Saturday, December 30, 2006

Early Christian Fathers on Theosis

And this takes place, whenever one hangs on the Lord by faith, by knowledge, by love, and ascends along with Him to where the God and guard of our faith and love is. Whence at last (on account of the necessity for very great preparation and previous training in order both to hear what is said, and for the composure of life, and for advancing intelligently to a point beyond the righteousness of the law) it is that knowledge is committed to those fit and selected for it. It leads us to the endless and perfect end, teaching us beforehand the future life that we shall lead, according to God, and with gods; after we are freed from all punishment and penalty which we undergo, in consequence of our sins, for salutary discipline. After which redemption the reward and the honours are assigned to those who have become perfect; when they have got done with purification, and ceased from all service, though it be holy service, and among saints. Then become pure in heart, and near to the Lord, there awaits them restoration to everlasting contemplation; and they are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour.
(Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata or Miscellanies 7: 10)

It is then, as appears, the greatest of all lessons to know one's self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God, not by wearing gold or long robes, but by well-doing, and by requiring as few things as possible. . . . But that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up: he has the form which is of the Word; he is made like to God; he is beautiful; he does not ornament himself: his is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God; and that man becomes God, since God so wills. Heraclitus, then, rightly said, "Men are gods, and gods are men." For the Word Himself is the manifest mystery: God in man, and man God.
(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 3: 1)

"Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god."(Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 1)

"God became man that man become God."
(Athanasius, Incarnation of the Word of God 54: 3)

"The Word was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods."
(Athanasius, Against the Arians 1: 39)

"Just as the Lord, putting on the body, became a man, so also we men are both deified through his flesh, and henceforth inherit everlasting life."
(Athanasius, Against the Arians 3: 34)

"If the Word became a man, it was so men may become gods."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5)

"Do we cast blame on him [God] because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men, and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, he declares, 'I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High.' . . . For it was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality."
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4: 38)

[Compilation from MTA]

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Agency of Man

Agency = ability to choose
Agency is the ability to perform work. Work is not just toil. Work is effort and toil which results in a desired outcome. God tells us to "work out our salvation." Agency then becomes our ability to act or make choices in a way that will bring about our eventual salvation, exaltation and eternal life (Luke 2: 40,52)(D&C 93: 13).

Agents = creation with ability to act
God has two classes of creation. He has that which is acted upon, and that which can act. God is the supreme being with the infininte ability to act in the universe. Man is created in the image of God and given the god-like ability to have dominion, stewardship, and act upon God's other creations.

Choices = right and wrong, good and bad, law and consequence
Agency requires that there is a right and wrong. Lehi teaches that if there is no God then there is no ultimate good or bad, right or wrong, sin or righteousness. But because happiness and misery exist, that proves that there is a God. Lehi teaches that "men are that they might have joy." Or in other words, the purpose of this life is to be happy(posess love). God is the possessor and granter of infinite happiness(pure love). Therefore, if we follow God's will we are promised an increase in love and happiness (charity = pure love of Christ). If we follow Satan then we are told we will be come miserable. The scriptures tell us that Satan "seeketh to make all men miserable like unto himself."

Vailed Memory = no memory of our happiness with God in heaven
It is my opinion that the vail over our memory which prevents us from recalling our former life in heaven with God is what most made coming to Earth most scary. Satan wanted to take away our agency. I suppose he proposed a plan in which no vail was placed over our memory. However, without the vail, we could not be happy on Earth because we would remember what it was like in Heaven with God. Without the vail, we could not choose, because we would never feel happiness. Anything we did or experienced on Earth would be misery in comparison to the love we felt in the presence of God. Satan was cast out of Heaven and has no vail over his memory and consequently miserable.

Enticement = both options are desireable
Lehi says that we are not free to choose and "could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other"(2 Ne. 2: 16). God wants to "prove" us to see if we will sacrifice what feels good now for eternal happiness later. Anyone who endures a college education understands the principle of sacrifice now brings greater dividends later. Also, some parents say, "I'm not going to encourage my kids to go to church, I respect their agency." If they are not enticed to do the right, then they are not free, because they will be left alone to face the enticements of the devil.

Mediums of Enticement:
Holy Ghost = still small voice of God, the spirit of revelation.
Light of Christ = conscience, superego, knowledge of good and evil.
Natural Man = id, physical appetites and tendencies.
Satan = temptations to do evil.

Mediator = brings man back to God to be judged
If it wasn't for the atonement of Jesus Christ, because of the Fall of Adam, man could do nothing to result in his salvation. He would have become forever unclean and be shut out from the presence of God. The sacrifice of Christ overcomes all the effects of the Fall, overcomes physical and spiritual death, and brings us back into the presence of God to be rewarded according to our actions, thoughts, and desires. Had the atonement not been performed, Nephi says we would all be shut out from the presence of God to become angels unto the devil (2 Ne. 9: 9).

Time = learn from our own experience to do good
Lehi says that if Adam and Eve were to have immediately partaken of the tree of life that they would have lived forever in their sins. Therefore an angel of God was placed to guard the tree. Therefore, they were granted a space of time to repent of their mistakes, through the atonement of Christ, they could purify and sanctify themselves and begin to follow and obey the commandments of God, and lay up in store treasure in heaven. Nephi says that we are in a probationary and preparatory state, a state to prepare to meet God. Today is the day to perform our work. We are warned not to "procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late" (Hel. 13: 38).

Judgement = reward for correct choices
The scriptures say that we will receive the reward for our choices. If we choose God then we are promised happiness, love, and an eternal reward. If we harken unto Satan, then we will reap the rewards of death and hell. The scriptures remind us that "he rewardeth you no good thing." We do not have to wait until the final judgement for our reward. King Benjamin says that through our obedience we are immediately rewarded. The scriptures teach that we are justified by faith and become sactified by the reception of the Holy Ghost. We are given the ability to return to and partake of the Tree of Life and grow in light, power, and knowledge in this life. Our light will "grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50: 24).

Lehi's sermon on agency in the Book of Mormon: 2 Ne. 2: 13-14, 16, 26

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mormon Doctrine on the Adversary

This post was inspired by On Satan in the Book of Mormon by Kevin Barney at By Common Consent. Kevin's post points out that the Book of Mormon presents an post-Jewish-exile-OT and NT concept of Satan and asks if there are any pre-Jewish-exile sources that support the NT/BOM concept of Satan.

The problem with looking at the BOM this way is that we don’t have the Brass Plates. Just like the Brass Plates contain more information on the nature of Christ (e.g. writings of Zenoc and Zenos), they likely contain more information on the true nature of Satan.

We also must remember that Israel at the time of Jesus to now were in a state of Apostasy. Therefore, the Bible likely accrued unfortunate inclusions and exclusions. Several examples include an excluded section from 1Samuel and the apocryphal Book of Jasher now translated by Donald Parry and JH Parry, respectively, from Dead Sea Scroll Papyrus. Consequently, we don’t know if OT teaching about Satan, as currently found, really reflects what the pre-exile Israelites understood about the nature of the adversary.

And, we shouldn’t forget that Israel rebelled against Moses and refused the higher law, which the patriarchs like Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Melchesidek enjoyed. Consequently, they were given a preparatory law (the Law of Moses) to prepare them to receive the higher law of Christ at his coming. According to the Pearl of Great Price Book of Moses, we understand that the Patriarchs were the first Christians and had revealed to them the true nature of both Christ and Satan. Also, I think modern Christianity is guilty of being kinda arrogant. We assume we know so much more about the nature of God than the ancients. I think we errently conclude that since the Israelites were under the preparatory Law of Moses that the Patriarchs like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Melchesidek new even less about the God than Israel. Unfortunately, we don’t know what they believed because the Bible starts with Moses.

According to the Pearl of Great Price book of Moses and Abraham, we realize that Adam was the first Christian. Adam was taught about the mission of Jesus Christ, was baptized, and was able to receive the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ even before it had happened (Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world). The Book of Mormon also teaches that the people could have a hope in Christ as if he had already come.

Also, we must remember that Christ is called a High Priest after the order of Melchesidek. This points out that the priesthood of the patriarchs like Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Melchesidek is of a higher and “more excellent” order than the Priesthood of Aaron (of John the Baptist) which was in general operation to administer the Law of Moses. The Priesthood of Aaron has the authority to baptize with water, but the Melchesidek priesthood has the power to baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, Jesus Christ didn’t establish a new order of priesthood but restored the higher priesthood and knowledge, as it existed anciently.

There is pre-exile-OT teaching that supports the NT concept of Satan. Isaiah prophesies of the future destruction of Babylon by comparing it’s fall to the Fall of Lucifer from the heavenly council to Earth (who became Satan) and the eventual fall of Satan from Earth to Outer Darkness. Satan and the angels that follow him will not be joined with their mortal followers because through Christ, even the wicked will be resurrected (resurrection of just and unjust of those who kept their first estate). (See Isa. 14: 12-16).

John the Revelator continues the vision of Lucifer fall from Heaven during the Great War in Heaven, which continues on the Earth in which he draws “a third part” of our brothers and sisters with him. (See Rev. 12: 4).

I recognize that all this may be difficult to follow because there are quite a number of new concepts for non-LDS including: anti-mortal existence, heavenly council, Lucifer->Satan, War in Heaven, literal physical resurrection, ect.
Mormon Doctrine on Lucifer/Devil/Satan/Adversary:
1. He existed at the creation in the pre-mortal existance
2. He is a spirit son of God known as Lucifer "light bearer" or "son of the morning."
3. He was a member of the heavenly council
4. He opposed God's plan, the agency of Man, and the role of a Messiah
5. He wanted to take God's place
6. He drew "a third part" of our spirit brothers and sisters to his side
7. He instigated the "war in heaven"
8. He was overcome by the testimony of Jesus Christ
9. He was cast out of heaven to Earth with his angels and continues to attempt to frustrate the plan of God.
10. He is permitted by God to have some power which, in the end, serves God's purposes.
11. He is a personage of spirit, in the appearance of a man without a physical body.
12. He and his followers can place thoughts into our minds and exibits some ability to manipulate physical objects as we permit them.
13. Satan and his angels can possess us, or exibit control over us as we permit them.
14. He has no vail over his memory, but retains all memory from before the creation.
15. He is crafty, cunning, a liar, and miserable.
16. He attempts to deny his existance, or alter the reality of his nature.
17. A powerful encounter with God is often accomplanied by an encounter with Satan (Joseph Smith and "First Vision", Immaculee Ilibagiza "left to tell").
18. He establishes false religious, government, economic, science and philosophy to blind and bind man.
19. He is called the accuser and causes us to feel ashamed, not just guilty.
20. He promotes sexual sin, the destruction of the family, social darwinism, and murder for money and power.
21. He seeks to confuse and hide the reality of who man is-- a son of God.
22. He will be defeated and in the end go to Outer Darkness with his angels.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Preach By the Spirit

The scriptures suggest that the true gospel of Jesus Christ be taught in a simple manner. Jesus Christ commands that his gospel should only be taught by the Spirit of truth.

After the ascension of Jesus Christ, believers were promised the gift of the Holy Ghost or Comforter. Christ himself describes the purpose of the third member of the Godhead. Christ taught that the Holy Ghost's mission is to testify of truth and that Jesus is the Christ.

The Scriptures recount many instances of prophets feeling and responding to the promtings of the Holy Spirit. Elijiah on Mount Horeb felt the "still small voice" of the Lord. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus felt their "hearts burn" within them as they heard Christ read to them from the scriptures and the prophecies of Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is to be spread by the Spirit of Truth. Accordingly, LDS missionaries are able to have success by simply declaring and testifying of the truth. These 19- and 20-year-olds aren't professional orators, they cannot overly depend on logic or reason. They can only rely on the Spirit to testify to the hearer the truth of their words. Similarly, in the Church of Jesus Christ, our sacrament meetings aren't designed to be entertaining. The simple music is inspirering but not rousing. The preaching is straightforward but not overly analytical on the one hand and is usually not overly emotional on the other.

Paul teaches that the Spirit can be identified by the presence of it's fruits. LDS meetings try to be Christ-centered by testifying that Jesus is the Christ. Accordingly, there the congregation enjoys the quiet feelings of love, joy, peace and faith. By feeling and recognizing the Holy Spirit, seekers of truth can know that the Church of Jesus Christ is Christ's true church on Earth. Remember, the scriptures teach how to discern truth from fiction: "by their fruit ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 16, 20).

D&C 50: 17-20 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
John 14: 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 15: 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
D&C 50: 14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.
1 Kgs. 19: 12 [Elijiah stood] upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice
Luke 24: 32. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures
Gal. 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Real Christmas Gifts

My wife and I started a fun and meaningful Christmas tradition of giving gifts to Jesus Christ for Christmas. With all the shopping, gift giving, and hustle around the holidays it can be easy to forget the true "reason for the season." Since, Christmas is in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, it makes sense to give Christ gifts for Christmas. But this concept immediately creates the ultimate difficulty; that of getting something for "the One" who really has everything. Luckily, the scriptures help us out on what Christ's interests are; his hobbies and such. From the following few scriptures it appears that Christ enjoys things that begin with the letter "S", namely: sin, souls, and service.

Accordingly, each member of the family selects an object which most closely represents their gift to the Savior. The object is wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree to be opened on Christmas Eve. Gift ideas include: scriptures to represent a commitment to read scriptures daily during the next year, bar of soap to represent the giving up of a favorite sin or bad habit, a picture of the temple as a desire to attend the temple often, a stack of pass-along-cards to be given away during the next year, etc, etc. Our family has found that this simple tradition has helped us focus better on Christ during Christmas. So, what are you going to give Christ this year?

Matt. 25: 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Mosiah 2: 17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Alma 22: 18 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
D&C 18: 10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
Ps. 34: 18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Humility Paradox

The scriptures establish a marvelous paradox. On one hand we are to recognize the infinite worth of the soul to God. Yet, on the other, we are to recignize our worthlessness and nothingness before God. Jesus Christ is the answer to the paradox. Without Christ we are "less than the dust of the Earth", but through his atoning sacrifice he has given us the power to become sons of God (John 1: 12).

Mosiah 4: 5 For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—. . . I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, . . . For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

Hel. 12: 7 O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.

Mosiah 2: 21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

D&C 18: 10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

John 1: 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Rom. 8: 16 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Faith: An Assurance

Priesthood Blessings:
While serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ, I recall only being sick for one 1/2 day. I remember waking up with fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. I remember feeling discouraged because we had a very busy day scheduled. A bout of stomach flu could have interrupted the important work of sharing the gospel for days. I prayed and received a priesthood blessing from my companions that I would recover (James 5: 14). It seemed pointless to be on the Lord's errand and have to deal with an illness. After the blessing I returned to bed and when I awoke at lunch time I was completely healed.

Now, I have been sick many times before that experience and many times since. I have received priesthood blessings and not recovered in such a dramatic fashion. Has my faith waned since my mission? I don't necessarily think so. I feel that faith is more about accepting the will of God than just positive thinking. I have met people who would not permit themselves to acknowledge their illness. Denial is not faith. And trying to force or change God's will is not faith. Job had great faith, but still suffered from boils.

I remember being asked to give my first priesthood blessing while attending college. Elders who hold the Melchesidek priesthood anoint and bless the sick at their request in the name of Jesus Christ. The words of the blessing are to be given according to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I remember feeling very anxious about being asked to give my first priesthood blessing. I knew it was the will of God that I do so. Did I lack faith. I think the important thing was that despite my nervousness, I gave the blessing. Since then, I have have the opportunity to give many more priesthood blessings. And each time I feel less and less anxious and feel more and thankfulness for the power and authority of the priesthood of God, and the privileges to serve my family and others. Reflecting on these inexperiences has taught me that faith has a lot more to with accepting God's will and going and doing what you know is right then feeling anxious or confident. Hope and pure love develop from faith in time.

James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Job 1: 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Parable of the Seat Belt:
Wearing seat belts while driving saves lives. There is a mountain of supporting evidence to support this claim. However, I don't have a perfect knowledge of this principle and, fortunately, I haven't yet been in a severe accident. Nevertheless, I do believe seat belts save lives. Although, I can say I believe that seat belts will save me in the event of a car accident all day long. I can even do research on the subject and write blog postings about it. Is this faith? Not by itself, according to James in the New Testament. James suggests that it is necessary to demonstrate my faith by consistently using the seat belt every time I ride in or drive a car. He says, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2: 20, 26).

Assurance vs. Vain Hope:
Brigham Young University administers a majority of its tests at the Heber J. Grant Testing Center. This building has the capacity to test 750 students at a time. During my 4 years at BYU I spent many long, agonizing hours in this building. Upon completing your test, if the test was multiple-guess, you return your scan-tron answer sheet to the testing center staff. The staff then feed the answer sheet through a scanner and before you can say "Bob's yer uncle," a laser printer spits out a half sheet of paper with your exam score. While taking numerous tests at the testing center I can vividly recall the reaction of many other students as they received their test results. Shouts of jubilation or sobs of anguish could often be heard from just outside the testing area. During those few minutes waiting for my own testing scores to be printed, I feel I learned a lot about the principles of faith and hope.

First, I discovered that no amount of positive thinking, prayer, or sheer belief could make up for being ill-prepared. Sometimes I hoped that, although I didn't study as much as I should have, that maybe on this test, God would bless me to fill in the correct circles. I found myself thinking, if I just believe hard enough than just maybe the laser printer would spit out my test report with a "Congratulations on a Nice Test Score." After a while, I started feeling like I was gambling in Las Vegas every time I went to the testing center (vain hope). I didn't take long before I needed to develop a new test taking strategy. I was tired of the disappointment of bad test scores, so, I decided to be better prepared. What a difference studying made. Adequate pre-test preparation eliminated nearly all my fear and anxiety while waiting for my test scores. I no longer felt like I was rolling the dice. Instead, I had an assurance, because of my faithful study, that I would receive a good grade report. What's more, even moderate self doubt couldn't ruin a test result after sufficient test preparation. But after getting into the habit of studying and seeing the fruits of my labor, I doubted less, and enjoyed a calm assurance that I had been successful with the Lord's help.

Heb. 11: 1 Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Heb. 10: 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Ether 12: 4Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

This experience also taught me the relationship between faith, hope and charity (pure love). Faith is the not only desire and belief, but also valiant effort, diligence, and hard work. Hope or assurance then becomes the natural fruit of true faith. This is God's spiritual law of the harvest. We are promised, through Christ, to reap the eternal rewards of the works we sow (Job 4: 8). Through faith in Jesus Christ comes a perfect brightness of hope. And then if we continue to endure, our confidence will wax stronger and stronger (D&C 121: 45). John teaches that "pure love casteth out fear" (1 Jn. 4: 12, 17-18). As our confidence increases in God, we will exemplify more love for God and man. Therefore, a hope in Christ develops into charity; which is the pure love of Christ.

2 Ne. 31: 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Great Falling Away

What is the Great Apostasy? Both the Old and New Testaments foretell of the apostasy or great falling away. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2 tells them that the second coming of Christ would happen after a “falling away.” The original Greek, Latin, and Spanish bibles use the word “apostasia” instead of “falling away” to describe the period that would precede the second coming of the Lord.

"NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" (2 Thes. 2: 3).

Amos 8 gives the clearest prophesy with regard to the future apostasy. Throughout the centuries, man has continually rejected the truth and fallen into apostasy. However, at no other time in history was the authority of God completely taken from the Earth. Amos says a person would travel north to east and not find the words of the Lord. The people at the time of Abraham were in a state of apostasy. However, the Bible says Abraham was inspired to leave Ur and was led to Melchizedek in Canaan. The people of Israel were in a state of apostasy during the time of Moses, however Moses left Egypt and was led to the tent of Jethro, the High Priest of Midian. The Israelites were again in a state of apostasy before the coming of Jesus Christ, but believers could find the truth preached by John the Baptist. However, during the Great Apostasy, the words and authority of the Lord could not be found anywhere on earth; not in Jerusalem, not in Constantinople, not in Europe, and not in America. During the Great Apostasy, the Earth plunged into the dark ages, the darkest period with respect to spiritual and secular enlightenment in human history.

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it" (Amos 8: 11).

John the Revelator tells of the upcomming falling away:
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Rev. 12: 1-17)

The woman is the true Church of Christ or the Kingdom of God. The red dragon is Satan. The child being delivered is the Kingdom of Heaven or the true political organization of Heaven. The woman fleeing into the wilderness represents the great spiritual famine. 1260 days is equivalent to 3 and 1/2 years which is the duration of the famine in Israel during the days of Elijah. In this case, the famine will be spiritual instead of physical.

When Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he also foretells of the great apostasy:
"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. . . And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2: 37).

Great Image = Kingdoms of the Earth
Head of Gold = Babylonian Empire
Breast of Silver = Persian Empire
Belly of Brass = Greek Empire
Legs of Iron = Roman Empire
Feet of Iron and Clay = European Gentile Nations
Small Stone Cut without Hands = Restored Church of Christ

Some mistakenly interpret the small stone as the Church of Christ that Christ himself established during his day. But this church was crushed by the Roman Empire. "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" (Matt. 21: 42).

Jesus foretold his initial rejection but eventual triumph. The restoration that is foretold by Daniel doesn't happen in the days of the Roman Empire (Legs of Iron) but much later during the Last Days and the days of the Gentile European Nations (Feet of Iron and Clay). A new stone would be cut without men's hands which would roll forth and grow until it topples the image and fills the entire Earth. This stone is the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During the Day of Pentacost, Peter talks about the the future restoration of the Church of Christ:
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3: 19)

Peter is clearly talking about a day of restitution of all things that should happen at some future day after the ascension of Christ. This future day is in the Last Days, during a period that Paul refers to as the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, " That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:" ( Eph. 1: 10).

Isaiah talks about the restoration of the temple in the last days. "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 (Isa. 2: 2-3). In the dispensation of the fulness of times all things would be gathered together. That is, all knowlege would be restored including the temple.

Some people would say that all this restoration will happen after the second coming of Jesus Christ. However Isaiah reminds us that, "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). Isaiah says that God's Kingdom will be fully established before the Lord's coming. At the second coming the Lord will accept his Kingdom from the care and custody of his watchmen.

Isaiah warns the present and future remnent of Ephraim (Gentile Nations), "But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness (excrement), so that there is no place clean. . . Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? . . . Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. 28: 8).

This vomit, excement of which Isaiah speaks is false doctrine and precepts of men. False doctrine is likened unto vomit because it is partially digested and only retains some of its spiritual nutients. Other false doctrine is like excrement because it is fully digested and retains none of its origional nutrients.

Isaiah also warns those of his day, Christ's day, and us in the Last Days, "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isa. 29: 13).

Isaiah foretells that in the Last Days the Lord will re-establish his Kingdom and Church. Israel will be gathered home to Zion and Jeruselem. This is the God's marvelous work and a wonder in the Last Days, the Dispensation of the fulness of Times.

Daniel speaks of the establishment of the God's kingdom in the Last Days before the second coming, "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. . . I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7: 9-22).

Ancient of Days is not Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ (Son of man) comes to the Ancient of days and gives him dominion over the Earth. The Ancient of Days is referring to Adam, who is Michael the Archangel and member of the heavenly council and has all the keys pertaining to government of this Earth. When God establishes his kingdom on Earth, in the Last Days, in the Dispensation of the fulness of times; The keys of the Kingdom of God will be returned to Father Adam, or Michael the Archangel, or the Ancient of Days. Later, at the second coming of Jesus Christ those keys will then be returned to Jesus Christ who will reign during the Mellenium, after the end of the world, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And at the end of the Mellenium, or End of the Earth, Jesus Christ will return the the keys of God's Kingdom back to Eloheim, or God the Father. Those who enherit the Celestial Earth will dwell with God the Father (God of gods) and Jesus Christ in everlasting burnings as the Earth will appear as a "sea of glass mingled with fire" (Rev. 15: 2).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Charity Never Faileth

One of my favorite scriptures reads, "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13: 2). According to this, Paul is saying having charity is more important than having faith. An interesting thing to say because, according to mainstream Christianity, faith in Christ is all that is necessary to qualify for salvation. So, if charity is so important; what is it exactly?

The modern definition of charity seems to revolve around altruism and giving to the poor. However, Paul goes on to say, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1 Cor. 13: 3). So, according to Paul, mearly giving to the poor isn't enough. Despite its modern meaning, charity isn't in the giving of the gift, but selfless service is necessary to develop it.

Paul then gives the real definition of charity in the following verses. He says, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Other versions of this verse read, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or arrogant. It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it is not resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." Reminds me of Christ's Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet, sums it up by saying, "charity is the pure love of Christ" (Moro. 7: 47).

Paul goes on to say, "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." What does Paul mean when he says that all things shall fail except charity? Well, there will come a time in heaven when there will be no more need for the gift of tongues because we will all speak the same language. In heaven, there will be no need for knowledge because we will have access to all truth and the perfect ability to comprehend and remember it. And, there will come a time in heaven when we won't need faith, because we will have a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ because we will live with him. So, what is left? Love is left. Love is the greatest and most enduring power of the Universe.

John says, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 Jn. 4: 8, 16). John teaches in another place that, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17: 3). Therefore, what John is saying is that if a person is not filled with love or charity, that he knoweth not God, or cannot have Eternal Life. We can only know God if we are filled with his love. Faith in Christ is necessary for salvation but the gift of pure love is necessary for Eternal Life.

Salvation from hell without exaltation is still damnation. Paul speaks of being caught up to see the third heaven and of the dead being raised at the resurrection to the glory of the sun (1 Cor. 15: 41)(2 Cor. 12: 2). In the highest degree of heaven, exalted souls who are filled with the pure love of Christ, will increase in knowledge and power (eternal progression) until they become like God. Let's not set our sites on mearly being saved from hell. After obtaining faith in Christ, we should diligently seek after charity.

What can we do to be filled with the pure love of Christ? Moroni in the Book of Mormon teaches, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son (Moro. 7: 47)

Who are the true followers of "his Son" or Jesus Christ. Christ tells us himself, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13: 35).

Christ also taught, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:" (Matt. 7: 23).

Christ is not criticizing the wicked for good works. They don't have any works. Mearly prophesying (professing Christ) and casting out devils is not the works God is looking for. God wants us to do real good works. He doesn't want us to mearly talk a good talk. He says the wise man not only heareth but also "doeth them." Christ smmarizes the works he reqires to be filled with his love necessary for Eternal Life:

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25: 38, 44). These are the works which will help generate the love of God in us (through the grace of Christ).

Other great scriptures:
James 1: 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

1 Tim. 1: 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

James 2: 14-26 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. . . Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?. . . Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

Gal. 2: 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law (law of Moses), but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law (law of Moses): for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Gal. 3: 24 Wherefore the law (law of Moses) was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

It seems that these last verses are contradictory. I don't think so at all. I think Paul is teaching that we can do nothing without the Grace and Atonement of Jesus Christ. Remeber also that he is teaching against observance to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses does not justify. But we are still required to keep the Law of Christ.

Gal. 6: 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. . . And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Mormoni promises that if we pray and work to be filled with the pure love of Christ that "when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure" (Moro. 7: 47).

Adam-God Theory

Enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ criticize and spread a great deal of miss-information about a rather obscure teaching by Brigham Young. The Adam-God Theory, as it is known, was never considered a foundational doctrine of the church then or now. I've never heard it spoken of in church. The first time I heard it, I was confronted by a rather antagonistic pastor of another faith while serving as a missionary. So what is it? Enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ have grossly mis-interpreted several quotes by Brigham Young about Adam to mean 1. Adam is God, 2. Adam is the Father of Jesus Christ.

President Brigham Young is quoted as having said: "Now hear it, 0 inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days, about whom holy men have written and spoken-He is our father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50).

First, President Brigham Young clearly declares that Adam is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days. Therefore, he cannot be saying that Adam is the God whom we worship. Members of the church of Jesus Christ worship our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. We do not worship Adam and we do not pray to him. We are all Adam's children through the flesh, but Elohim, the God we worship, is the Father of our spirits; and Jesus Christ, his first Begotten Son in the spirit creation and his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, is our Eldest Brother.

So, why does Brigham Young say Adam is "the only God with whom we have to do"? Because we believe that men, through the grace of Christ, can become like God. Brigham Young is saying that Adam has obtained Eternal life and exaltation. Adam has returned to his place in God's heavenly council and has become like God. Because all men are the physical offspring of Adam, therefore, Adam is the only God with whom we [physically] have to do.

The next mis-represented quote involves a teaching that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. Brigham Young is quoted, "When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father?.... Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven.... Now, remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost" (Journal of Discourses. vol. 1, pp. 50-51).

The "same character that was in the Garden of Eden" is not referring to Adam. Brigham Young is clearly referring to Elohim. Elohim dwelt in the garden with Adam, walked with him, and taught him his language up until the Fall. Adam can be considered the father of Christ through Mary. But Brigham Young is clearly referring to Elohim in this case.

Children of God

Lorenzo Snow, 5th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught, "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.” Mainstream Christianity has criticized the Church of Jesus Christ over this doctrine more than any other. It's as if they say, "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." But just as Jesus answered his accusers, we say, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;" (John 10: 34).

Paul taught that God and "Jesus Christ [are] the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13: 8). If God was once like man, then how could he have become God and call himself an unchangeable being? God is unchangeable, but that doesn't mean he does not continue to create, and increase in power and glory. God is a dynamic, not a static being. He is unchangable in the sense that he is always eternally progressing.

The scriptures also teach that God is Endless and Eternal and was God from the beginning(Moses 7: 35). How could God once be a man and call himself God from the beginning? It seems this concept creates a paradox. If God is Eternal, without beginning or end, then why does the Bible talk about a beginning at all. Well, there is no beginning to God or us. But there is seems to be a particular point at which our eternal intelligence was organized as sons and daughters of God. And once it is understood that man is God "en embryo" and A human child isn't any less human than a grownup just because it is not fully mature, then it is clear how God was always God, even as he passed though the same mortality that we are now. Support for this important concept resides in the name God chooses to call himself. God calls himself Man of Holiness just as Jesus Christ, the son of God, calls himself the Son of Man (Moses 7: 35).

Mainstream Christianity claims that this idea of divine potential or that man can become like God would cause the problem of "too many chiefs and not enough indians." The truth is that there is no other god that we worship than Our Heavenly Father. And no other god will ever take His place. But, after this life when one receives the gift of exaltation and Eternal Life, than a righteous husband and wife will have their power of creation added upon and expanded. How important it is then for us to protect the sacred power of pro-creation that God has given us. If we abuse it (hide our talent) then it will be taken from us and given to another (Matt. 25: 29). God wants all men to be chiefs. God doesn't want to be a god of pets, he wants to be a God of Glory, and glorious beings. John and Paul taught that when the Millennial Christ comes, he will rule and reign not as a king of sheep and goats or dogs and cats; but as the "King of kings, Lord of lords," the High Priest of high priests, and the God of gods (1 Tim. 6: 15)(Rev. 17: 14)(Rev. 19: 16).

But wasn't it Satan's plan to become like God? No, It was Satan's plan to take the place of God. It is God's plan to help all of his children become like he is. God wants us to be equal with him. Satan wants to be better than God and us. As equals with God, we would continue to give God all the praise and glory. Satan wanted to steal our agency and chance at Eternal Life. He wanted all the praise and glory for himself. We lived with God before coming to Earth. So, why come down to Earth, and risk hell and damnation, if we are just going to return to live with God no better than we started. Lucifer preyed on our fear of coming to Earth, by proposing a counterfeit plan were we would come to earth, not be tempted, not have agency, and possibly not have a vale over our memory. We would all return to Heaven the same as before we left; nothing ventured, nothing gained. It is God's plan to place a vale over our memory, where we could not remember our "former life and birth." And we would be given agency to choose to follow God and accept the grace of Jesus Christ. Those that accept the grace of Christ would receive Eternal Life, the greatest gift of God.

The Bible teaches that there is only one God (1 Tim. 2: 5, Eph. 4: 5). How can man become like God if there is only one true God. There is only one God we worship. But the Bible teaches that Elohim (the gods) helped direct the creation of the heavens and the Earth. Elohim (the gods) said, "let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1: 26). The Bible talks about the Hosts of Heaven, and a Heavenly Council of gods. Salvation is only in and through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and we only pray and worship one God in the name of Christ. But through the great plan of happiness and salvation, all men and women have the potential to become members of God's heavenly council (Ps. 82: 1).

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8: 17).

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.)

"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" (Heb. 12: 9)

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17: 3).

"I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" (Ps. 82: 6).

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn. 3: 2).

God commands us to be holy, even as he is holy (1 Pet. 1: 15-16),(Lev. 20: 7). God commands us to be perfect, even as he is perfect (Matt. 5: 48). And we are commanded to be filled with godly love (charity), as God is love (Matt. 5: 48),(1 Jn. 4: 8, 16). Can we really be holy, can we really be perfect, can we really know God, unless we desire what God desires, know what God knows, and do what God does. God says that Eternal Life is to know God? Eternal Life isn't just life with God. We lived with God before we were born. Eternal Life means life like God.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adding and Subtracting

Many Christian groups believe that the heavens are closed and the Bible is sealed. At the end of the Book of Revelations is this prophecy, "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" (Rev. 22: 18-19). However, it seems John was rather careful to specify that this warning was to apply to "the words or the book of this prophecy." It seems clear that John is referring to his Book or Revelations rather than the many books and many prophecies of the Bible.

Other scriptures in the Bible say the same thing as Rev 22 but the books and prophecies following are not considered additions and subtractions. Two passages in Deuteromony read: "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" (Deut. 4: 2) and "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deut. 12: 32).

The Bible and Book of Mormon teach that God has a pattern for revealing his Word. Amos says, "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3: 7). God's word is revealed through prophets, and it is through prophets that he has always added to his own word. Jeremiah 36:1-4, 23 tells the story of King Jehoiakim who burns the words written by Jeremiah. The Lord then commanded Jeremiah to restore these words,"Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words" (Jeremiah 36:27-32).

It is ironic that mainstream Christianity is excited about the Dead Sea Scrolls but not the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates and contain the writings of ancient prophets from a branch of scattered Israel. The Bible foretold the scattering and the eventual gathering of the tribes of Israel. The Book of Mormon is the writings of the branch of Joseph, the tribe of Ephraim. God reveals to Ezekial that he would command prophets of the tribe of Judah to write and also prophets of the tribe of Ephraim (Ezek. 37: 16). Then when the house of Israel would be gathered and restored in the Last Days, the records from both tribes would come together as well, "Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand (Ezek. 37: 16, 19).

The story of Joseph in Egypt is a type and shadow of events in the Last Days. Joseph had several dreams involving sheaves of corn and stars. Joseph told his brothers, "your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf" and "behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." Ofended, Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave to Egyptian merchants. In Egypt, Joseph became interpreted Pharoah's dream and was able to save his family from the famine.

A spiritual famine has been foretold in the Bible. Amos prophecies, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it" (Amos 8: 11). The coming forth of the Book of Mormon, a record of a branch of Joseph, was prepared by God to save the rest of the house of Israel from the spiritual famine in these the Last Days.

However, the best proof that the Book of Mormon does not add or subtract to the Bible is its fruit. The Bible teaches that in the Last Days there would be many false prophets. If there are false prophets than there must be true prophets. Revelations tells us that there will be prophets in Jeruselem, "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy" (Rev. 11: 3). But how to tell the true from the false? The Bible teaches the key: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 16, 20).

So, are the prophets in the Book of Mormon true prophets? Was Joseph Smith a true prophet?Are the members the Church of Jesus Christ 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? If we are, then we should be suffering the plagues which John promises. Mormon's aren't perfect, but 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. It seems clear that Mormons enjoy the excellent fruit of true gospel living. It's ironic that the very scripture that is used to discredit the Book of Mormon has become the best scripture to prove its truth.

The truth is that The Book of Mormon is another testament that Jesus is the Christ, and that only through his grace can we be saved. I invite everyone to read, ponder, and pray about its message. The Book of Mormon and Bible promise that anyone can know at it is the word of God, like the Bible, through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Heavenly Council

One of the great teaching of the prophet Joseph Smith, was the pre-mortal existence and the Great Heavenly Council where the Great Plan of Happiness and Salvation was presented. According to the Bible and Latter-day revelation, life existed before birth just as life will continue after death. Several scriptural references are:

Gen. 1: 26 And God (the gods) said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Gen. 3: 22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Deut. 32: 8-9 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel (the sons of God). For the LORD’S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

First Clement 29:2. For thus it is written: "When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, he fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the Lord's portion, and Israel his inherited allotment."

II CHRONICLES 18:18 Then Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left. 19 And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.' The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' 21 "So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the Lord said, 'You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.' 22 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you." (NKJV)

JOB 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." (NKJV)

JOB 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." (NKJV)

Job 15: 7 Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills? Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself?

Job 38: 7 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Ps. 82: 1 God standeth in the congregation (divine council) of the mighty (gods); he judgeth among the gods.

Ps. 89: 5-8 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

Jer. 1: 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

JEREMIAH 23:16 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear His word? Who has listened and heard His word?" (NIV)

Jer. 23: 18-23 For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?

DANIEL 8:10 And it [the little horn] grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. 11 He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host [Yeshua, cf. Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10; I Pet. 3:22]; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. (NKJV)

DANIEL 10:5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. . . . 12 Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. (NKJV)

DANIEL 10:20 Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I am through with him, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I am to tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth. There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince." (NRSV)

Amos 3: 7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret (sod,divine council) unto his servants the prophets.

Matt. 22: 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

John 1: 1-2,10 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; . . . He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,

John 8: 58 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Rom. 8: 29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate (foreordain) to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate (foreordain), them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Eph. 1: 4-5, 11 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated (foreordained) us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, . . . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated (foreordained) according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

EPHESIANS 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (NKJV)

Jude 1: 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

1 Pet. 1: 20 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

Rev. 12: 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Rev. 12: 11 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (applying atonement before it happened)

Rev. 13: 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

[hosts of heaven, heavenly hosts, elemental spirits] = members of the divine council

Abr. 3: 22-28 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

Mosiah 3: 13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.

D&C 121: 34, 40 A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars— All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times— According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest. How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson— That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

2 Current apologetic experts on the Heavenly Council are Donald Parry and Mike Heiser.

"Left to Tell"

I just finished a powerful book by Immaculee Ilibagiza entitled "Left to Tell." Immaculee is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. To survive, she spent 2-3 months hiding in a small 1/2 bathroom with 7 other women. The desciption of the holocaust is gut wrenching. But the most amazing part of the book is the personal relationship Immaculee develops with God while hiding in the bathroom and her story of forgiveness when she finally faces the man who hunted her and killed her family. This story reminds me that as Latter-day Saints, we do not hold a monopoly on miracles, faith, or forgiveness. This is a story that we can all learn from and be inspired by.

Her story reminds me of the famous quote by Francis Webster who was a membor of the ill-fated Martin and Willie Handcart Company. In response to some critics he said, "We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, . . .every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities."

Listen to her story at:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spiritual Cheetos

This post was inspired by another great post at "By Common Consent."

Just think about what a new convert learns in a very short period of time. He/She learns about the nature of the God, that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God, that man has divine parentage and potential, about the plan of salvation and a pre-mortal existence and the great pre-mortal council. He/she learns about God's pattern of revelation, about new scripture including the Book of Mormon, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price. He/She learns about continuing revelation, the apostasy and restoration, and living prophets. Then the convert learns about what God expects of him/her including the law of chastity, word of wisdom, tithing, etc. And then he/she learns about the temple, work for the dead, the eternal marriage and families. And on top it all off, he/she learns a whole new culture; sometimes in a matter of a couple months. This is the meat of the Gospel.

No disrespect, but I don't consider the content of my blog and that of the bloggernacle to be either milk or meat. Rather, I think the spirtual nutritive value to be more on the order of cheetos or twinkies.

I wonder if bloggers are a bit biased against the milk and meat or “basic beliefs.” We like the Athenians spend our “time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17: 21). Also, do we build up blogs “to become popular in the eyes of the world?” (1 Ne. 22: 23) Or at least the bloggernacle? Don't get me wrong, I love cheetos (especially the crunchy kind), and blogging and reading blogs. But, I don't expect to that this hobby will get me into heaven any sooner and I have yet to have anyone read my blog and join the church.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Geographically Defined Congregations

This post was inspired by a another great post at "By Common Consent."

The beauty of geographically delimited wards is that it eliminates competition. Consequently, you don't find LDS mega-churches nextdoor to stuggling branches. Also, it fosters a culture of caring. There is an ideal size for a congregation, too big and it is impossible to take care of everyone's needs.

"That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things" (D&C 78: 5-6).

"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld" (D&C 70: 14).