Archive for March 2008
I have long been torn between two approaches to dealing with critics of our faith. I’m not sure if it is a good idea to answer their allegations or to simply ignore them. I guess it depends on how much their charges bother us. The official response of the Church seems to have changed over the years in direct proportion to the number of articles published in the media that are false or misleading.
At one time we were much quieter and less responsive. Things that I thought were outrageous and slanderous were met with not a peep. Other things that I thought were obvious and petty elicited responses that seemed over-reactive and condemning. Today, things are more even, measured and, in a word, professional. I am no authority on the subject but I like the image Public Affairs presents to the world today.
There are many great websites out there that are doing an excellent job of answering the critics. In reality, you can’t provide answers that will satisfy those who don’t believe there are answers. We can only offer responses and correct information in an attempt to provide honest seekers of truth with facts that they can evaluate for themselves. Elder Ballard has asked for more faithful members of the Church to share the truth about the gospel on the Internet and the new media.
The best websites for LDS answers
Of course the best site is lds.org. It offers a tremendous resource of excellent material including conference talks, magazine articles, official curriculum, complete online scriptures, and links to hundreds of other official LDS sites. In my opinion the best resource for answers to difficult questions can be found in the LDS Newsroom which I have used extensively in my recent posts.
Don’t discount Mormon.org. While the focus is on providing support material for the missionary discussions and therefore lacks depth, you can’t go wrong in using the answers found there. The church web team went to a lot of work to present the wonderful content and videos. You will also want to be sure to visit JesusChrist.lds.org for excellent articles and videos on the Savior.
I can only mention a few others here. I have compiled a more complete list on the sidebar of this blog that I use extensively in my research. The MoreGood foundation is always worth visiting as are FAIR and Shields. Even though there are so many others, I must mention the extensive work that Jeff Lindsay has done over the years on his LDS FAQ. It has always been extremely helpful. I gave up my work in this area long ago because Jeff was doing such an awesome job.
Answers to some basic allegations
In the past week I have responded to six common criticisms of those who are opposed to the work of the church. They were conveniently presented as a comment to my Easter post, “Are Mormons Christian?” The objections were offered by an anonymous reader so I imagine there was no real desire for a response. An intelligent dialog requires that the participants at least identify themselves. A respectful exchange invites understanding for each other’s viewpoints.
1. God is a glorified being of flesh and bones
2. The doctrine of spiritual brotherhood
3. The Book of Mormon brings us closer to Christ
4. Authority to act in the name of God
5. Why can’t I attend a Mormon wedding?
6. The practice of plural marriage
In my experience there are two kinds of critics that we cannot help. There are those who are convinced that their zeal in attacking us is providing a service to God and others who they want to impress. Then there are the apostates and ex-Mormons who want only to justify their actions. They will go to any length to make sure that everyone knows how hurt they have been by some real or imagined offense. I wish there was something we could do to ease their pain.
Dealing with anti-Morman literature
I often reflect upon the words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie as he spoke about anti-Mormon literature. He said he would sometimes read it for entertainment value and nothing more. I suspect that he may have read it on occasion more for intellectual stimulation. I used to have an extensive collection of books that were not flattering to the LDS faith. I would refer to them in an effort to understand what our critics were saying and how they saw things.
For some reason the fact that I had such a collection came up in an interview with a good Stake President. He counseled me to dispose of it. I did so long ago and have not missed it especially since so much of the same material can be found today on the Internet with a simple search. You do not have to go far to discover that there is still much animosity and false interpretations of our history and doctrine available to the public in thousands of anti-Mormon websites.
We do not shy away from the difficult questions if the seeker is legitimately wanting to know the answers. For some questions there are no answers. For others, the answer depends on the maturity of the individual asking the question or repeating the allegation that they have read elsewhere. If you are sincere in wanting to understand something about our faith or doctrine I am more than happy to point you to some answers that have helped me over the years.
How do you respond to the criticism that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can’t be Christian because the LDS Church at one time taught and practiced polygamy? I suspect a simple presentation of the facts followed by a few official statements of the Church should suffice. Before I do that, I would like to offer a few personal observations.
I do not have Utah pioneer heritage. I was born and raised in California. Members of my family are converts to the Church. My ancestors were from Tennessee and Missouri and were either Baptists or Presbyterians, including many who were ordained ministers. On the other hand, Carol’s family is all from Utah and includes several ancestors who participated in plural marriage.
I have gained an appreciation of the social implications of plural marriage from reading the life histories and journals of some of Carol’s great grandparents. Trust me, it was no picnic. They obeyed the counsel of their priesthood leaders and entered into plural marriages but it was not easy. There was conflict, petty jealousies and economic hardship. On the other hand, these marriages produced some of the most faithful and devout Latter-day Saints in Mormon history.
The early LDS practice of Plural Marriage
Polygamy — or more correctly polygyny, the marriage of more than one woman to the same man — was an important part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a half-century. The practice began during the lifetime of Joseph Smith but became publicly and widely known during the time of Brigham Young. Today, the practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church, as it has been for over 100 years.
In 1831, Church founder Joseph Smith made a prayerful inquiry about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. This resulted in the divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle. Joseph Smith entered into dozens of plural marriages, as did several of the early church leaders. It was not commonly known or practiced until the latter years of the Nauvoo period in 1842-43. Records are sketchy as to the details of this time.
Practiced openly by perhaps as many as 20 to 30% of the church members after the Saints moved to Utah, it was a source of contention to the rest of the nation for nearly fifty years. In 1890, President Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church, received what Latter-day Saints believe to be a revelation in which God withdrew the command to practice plural marriage. It was difficult for some to accept this major change to their way of life.
President Woodruff issued what has come to be known as the “Manifesto,” a written declaration to Church members and the public at large that stopped the practice of plural marriage. Today Church members honor and respect the sacrifices made by those who practiced polygamy in the early days of the Church. However, the practice is outlawed in the Church, and no person can practice plural marriage and remain a member. The doctrine is not taught in church curriculum.
Confusion about polygamy today
Polygamous groups and individuals in and around Utah often cause confusion for casual observers and for visiting news media. The polygamists and polygamist organizations in parts of the western United States and Canada have no affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that the term “Mormon” — widely understood to be a nickname for Latter-day Saints — is sometimes misleadingly applied to them.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stated the following about polygamy in the Church’s October 1998 general conference: “I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.
“If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (Articles of Faith 1:12).”
Summary and Conclusion
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not teach or practice polygamy or plural marriage and has not done so for over 100 years. Although the doctrine is still contained within our scriptures, specifically section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, it is not taught as a current doctrine and is not tolerated if practiced. Those who do so are excommunicated from the church. It was a time of our history that we consider a part of the restoration of all things.
The subject of polygamy continues to fascinate both members of the Church and those who are investigating the Church. It is a common topic for those in the media to write about or at least mention the practice in any major piece about the Church or its people that is published today. It is a source of humor for many, embarrassment for some and misunderstanding for most. It is a sacred principle, an extension of the law of Celestial Marriage and deserves greater respect.
I do not pretend to know everything about the doctrine or the practice. There are many experts both in and out of the Church that have researched and written extensively about it. I am saddened that some critics of the Church point to the history of plural marriage in the LDS faith as evidence that we could not possibly be true followers of Jesus Christ. We invite any who are seriously investigating our Church to get the facts before they embrace false accusations.
In a recent post here at Latter-day Commentary, I addressed the question, “Are Mormons Christian?” On that Easter Sunday an anonymous reader responded with several reasons why he felt that we are not Christian. I have addressed most of them already and now turn my attention to a difficult accusation that involves families, weddings and the temple of the Lord.
He wrote that Mormons aren’t Christian because no Christian would “keep loving parents from the weddings of their children.” The statement was obviously meant for shock value. It certainly gets your attention, doesn’t it? You immediately want to know if it can possibly be true and if so, why? It does sound awful when the statement is phrased that way. Let’s investigate.
In order to understand this properly, we need to discuss the sacred nature of LDS Temples and the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. We can then address the social difficulties mentioned. The LDS Newsroom has an excellent article on differences between chapels and temples. Another article on Temple Marriage is helpful but incomplete as it does not address all the social issues.
The sacred nature of the Temple
Temples are not regular places of Sunday worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are quite different from the thousands of regular chapels or meetinghouses all over the world that are used for Sunday services. Anyone, regardless of religion, may enter a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, attend services and worship with us.
However, because of the sacredness of temples as “houses of the Lord,” only members of the Church who are in good standing are allowed to enter the temples. A member must be observing the basic principles of the faith and attest to that fact to his or her local leaders once every two years in order to enter a temple. A “Temple Recommend” is required to enter.
Those who are not members of our faith may visit a temple during the open house before it is dedicated. Many temples also have a visitor center nearby where those who are not members of our faith may learn more about the sacred nature of temples. Once the temple is dedicated, faithful members attend the temple and participate in sacred ordinances performed there.
The doctrine of Celestial Marriage
Members of the LDS faith believe that marriages performed in temples are “sealed,” or blessed to last for eternity. The concept that the family unit can continue beyond the grave as a conscious, loving entity, with the marriage partnership and parent-child relationships intact, is a core belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The purpose of a temple marriage can be found in D&C 131:1-4 where it is identified as an order of the priesthood, the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. The sealing power exercised in performing the marriage is referred to in Matthew 16:19 where the Savior tells the Apostle Peter of the importance and the binding or sealing power of the keys of the kingdom.
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Church equates the word “bind” with “seal.” This is no civil union “until death do you part.” Of course, the sealing is dependent upon the faithfulness of the couple involved.
Social difficulties in Mormon weddings
When all family members and extended family members who want to attend the wedding are faithful members of the LDS church with current temple recommends, there is no problem and no hurt feelings. However, when the parents or extended family of either the bride or groom are not members of the LDS church, it takes a little bit of understanding of the above principles.
It can be difficult for someone not of our faith to understand why they cannot attend the wedding of their own child. Of course they are welcome to attend if they meet the same qualifications. So we are not excluding anyone. All are invited. They simply must qualify. I know of children who have waited years for their parents to get baptized and worthy to attend.
Dealing with hurt feelings of parents or siblings or other relatives when planning an otherwise joyful event can be most distressing. This question was asked and answered by several young Latter-day Saint women a few years back in this Ensign article. While the loved ones may not be able to attend the actual ceremony, there are other ways to show love and respect for them.
Personal observations on marriage
We do not “keep loving parents from the weddings of their children.” We invite them to join with us in making the same covenants to enter the house of the Lord. The Lord set the requirements by revelation. He has a right to say who can and cannot enter His house. Baptism, adherence to the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Tithing as well as moral cleanliness are all required to enter.
I understand it can cause some discomfort and difficult feelings when discovering that you must be a faithful member of the Mormon Church to attend a wedding in an LDS Temple. It is especially distressing if it is your own daughter or son that is getting married there. We are not trying to exclude you. We hope you will be understanding when discussing it with loved ones.
I was married in the Los Angeles Temple over a quarter of a century ago. Carol and I are all the more committed today to the principles and ideals that we learned there. The covenants we made there have blessed our lives and helped us through many difficult times. I am glad that Carol’s parent’s were able to be with us that day. I only wish my own parents had been there.
Objection three out of six raised by anonymous is that Mormons can’t be Christian because we believe that Christ visited America as a resurrected being. That argument is weak. If anything, it proves that we are greater followers of Christ because we have an additional witness of His gospel. Perhaps his objection really was that we have additional scripture and thus modern revelation.
This is one of my favorite objections to discuss because it proves one of the most important claims of the Restoration. In fact, almost any objection to our message can be summarized as a reluctance to accept modern revelation. Having been exposed to the idea all my life I have never understood why it is so difficult to understand. The Book of Mormon is the best evidence of Joseph’s prophetic calling.
If someone is a sincere follower of Jesus Christ they will benefit by reading the account of His visit to America as a resurrected being as found in the Book of Mormon. I highly recommend it. The message recorded there should sound highly familiar to students of the Bible. In fact, it would be difficult to explain if Christ had not shared His same gospel with the ancient Nephites.
The Book of Mormon
For someone who has never read the Book of Mormon, Mormon.org is the best source to get a good overview of the book. As part of the Restoration of the gospel, God brought forth the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. By the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this book from an ancient record written on gold plates.
The Book of Mormon is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. It helps us understand His teachings, including those in the Bible.
In the Bible, Jesus told His Apostles, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Soon after He was resurrected, the Lord visited these “other sheep”—the inhabitants of ancient America. They recorded their history on metal plates.
Evidence of Modern Revelation
The Book of Mormon is evidence of modern revelation and of the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith. If one is sincere in wanting to understand our message and know for themselves that it is true, then we offer the promise of an ancient prophet. Millions of people worldwide have found out for themselves that the Book of Mormon contains another witness of Jesus Christ.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost?” ( Moroni 10:4).
As taught in the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I have experienced these feelings many times as I have read the Book of Mormon.
Summary and Conclusion
“…the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.” (The Journal of Joseph: The Personal Diary of a Modern Prophet, p. 203) Isn’t that a great quote? We have the Articles of Faith, but we do not have limiting creeds. It is those creeds of other churches that keep their members in the dark.
The Book of Mormon is a major stumbling block to many who investigate our church. The Book of Mormon is a door through which you must pass if you are to understand what we are about. It is the best tangible evidence of the work of Joseph Smith. The church that he organized is secondary to a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that is promised to all those who diligently seek it when they read the Book of Mormon.
We are followers of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ. We can come closer to Him by reading it than by any other book. The Bible has gone through many translations that introduced errors. The Book of Mormon had one translator – Joseph Smith. He was and is a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon proves it.
In responding to my recent post, “Are Mormons Christian?” an anonymous commenter objected to my claim that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians because he said that we believe Jesus and the devil are “literal” brothers. Elder Ballard requested that we become more involved with the dialog on the Internet about the church and our doctrine.
Said Elder Ballard, “There are conversations going on about the church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches. There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs.” In that spirit I offer this explanation.
This question has been raised and debated many times in the past, especially since Mike Huckabee made it a campaign issue in December 2007. I wrote about it back then but want to offer a more complete answer now since this reader brought it up again. My main objection to the comment is the inclusion of the word “literal”. It shows a lack of doctrinal understanding.
The doctrine of spiritual brotherhood
Here is the short LDS Newsroom answer, “Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.”
So Jesus and Satan are not “literal” brothers. My anonymous commenter is implying that literal means physical. That is false doctrine. Jesus was born into mortality as the Son of God. Satan never had a physical body so how could they be literal or physical brothers? They are not. I suspect that my friend was looking for shock value in his comment, just as Mike Huckabee was.
As the newsroom explanation points out, we are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father, and are therefore all spiritual brothers and sisters. That includes Lucifer, who the scriptures tell us was a son of the morning, meaning he was also a son of God, just as I am a son of God. God is the Father of all, including Lucifer. When he was cast out of heaven he became Satan or the devil.
Our spiritual family
As we declare in “The Living Christ,”We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.” Jesus Christ was the Firstborn of Heavenly Father’s spirit children. We all, along with Lucifer, were born later.
We were all with our Heavenly Father as spirits in a premortal existence. We lived together as families before we were born into mortality. Lucifer and one third of the hosts of heaven, by their own choice, decided that they did not want to become mortal and learn to walk by faith. Satan and his followers are here on the Earth. They do not have physical bodies but are spirits.
Are these spirits still considered our brothers and sisters? If so, that means that we too are brothers and sisters to Lucifer, just as we are brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ. I don’t think that is too hard to understand, do you? Perhaps some don’t like to think about it. While it is true, the idea of evil spirits hanging around and trying to lead us astray is not a pleasant thought.
Summary and Conclusion
Our understanding of the doctrine of spiritual brotherhood and the family of God only solidifies our position that we are Christians. There is no inconsistency with the idea that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers and our bold statement that we are true followers of Jesus Christ. He is our Elder Brother. We worship Him out of love because of His love for us in atoning for our sins.
We do not argue with or belittle others who have not thought the issue through or have decided not to accept the doctrine. It is straightforward and logical. There is nothing sinister about it. Perhaps my anonymous commenter does not understand the concept of a fallen angel. Who created the angels? God did of course. Who created us? The same God. The same family.
We invite everyone to study the doctrine for themselves. It is not difficult to understand. It just takes a little patience to think it through. We hope that those who do not accept the doctrine will not try to redefine it in an effort to misrepresent it to others. Instead of telling others what you think we believe, please point them to official sources where they can interpret it for themselves.
In my Easter post, I addressed the oft-asked question, “Are Mormons Christian?” I shared my witness of Jesus Christ and included a video clip from an apostle that summarized the answer. An anonymous reader left a comment disagreeing with my declaration that Mormons are indeed Christians. He kindly shared a list of six points with which he disagreed.
I responded briefly to our anonymous friend and promised to reply in greater detail to each of the points he raised. This post addresses the first point that God is a glorified being of flesh and bones. A Google search on the subject reveals several well written articles. An equally useful search on the phrase “Does God Have a Body?” delivers some of the same results and many others.
I am not a Mormon apologist nor am I experienced in apologetics. I am just your basic member of the church. My family joined when I was very young, converting from Presbyterianism. I served a mission, was married in the Temple and have been attending church all my life. I think my religious experiences are typical of a Latter-day Saint living in Southern California.
My personal views on the nature of God
I have never had a problem with the doctrine taught that God is a glorified man and that he has a body of flesh and bones. I know some object to the idea that God was once a mortal man but it has always made sense to me. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the universe. For example, who was taking care of things when God was going through his mortal probation?
There are a lot of questions about God that I just put up on the shelf until some future time when I trust that they will be answered. Some get confused when others talk or write about God’s father and the whole idea of eternal progression. I know some things have been taught and revealed about that subject, but frankly, I don’t think about it much. It doesn’t bother me.
I have been taught and believe that the purpose of this life is to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and prove myself obedient to His commandments revealed in scripture, both ancient and modern. I am a very simple man, really, but it makes me happy to think of a loving Heavenly Father who understands me perfectly because He has gone through the same kind of mortal experience.
Official statements from the Church
From Mormon.org: “God is your Father in Heaven (Matthew 6:9). We call God Heavenly Father because He is the Father of our spirits and we are created in His image ( Genesis 1:27). God has a body that looks like yours, though His body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory beyond description. He knows you personally and loves you more than you can comprehend.”
From True to the Faith: “God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things. He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He ‘has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’ (D&C 130:22). Our Heavenly Father is a God of judgment and strength and knowledge and power, but He is also a God of perfect mercy, kindness, and charity.”
From Preach My Gospel: “God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.”
Summary and Conclusion
I know this is not a deep discussion on the subject of the nature of God. There are so many more ideas that could be addressed. This post focused on one idea: God has a body of flesh and bone. Note that we do not teach that God has a body of flesh and blood as that is a condition of mortality. God is a glorified, immortal, perfected being and we are made in His image.
It is not a hard doctrine to comprehend. Man has made it difficult through uninspired creeds and interpretations of scripture that are not correct. That is why we need Apostles and Prophets to help us come to the unity of faith. I am so grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who bore a plain a simple testimony that he saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
So is this different from what the Christian world teaches? Yes, it is. We believe in a “Restored Christianity.” Any doctrinal disagreements we have with ministers of other faiths can be summarized in one statement: We do not rely solely on the Bible for our understanding of the nature of God. Our understanding is based on knowledge revealed through modern prophets.
I guess I should not be surprised by now. I have heard it and read it so many times that I still wonder how it is that some people don’t know. Of course Mormons are Christians. We are the Church of Jesus Christ.
It has been asked and answered many times in many ways and in many places by many people over the years. Yet it continues to come up day after day. I read it in forums, on blogs, on websites and in news articles.
Perhaps it is just simple curiosity that causes the question to be asked again. I like to think that the questioner is just repeating what they have heard others say and want to be reassured. Yes, Mormons are Christians.
Resources on the Internet
A Google search of the question brings Jeff Lindsay’s FAQ to the top of the list. Read that and you will find that the question is answered affirmatively in several different ways. He links to a great article in the Ensign by Stephen E. Robinson that addresses the topic in great detail.
Brother Robinson even wrote a book answering the question. Elder Holland addressed this most eloquently in the Oct 2007 General Conference. He makes it so clear that our break with conventional Christianity is over the Nicene creed, which is not Biblical in authority.
Maybe if all the LDS bloggers in the world added a post answering the question, people would get the idea that yes, Mormons are Christians. Perhaps then we could get the message across more clearly than some of the other links that come up in the Google search.
The leaders and the members agree
The leaders of the Church have been declaring this message for as long as I can remember. I have never heard a talk or sat in on a lesson in which it was ever said that we are not Christian. It is only in the last twenty or twenty five years that we have been accused of this falsehood.
Elder Ballard has said that the Church does not have the resources or the personnel to answer this question each and every time it comes up. He extended an invitation to members of the Church to get involved in sharing the gospel on the Internet and using the new media to do so.
Many thousands of regular members of the Church have added their witness of Christ in forums, on their own websites and blogs and in comments on many newspaper articles over the years. I too am just a regular member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My witness of Jesus Christ
On this Easter day, I add my witness that I am a Christian. Yes, Mormons are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. I can’t imagine there wasn’t an LDS chapel today where the talks in Sacrament meeting weren’t about the Savior, his atonement and resurrection.
I raised my voice in song today in worship of Jesus Christ. I spent two years as a missionary in Central America declaring the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bore my witness to thousands that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Redeemer of Mankind.
Just because we don’t accept the non-Biblical Nicene creed does not mean that we do not believe in or worship Jesus Christ. We have so much in common with other Christians. We each want to do good in the world. I think it is only some ministers who are stirring up this controversy.
This one minute video clip from an Apostle of Jesus Christ answers the question succinctly:
And a more recent video from Elder Gary Coleman on Mormon Messages:
Across from the Los Angeles temple is the Seagull Bookstore. I usually don’t stop in because we have been buying most of our LDS books from Deseret Book online. Today, I dropped by to see some of the latest releases firsthand. There’s just something about holding a book in your hand and reading the back cover before deciding to buy. I left with four books – three more than I had intended. I confess, I’m a book collector from way book.
I also wanted to take a look at some of the LDS fiction offerings. I have never in my life bought or read an LDS fiction book other than The Work and the Glory series from Gerald Lund. I know those are fictional but they are historically accurate. I saw the latest book from Stephanie Black, Fool me Twice. I even had it in my hand to buy but just could not justify one more book without checking with the mistress of the checkbook. Sorry, Stephanie. I love your blog.
Books about the Last Days
I wanted some more books on the last days as that has been my personal course of study this year. I have re-read all the Anthony Larson books in the Prophecy Trilogy. I have also been re-reading Prophecy – Key to the Future by Duane Crowther, owner of Horizon Books (now Cedar Fort), as well as The Coming of the Lord by Gerald Lund. The two additional books I purchased on the subject today are not new, but I have wanted to read them for quite some time.
The first is Behold, I Come Quickly – The Last Days and Beyond by Hoyt W. Brewster Jr. It was first published in 1994 by Deseret Book but remains in print, attesting to both general interest in the subject and the treatment by the author. The second book is 50 Signs of the Times and the Second Coming by David J. Ridges, published by Bonneville Books (Cedar Fort) in 2004. Brother Ridges taught for the Church Educational System for thirty-five years.
I picked up the book for a quick perusal when I got home and could not put it down. I did not intend to do so but read the whole thing through in just a few hours. It is that fascinating. As usual for me, there are some interpretations of scripture in the book which which I don’t agree. But the book contains a great overview of fifty signs of the times that is worth reviewing. I highly recommend it. Interest in the last days is increasing as we enter the seventh thousand years.
Chapter four of the book contains a comparison chart of the conditions preceding the Savior’s appearance to the Nephites to the conditions leading to the Second Coming. If you are interested in a more detailed treatise on this subject, I recommend Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans by Anthony E. Larson. He takes the comparisons quite a bit further with an investigation of twelve parallels that are astounding to contemplate.
Here is just one parallel from Anthony’s book worth noting: A time came in the history of the Nephites when they degenerated morally until they were more wicked than their adversaries. Essentially the same thing is happening to Americans today. If you’ll recall from Helaman 4:4 many dissenters and apostates leave personal righteousness and join the ranks of the enemies of righteousness. It was the wickedness of the people that made them weak and vulnerable.
What else do you recall from the Book of Mormon description of the government in the days just before the visit of the Savior? The Gadianton robbers infiltrated and took over the government. They passed laws that made it easier for the people to participate in wickedness. The judges and lawyers that ruled the land in their day were mostly corrupt. I don’t know about you, but I have seen an amazing parallel as the judges of our day interpret laws that allow and encourage evil.
A timeline for the last days
Brother Ridges notes in his book that it is a good idea to avoid making time lines of anticipated events of the last days. The common tendency is to make your own list of things to watch for so you can know when you really need to repent and start living more righteously. So while he presents and discusses fifty signs, he does not present them in any particular order. By the time some of the signs come to pass, it will be too late. Think of the parable of the Ten Virgins.
“The earth is rumbling, and earthquakes are occurring in ‘divers places.’ Human nature being what it is, we don’t normally pay much attention to these natural phenomena until they happen close to where we are living. But when we contemplate what has happened during the past decade, not only with earthquakes but also with regard to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and the like, you would see an accelerating pattern.
“So can we use this scientific data to extrapolate that the Second Coming is likely to occur during the next few years, or the next decade, or the next century? Not really. I am called as one of the apostles to be a special witness of Christ in these exciting, trying times, and I do not know when He is going to come again. As far as I know, none of my brethren in the Council of the Twelve or even in the First Presidency know.” (M Russell Ballard, 12 March 1996, BYU Devotional)
For some reason, I landed on the forums at MormonApologetics.org the other day. Oh, I remember. I got there from FAIR, which I occasionally visit just to see what’s new. There are two major LDS forums which I like to visit: The LDS.net forums, part of the MoreGood Foundation and MormonApologetics. The latter is the more wild and woolly debate board. Be careful if you post there and are expecting to be treated with kid gloves. That won’t happen.
Now there are other discussion boards that are frequented by members and ex-members but I won’t link to them. I don’t know why I even mention them but hey, it’s a fact of life that if you are a member of the Church and you use the Internet then you have probably found them before. They are about as unavoidable as your basic anti-Momon site, of which there are hundreds. A popular one is The Foyer and another is PostMormon. There are many others.
The reason I brought this up is because I wanted to respond to one of the recent threads on MormonApologetics. So why don’t I post my comments there? Well, this is my blog and I write my essays here. That’s why. The entry that prompts today’s essay is from a recent convert who writes that he is struggling with the concept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the only true church. He wonders why we say that. He says that it feels arrogant.
The scriptural source of the doctrine
Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord’s preface to the book. It was given in November of 1831 after 65 previous sections had been received. In verse thirty, the Lord declares that the Prophet Joseph Smith was given “…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 1:30)
Add to that scripture the testimony of Joseph Smith as he recorded what the Savior said to him in the First Vision received in 1820. He asked which church he should join. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.” That’s a fairly harsh condemnation of all other churches, isn’t it? Did the Lord really say that?
I believe he did. I have no reason to doubt the boy Prophet’s recollection and testimony of what happened on that beautiful Spring morning so long ago. True, he was but fourteen years of age when he received the visit. It is also true that this account in Joseph Smith History 1:19 was dictated to a scribe some eighteen years after the fact. We know that the Lord speaks to men according to their understanding and knowledge. Joseph was impressed to use those words.
What the other churches are missing
So in what way are other churches wrong? And don’t we teach that we invite others to join us bringing with them all that is good and right with their beliefs? Of course we do. But in what sense can we claim, and we do, that we are the only true church upon the face of the earth? In priesthood keys, my friends, in priesthood keys. Why this point escapes so many is beyond me. It is such a basic claim and such a fundamental tenant of our religion. How can you miss it?
I hope it doesn’t bother you when someone gets up in testimony meeting and says, “I know this church is true. I know it is the only true church.” What more can you say when you hear that? The person is sharing a witness borne of the spirit that they know for themselves that what Joseph claimed and taught was true. He did indeed receive the keys of the kingdom from John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias and Elijah. This is what makes our church true.
We are not trying to be arrogant. We are not trying to say that we are better than anyone else. We are only saying that if you want to receive the ordinances of salvation from an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, then we offer them to you. If the Savior taught that we need to be baptized by one having his authority, and he did, then I would hope that a true follower of Jesus Christ would want to be sure that an authorized representative performs the ordinance.
Conclusion and why this matters
This is basic doctrine. It is not new. I cannot understand why someone would leave this church, no matter what the reason, when they know that this is true. It doesn’t matter who offends you. It doesn’t matter that the members aren’t perfect. It should not matter that the bishop or the Stake President or the General Authorities are not perfect. It should not matter that we are not perfect. All that matters is that we receive the ordinances and remain true and faithful.
Why is that so hard?
Update: Read what a modern prophet had to say about the subject. President Henry B. Eyring delivered a wonderful discourse on the subject of The True and Living Church at General Conference in April of 2008 just a few weeks after I wrote this essay. Note especially his discussion of keys, and ordinances and sealing power, all fundamental parts of the true church.