Thursday, November 30, 2006

Faith and Food Storage

I usally get 1 or 3 responses when people find out that I have a simple food storage in my closet. #1 I'm crazy or a fanatic #2 If something happens that bad then its the Lord's will. #3 If I believe in God, then I should believe in the Rapture and storing food is not showing faith in God's promises.

#1 is an ad hominem logical falacy, and incidently it was the major argument against Noah. Don't worry, I don't feel like Noah. But we shouldnt miss the parallel between Noah's day and our day. We should be both temporally and spiritually prepared for anything.

#2 The Bible says, "Why call ye me Lord Lord, and do not what I say" That is, God has given us a brain and 2 hands. He expects us to do our part. As the addage goes "Act like everthing depends on us, and pray like everything depends on God." This principle also applies to grace and works.

When Joseph was sold into Egypt he was able to convince the Pharoah to store wheat during the years of plenty in preparation for the years of famine. Though this preparation, Joseph was able to save his family from starvation during the famine. I think there is an important lesson here. The themes in the Bible are important because they repeat themselves over and over again in both a temporal (physical/literal) way as well as in a spiritual (personal) way. In this way, all Bible stories have both literal and figurative meaning and literal and spiritual fulfillment.

#3 Rapture. I was surprised the first time I heard this response. The Bible talks about an event where the good people are lifted up to meet Christ in the air at his second coming. However, this event is clearly placed at the end of a period of trouble called "the tribulation" and not before it (other evangelicals agree). So, I do not believe that preparing for emergencies that have happened, and will happen again, is somehow not showing faith in God's promises. Especially because Latter-day Saints know we have been commanded to keep a year supply by a prophet of God.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sacrificing a Plasma TV without Blemish?

My wife taught the 15-year-old's today duing Sunday School. The Lesson was on Ezekial 45-48. Those verses speak about the temple and make allusions to animal sacrifice. To make the concept of aminal sacrifice more real for the youth, she had them list all of the valuables in which they owned. She asked the kids how many TV's their families owned, how many x-box games, how many CD's or DVD's, and how much cash they think they had in the bank. Then she had them imagine if instead of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, God required us to sacrifice our valuables like in the Old Testament Days. Cattle were very valuable to people of the day and a sign of power and prestige. The kids went into shock just thinking about heaving armfulls of cash into a fire, or smashing their plasma TV on the alter of the temple.

The story of the conversion of Limhi's father teaches what God really wants of us---our sins. Limhi said he was willing to give up his whole kingdom to know God, but Aaron taught that what was required was that he simply give up his sins: "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee" (Alma 22: 18).

One of the students astutely commented how the practice of paying indulgences for forgiveness of sin runs contrary to the teachings of the Bible. As you know, an indulgence is a payment to the church for forgiveness of past sins. There are also many recorded instances of payments being made for forgiveness of sin not yet committed. The true Church of Jesus Christ has never authorized of condoned the payment of money or goods for forgiveness of sin.

The Bible clearly teaches that obedience to God's law and righteousness is much more important than anything we could sacrifice to God. In the Old Testament, Saul was commanded in in the Bible by the Lord to destroy the Amalekite city and to "spare not." Saul was disobiedent and kept the best lifestock as spoil and to sacrifice to God. Samuel was commanded to correct Saul for his error: "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15: 22).

Isaiah also teaches the importance of repentance, obedience and righteousness over temporal sacrifice and religious ritual observance alone. The Lord says to us via Isaiah, "what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land" (Isa. 1: 11).

Ofcourse, Christ himself succinctly taught this principle by saying simply, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14: 15).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lost & Found: Israel's 10 Tribes

The Bible teaches that the Church of Christ was organized with Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists (Eph. 4: 11). Joseph Smith taught that Evangelists in the New Testament were the same as what are called Patriarchs in the LDS Church. In the Old Testament we read about Jacob giving his sons special blessings which contained words of comfort, warning, blessing as well as prophecy about thier purpose in life (Gen. 49: 1). Lehi, in the Book of Mormon, gives similar blessings to his sons before his death (2 Ne. 1-4).

I think everyone has an innate desire to know what purpose God has for them. A patriarchal blessing is the Lord's way to communicate to his children his love and that purpose. LDS members meed with their Bishops and if found worthy set a date with a patriarch who is set appart and ordained with the authority to give these special blessings. The Patriarch and members prepare for the blessing through personal prayer, scripture study, and fasting.

President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church taught: “It is [a stake patriarch’s] business and right to bestow blessings upon the people, to make promises unto them in the name of the Lord, … by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to comfort them in the hours of sorrow and trouble, to strengthen their faith by the promises that shall be made to them through the Spirit of God” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 181).

An important aspect of the patiarchal blessing is the inspired declaration of lineage of the recipient. The Patriarch will tell the recipient to which tribe of Isreal he/she belongs. It is not yet certain the full significance of the declaration of lineage except that the Bible states that certain lineage have been given specific callings and duties to perform in this life and in the last days.

You will remember that Jacob had 12 sons, which constitute the 12 tribes of Isreal. The Bible says that when the Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, the 10 tribes were subsequently scattered in the "lands of the north" (D&C 133: 26)(D&C 110: 11). The Bible says that in the last days the Lord would proceed to perform a "marvelous work and a wonder" to restore Isreal and the lost 10 tribes. Judah, or the jews, makes up only one tribe of the house of Isreal. Ephraim is generally associated with the Gentile nations of Europe and America.

There have been, over the years, dozens of wild theories about the whereabouts of the 10 tribes of Isreal. Now, there is no longer any need for speculation because the lost 10 tribes are are no longer lost. The Bible teaches that the God will “sprinkle many nations” with the Blood of Abraham (Isa. 52: 15). However, because of the LDS patriarchal blessing, you will find LDS members of the church with all 10 tribes lineage in Armenia, Siberia, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia. A scholarly article which discusses this topic can found at FAIR LDS website or at

Another article by David Stewart MD addresses the significance of new DNA research of native americans and the Book of Mormon also discusses modern LDS patriarchal blessings. This article is available at FARMS and FAIRLDS websites. An excerpt reads:

“I had confirmed from missionaries and members that modern patriarchal blessings have identified members of all the tribes of Israel in Mongolia—a greater number than I am aware ofbeing found in any other country to date. These blessings were givenindependently by Latter-day Saint patriarchs in stakes throughout the world where ethnic Mongolian missionaries served, as Mongolia had no stakes or patriarchs at the time. More recently, a similar phenomenon has been reported from Siberia. A recently returned missionary from the Russia Novosibirsk Mission wrote: “While there, I had the unique opportunity to be present for the coming of twoAmerican patriarchs who delivered the first-ever patriarchal blessings to Siberian Saints on two separate occasions. What turned up was a staggering number of representatives from every single tribe in the relatively few blessings given.”

While serving an LDS mission in Milwaukee WI, we had a large population of ethnic Hmong Americans. These people are ethnic minorities who live in the mountains of northern Loas, Thailand, and Vietnam. They were US allies during the Vietnam war and were left to suffer the wrath of the VietKong after we pulled out of the war. Years later, many have imigrated to the US under refugee protection programs. The Hmong now live in certain designated refugee cities in California, North Carolina, and the Midwest. There are many Hmong in France because of Vietnam's history as a French colony.

The Hmong have a peculiar history. They are very caucasion for asians. Every so often a Hmong child will be born with blonde hair and blue eyes. In their oral history and recorded in cross-stitch tapestry are stories which parallel with the Bible stories of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. They also say that their people originated from the "north." After leaving the north, presumably Mongolia and Siberia, they lived for centuries among the Chinese. Then a great persecution began, their records were burned, and they were forced to flee into the mountains of Southeast Asia where they can be found today. I was a spanish missionary in Wisconsin, but the Hmong missionaries in my District told me that Hmong have lost 10 tribe lineage declared in their patiarchal blessings.

Read this great article at NOVA online about the 10 tribes of Isreal. Of particular interest are the many quotes from Spanish explorers that were convinced the Native Americans were of Isrealite lineage.

Parallels in Japanese Culture:
Parallels in Chinese Language:
Hmong in America:
Tarim mummies:

Although, the 10 tribes are no longer lost. Many still remain unrestored to a knowlege of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a covenant relationship with God. Members and missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ are sharing in the work to restore the dispersed of Israel and bring them home to Zion.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Is the Canon Closed?

Rev. 22: 18-19 reads, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

Mainstream Christianity generally interprets these verses of scripture to mean the Bible is complete and the Canon is sealed. That God no more will give unto man any more of his word, that all is contained in the Bible as it is presently constituted. Despite the seeming consensus on this issue, this interpretation is not consistent with what John the Revelator says in these verses.

The Apostle John warns anyone who, "shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy." Isn't the Bible many books which contain many prophesies. Yet, John warns us to not add or subtract from this book (singular) and this prophecy (singular). I think those that interpret this verse to apply to the entirety of the Bible are in danger of adding to John's prophecy what was not intended.

I agree that no one should change the doctrine of Christ. In fact, God uses similar language in several other placed in the Bible. Deut. 4: 2 says, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." And, Deut. 12: 32 reads, "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." So, does that mean the Bible was complete after Deuteronomy?

So, if the Mormons are guity of adding to the Bible with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the Ordinances of the Temple. etc; are we suffering the plagues which John promises. On the contrary, science and the media seems to come out with article after article extolling our health and family values. Because of our belief in direct revelation, Mormons have been generally saved from the plagues of poverty, smoking, drugs, drinking, gang violence, divorce, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, etc. The Bible says that in the Last Days false prophets should arise, but that "by their fruit ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 15). Mormons enjoy the excellent fruit of true gospel living.

The Bible actually prophesies of the Book of Mormon. Ezek. 37: 16 talks about the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph being joined together in the Last Days when the House of Isreal is restored. Books were referred to as sticks because they were scrolls rolled up upon sticks. The stick of Judah is the Bible. The stick of Joseph is the Book of Mormon. In the Last Days the scripture from Judah and Joseph will come together and be "one in [thine] hand." It is very possible that the writings of the other Lost Tribes of Isreal will also be discovered. When the 10 tribes are identified and gathered, won't it be wonderful to have the Word of God which they may have received.

Isa. 29: 11 reads, "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:" When Joseph Smith and Martin Harris begun the work of translation of the Gold Plates, Martin Harris tells of his visit to New York which was a surprising fullfillment of Isaiah's prophecy:

“I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. . . .He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him. He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”

Jesus Christ taught that his church would be established upon the foundation of continuing revelation by Apostles and Prophets (1 Cor. 12: 28-29)(Eph. 2: 20)(Eph. 4: 11). Matt. 16: 13-19 Christ asks his disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Here Christ asks a doctrinal question. I suppose he could have asked a question about any other point of doctrine such as baptism or prayer and recieved similar discordant responses. However, Peter knew the truth of Christ's identity through direct revelation by way of the Holy Ghost. It is upon direct revelation that Christ said he would build his chruch. The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only chruch which is led by a living prophet and direct revelation.

The heavens are not sealed, God does not sleep neither doth he slumber, and he has not gone away into a far country. Jesus Christ lives and is still leading his Church on the Earth until his second coming when as Isaiah says, "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion" (Isa. 52: 8).

Why Do Mormons Preach To Other Christians?

Many wonder why Mormons would waste their time trying to convert other Christians who feel that they are already "saved." When the boy Joseph Smith prayed to know which of all the churches was true, he beheld a heavenly vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. During that first visitation, Jesus Christ told Joseph Smith to join none of the churches, "for they were all wrong; and . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (JS-H 1: 19)(Isa. 29: 13)(Matt. 15: 8)(Mark 7: 6).

Later after Joseph Smith was commanded to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ stated in the Doctrine and Convenants that the LDS Church "is the 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). When Christ was on the Earth he established a church with Apostles and Prophets (Eph. 4: 11)(Luke 11: 49)(Eph. 2: 20)(Eph. 3: 5). That church fell into Apostasy and the world into a spiritual and temporal Dark Age. But now God has re-established (Acts 3: 19-21) his true church on the Earth and invites everyone to "Come and See" (John 1: 39, 46).

It may seem arrogant to believe we are right while everyone else is wrong. It reminds me of how Joseph's brothers felt when Jacob showed the younger Joseph favor by giving him the coat of many colors. I'm sure it seemed downright conceited for Jeseph to tell his brother of his dream which foretold of his elder brothers bowing in reverence to him. For that, Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt for 20 pieces of silver. But according to the foreknowledge of God, Joseph was able to save his family from starvation during the famine. The events of Joseph and his brothers are a prophetic type and shadow whch is being fulfilled in the Last Days. The world has gone through a great spiritual famine(Amos 8: 11) and can come to a Latter-day Joseph to learn of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This Latter-day Joseph is Joseph Smith.

The LDS church does not believe all non-Mormons are doomed to Hell. Actually we believe most people are going to heaven. We believe that there is much good and true in most faiths and in most people. Most christian faiths teach that heaven will be a place of glory and freedom from pain and sin. Also, that believers will be servants of Jesus Christ forever. And those churches will deliever on that promise. However, the Bible teaches that there is more. Paul saw the "third heaven" or "Celestial Kingdom" (2 Cor. 12: 2)(1 Cor. 15: 40). Through the grace of Christ, some will merit ressurection to the highest degree of heaven which is compared to the glory of the sun. In the Celestial Kingdom, family relationships will last forever and the faithful will not only recieve salvation but also exaltation (Rom. 8: 17)(Matt. 23: 12).

So, as members of Christ's true church we invite all to come unto Christ, especially other Christians, that they may "come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved" (1 Ne. 15: 14). We invite all to bring everything good with you and "see if we cannot add to it" (Pres Hinkley). I yern to share the fullness of Christ's gospel with my Christian friends because I feel they are missing out on the blessings Christ is waiting to give them.

Here is a brief list of blessings I feel other Christians are missing out on:
1. The Gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift offers the constant companionship of who Jesus refers to as "the Comforter" (John 15: 26).
2. The Melchesidek Priesthood. The power and authority to act in God's name and enter into the Abrahamic Covenant (Heb. 5: 10).
3. Apostles and Prophets. The LDS church is led by direct revelation through living Apostles and Prophets (Matt. 16: 18)(Eph. 4: 11)(Luke 11: 49)(Eph. 2: 20)(Eph. 3: 5).
4. Additional Scripture. The bible fortells of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the "Stick of Joseph" that will be joined with the "Stick of Judah" and "shall be one in [thine] hand" (Ezek. 37: 16, 19) (Isa. 29: 11).
5. The Temple. The Bible clearly foretells the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of the temple ordinances in the Last Days (Isa. 2: 2-3)(Micah 4: 1-2).
6. The Word of Wisdom. A latter-day law of health that protects the Saints from unhealthful substances such as tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee.
7. Law of Chastity. Modern prophets have counseled us to be modest in dress and grooming, to not date until 16, to not "go steady" until college, to shun pornography, and to practice abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after marriage (Matt. 5: 28).
8. Eternal Families. Knowing family relationships can endure beyond the grave makes seemingly "irreconcilable differences" much more reconcilable (1 Cor. 11: 11).
9. Answers to the Great Questions of the Soul: Where was I before I was born? Who am I? What is my purpose in this life? What happens after I die?
10. A Community of Caring. Christ church is organized such that members care for one another so that there is "no poor among us." Many wounderful hours are devoted by LDS members visiting each other, making dinner for a new mother, throwing a baby shower, arranging play dates, or babysitting exchanges (James 1: 27)(Deut. 15:7)(Heb. 12: 12)(Matt. 25: 40)(John 13: 34-35).
11. Perfect Church Organization. There is no professional clergy. A newly baptized member could be called as a bishop. Every member can be a missionary. There is no competition between congregations. All congregations are geographically designated and equal with respect to temporal and spiritual blessings.
12. Preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Joseph helped Egypt prepare for the years of famine. The Church of Jesus Christ has helped me prepare temporally and spiritually for the day of tribulation leading up to the Millennilal reign of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Search for Happiness features a great article on Happiness in its Health section. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey:
Married people are happier than singles.
College grads are happier than those without a college degree.
People who were religious are happier than those who aren't.
Sunbelt residents are happier than other U.S. residents.
Republicans are happier than Democrats.

I just happen to be married, college grad, religious, conservative, and living in Georgia. According to the survey I must be one of the happiest men in the US. My life is far from perfect, but I am grateful to my convert-LDS parents and the teachings of the LDS church which has helped me live "after the manner of happiness" (2 Ne. 5: 27).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Can Good Mormons be Democrats?

It may seem that to be a good US Mormon you have to be a Republican. Fact is, the LDS church does not support any political party or candidates. The reason most LDS members tend to vote republican is because of the church's stand on traditional family values. Personally, moral issues regarding marriage and abortion take precident over economic and foreign policy. That said, I consider myself Independent or Conservative rather than Republican. Despite the Democratic Party platform, some of the most faithful and stalwart members of the LDS faith consider themselves Democrat (i.e. Senator Harry Reid D-Nevada). If the LDS church were to endorse one political party, the other party would loose an important moderating influence.

It's rather ironic that the US is battling religious extremism overseas while a fierce political battle involving political extremism is being waged at home. Both the far-left(secular progressives) and far-right (neo-cons) are radicalizing and divisive forces within their respective parties. I think it's important that there is a strong moderate LDS voice within both parties.

Creating God in Our Image

I had an LDS friend in collegewho was into wrestling. He used to say that he looked forward to seeing Jesus because he imagined them engaging in the ultimate celestial wrestling match. Sometimes I feel we are guilty of creating God and the place where God lives in our own image instead of changing ourselves and the places where we live to be in God’s image.

(we are created in God's image Ether 3: 15, D&C 1: 16, Gen. 1: 27)
(some imagine God in their image Morm. 9: 10, 15, Jer. 13: 10, Rom. 1: 21, Moses 8: 22).

There will be a time when we all stand before God. He will yern for us to enter into his kingdom. But for some, we will realize that we don’t really like the music God listens too, we considered all the people in Heaven boring, and we were never at all interested in what God does on a daily basis. So, we will rejoice in going to some other place of glory where we like the music, and there are people who are more like us (2 Ne. 13: 9, Alma 5: 18).

God has pleaded with us to pray for the love of Christ with all the energy of heart so that when the hour of our visitaion is come, "our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God" (D&C 121: 45, 1 Jn. 3: 2, Moro. 7: 48, D&C 130: 1, 2 Tim. 4: 8, Ether 12: 28, 35-36, Acts 2: 28).

List of scriptures speaking about what to do develop the Countenance of Christ.
D&C 88: 52-53, 56, 58 missionary work
Dan. 1: 13, 15 obey the temporal and spiritual word of wisdom
3 Ne. 19: 25 pray
Alma 5: 14, 19 recieve the Holy Ghost
D&C 59: 15 show gratitude
Ps. 10: 4 think of God in all our thoughts
Ps. 11: 7 live righteously
Prov. 15: 13 be cheerful
Eccl. 7: 3 show sympathy

Friday, November 10, 2006

Prejudice and Priesthood

A friend at work is invstigating the LDS Church. He is African American and asked about early church policy regarding denying priesthood to African Americans. We had a good discussion on the issue and I wanted to post some of the points of our discussion as well as some commentary.

It seems that jealousy and prejudice have been associated with the priesthood since the beginning. Genesis records that Abel's sacrifice was accepted by the Lord while Cain's was not. Instead of accepting the judgements of God, the Bible says that Cain's countenance fell. Then, because of jealousy, Cain murdered his brother Abel. As priestood is traced throughout the Bible from Noah to Shem; then from Melchesidek to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the theme of jealousy is repeated again and again. The Bible recounts the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. Many current conflicts can be traced back to similar ancient quarrels. In fact, Isaiah forsaw the conflict between the Jews (Judah) and the Samaritans (Ephraim) and prophecied in the last days, "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (Isa. 11: 13).

The theme of jealousy is central to the story of the Book of Mormon. After the arrival of Lehi's family in the Americas, the elder brothers Laman and Lemuel attempted to murder Nephi who they saw as a threat to their "right to the government." Many years later wars were waged between the Nephites and Lamanites under the pretense that Nephi "did wrong their brethren, insomuch that [he] did rob them of their right to the government when it rightly belonged unto them" (Alma 54: 17, 24).

It stands to reason that if the LDS church were Christ's church, that it would be above prejudice and jealousy. However, the Bible and Book of Mormon clearly show God reserving his authority for some and denying it to others. Is the LDS church prejudice? That all depends on if the church is lead by a prophet who receives direct revelation from God who has a perfect "foreknowledge of all things" (Alma 13: 3,7-9).

1. The official church stance on why God denied priesthood authority and temple blessings to African Americans until 1978 is---We don't know why, except that God commanded it by revelation through a living prophet.

(Moses 5: 6) And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

(Isa. 55: 9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

2. The LDS church condemned slavery and segregation. Because of its policy on slavery, among other issues, the LDS church was percecuted and mobbed. The Book of Mormon as well as the Bible teaches that "God is no respector of persons" (2 Chr. 19: 7)(Acts 10: 34)(Rom. 2: 11).

(2 Ne. 26: 33) For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

3. The Bible gives many examples of priesthood authority being given to some and not others.

(Ex. 29: 4-44) And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. . . Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. . . and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. . . I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office.

(Matt. 15: 27) And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, . . . But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. . . It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

(John 15: 16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.

(1 Cor. 14: 34-35) Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to [preside]; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

4. Because Christ's church is lead by a prophet, Peter receives a revelation that the gospel can finally be taught to the Gentiles. This foreshadows the events in the latter-days that, after a period of time, the Lord's prophet would once again receive a revelation that the priesthood and temple blessings would be made available to all worthy males.

(Acts 10: 28) And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

5. Through latter-day temple work, performed on behalf of the deceased by vicarious proxy, all spiritual blessings are made availible to every son and daugter of Adam irrespective to race, color, or ethnicity.

(1 Cor. 15: 29) Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

6. The revelation received by President Spencer W. Kimball in 1978 was not driven by pressure from the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 60's. The revelation came over 10 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If LDS policy were based on prejudice and bigotry, then I think it more likely that the church would have reversed its policy years earlier.

7. Despite the chuch's history, African American's are joining the LDS church in record numbers. Before the revelation in 1978, there were independent, congregations of believers in Nigeria and Ghana. During the 60's-70's the requests from Africa for information on the LDS church exceeded the rest of the world combined ( Everyone who joins the church learns that God has called living prophets today and that God has given us additional scripture in the Book of Mormon. I invite anyone with concerns regarding blacks and the priesthood to talk to an African American Latter-day Saint. They, like me, have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon and have been told by God by way of the Holy Spirit that it is the word of God.

9. Had the Mormon faith began baptizing and ordaining African Americans clergy in 1830, the church would have insighted even more persecution than it already did. As it was, in a country established on the ideals of freedom of religion, with the mardyrdom of Joseph Smith and the mobbings of the LDS church members from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, and then to Utah; the chruch narrowly escaped intact. However, I do not consider this point as important as the following.

8. Athough, the revelations on the priestood themselves were not inspired by bigotry and racism. I believe they were given for exactly that purpose. Let me explain. I heard a story of an early LDS missionary Matthew Cowley who served among the Maori people in New Zealand. The Mormon Church had amazing success with the Maori as well as other Polynesian peoples. Later, as missionaries attempted to share the LDS faith with the more affluent European settlers, they would say, "we are so grateful for the work you do with the Maori, but we are not at all interested in learning about their church." The Europeans identified the church with the Maori, and their prejudice against them prevented them from any consideration of the Mormon message.

How does that apply to the Bible and to the early LDS church? In Christ's day, there were no more prejudice, racist, and bigoted people than the Jews (generally speaking). Partly due to their captivity and state of apostasy, the Jewish culture dispised the Samaritians, they scorned the Gentiles, and held disdain for all other heathen cultures. In the 1830's my european ancestors were equally prideful. I don't necessarily condemn them. Racism and bigotry is transmitted from generation to generation like a plague. I believe that had the Mormon faith been first preached to the humble African-, Native-, and Hispanic- Americans that they would have immediately embrassed it, and my ancestors, like the Europeans in New Zealand, would have never considered it.

So, yes we were and still are prejudice in some ways, but according to the perfect foreknowledge of God, he has provided a way for the Gentiles to repent of our pride, come unto Christ, and be saved. And now all are invited to come unto him, "And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last" (1 Ne. 13: 42)(Mark 10: 31)(Luke 13: 30)(read Parable of the Laborers: Matt. 20).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

US Imperialism or US Materialism

Under an earlier post entitled "Win Hearts Not War," an interesting point arose. Will, supposed, US imperialism lead to clamities foretold in the Bible?

Jesus Christ warns the Gentiles in 3 Nephi 16:10: "And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them."

Many who oppose current US foreign policy see our active involvement overseas, to oppose oppressive tyrrany and support representative democracy, as prideful and hypocritical. Many in this country and around the world question US motives. The US claims altruistic motives. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." On the other hand, the US has considerable conflict of interest. The US is guilty, on occasion, of making self-interested decisions at the expense of those we say we are trying to help. Many view US actions as an evil attempt to wrongfully impose our values and policy on other nations.

First off, at the heart of this debate is the "American Question." That is, was the US Constitution an inspired document? Is representative democracy superior to other current forms of government. If the answer is yes. Then we are duty bound to share it with our neighbors (D&C 88: 81, D&C 38: 41).

Avraham Gileadi makes an important interpretation of Isa. 2: 2-3 that answers the "American Question." Isaiah says, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." Gileadi points out that the first "mountain" can also mean "nation" and "top" can also mean "head."

Therefore, this passage could also read, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the [nation] of the LORD’s house shall be established [as the head of the nations], and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the [nation] of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Using this interpretation, this passage of Isaiah can be interpreted to refer to both spiritual and secular law and government.

The Bible teaches that the Lord's Second Coming will not come until the gospel is taken to every corner of the Earth. This prophecy likely applies to secular government as well. Freedom of religion is necessary for effective missionary work. And representative democracy has been generally proven to support religious rights over other systems of government.

That said, critics of current US policy do not oppose sharing the ideas of representative democracy with other nations. They more often oppose the manner in which the US goes about it. The Book of Mormon gives us many insights in how this should be approached. The Book of Mormon discourages war except for defense of family and freedom. The irony is that for a book that discourages war large sections of the Book of Mormon are concerned with it.

Alma 31: 5 teaches that diplomcy is much more effective than war. It reads "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them."

The Book of Mormon also warns of the concequences of long years of war. Morm. 4: 11 "And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually."

That said, the Book of Mormon gives an interesting concept about why diplomacy fails to work. Alma's son Corianton was guilty of sexual immorality while engaged in missionary work with his father. Alma chastises his son for the scandal he created by saying in Alma 39: 11, "Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing; suffer not the devil to lead away your heart again after those wicked harlots. Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words." With the many sexual scandals in US politics, our degrading family values, and pornographic pop. culture and pop. media; the US has lost much of it's moral authority.

I think Western Democracies can strenghthen their influence by being better examples in addition to providing aide and relief to victims of disaster, war, and disease. To do that, we must also "cleans the inner vessel," and repent of our materialism and immorality. Many claim that US policy inspires hatred around the world. However, the Proclamation to the World on the Family says, "the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

I think our materialism and sexual immorality generates much more suspicion against us. In front of the camera our advisaries blame US policy but behind closed doors they call us "the great satan" because of our materialism and immorality. Our advasaries are smart to confuse the issues. If they were honest about their objections we would be more motivated to resolve them. Consequently, a minority of evil people feel justified in killing other evil people (infidels). And, the majority of good, freedom loving, opportunity seeking people stand idlely by feeling that the victims of terrorism are due to the judgements of God on a wicked nation.

God promises us that he will protect us and fight our battles for us if we put our trust in him and repent as individuals and as a nation. Through repentance we can both strengthen our moral authority and merit the grace of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wife's Bible Study

I am a 2nd-year resident and my wife of 7 years is a member of a resident spouses' club. Several members of the group are Christian and decided to form a Bible study group. My wife was excited to attend. She considers the Bible study a great way to unobtrusively share her faith with some of her friends.

The Bible study has a focus on strengthening marriages. They are using a small text "Building a marriage that really works," by Kay Arthur, David and BJ Lawson. The book comments on scriptures that relate to marriage and family. The introduction encourages readers to "discover how to establish and maintain the kind of marriage God intended you to have---one that will last "until death do us part.""

Lesson 1 focuses on Gen2:18 and points out, with reference to Eve, that "helper" does not mean slave, or doormat but rather a "divine enabler" equal and complimentary to Adam.

After the fall, Adam and Eve were commanded to subdue the Earth. In the garden they didn't have to work for their temporal welfare, the trees and plants blossomed spontaneously. Now Adam was commanded that"by the sweat of they face shalt thou eat thy bread all the days of thy life." After learning to provide for their temporal support, then Adam and Eve could then refocus on higher spiritual matters. This is the Bible's verson of Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

There is also another spiritual priniciple here. Although we are saved by grace, the Bible also teaches us to "work out our salvation." Just as Adam was required to labor daily for his temporal sustinence, we must likewise labor through prayer and scripture study for our spiritual sustinence.

Matthew 19:3-10 and Malichi 2:13-16 condem divorce.

Hebrews 13:4 condems both fornication and adultary and declares that "marriage is to be held in honor by all."