Friday, December 01, 2017

Good Fruit of Conversion

It seems we could probably be doing better in our discussions with our Evangelical friends and using the Book of Mormon as our conversational keystone. I think we could represent the message of the Book of Mormon better. 

My friend believes in the “process of sanctification”.  But he says the process will happen automatically even if at different rates in people (10-fold, 50-fold, 100-fold).  The amount of fruit yielded is important but not salvific.  

Not everything an Evangelical says about grace is completely wrong.  But some is.  Most Evangelicals would accept some personal responsibility even if their preacher/doctrine doesn't. Also, some of our miss-understanding comes from our instruction to “say nothing but repentance to this generation”. Evangelicals strongly emphasize “grace” while LDS rightly approach the truth from the side of repentance because of our commandment (D&C6:9). Consequently, and LDS sermon will seemingly sound very distinct to an Evangelical sermon. 

LDS are always preaching “try a little harder to be a little better” (ie personal responsibility).  Evangelicals are always saying, accept Christ in your life and He will bare fruit in your life (not wrong). The evangelical would consider their doctrine of “grace” is more Christ-centered. LDS would say taking personal responsibility and better repentance will allow a greater portion of Christ’s Spirit to be in your life. 

It’s almost a chicken and egg issue. Christ does make the first move and it is not wrong to say, being more Christ-centered in our lives will bear fruit.  In fact, this is good doctrine. We say “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior”

We were teaching about spiritual self-reliance and testimony vs. conversion in our YM lessons this last month. We learned in the lesson and in the Book of Mormon that our sin problems are a conversion problem, and if we are more converted to Christ (more Christ-focused) then we will lose desire for sin.  Evangelicals would hardily agree.  So the answer to better repentance is better Christ-centeredness.  However, we become more Christ-centeted by doing things like reading scriptures, praying, attending church, doing service. 


So, maybe we could build more on common beliefs that the Book of Mormon does teach that focusing on Christ and being more converted to Christ will help us repent of sin, make weaknesses strengths, be better filled with Christ’s love, and be empowered to selflessly do more for others.  I  think I could make a better case that the Book of Mormon (primarily), living prophet, LDS temple help us be more Christ-centered and thus become more converted, and becoming more converted to Christ helps us be better.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Good Soil

I was having a gospel conversation with a very good Evangelical/Calvinist Christian friend.   I told him that I was listening to some lectures from Ravi Zacharias recently which I really liked about obedience, sacredness, thankfulness, and happiness. I told my friend that Ravi had been invited to speak in Salt Lake City at the Mormon Tabernacle and had spoken about the “sufficiency of Christ’s atonement”.   My friend agreed with Ravi that he thought the LDS Church was astray because we had added to the “finished work of Christ” with our Book of Mormon and temple. (he believed the restored temple in Isa 2:2, Ezek 37:26-28, Mal. 3:1 was figuratively referring to the heart of man)

I had also been challenged in Stake Priesthood meeting to share something from the Book of Mormon that teaches the doctrine of Christ.  I shared Moroni 10:32 because it discused the “sufficiency” of Christ’s atonement. 

Moroni 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

I have invited this friend to read the Book of Mormon in the past but he has said that when he tried, “it didn’t speak to him”. When I read the verse above, he immediately didn’t like the responsibility the verse placed on the individual.  He didn’t like the conditions placed upon Christ’s atonement.  He think’s trying is important, but once you accept Christ, Christ’s spirit will bare fruit in us regardless. 

He thought LDS doctrine and temple was controlling and manipulative through guilt and fear. He thought the LDS Church was apostate and fooled people into following false prophets by using fear and guilt, and then adding things to the gospel to satisfy the fear and guilt it creates in its membership.  He, on the other hand, believed that the gospel of Christ was inclusive, hopeful, and loving providing  unconditional assurances.  The pure gospel of Christ didn’t need to add anything because the Christ’s atonement has taken away all guilt and fear.  According to him, there are no conditions to repentance.

My friend said that we still may and will make mistakes, but sort of misquoted Phillipians 1:6 saying Christ promised to “finish the work he had started in us and see it to its completion”.  Christ will finish what He started and once we have accepted Christ into our lives, He will bare fruit through us. There is no reason to worry.

Phil 1:6 that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Yikes! I wasn’t expecting that reponse. I was initially a bit exasperated, because, I was hoping the Spirit would testify of the simple truths taught in God’s word. But, I said a silent prayer and sought to know what God would have me say and know how to respond.

In addition to discussing Gal 1:6 and Rev 2:4, we see Paul and John find Saints who were not bearing fruit had departed from the true doctrine of Christ, I reminded my friend that people can also be controlled and manipulated by telling them “smooth sayings” because of our “itching ears”. 

Phil 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

I then focused the discussion on the Parable of the sower.  According to Christ’s parable, some seed falls on stony ground, some springs up but is scorched by the heat, or choked by thorns and weeds.  In each case, the seed is good and would have sprung up and yielded fruit, but we are responsible for the condition of our soil. 

I them shared what the Book of Mormon teaches about the allegory of the seed in Alma 32 and our personal reaponsibility to prepare the soil and continually nourish the seed of faith as it grows up and takes root.

Alma 32:38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

I told my friend that God knew we would be talking about the “sufficiency” of the atonement and about Christ’s atonement “bearing fruit” within us, and that is why these  clarifications are contained in the Book of Mormon. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sacredness is Thankfulness

I was listening recently to several lectures and Q&A's by evangelical theologian Ravi Zacharias (modern CS Lewis).  He was explaining about why we boundaries in life and why unrestrained hedonism can never produce happiness.   We know from the Book of Mormon that "wickedness never was happiness".

Ravi was saying that sacredness is necessary for happiness.  And, I realized that as sacredness is demonstrated by our reverence, respect, and restraint; sacredness ultimately demonstates our thankfulness.  And without thankfulness, we cannot be happy. Consumption doesn't yield happiness.  Thankfulness, I believe, is the main source of happiness.   

One critical aspect to thankfulness, respect, reverence, and sacredness is by setting boundaries and showing restraint. Adam and Eve were first given custody over the Garden of Eden which they were commanded to "dress" and "keep".  Keeping and caring for the garden as well as their bodies, and each other demonstrated their reverence and thankfulness for these sacred gifts and ultimately producing their happiness. 

Our worship and relationship with God is sacred which we show gratitude for by never doing evil in the name of God, (Carrying God's name in vain), or looking for safety and happiness in other things.  Our time is sacred and we show thankfulness by observing the Sabbath Day. Life is sacred and we demonstate gratitude by reverencing all life. Our bodies are sacred and created in the image of God, and we show our thankfulness by caring for our bodies, never disfiguring them, and loving all mankind as a brother and sister.  Our possessions are sacred which we respect by resisting the temptation to covet or steel.  The truth is sacred which we reverence by never baring false witness.  And our families are sacred which we show thankfulness by honoring our parents, the honor and reputation of our family and ancestry.

Like love, gratitude is a verb.  If we want to feel thankful and be thankful, we need to do thankful.   One way we remember God and express thankfulness in any particular thing is by exercising restraint and keeping Gods commandments. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mormonism and the Sufficiency of Christ's Atonement

Dr. Ravi Zacharias,

Thank you for your devotion to teaching about the Savior Jesus Christ.  My name is Dr. David Brosnahan.  I grew up in Salt Lake, married a girl from Atlanta, and am living in Augusta, GA. I am Mormon, but have alway enjoyed your insights into Christianity and the reason behind faith.

I am an average Mormon, and please let me assure you, that for me, there is nothing "uncomfortable" about LDS doctrine. I was interested in your comments about the sufficiency of Christ's atonement and Mormonism not being Christian because we had "deviated... from the finished work of Christ".   

Yes, the Atonement was complete in John 19:13 when Christ declared "it is finished".  But even though the work of the atonement was complete, Christ's overall work concerning the salvation of man is not complete. 

Christ still hadn't yet gone and taught the spirits in prison, hadn't yet resurrected, and hadn't yet ascended to the Father. Jesus Christ would appear to and call Paul as an Apostles. He appeared to Stephen and then to John. The Bible then prophesies that Christ will restore Israel, restore His temple, and sanctify the Earth and His people upon it, finally to be our advocate with the Father and present us perfect, in Him, before His Father. 

So, yes the atonement was finished, but Christ's overall work, His grace, His mercy, His labors to bring mankind to partake of His atonement is not finished.  Christ is alive, and He is still anxiously and actively engaged in the salvation of man. 

The Book of Mormon teaches "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2Ne 25:23). In the context of Law of Moses-observing Jews looking ahead to salvation in Christ, this is not saying we contribute one iota to our salvation without Christ.  Christ gave the Law, and "All we can do" is "make use of the means the Lord has provided" (Alma 60:21). Whatever grace Christ gives, we are expected to receive and "make use" of it. That is "all we can do". 

And so it is with the Mormon Church.  Christ continues His work, continues to reveal His will, His word, call Prophets and Apostles, establish and restore His temple and temple covenants.  These are given by Jesus Christ, and do not add or subtract from the "finished work"  of Christ's atonement, but serve to bring us to Christ to fully partake of His atonement. partaking of Christ's "finished work" begins with the confession of faith, but proceeds to baptism, the Lord's Supper, and then to receive His priesthood and to becoming more sanctified in His Holy Temple.  The temple, these embassies of heaven, will be the mechanism by which Christ's millennial Kingdom will, one day, fill the whole Earth . 

Again, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Jesus Christ, various understood and a very few not-well-understood teachings and temple do not add to Christ's atonement but are manifestations of Christ's continued infininte and ongoing mercy and love and labors to make us partakers of the Heavenly Gift. 

Joseph Smith, the great prophet of our dispensation, wrote by heaven's inspiration:  

"the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

Christ is alive, His work, mercy, miracles have not ceased but continue forever. 

Best Regards,

David D Brosnahan MD

As an aside, I think it's pretty amazing that Moroni saw the issue that Dr. Zacharias raises 1800 years ago and addresses it in the very last verses of the Book of Mormon:

Moroni 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alpha and Omega

Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Jesus Christ declared that He is the first and the last, alpha and omega.   Alpha and omega are Greek letters, but Christ spoke and taught in Aramaic and Hebrew.  In Hebrew the first letter in the alphabet is the "aleph" and the last is "tav".  So, it's more likely that Christ would have said He is "the aleph and the tav."  

One significant meaning of this is that the earliest paleohebrew character for aleph is the ox head and the earliest paleohebrew character for tav is the cross.  Therefore in saying that Christ is the aleph and the tav, Christ was prophesying that He was the ox slain on the cross.

The word את [et] is the most frequent word in Hebrew . It constitutes over 2%  of the words in any text – making it more than twice as frequent as the next word.  את [et] is a structural word that comes before a definite object. It has no equivalent in the English language.  I find it fascinating, that the most common Hebrew word may point to the promised Messiah. 

את [et] also means "with" like in the verse, "And Lot also, which went with Abram" (Gen 13:5).  However, עם [im] is an alternative word for "with."  When God tells Balaam to go with the King of Moab, He says, "arise and go with them" (Num 22:20) – using the word את. But when Balaam actually goes, the verse uses  עם [im] and not  את [et]. Verse 22 then says that "God’s anger was kindled because he went".  This suggests going with  את [et] includes going with the Lord, while עם [im] may not.את-et-the-most-common-word-in-the-hebrew-language/amp/