirm that God has confirmed in me that the fullness of the everlasting gospel is exclusively found in the teachings and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mathematicks Proves thuh Bible Truew!

I've gotten into an interesting conversation with some circular reasoning professionals HERE.

Check out the comment section.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Insight on the "Rapture"

About a year ago I was involved in a rather intense discussion with a few anti-Mormons in Missouri. My dad was present. A discussion of the "rapture" (a non-Biblical term) came up. Matthew 24 was cited:

40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.


This scripture is commonly used to say that the righteous will be taken up into heaven while the wicked will stay on earth during the "tribulation" (another non-Biblical term). This is even seen on some bumper stickers.



But what does the context of the verse say? Thanks to my dad for pointing this out:

Who is to be taken? The context makes that clear.

37But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39And knew not until the flood came, and took them [the wicked] all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.



It is the wicked who will be "taken" away in death, just as in the days of Noah.

Spiritual Gifts

It's been a while since I have posted here. A lot has been going on lately!

Today we got a new bishop. Yesterday, on two occasions, the thought came to me "tomorrow we're getting a new bishop." I didn't know what to make of the thought. Was it all in my head, or was it from above? I've had similar experiences before with other events that happened such as the passing away of a man I hadn't seen in years.

The Lord told Oliver Cowdery that revelation comes to our minds and our hearts (see D&C 8:2). For me it generally comes to my mind as thoughts or impressions that seem indistinguishable from my own thoughts. I realize this has little to do with apologetics, but I'd love your input. How do you come to distinguish between the two? What is the purpose of such insights (like, "we're getting a new bishop tomorrow" or "Brother Lowery will be joining his wife soon")? Spiritual gifts, we are told, are for the benefit of the members of the church (see D&C 46:9). Are some gifts just for our own personal benefit as well?

Monday, July 7, 2008

What Does the Word "Telestial" Mean?

The word "telestial" is not found in the dictionary now nor was it in 1831 when it was first recorded in D&C 76. So, it is not possible to know what it means with absolute certainty.

However, I think "telestial" may be derived from the Greek word telos which means "the end, complete/finish, full, perfect" etc. It is used in connection with the Telestial Kingdom because it is the last resurrection of the saved that happens at the end of the world when Jesus has completed and perfected his work. I think this is evident in the following verse from the New Testament:

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power(1 Cor. 15:22-24).

My commentary on these verses:

All be made alive]
All will be resurrected just like Jesus was.
In his own order] The word for order refers to temporal order or rank. Each person will be resurrected in the order or according to their rank in salvation.
Christ the firstfruits] Christ is the first to be resurrected in time, he is also the highest in rank.
afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming] The next to be resurrected are those who are resurrected at Christ's second coming. This is the first resurrection which consists of those who are resurrected in the morning (the heirs of the celestial kingdom) and those who are resurrected afterwards (the Terrestial Kingdom).
Then cometh the end] "The end" is "telos" in the Greek. Then (after the other resurrections) comes the "telos" resurrection. This is where the word telestial comes from. It occurs after the millennium when Christ "shall have delivered up the kingdom to God..." It denotes completion, ending, perfection.

With this understanding, D&C 76 takes on a new meaning.

"[Telestial inhabitants] are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work" (D&C 76:85)

"[Telestial inhabitants] are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work; when he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father [cf. 1 Cor. 15:24] " (D&C 76:106-107)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Few Plugs

Most of you don't need me to tell you how great these blogs are, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Under "links" at the left you'll see these blogs.

American Testament is run by a young acquaintance of mine and deals mostly with the Book of Mormon. It is a great blog with some great insights. I highly recommend it.

Lehi's Library is a great blog that deals with all different kinds of apologetic and scholarly research. It is very good!

Life on Gold Plates is an insightful commentary on the Journal of Discourses by a friend who is working his way through the 26 volume set.

Temple Study is a fascinating blog about the temple and its connections to ancient traditions and practices throughout the world. It is very insightful.

There all of the links I've put up I think are valuable blogs that I frequent. Please check them out! I'm sure each of the authors will appreciate your visit.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Joseph and Hyrum: Prophets of God

Ye heav’ns attend! Let all the earth give ear!
Let Gods and seraphs, men and angels hear-
The worlds on high-the universe shall know
What awful scenes are acted here below!
Had nature’s self a heart, her heart would bleed;
For never, since the Son of God was slain
Had blood so noble, flow’d from human vein
As that which now, on God for vengeance calls
From “freedom’s ground”-from Carthage prison walls!
Oh! Illinois! thy soil has drank the blood
Of Prophets martyr’d for the truth of God.
Once lov’d America! what can atone
For the pure blood of innocence, thou’st sown?
Were all thy streams in teary torrents shed
To mourn the fate of those illustrious dead;
How vain the tribute, for the noblest worth
That grac’d thy surface, O degraded Earth!
Oh wretched murd’rers! fierce for human blood!
You’ve slain the prophets of the living God,
Who’ve borne oppression from their early youth.
To plant on earth, the principles of truth.
Shades of our patriotic fathers! Can it be,
Beneath your blood stain’d flag of liberty;
The firm supporters of our country’s cause,
Are butcher’d while submissive to her laws?
yes, blameless men, defam’d by hellish lies
have thus been offer’d as a sacrifice
T’appease the ragings of a brutish clan,
That has defied the laws of God and man!
‘Twas not for crime or guilt of theirs, they fell-
Against the laws they never did rebel.
True to their country, yet her plighted faith
Has prov’d an instrument of cruel death!
Where are thy far-fam’d laws-Columbia! where
Thy boasted freedom-thy protecting care?
Is this a land of rights” Stern FACTS shall say
If legal justice here maintains its sway,
The official pow’rs of State are sheer pretence
When they’re exerted in the Saints’ defence.
Great men have fall’n and mighty men have died
Nations have mourn’d their fav’rites and their pride;
But TWO, so wise, so virtuous, great and good,
Before on earth, at once, have never stood
Since the creation-men whom God ordain’d
To publish truth where error long had reigned;
Of whom the world, itself unworthy prov’d:
It KNEW THEM NOT; but men with hatred mov’d
And with infernal spirits have combin’d
Against the best, the noblest of mankind!
Oh persecution! shall thy purple hand
Spread utter destruction through the land?
Shall freedom’s banner be no more unfurled?
Has peace indeed, been taken from the world?
Thou God of Jacob, in this trying hour
Help us to trust in thy almighty pow’r;
Support thy Saints beneath this awful stroke
Make bare thine arm to break oppression’s yoke.
We mourn thy Prophet, from whose lips have flow’d
The words of life, thy spirit has bestow’d-
A depth of thought, no human art could reach
From time to time, roll’d in sublimest speech,
From the celestial fountain, through his mind,
To purify and elevate mankind:
The rich intelligence by him brought forth,
Is like the sun-beam, spreading o’er the earth.
Now Zion mourns-she mourns an earthly head;
The Prophet and Patriarch are dead!
The blackest deed that men or devils know
Since Calv’ry’s scene, has laid the brothers low!
One in their life, and one in death-they prov’d
How strong their friendship-how they truly lov’d;
True to their mission, until death, they stood,
Then seal’d their testimony with their blood.
All hearts with sorrow bleed, and ev’ry eye
Is bath’d in tears-each bosom heaves a sigh-
Hart broken widow’s agonizing groans
Are mingled with the helpless orphans’ moans!
Ye Saints! be still, and know that God is just
With steadfast purpose in his promise trust;
Girded with sackcloth, own his mighty hand,
And with his judgments on this guilty land!
The noble martyrs now have gone to move
The cause of Zion in the courts above.
Nauvoo, July 1, 1844.[1]

______

[1] Eliza R. Snow, “The Assassination of Gen’ls Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, First Presidents of the Church of Latter Day Saints; Who were Massacred by a Mob, Hancock County, Ill., on the 27th of June 1844,” Times and Seasons, July 1, 1844, 575.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Fruit of the Tree of Life and Eternal Life


Lehi saw a vision of the Tree of Life (See 1 Nephi 8). In his vision he saw some pressing forward until they arrived at the tree and tasted its fruit. Some of them "after they had tasted of the fruit...were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost" (1 Nephi 8:28).

Nephi, the son of Lehi, wished to "know the things that [his] father had seen" (1 Nephi 10:1) and then had a glorious vision recorded in 1 Nephi 11-14. After his vision, he explained the vision to his brothers in 1 Nephi 15. At the close of his explanation of the vision he had something quite remarkable to say:

Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it [i.e., the fruit] is the greatest of all the gifts of God (1 Nephi 15:36).

This should make any LDS seminary graduate to raise his eyebrows. What is the greatest of all the gifts of God?

The Doctrine and Covenants states that "eternal life...is the greatest of all the gifts of God" and also that "there is no greater gift than the gift of salvation" (14:7; 6:13). So salvation or eternal life is the greatest gift a child of God can receive, and this is synonymous with the fruit of the tree of life!

So, apparently some can partake of the fruit of the tree of life (which is eternal life or salvation) and then fall away. Since this life is the time to prepare to meet God, and since salvation cannot be lost after death, in what ways can we partake of eternal life and salvation in this life?


PS. There are a few Biblical references to having "eternal life" in this life. I won't point them out to you specifically, but they're there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mormonism Has Another Jesus?

This is a letter I wrote and sent a couple of years ago while living near Lexington, Virginia. I never received a response or acknowledgment of any sort.

I might add, I tried to use the same sort of rhetoric and judgment passing that their tract contained in sort of a mocking way. I don't know if it really came through.

Enjoy.

------------------------------------------


Fellowship Tract League
P.O. Box 164
Lebanon, OH 45036

May 28, 2006

To Whom It May Concern:

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Thus God’s voice thundered from Mount Sinai. I write this to you in a spirit of meekness, kindness and out of pure love. As custodians of the truth of God, at times it is expedient to reprove the sinful actions of others out of love and concern for the salvation of their souls. It is in this spirit that I write this letter to you. As followers of Christ, I am confident that you will take the time to read and respond to this letter.

Yesterday, May 27, I discovered a tract published by the Fellowship Tract League on the shelf at a local business entitled “Mormonism has Another Jesus.” It is an unfortunate and misguided attempt to explain the basic tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to arouse feelings of hatred and misunderstanding towards Mormons. I will here address a few of the many inconsistencies and false witness found in this tract. You may believe Mormonism to be a false religion, and it is by all means your right to preach against it, but I believe it to be sinful to do so by purposeful manipulation of the facts and through lies.

The overall tone of the tract is degrading. The first three words exemplify that fact. There is no organization on the face of the earth named “The Mormon Church.” The proper name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In order to be more scholarly and less degrading, it would be proper to reverse the word order of the sentence from “The Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)” to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or the Mormons).”

The second paragraph says that the LDS Church denies the virgin birth and that the Holy Ghost begot Christ. Latter-day Saints do reject that the Holy Ghost begot Christ, but they do not reject the virgin birth. The scriptures cited in the tract (Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-35) do not say the Holy Ghost begot Christ. That the Holy Ghost played an important role in the process is made clear, but the scripture says that Christ is the “Son of God” and “the Son of the Highest.” Latter-day Saints reject that the Holy Ghost was Christ’s Father and accept the clear statement of scripture that the Highest, the Most High God was Christ’s Father. Surely we are not in disagreement concerning this thing

The pamphlet quotes Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie in an attempt to support the unfounded statement that “the Mormon Jesus was begotten by a sexual relationship between Mary and God the Father.” However, under “Virgin Birth” in Mormon Doctrine we find the following statement:

Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin...Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false (Mormon Doctrine, 822).

As you can clearly see Mormons do not believe that the Father and Mary had sexual relations. She was a virgin and any other teachings are considered “utterly and completely apostate and false.” Now, the tract says Mormons believe otherwise. Is this done in ignorance of the clear and unequivocal statement found under “Virgin Birth” in Mormon Doctrine? If it is not done in ignorance, then the author of the tract is purposefully baring false witness against his neighbor. If it was done in ignorance, then the error has now been brought to your attention and you are compelled to correct it or you will now be baring false witness with full knowledge of the truth. I call upon you to correct the tract and/or repent or you will be held responsible before Almighty God.

The tract continues to be deceitful when it states, “to a Mormon, Jesus is merely ‘an important member of the Godhead.’” The obvious use of the word “merely” is to imply that Mormons reject that Christ is fully divine or that He is God. However, this is not true. The use of quotation marks makes it appear to be some sort of a citation of a LDS reference, however it is not. However, this is clearly not the case.

The Book of Mormon states in very clear terms that “JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD” (Title page), “the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity” (Mosiah 3:5), “The Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (Mosiah 3:8), “the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth,” (Mosiah 15:4) and “God himself” (Mosiah 15:1), etc.

The tract then compares the events, such as the earthquakes and storms, surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection in the land of Jerusalem and Israel with those events mentioned in the Book of Mormon that took place in the Americas. Obviously they are talking about two different places. It is a well established and scientific fact that everyone knows that you can have massive earthquakes, storms, fires, tornadoes, etc in one part of the world while the another part of the world might be passing through a time of complete peace and prosperity. There is no conflict in the two accounts for any rational and intelligent human being. This is a rather pathetic attempt to slander the Book of Mormon account in an illogical way in order to promote further misunderstanding. Once again, this is baring false witness.

There are many more things that could be said and written about this tract. It is nothing less than lies, slander, and misrepresentation in print. The Jesus of the Bible spent his time lifting up those around him, caring for their burdens and bringing them peace. This tract represents, ultimately, a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. It is full of hatred, lies, and is a poor attempt to tear down the religion of another. Have you not anything to offer? Wouldn’t it be better to offer what you have in an attempt to save the souls of man than to tear down what others have? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Jesus of the Bible, I call you to repentance or my testimony will stand as a bright witness against you at the day of the great white throne judgment. May you repent and may God have mercy on you is my humble and heartfelt prayer.

In Jesus’ Name,

(signed) Andrew Miller

PS. Please feel free to respond. I sincerely hope that you will correct the tract’s errors or to stop printing it. If not, lest I bear witness to God at the last day that you are guilty of false witness against my beliefs, please try to justify what the pamphlet says. Further, don’t try to tell me what I believe. I know what I believe. My beliefs, as a Latter-day Saint, are not accurately represented in the tract.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Contra Poligamia

My wife and I bumped into a young lady ("Kristi") with children at deseret book today. She related to us that her husband is associating with a polygamist sect and that she was looking for something to try to help the situation. A conversation ensued, we exchanged email addresses, and I sent her the following email. What would you add?

----------------------------------

Kristi,

My wife and I enjoyed meeting you and your children today at Deseret Book. I have thought long and hard about what book or material might give you the information you seek. What mostly comes to mind, however, are bits and pieces of stuff from here and there. I do not wish to intrude or violate your privacy in any way, but I wish to be as helpful as I can be in any way.

By way of disclaimer, I do not pretend to have the answers to everything nor do I believe I have any right to tell you what to think or what to do except as you give me permission. You and your priesthood leaders are entitled to receive revelation and direction for you and your family while I am not. However, I sincerely believe the Lord often puts people in our path who needs our help or who we can help. So, I will try to offer any help I can if it be agreeable with you and the Spirit.

Also, I do not believe I know more than you or am more informed in anyway. I do not wish to ever give you the impression that I'm talking down to you in any way. If I ever come across strongly, it's not meant to offend in any way.

I know there are about a thousand things you're thinking about and trying to understand. Out of all of them, what would you say is the most troublesome?

While thinking about "Mormon fundamentalism" (a total misnomer!) and the situation you find yourself in, I have had the following thoughts. Please forgive any typos or grammar problems

Testimony.
As you research and study, you will uncover things you may not understand. That's okay! I've found that often I have much to learn and understand. Don't be afraid of new knowledge. However (and this is very important!), don't discard what you do know because of what you don't know. I image that you, like myself, have read the Book of Mormon and have come to a conviction that it is indeed true. I imagine you have received a witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is Christ's true Church. Don't ever betray those things in a moment of uncertainty. This is the most important thing I could ever say to you on the topic.


Authority. A basic and essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is priesthood authority. Priesthood authority comes by revelation and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority before a person can administer the ordinances of the gospel (Article of Faith 1:5). D&C 42 is termed "the law of the Church." It defines church organization, practice, discipline, and so forth. One important, emphatic verse reads "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church" (verse 11). This verse alone should destroy all pretense to authority for the splinter groups. "it shall not be given.." means not now, not then, not ever. All splinter groups claim authority from some secret ordination by a man or an angel when the Lord himself has said it cannot happen that way! One must receive priesthood authority from those who have been "regularly ordained by the heads of the church" not by some back room secret ordination. No matter what any one says, that is what our scriptures say and is the truth!

Keys of Sealing Power. The keys of sealing power are held only by one person, the president of the church. D&C 132:7--"And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead."

Several things in this verse stand out to me. First, there is only one person who holds the keys of this power. It was Joseph Smith while he was alive. Today it is President Monson. No one else holds the keys! Second, it must be "by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed [the president of the church]." Plural marriage can only be performed if a commandment comes from God to do so by revelation to the president of the church. That revelation came to Joseph Smith. The revelation to end it came to Wilford Woodruff and was confirmed and completed by Joseph F. Smith. If the practice were to return, it would be by revelation to the living president of the church who holds the keys.

The Church not to Apostatize.
Most splinter groups insist that the church has apostatized in some form or another. This contradicts the revelations of God, however. First of all, the dream recorded in Daniel 2 saw the coming forth of the Kingdom of God in the last days. It says "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (verse 44). The Church, according to this prophecy, will not be destroyed nor given to another people until the Millennial day which is approaching.

Most members of the Church are well aware of President Woodruff's statement found in the appendix to the Doctrine and Covenants: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." I believe that statement, although it can't be used to convince a splinter group. Why? Because they believe Wilford Woodruff had already led the church astray and therefore could be lying in this statement. The funny thing is that this concept did not originate with Wilford Woodruff, but with Brigham Young:

"Brother [Heber C.] Kimball says you must keep alive, and give nourishment and vitality to the body, comparing the Church to a tree; that you must help your Prophet and Revelator and keep that portion of the tree alive. God keeps that alive, brethren and sisters. I thank you for your prayers, your integrity, &c., but I feel to-day as I did in Nauvoo, when Sidney Rigdon and others intended to ride the Church into hell. I told them that I would take my hat and the few that would go with me and build up the kingdom of God, asking no odds of them. If you support me, you support yourselves; if you do not choose to do this you will dry up, blow away and be damned....The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth." (Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 9:289).

In other words, God would sustain and "keep alive" the heads of the church without the help of the members. Further, He will not permit them to lead the church astray "if you are found doing your duty." Well, with polygamy, the church did it's duty. The brethren and sisters suffered great persecution, went to jail, struggled and toiled while defending that principle. It would be incredibly uninformed for someone to accuse them of not doing their "duty" when the Lord ended plural marriage.

So why did plural marriage cease? "Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good" (D&C 56:4). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings" (D&C 124:49). The Lord gives and repeals commandments as his will according to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Many examples of this could be given. Let me know if you'd like a few.

Not all statements by the Prophet are "prophetic." Joseph Smith said a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such. A friend of mine says "Catholic doctrine says that the Pope is infallible, and no catholic believes it. Mormon doctrine says the prophet is not infallible and no Mormon believes it!" The truth of the matter is that the president of the church is just as much human as you or I. While entitled to revelation for the church and although he holds the keys of the priesthood and kingdom of God, God doesn't give him a new brain, a new personality, or new philosophies when he becomes president of the church. So, if you study hard, you'll find that the prophets sometimes contradict each other and even themselves on some issues that are not core doctrines or principles of the gospel. This shouldn't bother any latter-day saint any more than seeing differences in opinion, personalities, and philosophies of our bishops, priests, elders, stake presidents, or anyone else. It's the same for the president of the church.

Scriptures are the Standard Works.
The scriptures are the standard works. They are the measuring stick (that's what "canon" means!) whereby to judge the doctrines and teachings of the church. If there is a conflict between the clear teaching of scripture and the views of a leader of the church, the scriptures take precedence. "It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine." (Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation, 3:205)

Monogamy is the norm, not Polygamy. Lehi didn't practice polygamy. Neither did Nephi, Alma, Mosiah, Mormon, Moroni, Abinadi, Jacob [Nephi's brother], etc. The Lord actually forbade most polygamy among the Nephites (see Jacob 2). Paul forbade polygamy for elders and bishops (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:5-6). However, Jacob 2:30 makes clear that the Lord may command it under certain circumstances. So, polygamy is not the norm, it is the exception. That is the scriptural fact, and that takes precedence over the opinions of any person.

Polygamy not required for Exaltation. It follows that if many prophets and even whole dispensations did not practice polygamy, it can't be required for exaltation. Further, D&C 132:19-20 makes it clear that polygamy is not part of the formula for exaltation. "And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood...they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them."

"A man" sealed to "a woman" can be exalted, not a man sealed to "two or more women."

Kristi, I hope some of this helps. We can't ever force another's beliefs, but we should do all we can to bring the truth to light (D&C 124:11-16). The only person's belief you can ultimately control is your own. I hope these things I have mentioned will help you first and foremost.

So, what are the most troubling issues you are confronting?

Sincerely,
Andrew

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Is the Bible Complete and Sufficient?

I believe the most fundamental difference between the mainstream Protestant view of Christianity and that of Latter-day Saints is what some call call “the authority of scripture.” A Pastor friend of mine once said, “We cannot accept anything that is ‘extra-biblical’ as authoritative. Our creed is the bible, the whole bible and nothing but the bible.”

He and anyone else are welcome to accept such a view, although I believe it to be entirely inconsistent with a correct understanding of God and of historical fact. Let me demonstrate why.

I. First, what is scripture?

This statement from my pastor friend is basically a summarization or restatement of the basic protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. According to this view, all essential belief and practice must be derived directly from the protestant bible (without the apocrypha). This concept originated with certain reformers, but foremost Martin Luther (Bainton, Roland H. The Age of the Reformation. [London: Van Nostrand, 1956], 15). Ironically, Martin Luther had doubts “respecting some of the antilegomena, especially the Epistle of James, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Revelation” (Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, 8 Vol. [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2006. reprint], 3:610, fn 1.). In other words, before you can even practice a doctrine of sola scriptura, you have to determine what is scriptura, and Martin Luther, originator of sola scriptura, was unsure as to what was indeed to be included among scripture. By his own private view, accepting James, Hebrews, and Revelation may be accepting something “extra-biblical.”

II. Second, who interprets scripture?

There are many Christian sects that accept the doctrine of sola scriptura but that differ greatly in belief. Here are a few examples:

1. Is man totally depraved or is his nature only partially corrupted?

2. Can salvation, once gained, be lost or is a person “once saved, always saved?”

3. Does predestination dominate over free will, or is free will the center of salvation?

4. Did Christ die for all mankind, including the lost, or is his atonement limited to the saved?

5. Is grace irresistible, or can man continue to fight against God even when God calls him?

These are a few examples of the many doctrinal issues that divide Protestants, although most [all?] accept the sola scriptura doctrine. If all belief is supposed to be derived from scripture alone, how can there be such great divergence in belief? There is obviously a problem of interpretation. Who can authoritatively determine interpretation and thereby belief?

III. Third, is the Bible complete?

In order for the Bible to be the fully and completely authoritative book of scripture, it must be complete. Yet the Bible makes no such claim for itself anywhere. Further, the Bible specifically mentions other books of prophecy that are not found anywhere today.

These books include in the Old Testament time period the Book of the Covenant (Ex. 24:7), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14), the Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13), the book of Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25), the Book of Enoch (Jude 1:14), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), the Book of Nathan the Prophet, and that of Gad the Seer (1 Chr. 29:29), the Book of Ahijah the Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15), the Story of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chr. 13:22), the Book of Jehu (2 Chri. 20:34), the Acts of Uzziah (2 Chr. 26:22), and the Sayings of the Seers (2 Chr. 33:19).

The New Testament mentions other scripture not found in the Bible such as a missing epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9), a missing epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3), a missing epistle to Laodicea that Paul actually instructs the readers of his epistle to also read (Col 4:16), and a missing epistle of Jude (Jude 1:3).

Not only are there all of these missing books, but Paul, Luke, John and even Jesus mention that there are more teachings which are not written in the Bible. First, in the Gospel of John, usually thought to be the most spiritual gospel written to believers, Jesus said “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...” (John 16:12). He had just explained that the spirit of truth or the Comforter could not come until after he had departed (John 16:7). Thus we see that not even Jesus was permitted to teach everything to his disciples since they were not ready. This teaching was to come later. The obvious conclusion is that there are things that Jesus thought his disciples should know but that are not found in any of the four gospels.

If these things are not in the four gospels, are they found somewhere else in the New Testament? If so, what are they and where are they? If we turn to Paul, we see more reluctance to write certain things. “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:2). If 1 Corinthians contains only milk, where is the meat? Does Paul anywhere in the New Testament add anything that could be considered “meat” when compared with 1 Corinthians? This is repeated in Hebrews: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age” (Hebrews 5:12-14). So, if these higher concepts are not in the gospels, in 1 Corinthians, or Hebrews, where are they? It would appear that the New Testament contains only "milk," and yet (as pointed out before), this "milk" is interpreted in many different ways by the thousands of competing Protestant denominations!

The reason they were fed with milk and not meat was because they were not spiritually mature. The apostles of Jesus were spiritually mature, however, and they knew the meat. Jesus taught it to them after his resurrection. “[H]e shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Yet, nothing is recorded more than this as to what these “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” are!

According to Clement, as quoted by the earliest and authoritative Christian historian Eusebius (c. 325 AD), Christ did some important teaching after his resurrection. “The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles to the seventy...” (The Church History of Eusebius, Book II, chapter I in Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series, 14 Vols [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004. reprint],1:104). If this knowledge (gnosis) was passed down orally from Jesus after his resurrection to his apostles and from them to the seventy, where is it today? Does it remain with the Roman Catholics, or was it lost? If everything that is needed were contained in scripture, why would Jesus impart knowledge orally after his resurrection, knowledge that is clearly not recorded in scripture (Acts 1:3)?

Paul and John both wrote that they would give more instructions in persons that they had not given in writing. Some of this must have been very pertinent information since the topics included the resurrection and the Lord’s Supper (See 1 Cor. 11:24; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:13-14). There was more to give than what was recorded in scripture. Where is that information today? Do the Catholics have it by tradition, or was it lost? If it was lost, how can it be restored without God calling another “Paul” or “John” to set things in order? For Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith was exactly that.

IV. Scientifically, can we have confidence in the Bible?

I only need to quote two scholars for this topic. First I quote the faithful protestant Christian Philip Schaff.

“The oldest manuscripts of the Bible now extant date no further back than the fourth century, and are very few, and abound in unessential errors and omissions of every kind; and the problem of a critical restoration of the original text is not yet satisfactorily solved, nor can it be more than approximately solved in the absence of the original writings of the apostles” (Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, 8 Vol. [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2006. reprint], 3:610).


Next I quote leading New Testament textual scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman.

“We do not have the ‘originals’ of any of the books that came to be included in the New Testament, or indeed of any Christian book from antiquity. What we have are copies of the originals or, to be more accurate, copies made from copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. Most of these surviving copies are hundreds of years removed from the originals themselves” (Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities [Oxford, 2003], 217).


In other words, we cannot know exactly what the New Testament originally said simply because there are no originals and the oldest copies are separated from the originals by centuries. We cannot have confidence, scientifically, that even one word found in the New Testament was written by Peter, Paul, John, Luke, Matthew, Mark, Jude, or anyone else. However, scientifically, we could still have high confidence that the books are at least accurate copies of the originals if when comparing the different manuscripts we found internal consistency and accuracy. But does the New Testament pass such a test?

Dr. Ehrman writes,

“The fact that we have thousands of New Testament manuscripts does not in itself mean that we can rest assured that we know what the original text said. If we have very few early copies—in fact, scarcely any—how can we know that the text was not changed significantly before the New Testament began to be reproduced in such large quantities? Most surviving copies were made during the Middle Ages, many of them a thousand years after Paul and his companions had died.

“I should emphasize that it is not simply a matter of scholarly speculation to say that the words of the New Testament were changed in the process of copying. We know that they were changed, because we can compare these 5,400 copies with on another. What is striking is that when we do so, we find that no two copies (except the smallest fragments) agree in all of their wording. There can be only one reason for this. The scribes who copied the texts changed them. Nobody knows for certain how often they changed them, because no one has been able yet to count all of the differences among the manuscripts. Some estimates put the number at around 200,000, others at around 300,000 or more. Perhaps it is simplest to express the figure in comparative terms: There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament” (Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities [Oxford, 2003], 219).


I should here qualify these statements. I do not believe the Bible to be inaccurate or falsified. The Book of Mormon actually says the Bible is true. The Book of Mormon is, in part, a book written “to the convincing [of men] of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them [i.e. the Bible]” (2 Nephi 3:11). Mormon, the compiler of the Book of Mormon, wrote that “this [the Book of Mormon] is written for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible]” (Mormon 7:9). Because I have received a spiritual witness that the Book of Mormon is true, I also know the Bible is true, notwithstanding the apparent scientific problems of the Bible.


V. How was the canon established?


Once again, I turn to Philip Schaff.

“At the end of the fourth century views still differed in regard to the extent of the canon, or the number of the books which should be acknowledged as divine and authoritative....

“Of the New Testament, in the time of Eusebius, the four Gospels, the Acts, thirteen Epistles of Paul, the first Epistle of John, and the first Epistle of Peter, were universally recognized as canonical, while the Epistle to the Hebrews, the second and third Epistles of John, the second Epistle of Peter, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle of Jude were by many disputed as to their apostolic origin, and the book of Revelation was doubted by reason of its contents. This indecision in reference to the Old Testament Apocrypha prevailed still longer in the Eastern church; but by the middle of the fourth century the seven disputed books of the New Testament were universally acknowledged, and they are included in the lists of the canonical books given by Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen, Amphilochius of Iconium, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Epiphanius; except that in some cases the Apocalypse is omitted.

“In the Western church the canon of both Testaments was closed at the end of the fourth century through the authority of Jerome (who wavered, however, between critical doubts and the principle of tradition), and more especially of Augustine, who firmly followed the Alexandrian canon of the Septuagint, and the preponderant tradition in reference to the disputed Catholic Epistles and the Revelation; though he himself, in some places, inclines to consider the Old Testament Apocrypha as deutero-canonical books, bearing a subordinate authority. The council of Hippo in 393, and the third (according to another reckoning the sixth) council of Carthage in 397, under the influence of Augustine, who attended both, fixed the catholic canon of the Holy Scriptures, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, and prohibited the reading of other books in the churches, excepting the Acts of the Martyrs on their memorial days. These two African councils, with Augustine, give forty-four books as the canonical books of the Old Testament, in the following order: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings (the two of Samuel and the two of Kings), two books of Paralipomena (Chronicles), Job, the Psalms, five books of Solomon, the twelve minor Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Tobias, Judith, Esther, two books of Ezra, two books of Maccabees. The New Testament canon is the same as ours.

“This decision of the transmarine church however, was subject to ratification; and the concurrence of the Roman see it received when Innocent I. and Gelasius I. (a.d. 414) repeated the same index of biblical books.

“This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned by the council of Trent at its fourth session (Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, 8 Vol. [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2006. reprint], 3:608-610).


In other words, as to what books belonged in the Bible and what the official canon would be, we depend entirely upon the ideas and debates of mortal men. God never spelled out what should or should not be included unless you believe in post-apostolic revelation (which would completely defeat the concept of sola scriptura on its own!).


Conclusion

The doctrine of sola scriptura is problematic and full of contradictions. The Bible itself does not claim to be complete. There are missing books. No New Testament author claimed to be telling all. Further, several promised to tell more in person. There is also evidence for teachings in the early Christian church that were not written, but communicated orally to those who were spiritually mature. Unless passed on in Catholicism, that information must have been lost. Scientifically, the Bible cannot be considered infallible or completely trustworthy. We cannot be certain that even one word of the New Testament is identical to the original manuscripts. Lastly, the canon of scripture as we now have it was a product of debate, speculation, and catholic councils. To accept the Bible as complete is to accept the authority of such debate, after revelation has supposedly ceased.

Latter-day Saints, of course, do not accept sola scriptura. Our belief is based on what the Bible is based on; i.e. revelation from God. We wouldn’t have a Bible if it weren’t for revelation. In order for Christianity to be like it was in apostolic times, it needs to step away from putting too much emphasis on the Bible as the source of all truth. God is the source of all truth, not the Bible! Original Christianity didn’t even have the Bible. The world has the Bible because of the things that were written by those who experienced religion. Spiritual knowledge shouldn’t have to be, or rather, can't be bound in the covers of a book. It is to be found in the spiritual experiences we have ourselves, not in the spiritual experiences of others. We should not have “Bible religions” because the Bible is not religion—it is simply the record of those who had religion. True religion is a living thing. To confine God to past revelation is to place a death sentence on the living God!

I believe that God said it best when he said a day would come when people “shall teach with their learning and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men...Wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:4-5, 26-29)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Revelation 22:18-19 Discussion

I thought I would try something a little different. Instead of posting on a topic, I would like you to discuss a topic.

Does Revelation 22:18-19 mean there can be no more scripture after the New Testament?

Discuss.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Postman

I thought a little humor around here might be appreciated.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Ancient Setting for the Book of Mormon

So, most of you probably had already read it when I started it a few weeks ago. It's one of those topics that didn't interest me very much for a long time. Recently, however, I decided to take it up. I must say, I've enjoyed it greatly. I think John L. Sorenson builds a wonderful case that the Book of Mormon took place in ancient Mesoamerica. For what it is worth, I highly recommend the book to any who doubt the Book of Mormon had a real setting in ancient America.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ten Keys to Interpreting the Scriptures

Key 1: Be humble. Keep an open mind.


Your understanding of the scriptures will change and increase in proportion to your humility and open-mindedness.


Key 2: “Dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew out the saying”--Joseph Smith.


“I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I inquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable? [. . .] To ascertain its meaning, we must dig up the root and ascertain what it was that drew the saying out of Jesus.

“While Jesus was teaching the people, all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him; 'and the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.' This is the keyword which unlocks the parable of the prodigal son. It was given to answer the murmurings and questions of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were querying, finding fault, and saying, 'How is it that this man as great as He pretends to be, eats with publicans and sinners?' Jesus was not put to it so, but He could have found something to illustrate His subject, if He had designed if for nation or nations; but He did not. It was for men in an individual capacity; and all straining on this point is a bubble. 'This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.'

“And he spake this parable unto them— 'What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them doth not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons which need no repentance.' The hundred sheep represent one hundred Sadducees and Pharisees, as though Jesus had said, 'If you Sadducees and Pharisees are in the sheepfold, I have no mission for you; I am sent to look up sheep that are lost; and when I have found them, I will back them up and make joy in heaven.' This represents hunting after a few individuals, or one poor publican, which the Pharisees and Sadducees despised.

“He also gave them the parable of the woman and her ten pieces of silver, and how she lost one, and searching diligently, found it again, which gave more joy among the friends and neighbors than the nine which were not lost; like I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons that are so righteous; they will be damned anyhow; you cannot save them. (Jan. 29, 1843.)” (Joseph Smith in Smith, Joseph Fielding, Ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 276-278).


Key 3: Correctly understand words.


What does “conversation” mean in King James English? (See Psalm 37:14; 50:23; Galatians 1:13; 1 Peter 3:16; 2 Peter 3:11).

What does “will/would” mean in King James English? (See 1 Timothy 2:4,8; John 7:17; Alma 33:16-17,23)


What does “by and by” mean in King James English? (See Bible Dictionary, p. 627)


What do the words “eternal,” “everlasting,”and “endless” mean? (See D&C 19:6-12; Moses 1:3) How does this clarify the meaning of “eternal life,” “the greatest of all the gifts of God?” Are the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah still burning (See Jude 1:7)?


Key 4: Look for similar words/phrases.


What does “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23) mean? (See Alma 24:10-11, 15)


What is the “word of Christ”(2 Nephi 31:20) that we are to feast upon? (See 2 Nephi 32:2-3,5)


Why does Ether 12:27 speak of “their weakness” and not “their weaknesses?” What is this “weakness” that all men have in common? (See Ether 3:2; 12:37; Jacob 4:7; D&C 62:5)


What does the “flaming sword” in Genesis 3:24 represent? (See Appendix: The Flaming Sword and the Justice of God)


Key 5: Study the original languages.


The Hebrew word yawd, translated as “place” in Isaiah 56:5 literally denotes an “open hand.” How does this knowledge change your appreciation for this verse?


The word musterion translated as “secret” or “mystery” in the New Testament is a word used in ancient Greek to denote a “secret rite.” It translates into Latin as sacramentum, i.e. a “sacrament” or an “ordinance.” The word teleoi translated as “the perfect [ones]” and “the mature [ones]” was often used in ancient Greek to denote those who were initiated into the “mysteries.” The word sofia translated as “wisdom” was often used to denote heavenly or sacred wisdom that was given in connection with the “mysteries.” Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-8, 3:1-2; 4:1 (Note: The word “testimony” in verse 1 should be “mystery” according to the best manuscripts and is probably wrong in the KJV). How does this strengthen your testimony of the temple ordinances?


Jershon” is probably related to a Hebrew word meaning “inheritance.” Read Alma 27:22,24,26 and note the words “inherit” and “inheritance.” How does this strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon?


Key 6: The Spirit of prophecy.


Prophets gave the scripture, and prophets must interpret it. Holy men of old received revelation from the Holy Ghost, which they recorded as scripture; now men must have the same Holy Spirit to reveal what is meant by scripture—otherwise there will be a host of private interpretations and consequently many different and disagreeing churches, which is precisely the condition in the religious word today”(Bruce R. McConkie in McConkie, Mark L., Ed., Sermons & Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 82).


Key 7: Who is addressed in the particular passage of scripture?


Christ says no man knoweth the day or the hour when the Son of Man cometh (Matt. 24:36). . . . Did Christ speak this as a general principle throughout all generations? Oh no; he spoke in the present tense. No man that was then living upon the footstool of God knew the day or the hour, but he did not say that there was no man throughout all generations that should not know the day or the hour. No, for this would be in flat contradiction with other scripture for the prophet says that God will do nothing but what he will reveal unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). Consequently, if it is not made known to the Prophets it will not come to pass. Again we find Paul in 1st Thessalonians 5th Chapter expressly points out the characters who shall not know the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh. For, says he, it will come upon them as the thief or unawares. Who are they? They are the children of darkness or night. But to the Saints he says “ye are not of the night nor of darkness that that day should come upon you unawares” (Joseph Smith in Ehat, Andrew F. and Cook, Lyndon W., eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 180=181).


Key 8: If possible, read the scriptures in a second language.


Reading the scriptures in a foreign language generally requires more focus. It will give you added insights to passages that you might not have had in English.


Key 9: Consult other English translations for the Bible for difficult passages.


Let's be honest—sometimes King James English is as strange to us as a foreign language. Consulting a modern translation on difficult passages from time to time is helpful. Care must be given for translator biases, however. Some fairly reliable translations include the English Standard Version, the New King James Version, and the New Revised Standard Version.


Key 10: Consult an inspired commentary.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Plug for Lehi's Library

This is worth checking out: Trusting the Heart.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Frederic W. Farrar on Salvation for the Dead

Non LDS-theologian Frederic W. Farrar commented on 1 Peter 3:18-19; 4:6 thusly:

In this truth is involved nothing less than the extension of Christ’s redeeming work to the dead....I allude of course to the famous passage...that ‘Christ...went and preached to the spirits in prison.’... Few words of Scripture have been so tortured and emptied of their significance as these...Every effort has been made to explain away the plain meaning of this passage. It is one of the most precious passages of Scripture, and it involves no ambiguity, except as is created by the scholasticism of a prejudiced theology...For if language have any meaning, this language means that Christ, when His Spirit descended into the lower world, proclaimed the message of salvation to the once impenitent dead. No honest man who goes to Holy Scripture to seek for truth, instead of going to try and find whatever errors he may bring to it as part of his theological belief, can possibly deny that there is ground here to mitigate that element of the popular teaching of Christendom against which many of the greatest Saints and theologians have raised their voices [that is, the exclusivist view]....We thus rescue the work of redemption from the appearance of having failed to achieve its end for the vast majority of those for whom Christ died. By accepting the light thus thrown upon ‘the descent into Hell’ we extend to those of the dead who have not finally hardened themselves against it the blessedness of Christ’s atoning work. We thus complete the divine, all-comprehending circuit of God’s universal grace (Farrar, Frederic W. The Early Days of Christianity, 2 Vols. [New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Company, 1882] 1:139-143)!

Farrar has given a wonderful insight, and I believe he is absolutely right: You destroy the doctrine of salvation for the dead and the concept of redemption has lost any real meaning and the very atonement of Christ has been made a mockery. This is so because the vast majority of people have never heard the gospel of Christ in this life.

Why are so many modern Christians opposed to this clearly biblical concept? (See my paper HERE for much more information)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Augustine on Deification

The following quote from St. Augustine should be of interest to LDS readers.

But God forbid that we should meet him with such an assertion as he says certain persons advance against him: "That man is placed on an equality with God, if he is described as being without sin;" as if indeed an angel, because he is without sin, is put in such an equality. For my own part, I am of this opinion that the creature will never become equal with God, even when so perfect a holiness shall be accomplished in us, that it shall be quite incapable of receiving any addition. No; all who maintain that our progress is to be so complete that we shall be changed into the substance of God, and that we shall thus become what He is, should look well to it how they build up their opinion; for myself I must confess that I am not persuaded of this. (On Nature and Grace, chapter 37)

I believe this indicates that some Christians even as late as St. Augustine believed that those who are saved will "become what [God] is" and that their "substance" will "be changed into the substance of God." The word "substance" should be interesting to anyone who has studied early Christianity. The early Christians used "substance" as a code word for "same nature." The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are said to be of one substance, that is, each is of the same nature.

Food for thought.

Cessationism--Where have the Gifts Gone?

I recently communicated with an individual who reads this blog who is a cessationist. I hadn't heard the term before, but have met others who were cessationists. Wikipedia defines cessationism thus:

In Christian theology, cessationism is the view that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history.

Cessationists usually believe the miraculous gifts were given only for the foundation of the Church, during the time between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, c. AD 33 (see Acts 2) and the fulfillment of God's purposes in history, usually identified as either the completion of the last book of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle. Its counterpart is continuationism.


In other words, a cessationist believes the gifts of the Spirit have ceased since there is no more need for them. This individual I spoke with said that these gifts ceased because the apostles died and could no longer pass on these gifts to others. This idea is somewhat reminescent of the LDS concept of the apostasy. However, cessationists believe that it was God's will that these gifts cease since they have served their purpose. This individual further informed me that all we need is contained in scripture (i.e. The Bible). Cessationism is closely related to the (extra-Biblical!) Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (See here and here and here).

Of course, Latter-day Saints are not cessationists. One of our articles of faith states, "we believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth" (Article of Faith 7). Many, if not most, of us LDS have seen such gifts operate in the Church from time to time as needed.

As a LDS I can point to slews of LDS scriptures that declare these gifts to be needed in the Church today as much as 2000 years ago. However, since my cessationist friend does not accept LDS scripture as valid, I will here investigate and analyze the Biblical passages that pertain to this topic.

So, what passages are used to support cessationism?

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.(1 Corinthians 13:8)

But when does this scripture say that prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will "vanish away?" Look at the following verses:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away...For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

This seems perfectly clear to me. "Then," when we will see "face to face" we shall no longer "know in part." Then prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will be perfect and cannot be added upon. Do we now know all things? Do we know all speak the same language? If not, then there is no warrant, according to this scripture, for the cessation of these gifts.

Further, 1 Corinthians opens with a passage that clearly teaches continuationism.

1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This scripture indicates that the gifts of the Spirit will be on earth until the second coming of Jesus who will "confirm" (Greek: secure, establish, strengthen) us until the end.

Later in 1 Corinthians Paul exhorts us to "eagerly seek after spiritual gifts, most especially the gift of prophecy" (my translation of 1 Corinthians 14:1). When I pointed this scripture out to my cessationalist friend he responded that the verse refers to interpreting scripture. While my friend is welcome to interpret the passage this way, that is clearly a practice of eisegesis and not exegesis. In the same chapter Paul writes "Wherefore, brethren, with zeal seek to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking with tongues" (my translation of 1 Cor. 14:39). If Paul meant for these passages only to apply to the Corinthians of the first century A.D., he surely didn't say so.

Lastly, what about Jesus' statement that man shall live by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God?" Note that Jesus did not say every word that "proceeded" out of the mouth of God, but by every word that "proceedeth" out of the mouth of God. Surely God's words and works never cease (see Moses 1:4)

While this post certainly isn't exhaustive on such an important topic, I think it is sufficient to start a discussion on the topic if anyone is interested.

As I mentioned previously, LDS scripture has a lot say about this topic. I will not investigate this here, but I point the interested reader to 2 Nephi 28:3-6, 26-31; 2 Nephi 29; Mormon 9; Moroni 7:24-38; 10:7-28. Anyone who does not believe that the gifts of the Spirit exist today would benefit greatly from reading these passages, pondering on their meaning, and seeking the truth of the matter.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Interesting Poetic Form in Mosiah 2

Years ago, someone (I do not recall who) pointed out the following parallelism in King Benjamin's speech in the Book of Mormon. Notice that it appears to be in verses (for lack of a better word), with each new verse set off with "behold" followed by two groups of parallelisms. The form looks like this:

Behold,

1.
1.

2.
2.

Behold,

3.
3.

4.
4.

Behold,

5.
5.

6.
6.

Behold,

7.
7.

8.
8.

Here it is:

[Verse 1] Behold,

I say unto you
that because I said unto you

that I had spent my days in your service,
I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.

[Verse 2] And behold,

I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom;
that ye may learn that when

ye are in the service of your fellow beings
ye are only in the service of your God.

[Verse 3]
Behold,

ye have called me your king; and if I,
whom ye call your king,

do labor to serve you, then ought not
ye to labor to serve one another?

[Verse 4] And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king,

who has spent his days in your service, and
yet has been in the service of God,

do merit any thanks from you,
O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

(Mosiah 2:16-19)

There is no doubt in my mind that this was intentionally done by the author. For the sake of argument, if Joseph Smith were the author and not the translator, did he come up with this poem intentionally when he "made up" the Book of Mormon? If so, why? Also, if so, why didn't he ever point out such beautiful complexities in the Book of Mormon (as there are many such complexities)?

I suggest that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon. Further, I submit he didn't even know such complexities existed in the text. The Book of Mormon is far more complex than its critics are willing to admit. It is interesting that most of the criticisms leveled against that holy book are against its origins, and not its content. Isn't it time that the critics took seriously the complexity of the book as confirming evidence of its veracity?

See more here: No Evidences for the Book of Mormon?