Monday, February 25, 2008

"Angel" Always Equals "Another Gospel?"

Many of our critics have often quoted Galatians 1:6-8 as a proof text that the teachings of the LDS Church equals another gospel. In my experience, often this passage is quoted and the interpretation is generally as follows:

1) Paul warned about the possibility of "another" gospel being preached by an "angel."
2) Mormons believe that the angel Moroni (among others) came and "restored" the gospel.


3) Mormonism is "another" gospel.

There is, of course, a logical fallacy here (high five to the first person who points it out by name!). Besides the logical fallacy, what do our critics do with Revelation 14:6?

6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

Clearly there is a difference between "another" gospel and the "everlasting" gospel. So, can an angel (theoretically and biblically) come to preach the gospel to people on earth? I'd say not only can it happen, but it was predicted that it would happen.

I submit that Paul's warning in Galatians only shows that the apostasy was well underway then and he knew it. Thus the need in the last days for an angel to come and reverse the work of the devil ("And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" [Revelation 13:7].) by restoring the everlasting gospel to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mormon Men Only Become Gods?

One common objection I've read and heard from critics of the LDS Church is that we (the LDS) supposedly believe that Mormon men will become gods while women (presumably) are something less (slaves, perhaps?). This, however, is a clear falsehood as demonstrated by our scripture:

"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; and it shall be said unto them—Ye [note: "ye" is plural] shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and 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" (Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20).

What's so interesting about this accusation is that this scripture here quoted is basically the only LDS scripture on the topic of "becoming gods." If our critics really were concerned about understanding our doctrine, you would think they would consult our actual teachings on the topic.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Render to Caesar

13 And they send unto [Jesus] certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.
17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him
(Mark 12:13-17).

Elder James E. Talmage's commentary on this passage is insightful. I here quote it in part:

"One may draw a lesson if he will, from the association of our Lord's words with the occurrence of Caesar's image on the coin. It was that effigy with its accompanying superscription that gave special point to His memorable instruction, 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.' This was followed by the further injunction: 'and unto God the things that are God's.' Every human soul is stamped with the image and superscription of God, however blurred and indistinct the line may have become through the corrosion or attrition of sin; and as unto Caesar should be rendered the coins upon which his effigy appeared, so unto God should be given the souls that bear His image. Render unto the world the stamped pieces that are made legally current by the insignia of worldly powers, and give unto God and His service, yourselves--the divine mintage of His eternal realm" (Talmage, James E. Jesus the Christ, 507.).

Is this passage, therefore, teaching that man is in the physical image of God much like the coin was the physical representation or copy of Caesar? If so, this would confirm the LDS belief that man is created literally in God's physical image as per Genesis 1:26-27.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Earthly and the Heavenly

John 3:3-8 is an important scripture to most Christians and to LDS Christians in particular. Most of my protestant friends have suggested that the scripture speaks of spiritual rebirth through the act of being born again by the Holy Spirit. LDS have generally interpreted the scripture to refer to the ordinances of baptism in water and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands. This interpretation was common also among the early Christians (see Born again translation).

In either interpretation, this passage of scripture is fairly important. Protestantism teaches that the act of being "born again" is the essence of Christianity itself. It is the one act for which nearly all sermons are preached and it is the very center of Protestant teaching.

On the other hand, LDS teaching generally assumes (except the teaching done by the missionaries) one has been born again already through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is not the center of Christian teaching for LDS, but rather only the beginning of Christian teaching--the gate, the entrance into the kingdom, the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, the milk. There is much more to do and to understand after one is born again in LDS thought.

After Jesus finished telling Nicodemus that a man must be born of water and the Spirit, Nicodemus was confused. Jesus in response replied, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things" (John 3:12)?

Does it seem odd to anyone else that Jesus would call being "born again" (the Greek actually means "born from above") "earthly things"? What are these "heavenly things" that he isn't talking about? From the Protestant perspective that being born again is the very heart and soul of Christianity, it is strange indeed. But from an LDS perspective that being born again is only the beginning, elementary steps of salvation, it makes perfect sense.

Interestingly, Ignatius wrote an epistle to his Christian friends in which he said,

"I am able to write to you of heavenly things, but I fear lest I should do you an injury. Know me from myself. For I am cautious lest ye should not be able to receive [such knowledge], and should be perplexed. For even I, not because I am in bonds, and am able to know heavenly things, and the places of angels, and the stations of the powers that are seen and that are not seen, am on this account a disciple; for I am far short of the perfection which is worthy of God" (Ignatius, Romans 9, in Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:104, brackets in original.).

So, these "heavenly things" are things reserved for some of those who have already become Christians, who have already been born again, who have already received "the earthly things."

I think there is a clearly parallel to LDS thought concerning entrance into the church through repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost and then the later temple ordinances. The first are "the earthly things" while the temple ordinances are the "heavenly things."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Love of God

Since today is Valentine's Day, I think it appropriate to suggest that each of us not only consider the love we have for some special individual but that we consider the love that God has for us. While there are many passages of scripture that could be used that speak of this love, this one is perhaps my favorite (at this moment!).

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

Often before reading this verse I will ask the question, "Out of all people that ever lived, who do you think God loves the most?" The answer among those who are reflective is that he loves his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ more than anyone else. I then ask if anything in this universe could be more important to God than His Son. The answer inevitably comes that there isn't. Paul's logic is perfect--if God delivered up That which he loves more than anything else for our sakes, why would He then hesitate to gives us anything or hold anything back from us? Truly, we can trust that God will never short us any blessings, opportunities, dominion, power, or anything else. To do so would lesson the value of what He has already given us in His Son. Truly, God so loved the world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Call for Ideas

I have to be honest, I have no systematic plan for what to post on the blog. I post things on a whim mostly. I'd love any input you have on what topics interest you. I want my blog to be useful to those who come here and the best way to find that out is if you would tell me. Please email me your ideas:

I'll try to cover any topics you suggest as well as whatever whims I continue to have. I hope this blog is insightful and useful to you all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apostasy and Restoration

I taught an Elder's Quorum lesson about a year ago on the topic of the apostasy. Here's some of the information I gathered for the class as a handout. It is a handout of quotes and references to information. None of it is my own commentary except this little bit at the beginning in italics.

The Great apostasy
and the marvelous restoration

This handout contains information that will aid you in your study of the apostasy and the restoration. For more information please see the list of books and articles under “Learn More.”

Why Study the Apostasy?

All the men holding the priesthood should have a thorough understanding of the development of false doctrine and the gradual change which took place, after the death of the apostles, which transformed the Church of Jesus Christ into a system as far removed from the primitive Church as are the poles of our hemispheres (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:268)

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. (Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children.” Ensign, November 1986.)

Eusebius on the Apostasy

The Church up to that time [the death of the apostles] had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the ‘knowledge which is falsely so-called’ (Eusebius [270-340] quoting Hegesippus [110-180] in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, 1:164).

New Testament Scriptures that Predict the Great Apostasy

Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1-3 (cf. Jude 1:3-4, 17);
2 Thessalonians 2:3 (cf. Ephesians 2:19-22); Revelation 13:7 (cf. Revelation 14:6);
1 Timothy 4:1-4; Revelation 12:1-6 (cf. D&C 5:14; 33:5)

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:3

By this apostasy we are not to understand a defection in the state, or from civil government, but in spiritual or religious matters, from sound doctrine, instituted worship and church government, and a holy life. The apostle speaks of some very great apostasy, not only of some converted Jews or Gentiles, but such as should be very general, though gradual, and should give occasion to the revelation of rise of antichrist, that man of sin. This, he says (2 Th. 2:5), he had told them of when he was with them, with design, no doubt, that they should not take offence nor be stumbled at it. And let us observe that no sooner was Christianity planted and rooted in the world than there began to be a defection in the Christian church. It was so in the Old Testament church; presently after any considerable advance made in religion there followed a defection: soon after the promise there was revolting; for example, soon after men began to call upon the name of the Lord all flesh corrupted their way, - soon after the covenant with Noah the Babel-builders bade defiance to heaven, - soon after the covenant with Abraham his seed degenerated in Egypt, - soon after the Israelites were planted in Canaan, when the first generation was worn off, they forsook God and served Baal, - soon after God's covenant with David his seed revolted, and served other gods, - soon after the return out of captivity there was a general decay of piety, as appears by the story of Ezra and Nehemiah; and therefore it was no strange thing that after the planting of Christianity there should come a falling away (Matthew Henry [1662-1714].Commentary on the Whole Bible).

We have the original word apostasía in our word apostasy; and by this term we understand a dereliction of the essential principles of religious truth - either a total abandonment of Christianity itself, or such a corruption of its doctrines as renders the whole system completely inefficient to salvation (Adam Clarke [1715-1832]. Commentary on the Bible).

The Roman pontiff exercised secular as well as spiritual authority; and in the eleventh century arrogated to himself the title of Pope, signifying Father, in the sense of paternal ruler in all things. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the temporal authority of the pope was superior to that of kings and emperors; and the Roman church became the despotic potentate of nations, and an autocrat above all secular states. Yet this church, reeking with the stench of worldly ambition and lust of dominance, audaciously claimed to be the Church established by Him who affirmed: “My kingdom is not of this world.” The arrogant assumptions of the Church of Rome were not less extravagant in spiritual than in secular administration. In her loudly asserted control over the spiritual destinies of the souls of men, she blasphemously pretended to forgive or retain individual sins, and to inflict or remit penalties both on earth and beyond the grave. She sold permission to commit sin and bartered for gold charters of indulgent forgiveness for sins already done. Her pope, proclaiming himself the vicar of God, sat in state to judge as God Himself; and by such blasphemy fulfilled the prophecy of Paul following his warning in relation to the awful conditions antecedent to the second coming of the Christ: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (James E. Talmage. Jesus the Christ, 693.)

Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:1

They will apostatize from the faith, i.e. from Christianity; renouncing the whole system in effect, by bringing in doctrines which render its essential truths null and void, or denying and renouncing such doctrines as are essential to Christianity as a system of salvation. A man may hold all the truths of Christianity, and yet render them of none effect by holding other doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by denying some essential doctrine, though he bring in nothing heterodox (Adam Clarke. Commentary on the Bible).

The Greek word here - apostesontai - is that from which we have derived the word “apostatize,” and would be properly so rendered here. The meaning is, that they would “apostatize” from the belief of the truths of the gospel. It does not mean that, as individuals, they would have been true Christians; but that there would be a departure from the great doctrines which constitute the Christian faith. The ways in which they would do this are immediately specified, showing what the apostle meant here by departing from the faith. They would give heed to seducing spirits, to the doctrines of devils, etc. The use of the word “some” does not imply that the number would be small. The meaning is, that “certain persons” would thus depart, or that “there would be” an apostasy of the kind here mentioned, in the last days. From the parallel passage in 2 Th. 2:3, it would seem that this was to be an extensive apostasy (Albert Barnes [1798-1870] Notes on the Bible).

In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he prophesied concerning the departure of some of the saints from the faith...This prophecy has a number of features that make it of considerable interest. First of all, Paul specifically stated that his belief in the future defection was the result of revelation. In fact, not only did the Spirit speak these words to Paul, but it did so “expressly.” The chronological note is also important. Paul used the term “latter times” (hú fneroi kairoí) to denote the period in which the developments that he foretold would take place. In the ultimate sense, the period of time in which we now live can be called “the latter times” better than any other. As we learn through modern revelation, our day is the dispensation of the fulness of times — the preparatory era that precedes the Second Coming of the Savior. Yet Paul spoke using a different definition for “latter times.” His focus was on the last days of the Christianity of his era, the “latter times” of the early church.

A few decades after Paul foretold the departure of some from the faith in the “latter times,” Jude announced to his readers that they were then in “the last time” (é fnhatos chrs, Jude 1:17-19). Similarly, John expressed to the readers of his first letter the certainty of the fact that they themselves were in “the last hour” (escháebar; hoabar;, 1 John 2:18-19). With the revealed knowledge of important future events, John and Jude knew that they were not in the final era of the world. But their words reveal the fact that they knew that they were in the final days of the Christian church. That was the period of time concerning which the spirit spoke “expressly” (1 Timothy 4:1) to Paul.

...[T]he departure from the faith would be a rebellion against true principles of doctrine. Paul wrote that those who would depart would give heed to what he calls “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of devils.” It must be emphasized that what Paul saw was not an abandonment of religion but a shifting of loyalties from “the faith” to a false faith. Accompanying this defection would be the manifestation of the negative character traits cited in 1 Timothy 4:2.

1 Timothy 4:3 is interesting because it mentions two examples of the false ideas that the counterfeit religious system would foster: a prohibition against marriage and a prohibition against certain foods. Beyond that the Apostle gave no further details (Kent P. Jackson in John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith, 1: 89).

The Weakness of the Protestant Position

Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man who was a member of the Roman Catholic church. He was a great scholar; he must have had a dozen languages at his tongue's end, and seemed to know all about history, science, law, philosophy, and all the rest of it. We were frank and friendly with each other, and one day he said to me:

“You ‘Mormons’ are all ignoramuses. You don't even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other position tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Roman Catholic church. The issue is between 'Mormonism' and Catholicism. If you are right, we are wrong. If we are right, you are wrong, and that's all there is to it. These Protestant sects haven't a leg to stand on; for if we are right, we cut them off long ago, as apostates; and if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, for they were a part of us and came out of us. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there was no need of Joseph Smith and 'Mormonism;' but if we have not that apostolic succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and 'Mormonism's position is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the Gospel from ancient times or the restoration of the Gospel in latter days.”

“Doctor,” said I, “that is a very clear and concise statement, and I agree with it in almost every particular. But don't deceive yourself with the notion that we ‘Mormons’ don't know the strength of our own position. We know it better than you do. We know it better than any other people can know it. We haven't all been to been college, we can't all speak the dead languages, and we may be ignoramuses as you say; but we know we are right, and we know you are wrong.” I was just as frank with him as he had been with me (Elder Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1928, 60.).

Is it to be wondered at, that from the sixteenth century onward, churches of man's contriving have multiplied with phenomenal rapidity? Churches and churchly organizations professing Christianity as their creed have come to be numbered by hundreds. On every side is heard in this day, "Lo, here is Christ" or "Lo, there." There are sects named from the circumstances of their origin-as the Church of England; others after their famous founders or promoters-as Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan; some are known by peculiarities of doctrine or plan of administration-as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist; but down to the third decade of the nineteenth century there was no church on earth affirming name or title as the Church of Jesus Christ. The only organization called a church existing at that time and venturing to assert claim to authority by succession was the Catholic church, which for centuries had been apostate and wholly bereft of divine authority or recognition. If the "mother church" be without a valid priesthood, and devoid of spiritual power, how can her offspring derive from her the right to officiate in the things of God? Who would dare to affirm that man can originate a priesthood which God is bound to honor and acknowledge? Granted that men may and do create among themselves societies, associations, sects, and even "churches" if they choose so to designate their organizations; granted that they may prescribe rules, formulate laws, and devise plans of operation, discipline, and government, and that all such laws, rules, and schemes of administration are binding upon those who assume membership-granted all these rights and powers-whence can such human institutions derive the authority of the Holy Priesthood, without which there can be no Church of Christ (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 698.)?

Restoration Seekers

Rodger Williams. In June 1638 he became a Baptist; he was immersed by Ezekiel Hollyman, and in turn immersed Hollyman and ten others. This was the first Baptist church on the American Continent. But a few months afterwards he renounced his rebaptism on the ground that Hollyman was unbaptized, and therefore unauthorized to administer the rite to him. He remained for the rest of his life a ‘Seeker,’ cut loose from all existing Church organizations and usages, longing for a true Church of God, but unable to find one on the face of the whole earth. He conceived ‘that the apostasy of Antichrist hath so far corrupted all that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy till Christ send forth new apostles to plant churches anew’ (Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, 3:851).

Thomas Jefferson. I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of this religion, having no foundation in what came from him....If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it (Thomas Jefferson in 1820, quoted in Cousins, Norman, ed. “In God We Trust”: The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, 156.).

Joseph Smith Sr. What he could not embrace was the institutional religion of his time. The reason became clear in one of his prophetic dreams. In the first dream, around 1811, Joseph Sr. found himself traveling in a barren field covered with dead fallen timber: “Not a vestige of life, either animal or vegetable, could be seen; besides, to render the scene still more dreary, the most death-like silence prevailed, no sound of anything animate could be heard in all the field.” The attendant spirit, according to Lucy, told Joseph Sr. that “this field is the world which now lieth inanimate and dumb, in regard to the true religion or plan of salvation.” Then appeared “all manner of beasts, horned cattle, and roaring animals...tearing the earth, tossing their horns, and bellowing most terrifically.” That was the religious world as Joseph Sr. saw it: empty and silent, or fiercely hostile to true wisdom and understanding. He concluded from his dream that the “class of religionists” knew no more of the Kingdom of God than “such as made no profession of religion whatever” (Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 25-26).

Robert Mason and Wilford Woodruff. The second reason for my peculiar belief in such principles, teachings, and doctrines was that in the days of my youth I was taught by an aged man named Robert Mason, who lived in Sainsbury, Connecticut....Father Mason did not claim that he had any authority to officiate in the ordinances of the gospel, nor did he believe that such authority existed on the earth....He told me that the day was near when the Lord would establish His Church and Kingdom upon the earth with all its ancient gifts and blessings. He said that such a work would commence upon the earth before he died, but that he would not live to partake of its blessings. He said that I should live to do so, and that I should become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.

The last time I ever saw him he related to me the following vision which he had in his field in open day: “I was carried away in a vision and found myself in the midst of a vast orchard of fruit trees. I became hungry and wandered through this vast orchard searching for fruit to eat, but I found none. While I stood in amazement finding no fruit in the midst of so many trees, they began to fall to the ground as if torn up by a whirlwind. They continued to fall until there was not a tree standing in the whole orchard. I immediately saw thereafter shoots springing up from the roots and forming themselves into young and beautiful trees. These budded, blossomed, and brought forth fruit which ripened and was the most beautiful to look upon of anything my eyes had ever beheld. I stretched forth my hand and plucked some of the fruit. I gazed upon it with delight; but when I was about to eat of it, the vision closed and I did not taste the fruit. At the close of the vision I bowed down in humble prayer and asked the Lord to show me the meaning of the vision. Then the voice of the Lord came to me saying: ‘Son of man, thou hast sought me diligently to know the truth concerning my Church and Kingdom among men. This is to show you that my Church is not organized among men in the generation to which you belong; but in the days of your children the Church and Kingdom of God shall be made manifest with all the gifts and the blessings enjoyed by the Saints in past ages. You shall live to be made acquainted with it, but shall not partake of its blessings before you depart this life. You will be blest of the Lord after death because you have followed the dictation of my Spirit in this life.’”

When Father Mason had finished relating the vision and its interpretation, he said, calling me by my Christian name: “Wilford, I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh, but you will and you will become a conspicuous actor in the new kingdom.” He then turned and left me. These were the last words he ever spoke to me upon the earth....The vision was given to him about the year 1800. He related it to me in 1830, the spring in which the Church was organized. Three years later when I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, almost the first person I thought of was this prophet, Robert Mason. Upon my arrival in Missouri with Zion's Camp, I wrote him a long letter in which I informed him that I had found the true gospel with all its blessings; that the authority of the Church of Christ had been restored to the earth as he had told me it would be; that I had received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands; that I knew for myself that God had established through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Church of Christ upon the earth.

He received my letter with great joy and had it read over to him many times. He handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision. He was very aged and soon died without having the privilege of receiving the ordinances of the gospel at the hands of an elder of the Church. The first opportunity I had after the truth of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him in the temple font at Nauvoo
(Wilford Woodruff in Cowley, Matthias F. Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors, 18).

Witnesses of the Marvelous Restoration

The Lord. Wherefore I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; and also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world...that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world...and also that those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased... (D&C 1:17-30)

The First Presidency. We solemnly declare that in these the latter-days, God has again spoken from the heavens through His chosen Prophet, Joseph Smith; that the Lord has, through that same Prophet, again revealed in its fulness His gospel,—the plan of life and salvation; that through that Prophet and his associates He has restored His holy Priesthood to the earth, from which it had been taken because of the wickedness of men; and that all the rights, powers, keys, and functions appertaining to the Priesthood as so restored are now vested in and exercised by the inspired leadership of His Church... (April 1942 Conference Report, 88)

President Spencer W. Kimball. In 1976 an area general conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Following the closing session, President Kimball expressed a desire to visit the Vor Frue Church, where the Thorvaldsen statues of the Christus and of the Twelve Apostles stand. He had visited this some years before. Others of us had also seen it but some had not, and he felt we should all go there. The church was closed for renovation, nevertheless arrangements were quickly made for us to be admitted for a few minutes...To the front of the church, behind the altar, stands the familiar statue of the Christus...Along each side stand the statues of the Apostles, Peter at the front on the right side of the church, and the other Apostles in order...

Most of the group were near the rear of the chapel, where the custodian, through an interpreter, was giving some explanation. I stood with President Kimball, Elder Rex Pinegar, and President Bentine, the stake president, before the statue of Peter. In his hand, depicted in marble, is a set of heavy keys. President Kimball pointed to them and explained what they symbolized. Then, in an act I shall never forget, he turned to President Bentine and with unaccustomed sternness pointed his finger at him and said with firm, impressive words, “I want you to tell every Lutheran in Denmark that they do not hold the keys! I hold the keys! We hold the real keys and we use them every day.” This declaration and testimony from the prophet so affected me that I knew I would never forget it-the influence was powerfully spiritual and the impression was physical in its impact as well.

We walked to the other end of the chapel where the rest of the group were standing. Pointing to the statues, President Kimball said to the kind custodian who was showing us the building, “These are the dead Apostles. Here we have the living Apostles.” Pointing to me he said, “Elder Packer is an Apostle.” He designated the others and said, “Elder Monson and Elder Perry are Apostles, and I am an Apostle. We are the living Apostles. You read about seventies in the New Testament, and here are living seventies, Brother Pinegar and Brother Hales”(Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 84.).

Elder Orson F. Whitney. Seven hundred years before the birth of our Savior, a prophet of God upon the eastern hemisphere predicted the coming forth of “a marvelous work and a wonder.” “Mormonism,” so called, according to the faith of its adherents, is the fulfilment of that ancient prediction. And indeed it would be difficult to conceive of anything more marvelous, more wonderful, than the foundation facts upon which rests the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What could be more strange, more unexpected, than the re-opening of the heavens in an age when it was believed and asserted that the heavens were permanently sealed, that God no longer spoke to man, that revelation had ceased, and that angels would never again commune with earth’s inhabitants? But lo! the heavens are opened; angels come to earth; and not only this, but God himself descends from his glorious throne and appears unto man, opening the last and greatest of the gospel dispensations. An angel reveals the hidden past of the American continent—the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of the gospel, a history of the Americas in prehistoric times, and a prophecy of their wondrous future. An angel restores the Aaronic priesthood, which holds the keys of repentance and baptism; and other angels bring back the higher or Melchizedek priesthood, holding the keys of heavenly mysteries; and under this delegated divine authority, without which no man can lawfully represent God, or administer the sacred ordinances of the gospel, the Church of Christ is organized once more upon the earth. Truly, a marvelous work and a wonder—so marvelous, so wonderful, that most men reject it, deeming it a fable. And yet it is nothing more nor less than the plain fulfilment of prophecy.

This Church was founded for a definite purpose. It is not merely one more added to the hundreds of religious sects with which the world is filled. It is the lifted ensign for the gathering of God’s chosen Israel from the four quarters of the globe, for the purpose of building a Zion, the New Jerusalem, and preparing a people for the glorious coming of the Lord (Orson F. Whitney, October 1916 Conference Report, 52.).

Learn More

Early Christians in Disarray. Edited by Noel B. Reynolds
Lost Christianities. Bart Ehrman
Mormonism and Early Christianity. Hugh Nibley
Outlines of Ecclesiastical History. B. H. Roberts.
Restoring the Ancient Church. Barry Robert Bickmore
The Great Apostasy. James Talmage
The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration. Tad R. Callister
The World and the Prophets. Hugh Nibley
“Apostasy and Restoration.” Dallin H. Oaks. Ensign, May 1995
“Early Signs of the Apostasy.” Kent P. Jackson. Ensign, Dec. 1984.
“From the Beginning” Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Ensign, Nov. 1993.
“The Great Apostasy as Seen by Eusebius.” Hyde M. Merrill. Ensign, Nov. 1972
“The Morning Breaks; the Shadows Flee.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Ensign, May 1978.
“Were an Apostasy and Restoration Predicted?” Barry R. Bickmore. Found at
“Whither the Early Church?” S. Kent Brown. Ensign, Oct. 1988.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Glowing Stones

Today I thought I discovered an interesting parallel between Noah's ark and the barges used by the Jaradites as described in Ether. I wanted to blog on it, but it turns out, someone has already pointed out the parallels.

I recommend the article for your enjoyment: Glowing Stones in Ancient and Medieval Lore.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saved by Grace After All We Can do

One common criticism of the Book of Mormon is that it (supposedly) teaches that we are saved by grace only after we do all we can do for our own salvation. This criticism is based on this scripture:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23).

While it is true that some LDS have interpreted this scripture to mean we must first do all we can if we expect grace to operate in our behalf, critics have noted that no one really does all he can in order to qualify for grace. On this, I agree with the critics with one qualification: I don't think that's what the passage means.

One possible interpretation put forth by Stephen E. Robinson, Robert Millet and others is that this scripture means that we are "saved by grace" even after all we can do or apart from what we can do. The preposition "after" here should not be used in its temporal sense alone (referring to time order) but in the sense of "notwithstanding" such as in this sentence: "even after the policeman's warning he continued to speed" or "after all [id est, notwithstanding everything] he continues to speed."

Understood this way, the verse means we are saved by grace notwithstanding our best efforts. No matter how close to perfection my personal efforts may be, it is still only through grace that I can be saved since I will always be tainted by sin.

Another possible interpretation is that "all we can do" has reference to some specific thing we can do, namely repent and be forgiven. I like this interpretation best. Believing that all scripture is inspired by God, I believe one important way to interpret scripture is to look for common phrases or terminology throughout all scripture. This is one where doing so seems to bring out new meaning to this verse.

In the Book of Mormon, a few miraculously converted Nephites go and preach the gospel to some Lamanites who are also miraculously converted. These Lamanites gave up their past blood thirsty traditions and covenanted with God to no longer shed man's blood. Their leader, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, gave a rousing speech before they buried their weapons of war which is recorded in Alma 24.

8 And behold, I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts, that we have opened a correspondence with these brethren, the Nephites.
9 And behold, I also thank my God, that by opening this correspondence we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed.
10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.
14 And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.
15 Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.

Ultimately, all we can do as mortals is "to repent of all our sins...and to get God to taken them away from our hearts" "through the merits of his Son."

If we were to return to 2 Nephi 25:23 and insert this meaning it would read:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after [we repent of all our sins and get God to take them away from our hearts through the merits of his Son].

To insist, as some critics have, that the Book of Mormon teaches salvation by works apart from grace is based [at best] in a misunderstanding of the Book of Mormon or [at worst] is based in purposeful deception.

"Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen" (2 Nephi 10:23-25).

"[T]here is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8).

Thursday, February 7, 2008

End Times in LDS Thought

I recently received this email from one of my readers:


How about a post on LDS Eschatology?

Do Mormons believe in things similar to evangelical 'end times' scenarios like....
A Rapture - 7 year tribulation with the beast/antichrist ruling a one world government - ending in Armageddon - and culminating in a millennium rule of Christ on earth.

Or more like...Christ returns - resurrection of the dead - millennial rule - eternity?


Thanks for the question. I must first say I've been very busy this week and haven't had the time I need to gather together much information on the topic. However, I will do my best to answer these questions in a straight-forward way.

Rapture and Tribulation

I have never read anything in LDS literature (or in the Bible for that matter!) that supports this concept of a rapture. As I understand this teaching, some Christians believe that 7 years (some 3 1/2 years) before Christ's coming, the saved will be taken off of planet earth while the devil is allowed free reign. This period will be accompanied by war, pestilence, disease, death, terrible wickedness and destruction. The anti-Christ will then reign over the earth under the direction of the devil. This will be brought to an end when Christ returns to earth, destroys the wicked, and begins his 1000 year reign with the saved.

This idea is often based on Matt. 24:41:

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

In this belief system, those who are here "taken" are the righteous who are taken up to heaven before the tribulation. This is reflected in bumper stickers that I've seen that say "Caution, this car will be without driver at the rapture" or similar things.

Can Matt. 24:41 be interpreted this way correctly? Absolutely not. Why not? Like so many scriptures, the context makes it's meaning clear.

"But of that day [the second coming of Jesus] and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For 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, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Matt 24:36-41).

The comparison is clear: in the days of Noah the flood "took [the wicked] all away" and at the second coming of Jesus, the wicked "shall be taken." In an ironic twist, it is the righteous that remain and are not taken. In other words, the reference to being taken refers to the fact that the Lord will destroy the wicked when He comes to rule and reign on earth.

Second Coming and Resurrection

Latter-day Saints believe that Christ will literally return to earth with the same body that he took up from the tomb in Jerusalem. His second coming is soon at hand, but how soon no one knows. At the time of his return, they "who are Christ's" will be resurrected and will come with him to reign on earth. The saints who are yet alive will also be caught up to meet him and come with him at his coming. At this time the earth will be burned, the wicked destroyed, and the world purified.

Latter-day Saints also believe that Jerusalem will be redeemed and the temple restored before Christ's coming under the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conjunction with the converted of Judah. New Jerusalem will also be built with it's temple in Jackson County, Missouri. These things will happen before Christ comes. LDS interpret Isaiah 2:2 as having reference to the redemption of Jerusalem and the building of New Jerusalem ("Zion") and a day when the ecclesiastical authority will be based in Jerusalem while the political center will be based in the USA.

I realize this isn't very thorough. Your comments, questions, and so forth are more than welcome.

I'd refer you to these important LDS writings on the topic for more information:

Doctrine and Covenants 29

Doctrine and Covenants 45

Doctrine and Covenants 77

Doctrine and Covenants 133

Preperation for the Second Coming

Dallin H. Oaks: The Second Coming of Christ

The Gathering of Scattered Israel

Joseph Smith on The Second Coming and the Millennium

Brigham Young on The Last Days, Millennium, etc

Joseph F. Smith: Preparing for the Second Coming of Christ

Wilford Woodruff: Preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Monday, February 4, 2008

Email Debate with Fundamentalist Pastor

In March 2007, a local pastor in the small town in Virginia where we were living, was involved in a mass distribution of an anti-Mormon DVD entitled "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith." It was nothing less than a load of lies, mischaracterizations and rubbish. There was a wonderful response put out immediately by some LDS apologists that you can see at The distribution of the DVD was 100% anonymous and distributed to LDS and their neighbors and friends while the LDS members were in Church. The DVD was simply placed in the mailbox, on the door step, on car windshields, or some other location. Unfortunately, I didn't get one. So, I took the opportunity of calling each pastor in town to try to locate who was responsible and to get a copy for myself to review.

I eventually was successful. Pastor Ramsey was mostly courteous and polite and even gave me an audience in his office after I saw the video. I expressed my concern that he, as a good Christian, would never wish to intentionally bare false witness against his neighbor and left him with a printed-out copy of the material found on We discussed some of the issues involved, we exchanged information and I left.

I thought that this Pastor surely was an honest albeit misinformed man. I was surprised to find out a few weeks later that he was publicly showing the video in his church and that he announced it in the local newspapers. At this point a friend and I decided it was best to respond. We typed up a short response to the attack with information on where to get answers to the lies in the video, took it to his church and placed it on each car while the people were inside watching the video. We figured that was the least confrontational way we could respond. In the short response we questioned the integrity of the pastor by pointing out that he had the information found on and yet continues to show the video which misrepresents LDS belief and history.

That night I received an email from Pastor Ramsey in response. It was amazingly calm and careful. Admittedly, I was surprised by the way he presented himself. This email blossomed into a long debate over the next week or two which I have saved. It is here attached as a word document for you to download. I admittedly would respond differently to some of his questions today if given the opportunity. I think I would have tried to tone down my sarcasm a bit as well, but sometimes I can't help myself. Either way, I think you'll find the document insightful.

Click here to download:Pastor Ramsey and Andrew Miller Email Debate

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Unscriptural Calvinism

I've made a scriptural list before on Biblical References to Deification. I made one today on Calvinism. I think this scriptural list shows the inconsistency of the Calvinist doctrines of total depravity, unlimited election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. LDS reject all of these concepts.


Total Depravity (Original Sin)

Sin inherited from parents: Deut. 1:34-39; Ezek. 18:19-20; Isa 7:15-16; Jer 19:2-6; Matt. 18:1-3; 19:13-14
Non-saved incapable choosing or doing good: Deut.11:26-28; 30:15-20; Josh. 24:15; Acts 10:1-4, 22 (cf 11:14); Rom. 2:14-16

Unconditional Election (Predestination of Individuals)
Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:17; Tit 2:11; 1 Ti 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9

Limited Atonement (Jesus died only for the elect)

Luke 19:10; John 1:29; 3:16; Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:1-2

Irresistible Grace (No choice in one's salvation)
Matt. 11:28; Acts 6:10; 7:51-55; Revelation 22:17; John 12:32 (cf. John 6:44 & 2 Nephi. 26:24-28, 33)

Perseverance of the Saints (Once saved always saved)
Ezek 3:20; 18:24-26; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 8:13; 9:62; 12:41-48; John 15:1-7; 1 Cor. 8:11; Gal. 5:1-4, 13; Col. 1:21-23; 1 Ti 1:18-20; 4:1; 5:8; Heb. 3:12; 4:1-2,11; 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 10:38-39; James 5:19-20; 1 Pet. 5:8-10; 2 Pet. 2:1,15,20-22; 3:17; Rev 2:4-5; 3:5,16-17

I invite you to take a look at these scriptures if you're interested in the topic. It shouldn't take more than about 45 minutes.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gift of the Holy Ghost by the Laying on of Hands

Latter-day Saints "believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." We also "believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof" (Articles of Faith 4 & 5).

In other words, after a person believes in Jesus Christ, repents, and is baptized by immersion, the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to do so.

I have known some good Christian people that have believed that the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed on an individual at the moment he believes without reference to baptism or the laying on of hands. I will here argue that such an idea is inconsistent with the Biblical record while the LDS view is more consistent.

First, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful sermon that was well received. The Holy Ghost bore record to his audience that Jesus was indeed "both Lord and Christ." After he had preached, the people "were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Clearly, they began to exercise faith in Jesus Christ by believing Peter's message. They wanted to know what they should do. If the doctrine of being saved by saying the sinner's prayer were indeed true, this would have been the perfect time for Peter to say something like "Pray to Jesus and ask him to forgive you and you will be saved," but what did he say?

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).

These people who had 1) Faith in Jesus Christ were told to 2) Repent 3) be baptized for the remission of sins and that 4) they would then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is clearly incompatible with the idea that you receive the Holy Ghost after simply believing or saying the "sinner's prayer." If ever Peter had the opportunity to teach such a doctrine, here it was. He didn't teach such a doctrine, however, but he taught one that is entirely consistent with the LDS article of faith mentioned above.

One could attempt to argue that this was the prescribed method for being saved and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost for this particular group of people but that ti isn't required of all people at all times. However, Peter makes certain that this isn't the case by what he said next:

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).

He then exhorted them to "save [themselves] from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized..." (Acts 2:40-41). Once again, baptism was the door to salvation. In order to "save themselves" they must not stop with faith alone or with repentance, but also be baptized. (I digress)

Another fascinating insight comes from Acts 8.

"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given,
he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."

This is significant for several reasons. First, these people in Samaria already believed on Jesus' name and were baptized, yet they hadn't received the Holy Ghost. Only did they receive this gift after Peter and John came and laid hands on them to give them the gift. Simon saw that this gift was given this way and offered to buy the gift from the apostles.

If the gift of the Holy Ghost comes just through belief in Jesus, why didn't these Samaritans receive that gift the moment they believed? Also, why didn't Philip give them the gift? He apparently baptized them, but didn't lay hands on them. Why?

According to LDS doctrine, a person who hold Aaronic priesthood can baptize but cannot confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. However, apostles or elders can confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. This story makes perfect sense from an LDS doctrinal standpoint: Philip had authority to baptize but he didn't have authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. The apostles then came and conferred this gift on the recently baptized believers.

There are many other such examples, but suffice it to say these scriptures seem to imply that a person must:

1) have faith in Jesus
2) repent
3) be baptized for the remission of sins
4) receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those who have authority


5) some have authority to baptize but do not have authority to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.

LDS belief is entirely consistent with these scriptures. Is the rest of modern Christianity?

For further clarification, LDS believe individuals may receive manifestations of the Holy Ghost prior to baptism to strengthen faith in Christ and to bring people to repentance and baptism. There are several instances of people receiving such manifestations of the Holy Ghost in scripture and outside of scripture. If a person rejects such manifestations, however, the Holy Ghost will not abide with him. On the other hand, if a person follows such manifestations he will eventually find himself with faith, having been baptized, and having the gift of the Holy Ghost sealed upon his head.

Elijah, Elias, Isaiah, Esaias

It has been noted that in LDS scripture there is sometimes made a distinction between Isaiah and Esaias as well as Elijah and Elias. "Elias" is consistently used as a title for someone who prepares the way for the coming of the Lord. Thus in the Bible John is referred to as "Elias." (See for more information on the use of Elias in the Church)

As far as Isaiah goes, the Hebrew name Yesha'yah[u] (transliterated as Isaiah) appears in the Bible on many occasions, but is used to denote different individuals other than the prophet who authored the Book of Isaiah. These names are rendered Esaias in the Greek Septuagint, and are rendered Isaiah, Jesiah and Jesaiah in the KJV and many other translations of the Old Testament. In the passages in LDS scripture (apart from the Bible) that refer to Esaiah, it is possible that Joseph Smith was using a different transliteration of the Semitic name to differentiate one Isaiah from another. Indeed, we have many New Testament parallels in translation literature, such as the Jude/Judas variant in the New Testament where the translators chose to use "Jude" in an attempt to distinguish from "Judas" who betrayed Jesus.

In the nineteenth century, "Elias" was used rather generically to denote a forerunner. Alexander Campbell, in Delusions used it in the same fashion as did Joseph Smith:

The Jews gave up their business and attended to him. He obtained one Nathan in Jerusalem to pass for his Elias, or forerunner.

In many places, the Lord says that the revelations received by Joseph Smith were put into his own language according to his own understanding.(See D&C 67:5). It is likely, therefore, that he would have used "Elias" as a name-title for forerunners.

The Elias in D&C 27 seems to be Noah, who Joseph Smith identified with the angel Gabriel, and could well be the same as the one in D&C 110 (in section 27, Elias [clearly Gabriel/Noah from the context] was promised to bestow keys of authority. This may have been fulfilled as recorded in D&C 110).

I hope this adds some helpful information to this somewhat difficult question.