Saturday, December 29, 2007

Conversation with and BaptistPress

Dear Rob,
Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response to my email. Remember that our entire doctrine is founded on the interpretation that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God the Father. We reject the Nicaean Creed and the non-biblical concept of the Trinity (non-biblical word) as a 4th-century fabrication. We do believe in the Bible's teaching of the God Head which is comprised of God the Father and The Son Jesus Christ; both with tangible, perfect, glorified, bodies of flesh and bone (no blood), parts, and righteous passions. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose image is in the likeness of a man which is in the express image and likeness of God. These 3 beings are 1 in purpose, but we only pray to and worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. We do not pray to or worship Jesus and we do not pray to or worship the Holy Ghost. We interpret the "God is spirit" verse figuratively because the Bible speaks of God's corporeal nature in nearly every other instance.

I am happy to say that it is LDS doctrine that God is an infinite being, dynamic, omnipotent and omniscient (Mosiah 4:5-10). If fact, LDS doctrine teaches that God really is aware and concerned with the intimate and mundane details of our lives (Alma 24:17-28), We do not subscribe to the clockmaker, Deist, Rabbi Kushner theory that God wound up the universe like a clock and things happen randomly to people and its not God, its just random chance whatever bad or good happened to you. God does allow for the free expression of our agency and the resultant consequences but I agree with Einstein that "God does not play dice with the universe." The rain does fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, but it is God that causes the rain. Also, we believe that God is so powerful, he has the power to exalt his children. Can you think of a greater love than to share all you have with everyone? Not possible you say? Doesn't the Bible teach that all things are possible? Now who really believes the Bible?

On the subject of God and the Laws of the Universe; we do not place God in opposition with Laws. This is not an issue with X>Y or Y>X. We believe that X=Y. Since God has always existed and we also believe that Law has always existed. God is co-eternal with law and law is co-existent with God. It is the perfect understanding and obedience to Law that makes God omnipotent. Remember that laws do not limit us, they make us free. God created the laws of the universe in the sense that he organized and created the heavens and the Earth. But this obviously comes down to a misunderstanding on another doctrine about creation and the LDS doctrine of eternity and that laws and man were and are co-existent with God. Also, we feel "main-stream" christianity misinterprets 2 scriptures (Col. 1: 17, 2 Cor. 4: 18) to somehow mean that the opposite of created is eternal and visa versa. If this were true than man, a created being, could never become eternal and inherit eternal life. Please read the following post for more on this: There is no scripture that I am aware of that says that God is uncreated despite what the creeds have added and subtracted.

"If I can "become" an adult, that means I was not "always" an adult." The Bible does not use the word "god" in the adult vs. child sense. The Bible refers to all mankind as gods and children of god. Ps. 82: 6 "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." Gods and children of god is what we are. If God were synonomous with adult and man with child then it would be redundant for the Bible to continually refer to God as "God the Father" and to man as "children of God." To us, saying we are gods is like saying we are human. It defines what we are in relation to everything else in the universe. Man was co-existent with God yet also created in the express image and likeness of God when we were given bodies and the god-like ability to be fathers and mothers. Because it is parenthood that distinguishes us from God. He is our Spiritual Father and we are his spiritual offspring. The Bible distinguishes God the Father from mankind on the basis of his Fatherhood and not his Godhood (Gen. 3: 22). It could be said that parenthood must be part of the "good" that Adam and Eve learned after partaking of the fruit.

In review, LDS doctrine and the teachings of the Bible seamlessly mesh in my mind and heart. It makes both logical sense to my mind and feels right to my heart. The Bible talks about Christ being the Son of God and Stephen seeing the corporeal Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. The Bible talks about Christ doing nothing but what he has seen the Father do and doing nothing but the will of the Father in all things. The Bible accounts Christ praying for his Apostles that they be one in purpose as he is one in purpose with the Father. Its the Bible that tells us that we can become "join-heirs with Christ" and "heirs of God" (Rom. 8: 17). The Bible teaches us to be perfect as the Father is perfect, to be holy as the Father is holy, and promises us through the Atonement of Christ that mankind can gain Eternal Life which is to know God. We interpret "knowing God" to mean more than just being acquainted with him. We will only really know him when we are like him and do the things he does (1 Jn. 3: 2).

On several other common misunderstandings:
We do not believe that God the Father and Satan are brothers. We believe that Jehovah (Jesus Christ, the Son of God) and Lucifer were spirit brothers. Lucifer (son of the morning) is our spirit brother who fell from heaven for rebellion at the grand heavenly council, where we were present and "shouted for joy" and overcame Satan by our love, faith, and testimony for Christ. Rev. 12: 11 "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." Those who overcame are those angels who kept their first estate. 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."

Also, it is not LDS doctrine that we can somehow save ourselves by works. This faith vs. works debate is a false dichotomy. Both are necessary. We do baptize, and have temple ordinances like eternal marriage which are technically necessary for exaltation but there is nothing in our doctrine which says that you are automatically exalted by doing these things. After the baptism of water you must be baptized by fire and the reception of the Spirit. That's why when the Holy Ghost is confirmed upon a believer they are invited to "receive the Holy Ghost," which is dependent upon ones faith and continued belief. Unfortunately, there will be many LDS that will have fallen from God's grace. Also, marriages must be sealed by that same Spirit which we call the sealing by "the holy spirit of promise." There is nothing about a temple marriage that would force a woman who has been abused or neglected by her husband to continue that relationship in the next life. And all of these "works" would be dead and worthless if it wasn't for the Atonement of Christ. Consequently, all of these ordinances are performed in the name of Jesus Christ. Again, we perform ordinances because Christ taught that man must be born or water and of the spirit. And we do vicarious work, by proxy, for the dead to extend these necessary ordinances to the whole human family to be accepted by those who would have been faithful and believed if they had been given the chance during mortality. Baptism for the dead really is one of the most remarkable labors of love by man toward his fellow man. And it really is the perfect answer to the centuries old conflict between faith and works.

David D. Brosnahan MD, MS

Thanks for your email.

Although you say that our web articles show that we "misunderstand many fundamental principles of [LDS] doctrine," the specific alleged misunderstandings you mention seem to be focused on whether the LDS conception of God is of an infinite being. Thus, you assert that LDS doctrine does affirm that God is omnipotent and omniscient. I agree that Mormonism affirms that God is omnipotent, though I'm not sure we agree on what this means. I'm also not sure if you affirm that God is omniscient in the same sense. For example, in your opinion, does God know in advance every choice that we will make in the future? I'm interested in your opinion on this question.

It is incoherent to say that X is subject to Y but that Y is not above X. Therefore, it does not make sense to say that God is subject to laws and principles and yet that those laws and principles are not above God.

You assert that "it is LDS doctrine that God has always been God." That wasn't Joseph Smith's doctrine, though, was it? He explicitly disagreed with that statement in his King Follett Discourse. I don't think you really mean that God has always been God, either, since you then add, "And if you become a god you will likewise rightly be considered to be eternally god." Again, it is incoherent to claim that you can "become" something you "always" were. If I can "become" an adult, that means I was not "always" an adult.

We do our best to understand and describe Mormon doctrines fairly. However, any religion that can claim that God is subject to laws but not under them, or that God became God but has always been God, is too incoherent to describe coherently. If the problem with our web articles on Mormonism is that we did not navigate these internal inconsistencies to your satisfaction, I'm not convinced that the blame rests with us.

In Christ's service,
Rob Bowman
Manager, Apologetics & Interfaith Evangelism
North American Mission Board

Visit us online at

Rob Bowman (Manager of apologetics and interfaith evangelism department of the SBC NAMB),

Hello, I manage a personal blog on the subject of LDS doctrine at It is clearly evident from reading many of your writings about the LDS church that you misunderstand many fundamental principles of our doctrine. In several of your articles on you attempt to compare and contrast LDS doctrine on God vs. so-called historic christian doctrine.

First off, I would like to explain the fundamental and key pillar of all our understanding of diety. Everything the LDS believe about God rests on our knowledge and literal interpretation of the Bible that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God the Father. Upon this key doctrine all our other doctrines rest and rely. We believe and testify that Yeshua of Nazareth, born of the virgin Mary at the Meridian of time was the awaited Jewish Messiah, the Anointed One, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of Mankind, the Only Begotten Son of God in the Flesh.

But, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon call Jesus Christ, the Father of Heaven and Earth or Emanuel (God With Us). This we interpret figuratively. Jesus Christ is figuratively called the Father for many important reasons. Each of these reasons are critical as they not only reveal to us the true nature of God the Father, they also reveal to us the true nature and eternal destiny of Man. Because isn't that Eternal Life to personally know and understand God the Father? If Christ (A member of the Godhead) came to Earth and recieved all from the Father then, through Christ's Atonement, man can become joint-heirs with him and do likewise.

Jesus Christ is the rightly called the Eternal Father of Heaven and Earth because:
1. Jesus Christ existed with God the Father in the beginning as the first spirit Son of God and became the only begotten Son of God (John 1: 1-10, John 3: 16).2. Jesus Christ volunteered to perform the Atoning sacrifice for the salvation of mankind in a grand heavenly counsel before creation (Rev. 13: 8, Isa. 6: 8, Abr. 3: 27).3. Jesus Christ, under directions of the Father, created both the heavens and the Earth. Therefore, just as the writers of the Constitution are considered the Fathers of the Constitution, Christ is considered the Eternal Father of the Heavens and the Earth (John 1: 1-10).4. Jesus Christ of the New Testament is Jehovah of the Old Testament (Ex. 3: 14, John 8: 58).5. Jesus Christ gave the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments to Israel (3 Ne. 15: 5).6. Jesus Christ speaks on behalf of God the Father though divine investiture of power, which is akin to a divine “ durable power of attorney” (John 5: 19, 30).7. After accepting Christ as Savior, He becomes the granter of, or the father of our eternal life. The righteous are considered his sons and his daughters (Rom. 8: 16-17, Mosiah 5: 7).8. Jesus Christ received all that the Father hath (Rom. 8: 16-17).9. Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God the Father (John 14: 6-11).10. Jesus Christ is one in purpose with God the Father (John 17: 19-23).

On your website at you characterize our belief in God using the following table:

Personal and corporeal (embodied):
Yes, we do believe God is corporeal. The Bible speaks of Moses talking to God face to face and Stephen seeing the ressurected Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father (even if you interpret this glory, the glory was not eminating from Christ but beside Christ and separate from Him). If we were not to think of God in terms of having parts, then why does the Bible clearly describe Him that way (Rev 1:13). We interpret these literally, while we interpret "God is spirit" figuratively.

The significance of this doctrine is our belief in our pre-mortal existence (
Jer. 1: 5). If we lived with God the Father in heaven and came to Earth than what is gained by going through mortality, risking hell, and returning to God is the same state we left (spirits). We would have gained nothing. On Earth we recieve imperfect bodies and like driving school, we must to get our bodies to do the will of the spirit and not alow the flesh to run out-of-control. In the resurrection, we will recieve perfect glorified bodies.

Organizer of the world but subject to the laws and principles of a beginningless universe:
Yes, we believe God is subject to laws and principles. This doesn't place laws above God. God is God because He has perfect obedience and power to utilize the laws of the Universe. But it is obedience to laws and principles of the Universe that makes God God. You know this. Don't we say that rules, laws, and commandments aren't limitations but are directions. The truth makes us free it doesnt bind us down or limit us. This doctrine helps me understand better the nature of commandments and the need for obedience.

Omnipotent vs. Limited in power:
Not true. God is increasing in glory but that does not mean he is not all powerful. God's glory is the exaltation and eternal life of his children. The more children he exalts, the greater is his glory. But this doesnt add to his abililty to exalt us. Other churches do not believe in true Eternal Life. Others do not believe as the Apostolic Fathers ( that true Eternal Life is possible. Others do not believe that God can exalt his children. Who believes in a limited God? The Bible describes God as "The Most High God" a "God of gods" and Christ who will come as "King of kings and Lord of lords." Does it add to God's glory to interpret "God of gods" as to mean a God of fables and idols or to mean that God is the God of children who He will exalt and glorify to be like himself and who will continue to reverence and worship Him as the only God. Our belief in Eternal Life does not diminish God, but it glorifies Him. God the Father will always be our Father and our God and be worshiped as such. Do not criticize us for being the only church that believes that Christ can make Eternal Life and the Perfection of man possible.

Omniscent vs. Increasing in knowledge:
Not true. God is increasing in glory, not knowledge (see above). The concept of eternal progression is an important one in my life and others. It was not surprising when my brother, who got a job right after college, went back to school for his MBA. There is a drive in all of us to grow and progress. Our God possesses all knowledge but continues to increase in glory as more of his spirit children become like him.

Omnipresent vs. being Localized in space:
This is a false dichotomy based on a limited understanding of classical physics. It is very possible through quantum mechanics and relativity for a localized object, expecially if it is made of light, to be everywhere at the same time. Time does not exist for God in the same sense as it does for us. So, although we believe God is localized in space, we do not believe that God's coporeal (pure light) nature limits him from dwelling in us or being Omnipresent. This is also another gross mischaracterization of our beliefs applying classical Newtonian Physics to God.

Unchanging and eternal vs. Changing and not eternal (as God)
False: It is LDS doctrine that God has always been God and has always been Eternal. And if you become a god you will likewise rightly be considered to be eternally god (
Ps. 82: 6). We are eternal children of the Eternal God. I don't consider my children sub-human while they are maturing just because they haven't reached adulthood yet. They are always rightly considered human and unchanging in their dynamic process of development. Likewise, the Bible rightly considers all men to be gods (in-embryo). If we continue on the path to exaltation and Eternal Life then we have never changed from our course. God is not a static being but is dynamic and eternally increasing in glory.

Necessary and the only God vs. Contingent and one of many gods
It is LDS Doctrine that God the Father is "The One and Only True God." If you become exalted and gain true eternal life as a god, you would never cease to worship The One and Only True God. We would always continue to worship The God as the Only God eternally. Look at your own family. Your children will cease to consider you their father when they have children and become mothers and fathers. It is LDS Doctrine that man can become like god, but The God, the author of our Eternal Life, will always remain The God and Our God.

David D. Brosnahan MD, MS

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Glad Tidings: The Conditions of Repentance

One of the greatest themes in the Book of Mormon is that of rentance through the grace of Jesus Christ's atonement. The LDS church believes that God is a God of miracles and that his greatest miracle is the change of heart that a believer experiences as he goes through the process of repentance. There is no grander miracle that seeing someone escape from the bonds of sins to follow Christ and to begin keeping his commandments and enjoy the fruits of the reception of the Holy Spirit (Hel. 4: 24).

Hel. 5: 11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.

Hel. 5: 10, 41 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.

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, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

Mosiah 27: 25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

Mosiah 5: 2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

Alma 5: 25-29 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.

Steps of Repentance (Only possible through the sacrifice, merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ Alma 22: 14):
Acknowledgment of sin Alma 38: 14.
Desire Alma 41: 6.
Godly sorrow for sin Alma 42: 28-29.
Confession to God Ezra 10: 11, Mosiah 26: 29.
Restitution Ex. 22: 12.
Continued Obedience Isa. 1: 16, Ezek. 18: 30-31, 2 Ne. 31: 16, 20, Matt. 24: 13.
Forgive Others Matt. 6: 12, 14-15.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Clarification for Mike Gallagher

[The following is in response to some comments made today by Mike Gallagher; a nationally- syndicated, radio, talk-show host]

Dear Mike,

The content of your show today with regard to LDS doctrine being "heretical," inspired the following comments:

I do not think that your comments about LDS beliefs helped at all to increase religious tolerance, therefore I have to consider them rather un-American. I am surprised you didn't recognize that is clearly an anti-Mormon website. You don't go to a Methodist website to learn about Catholics or a Democrat website to learn about Republican candidates or issues. Similarly, I wouldn't recommend going to an anti-Mormon website to learn about the LDS church.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God: You were unfortunately confusing the Doctrine and Covenants with Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. Despite its name, Mormon Doctrine has never been considered official LDS Doctrine. is citing Mormon Doctrine and not the Doctrine and Covenants to support its claim. And I know that the 1972 Family Home Evening manual didn't talk that explicitely. That is a manual for children; my parents taught us from that version of manual every week and it never came close to being so specific in such matters. There is no official Mormon Doctrine on this issue other than that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and not the Son of the Holy Ghost.
This doctrine of the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ comes from Mormon scriptures, the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and this doctrine is also the theme of an oft misunderstood teaching by Brigham Young. While the Journal of Discourses speaks on this doctrinal issue, the Journal of Discourses, by itself, doesn't necessarily constitute official LDS Doctrine:

"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 but God the Father. Yet anti-Mormon groups routinely use this quote from Brigham Young to errantly claim that it is somehow LDS Doctrine that either 1. Adam is the father of Jesus or 2. God had sex with Mary; neither of which are suggested or implied in this quote. The point is that it is LDS Doctrine that Jesus Christ was begotten of Heavenly Father and not the Holy Ghost making Jesus Christ the literal son of Heavenly Father. There is no talk of mechanism. We believe as did Peter that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I don't see why many Christians have such a problem with our more literal interpretation of the Bible on this doctrine.

About the Garden of Eden: It is LDS Doctrine that the garden of Eden was is Missouri. So what. How do you know it wasn't. We believe that Adam to Noah lived in North America before the flood and only after the flood were the continents divided and Noah settled in the Middle East because thats where the ark came to rest. Just because ancient Jews named rivers Euphrates and places Assyria and Ethiopia doesn't mean they represent the originals. Also, we believe the continents hadn't divided at that point. So, not knowing what the geography looked like before the flood I can't say if its right or wrong. This is not a huge important doctrine in the church other than to say that when several groups crossed the ocean from the Middle East to the America's, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, they commented that the Americas were a "Land Choice above all others" and that God had made special covenants and promises regarding those who would live here. Is it so bad to believe that America is special to God, and maybe as important as Jerusalem? This belief has always served to strengthen LDS patriotism.

Garments: Every religion has some type of clothing or accessory that they wear to remind them of their faith and values. So what if ours is our underwear. First, it represents the clothing made for Adam and Eve when they discovered their nakedness (fallen state) in the Garden of Eden. It represents the Sacrifice, Grace, and Mercy of Jesus Christ which covers our sins. Every day when I put on a fresh pair I am reminded of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Second, no one else can see them. Christ criticized those who expended the length of their phylacteries or the hem of their robes to appear pious. Last, they are modest and require modest clothing to cover them. I should tell you that I and all my friends successfully practiced abstinence before we were married, and the active LDS members have lower rates of teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, and divorce than any other church. How do the young men of your church treat women, family and their marriage commitments?

Degrees of Heaven: I have met many an evangelical that are sure I am going to Hell for being LDS. In contrast, members of the LDS church believe that even you, Mike Gallagher, are going to heaven and that you will dwell with Jesus Christ forever. It is LDS Doctrine that every Christian, thanks to Christ, is going to be rewarded exactly what they feel they are promised. But, don't criticize our hope and believe in a heaven with Christ and the continued association with our wife and children. We just call the state with our families the Celestial Kingdom. If you don't desire that, fine. No one is going to force you to be with your wife and kids if you don't want to. I am sorry, but heaven without my wife just doesn't sound like much of a heaven to me.

I don't know where you get that our belief in heaven consists of “dwelling on our own world.” What we do believe is that we will assist God in the work of creation. What do you expect to be doing for eternity. We believe that God is worshipped through the labors we perform and the work we do on behalf of others of his spirit children not just by circling his thrown endlessly in some endless spiritual procession or strumming a harp on some cloud.

I don't know what Bible version you were reading from but the KJV scripture that clearly refers to the 3 states of the resurrected in heaven is 1 Cor 15:39-42:

“All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LDS Women: Working Without Going to Work

Julie B. Beck, General President of the Relief Society of the LDS church, gave a wonderfully inspired talk during the past General Conference entitled Mothers Who Know. A sign of just how inspired this talk was is the small but vocal amount of criticism the talk has garnered from within the LDS church. The point of the talk was that the ideal LDS woman desires to be a mother, to have children, to be a person of integrity, and to be spiritually minded as opposed to being materialistic and superficial.

My wife has just finished a great book by Jane Clayson Johnson (former LDS CBS anchor) entitled, I am a Mother . According to my wife and her friends, this book recounts Jane Clayson's decision to turn down a contract renewal at CBS so that she could focus on being a wife and mother. The book's main point seems to be that "just being a mother is enough." However, in discussing the book and contrasting it's thesis with Pres. Beck's talk, my wife is of the opinion that "just being a mother" does not represent LDS Doctrine, nor does it correlate in any way with the spirit and message of Pres. Beck in talk during this past General Conference.

Now, don't misunderstand, Jane Clayson's book is excellent. However, it is clear that Clayson's life since her decision to turn down the CBS job starkly contradicts her thesis statement. Being "just a mother" is not enough for Clayson. That's why she wrote this book and why she travels the country on a book tour and giving endless firesides and motivational speeches. In the same way, "just being a mother" shouldn't be considered enough for any woman. And again we get into the pendulum swinging false dichotomy thing yet again where one side argues that just being a mom is good enough while the other side argues that woman need to perform a male role to be considered of value to society.

When Pres. Beck said that "mothers who know desire to bare children, are nurturers, and do less" she is not saying that just being a mother is enough. But on the other hand, the measure of a woman's worth should not held to a male standard. The crux of Pres. Beck's talk was that baring and nurturing children along with personal spirituality and obedience are the things that will bring women their most fulfillment in life. This is not an issue of capability. The issue is that at the end of the day, if a woman earns all the honors of men but never rears a family she is more likely to feel regret. Now the other side is trying to tell us that this guilt is artificially put on women by a negative and chauvinistic society and that if we changed the traditional foundation of our society that women could be freed to perform the male role be be freed from the oppressive feelings of regret and guilt.

I do not want to be misunderstood either on the point of women in the workplace. I fully support women in the workplace. Women in the workplace make an amazing and critical contribution. I fully support allowing women the freedom to choose when and if they will gain an education, work, marry and have children. However, I hope I can be free to encourage and champion the role of woman as mother and nurturer in the home.

That said, "just being a mother" is not enough for any woman. It is not enough for Pres. Beck, for Jane Clayson, or my wife, and does not reflect LDS Doctrine in any way. My wife told me as we discussed this Clayson book and the Beck talk that it is very important that she feel she can both work inside and outside the home without having to leave her children and go to work outside the home.

So, how does my wife find the right balance in her life. Well, honestly she hasn't always been balanced. But, she choose to get married and have a family during college. And we have been blessed to have 3 healthy children despite considerable difficulty and adversity. She has worked hard to develop a skill as an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter. As it turns out she has not finished her college degree yet which she has mixed feelings about. When we moved to our current job we were disappointed that there is not a prominent deaf community in the area. Consequently, my wife hasn't had the pleasure of using her ASL skills the last 2 years. However, as divine providence would have it, a member of our LDS congregation is loosing her hearing and now requires ASL translation. My wife hasn't been happier since she has started to ASL translate for this deaf sister each Sunday and to teach a Sunday School class in ASL. She also is busy planning baby showers for other new mothers in our neighborhood and social circle as well as planning play dates, going to the gym regularly, making dinners when needed and planning other social engagements. She also loves to actively participate in our children's school classes. And she has 4 of her best girlfriends who she went to highschool with who all attend medical school here and who look up to her and envy her.

My wife's experience supports that "just being a mom" should never be considered enough for any woman. My wife will be the first to tell you that she is far from the ideal (I disagree however). She has no intention to be a so-called "supermon" and we make it a point to ignore the "Jones'" and the latest fashions. And although the home is the source of her greatest happiness and joy, it is important for my wife to be a well-rounded, productive, and balanced individual where she is free to work inside and outside the home without being forced to go to work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Repentance: Witnessing God's Grace

Christian religions have debated for centuries over the place of grace and works, faith and repentance, in man's salvation. One side points to scriptures which suggest that the mear action of confessing that Jesus is Christ or accepting Christ as your Savior is all that is necessary for salvation from hell. Matt. 10: 32, Rom. 10: 9-10

However, this over-simplification neglects many other scriptures which speak of repentance, baptism, and obedience to the commandements. Philip. 2: 12, Heb. 5: 9 Looking past the obvious false dichotomy present in such arguments, the Book of Mormon clarifies how the doctrine of faith and repentance work together unto salvation. 2 Ne. 25: 23, Rev. 1: 5, Hel. 5: 10, 41.

The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Consequently, LDS doctrine focuses on repentance and obedience as well as faith in Jesus Christ. Now, some professors of religion argue that teaching obedience, repentance, and ordinances as a part of faith in Christ is somehow denying Christ's grace. However, the Bible clearly teaches that we show our faith in and love for Christ though obedience and repentance. James 2: 14, John 14: 15

It is misguided to consider a call to repentance a denial of God's grace. The gospel of repentance should not be construded into the idea that man can somehow save himself. That is not the point. The point of repentance and then obedience thereafter is for the individual to witness the grace, power, and mercy of Christ's Atonement in his life. No man could repent without God's grace. But as we actively engage in the process of sanctification, we can become a witness to the power of God. The power of Christ's Spirit which enters into our hearts washing away our sins, purging us of any desire or disposition to do evil, and changing our hearts that we become new creatures; disciples of Christ, sons and daughters unto God.

And through our faith in Christ, we can experience the miraculous transformation and realize that God is still a God of miracles who is intimately involved in the details of our lives. Personally, I appreciate the consistent exhortation by my church to good works and repentance. I need the daily reminders. The better I can, by God's grace, align my life with the will of God, the happier I am.

Active participation in the repentance process by confessing our sins, setting positive goals, making restitution for wrongs committed, and removing negative external influences does not deny God's grace or power either. Since he created my body, anything I do good with my physical body is a manifestation of God's grace and power. Did not Christ teach us about removing negative influences when he taught, "if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out." Matt. 5: 29

The same principle applies to helping others. Is it denying God's grace to serve food at a soup kitchen to the poor or to teach children how to read. Is it somehow greater faith to sit at home and pray for the poor only or to actually get out there and use our God-given abilities on their behalf. Isn't it generally accepted that God answers prayers through the kindness of others and that random acts of kindness is a manifestation of the goodness of God. Isn't it generally accepted that we should act like everything depends on us and pray knowing everything depends on God. Isn't it generally accepted that we are expected to both talk-the-talk as well as walk-the-walk, in Christ. In the same way, repentance doesn't detract from God's grace or power. Rather, repentance is the power of God's grace unto salvation.

2 Thes. 2: 13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Restored Christianity

Time Magazine reported on Richard Land's, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, labeling of the Church of Jesus Christ as a "Fourth Abrahamic Religion." While the SBC has previously considered the LDS faith a cult, Time author David Van Biema wasn't sure if this new "charitable" categorization was "a promotion or demotion."

What is wrong with letting the Church of Jesus Christ label ourselves. And who is the SBC that they can dictate who is Christian and who isn't. First off, we are not and never were trying to sell ourselves as Catholic, or Protestant, or Evangelical. Joseph Smith clearly categorized the LDS Church as RESTORED CHRISTIANITY. If you consider the official name of the church which was given by Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith via revelation; restoration is clearly inferred in the title. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a restored version of Christ's church in the latter days as opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Meridian-Day Saints.

The LDS Church holds that Christ's church which he left to his 12 Apostles was removed from the Earth. While the fruit (meaning the early Saints) would remain [in God's grace] and be exalted, the kingdom itself was lost as was the priesthood authority. Consequently the Christian world fell into the Dark Ages. Then in 1820, God initiated the restoration of His kingdom to the Earth. As part of this restoration there was a restoration of priesthood keys, prophets, Apostles, ordinances, covenants, new scripture, revelations, miracles, and temples. God's kingdom on Earth is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now is there Biblical precedent to support such a claim of apostasy necessitating restoration? Yes! Consider Adam, Enoch, and Abraham-- the great Patriarchs. For centuries we didn't have any of their writings. The only thing we knew of them was restored via Moses. But, while the Old Testament hints, restored revelation through Joseph Smith confirms that Adam was the first Christian and that Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, and Abraham were all Christian and practiced a very similar religion that members of the LDS church practice today except for the replacement of animal sacrifice which foreshadowed Christ's atonement for the Lord's Supper as a commemoration of his death and atonement. So, it can be said that the LDS church is also a restoration of the original Abrahamic religion as well as a restoration of the original Christian religion. We aren't the 4th Abrahamic religion. We are the original Abrahamic religion.
There is nothing in the Bible that says that God wouldn't prevent men from adding or subtracting from scripture despite his commandment to the contrary. God has not violated man's agency even in this instance. Despite the heroic efforts of inspired souls who have preserved what we have of it, the Bible has been left ambiguous. Consequently, the Bible alone has failed to bring us to a unity of the faith. Therefore, after the great spiritual famine prophesied by Amos and John who told of the church/woman fleeing into the wilderness to escape the dragon that there would need to be a great restoration of all things in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Come and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thoroughly Furnished Unto All Good Works

Jeff Robinson reports on the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Summer edition 2005, which is dedicated to the topic of Mormonism. In his article, published in the Baptist Press News on Sep 23, 2005, he writes that "Evangelicals often find Mormonism intriguing because of the clean lifestyle and conservative values of its adherents. Mormons may make great neighbors, but their doctrines and practices within the church appear as anything but appealing to evangelicals"

Recently, several denominational Christian Churches have come out with official doctrinal statements and resolutions stating that LDS church doctrine and practices are unorthodox, strange, or weird and not in harmony with the Bible. However, before condemning us as a heretical cult and non-Christian; these statements invariably start out praising our clean living, exemplary citizenship, and strong families. Then they warn their sheep not to be fooled by the [sheep in wolf's clothing]?

First, I cannot think of a more gracious compliment from these other faiths than to recognize the goodness and Christ-likeness of the LDS people. Chances are that you know an LDS member or family at work, school, or next door. And chances are you think they are pretty great people. But then you tell yourself that they must be the exception to the rule. I will tell you that, LDS members aren't perfect, but the reality is that your LDS neighbor or friend is only typical of most LDS members.

Now, if you give the above sheep and wolf analogy some thought you will see that it is exactly the opposite of the Bible warning (Matt. 7: 15). When the Bible teaches about false prophets in sheep's clothing, "cleansing the inner vessel" or having "clean hands and a pure heart," it is talking about the personal behavior and righteousness of the believer. The author praises LDS members for being good, honest, hardworking, family-oriented, Christ-centered on the outside but then he goes on to warn the reader to beware of their bazaar doctrines and secret temple practices on the inside? It seems the author has his analogy mixed up. When the Bible speaks of righteousness, good works, and pure religion; these aspects of true Christian worship are the fruit or outward manifestations of an inner faith and devotion to Christ and not just a facade.

Here is my point. It makes no spiritual sense to say that a person or group misunderstands correct Christian doctrine and scripture but on the other hand are exemplary in terms of their moral living, family values, citizenship, and Christ-like example. According to the Bible, the whole point of doctrine and scripture in the first place is to teach you how to behave and believe and act in away that God approves of. A person cannot be Christ-like if he does not know Christ.
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.
2 Tim. 3: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
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:
John 13: 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Matt. 7: 16, 20 Ye shall know them by their fruits
1 Cor. 13: 8 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.

Unfortunately, many evangelical Christians do not recognize the importance of correct Christian doctrine because there exists such a disunity of doctrine even within churches of the same denomination in the same city. Most of my friends and colleagues tell me that it doesn't matter much what the exact doctrines are, so long as they worship Christ and study from the Bible. LDS members do not hold such a casual attitude with regard to doctrine. The LDS Church has a unified doctrine. Anywhere you go in the world, any LDS church you attend, you will hear the exact same doctrine taught and religion practiced.

Now I hope I don't have to convince you that doctrine matters. Pick a doctrine and I will give you an example of someone who excused themselves in sin, or made an incorrect choice because they did not understand the fundamentals of Christian discipleship. That doctrine does matter is the foundation assumption of these many recent doctrinal resolutions passed by the denominational Christian religions.

The point is that one of many reasons I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ is because I feel more "thoroughly furnished unto all good works." The LDS church helps me be a better husband, a better father, a better neighbor, and a better disciple of Christ. The LDS church helps my family be stronger, more unified and more Christ-centered. Stats support that active LDS members and families are wealthier , are more educated, have much less divorce, live longer, have a lower rate of teen pregnancy, and give more to charity than active members of any other Christian denomination. So, despite our seemingly weird and wolfish doctrine, we really are Christ's sheep inside and out.

Also, the LDS Church has a far more developed culture of caring than any other religious organization. As an LDS member, I know that my and families spiritual and temporal needs will be cared for until death and beyond. Unfortunately, many of my religious friends have lamented at how poorly their church responds to individual crisis. In the LDS church, we really do take care of each other.

Doctrinally speaking, Other Christian Churches call us a non-Christian, unorthodox, religious cult because of our rejection of what we consider to be a heretical 3rd-century AD doctrine on the trinity which was fabricated in 325AD at the 1st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. First off, the world trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible. LDS believe in the GodHead, which is found in the Bible (Acts 17: 29, Rom. 1: 20, Col. 2: 9). The GodHead comprises God the Father, The Son Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost who are 3 distinct entities with glorified bodies (Acts 7: 55-56), parts (Rev. 4: 2), and righteous passions (John 3: 16); but are knowable (1 Jn. 4: 7)(John 17: 2-3), and comprehensible through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2: 11), and who are one in purpose (John 17: 11, 22).

All LDS doctrines including the temple are clearly supported by the Bible and by modern revelation by prophets and apostles which is also Biblical. Also, the LDS church is not and never was trying to pass ourselves off as evangelical or protestant. Joseph Smith taught that our faith and religion should be considered Restored Christianity. Our doctrine is more in-line with 1st Century Christianity than the later corrupted 3rd -century version. But if the other Christian denominations insist on excluding us from being considered Christian, at least they recognize us for being Christ-like which is what really matters.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Newsweek on Mitt Romney: Personal Belief and Presidency

The sub-title of this most recent Newsweek article “Voters can't connect with a candidate they feel they don't know. Mitt Romney has to decide how much he wants to share,” is evidence of an unfortunate misunderstanding about LDS Doctrine with regard to the responsibility of a an LDS member who serves in public office. A member of the LDS Church is expected to live up to his personal and religious beliefs in any and all circumstances but a public servant is admonished never to legally force or impose those beliefs on a majority who do not share those beliefs (Mosiah 29: 26).

Mitt has been clear that he doesn’t want to talk about the LDS Church but Newsweek claims, “Romney has downplayed both his religion and his own family history.” The LDS Church is not running for the presidency—Mitt Romney is. Jesus Christ taught that believers should not “cast their pearls before swine.” LDS members do not interpret this to mean that non-LDS are "swine" but that there is an appropriate place and time to speak of sacred matters. LDS hold their beliefs sacred but not secret. If a person wants to learn about the LDS faith, they are invited to speak to LDS missionaries who are appointed by the church to teach the LDS message.

Newsweek criticizes Romney for not reminiscing with a reporter about his attendance at an old LDS church in Pontiac, MI at the age of 10. I’m not sure I could say much about my membership in the LDS church before age 10 except for my baptism day. Maybe he could have talked about his happy childhood but there is nothing special about an LDS church building itself. They’re all the same. That’s why LDS members say they can go anywhere in the world and hear the exact same gospel message and feel the exact same Spirit. For LDS members, the joy comes from Christ, His gospel, and fellowship with the saints, and not the building.

Newsweek says, “Mindful of the sway of evangelical Christians over the GOP base, he has positioned himself as the candidate with conservative principles and strong faith, even adopting evangelical language in calling Jesus Christ his "personal savior" (vernacular not generally used by members of the Mormon Church).”

Yes, Mitt wants the support of the evangelicals. But to say that members of the Mormon Church don’t generally call Christ our “personal savior” is inexcusable. Other than the phrase “my personal savior” being grammatically redundant, every testimony given of Jesus of Nazareth from Joseph Smith, through all the Apostles and Prophets down to the prayers given by LDS members at home or over the pulpit has contained the confession of belief that Jesus is the Christ, Savior, and Redeemer.

Mitt’s response to the “Baptism for the dead” question with the remark, "I have in my life, but I haven't recently" is more a reflection that these baptisms are more generally done by LDS adolescents (which the article explains later on) than Mitt trying to distance himself from his religion.

Newsweek claims that “Romney has been unable to shake his authenticity problem,” calling Mitt a “flip-flopper" for his “all-too-convenient conservative-conversion” with regard to gay rights and abortion. When Mitt ran for governor of Massachusetts, he knew the majority of the electorate was pro-choice. It should be well known to the media from the famous Reed Smoot hearings that LDS Doctrine holds that LDS leadership and members need not impose their personal or religious beliefs on the majority. We call that “unrighteous dominion,” which is expressly forbidden in our Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 121: 37, 39).

So, there is nothing, which detracts from Romney’s faith for him to say when he was running for Governor of a state where a majority of it’s residents are of a liberal political ideology that, as governor, he wouldn’t try to impose his personal belief’s on his constituency by overturning Roe v. Wade. Although at the same time, as governor, he fought hard to preserve the status quo and oppose a vocal minority who sought to propagate an ideology of death against the wishes of the majority of his constituency.

The account of the exchange student Tito Cortella who lived with the Romney’s is a profound example that is in stark contradiction to the author’s conclusions. Tito recounts that the Romney’s strongly encouraged him to attend the local Catholic Church and allowed him to smoke in his room. Other clear examples of this principle are beautifully described in the article including how the Romney’s kept alcohol in their home for guests and how Romney approved an investment in a media company which also included R-rated material. Romney approved the deal but did not invest any of his personal money.

Now that Romney is running for President, his constituency shares his personal ideology of life. Therefore he can, without reservation, run a campaign based on that ideology. This is not Romney re-inventing himself. This is a man who is running on the principle that a leader should not impose his ideology on others but he should persuade them to do well by patience, perseverance, and example.

(The LDS Church encourages its members to be politically active but does not support a particular party or candidate, even if he happens to be LDS. But don't be surprised if Romney win's Utah)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cool Things About Being A Latter-Day Saint

Augusta is a great family town. However, it is also a rather transient town. The major employers in the city are the Savannah River Site National Nuclear Laboratory, Medical College of Georgia, and Fort Gordon Army Base. These employers recruit nationally, and consequently there are diverse families here from all over the country. So, as a new-comer to the area or a"johnny-come-lately" as they like to say, there are many families in the same boat which makes for accepting neighbors.

Fitting into our new LDS church was no problem. When you become Mormon or a Latter-Day Saint, you do not pick and choose were you are going to go to church. Congregations are geographically defined. That means, that you go to church with the people in your neighborhood where you are assigned to go. The result is that LDS congregations are proportionately some of the most diverse congregations in the country. This system also fosters both temporal and spiritual equality in the church. Their are not big mega-churches and small poor churches except for where new branches are still building membership in a particular geographical area.

The last 2 years my wife and I have enjoyed fellowship in our current congregation. We have brought dinners, thrown baby showers, and exchanged babysitting with many fellow congregatants and have had many dinners brought over to us. The church has a system of visiting and home teaching where 2 women congregants and 2 male congregants are assigned stewardship over another family in the congregation. This means, that even those who don't make friends easily have people availible to bring them dinners and serve them and help them. In this way and others there really isn't any poor among us.

In addition, the doctrine and structure of the meetings, and the feeling of God's spirit is exactly the same as the LDS congregations we left in Utah. I have lived in Utah, California, Wisconsin, and now Georgia; and the doctrine, structure, and Spirit is exactly identical in all the churches I have attended. My wife has attended congreations in Boston, Idaho, California, Texas, Utah and Georgia and she is in complete agreement. This unification of doctrine is possible because of a centralized leadership of a Prophet and 12 Apostles just like the Church of Jesus Christ of Meridian-Day Saints. Also, doesn't it make sense that the same God would reveal his doctrine the same in California and Georgia.

The inspiration for this post comes from feelings of compassion for a great Protestant Christian couple who are good friends of ours. They have been living in the area for the same time period and have not found a Protestant church they like. They have decided on a particular denomination but haven't liked the spirit they've felt in the countless congregations they have attended so far. They didn't like one congregation because it seemed too rich and prideful, and they didn't approve of another because they ordain female clergy expressly forbidden by their particular convention of which they are accepted and recognized to be a part of.

Despite our many invitations to attend the Church of Jesus Christ and to read the Book of Mormon, my friend told me that he is really happy and life is going good and that "he is not looking." And then he started telling me something about that the "enemy of best is good." Which was exactly what I was thinking. He seems to be comfortable with good enough. But so far it doesn't seem good enough. And they haven't read a word out of the Book of Mormon either, let alone ask God if its His word and get an answer that it is like another friend at work who was baptized last week (Hurrah for Israel) but I had very little to do with.

Anyways, 2 new LDS families moved into our neighborhood a couple months ago and not 30 minutes after my wife meeting the other wives we were swapping baby sitting. I mean, where in the world could you do that. Having just met someone for 30 minutes and already we are entrusting them with the care of our children. Where does this social capital come from? Well, it has to do with the strict promises and covenants these couples have made to God. My wife and I have made these same covenants. And when you talk to people who have made similar commitments to keep God's commandments, and they have been born again, and they are filled with the light of his Spirit, you know it and you can feel it. That doesnt mean they are perfect and are above temptation. But, you know how they feel about breaking their promises to God because you feel the same way. And that's how it works in the LDS Church.

It also works that we purchased our home in Augusta over the phone and almost exclusively on the recommendation of other LDS families. We had been to Augusta before but we didnt have time or money to visit again. So, we called up an LDS family we knew of in the area and we told them we would be moving into the area. They called us a couple weeks later saying that the house down the street was just put up for sale and that their neighborhood was the one we should live in. They took pictures of the house and helped with the inspection process and we made an offer on it without even seeing it in person. And, it has been the perfect house, in the perfect location for our family. Again, this is just a small manifestation or fruit of God's Kingdom on Earth.

I invite you to read the Book of Mormon for yourself. It testifies that Jesus is the Christ. It is the word of God together with the Bible. After you read it, pray to God and ask him if it is true. It really is that easy and hard at the same time. It does require some effort. Is it worth it to you to know the truth? It was to me, and by this formula I know for myself that it is true; and not once but again and again.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Church Practices Influence Utah Health and Demographic Statistics

The following document, published 7 December 2001, was made available to the press during in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The following statistics are listed here for the use of journalists. They show where Utah scores high in a number of areas, including family, health, crime and education. These statistics cover the entire state of Utah, not just the population who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2000, Utah was one of only three states to receive a straight-A score in a national report card based on a number of criteria (1).

Families in Utah
Utah ranked highest in the number of married-couple families, with an average of 63.2 percent. (2)
Utah ranked highest in the number of family households, with 76.3 percent. (2)
Utah ranked highest in the number of persons per family, with an average of 3.57. (2)
Utah ranked first for the youngest total population, with nearly one-third of its population 17 years old or younger. (2)
Utah ranked highest in the number of persons per household, with an average of 3.13. (2)
Utah ranked third for the fewest number of single-headed households with children, with 7.7 percent. (2)
Education in Utah Utah ranked fourth for the highest population of persons age 25 and over with a high school degree at minimum, totaling 91 percent. (3)
Utah ranked 11th for the highest population of persons age 25 and over with a bachelor's degree or higher, totaling 27.9 percent. (3)
Utah ranked fifth for the highest percentage of ninth-grade students who graduated within four years, increasing from 77.8 percent in 1999 to 82.3 percent in 2000. (4)

Health in Utah
Utah ranked first for the lowest prevalence of smoking, with 14 percent. (4)
Utah ranked first for the lowest risk for heart disease, and was 20 percent below the national average. (4)
Utah ranked first for the lowest number of cancer cases, with 239.5 cases per 100,000. (4)
Utah ranked first for the lowest number of work days missed within a 30-day period due to physical or mental illness, with an average of under three days per month missed. (4)
Utah ranked second for the lowest overall death rate, with only 5.6 deaths per 1,000. (3)
Utah ranked second for lowest number of heart-disease mortalities, and was the most improved state since 1990. (4)
Utah ranked third for best overall health in 2000, maintaining its high standing in this category during the past decade (second in 1994 and 1996; fourth in 1990; fifth in 1992, 1997 and 1998; and sixth in 1999). (4)
Utah ranked fourth for the lowest infant mortality, and fifth in the nation for lowest total mortality.
Utah ranked ninth in the nation for lowest premature death (death before age 75). (4)

Crime in Utah
Utah ranked 12th for the lowest crime rate. (3)
Utah's index crime rate (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson) decreased 12.6 percent compared to 1999, and 29.7 percent compared to 1995. It was 5.3 percent lower than the national index crime rate and represented a 21-year low. (5)

Other Utah Statistics
Utah ranked highest in charitable giving. (1)
Utah was the fourth fastest-growing state, with a 29.6-percent population increase during the past decade (from 1.7 million in 1990 to 2.2 million in 2000). Utah's growth rate more than doubled the nation's growth rate of 13.2 percent. (3*) Utah supports 1,000 churches representing 67 religious denominations. (3**) Over 75 percent of Utah's population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (6)

(1) The Corporation for Enterprise Development, "Development Report Card for the States 2000,"
(2) Utah Government (citing the 2000 Census),
(3) Economic Development Corporation of Utah (citing the "2001 Economic Report to the Governor"),
(3*) Economic Development Corporation of Utah (citing the 2000 Census), (3**) Economic Development Corporation of Utah,
(4) United Health Group, "United Health Group State Health Ranking: 2000 Edition,"
(5) Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, "2000 Crime Statistics,"
(6) Deseret News 2001-2002 Church Almanac

Monday, August 06, 2007

Priesthood of All Believers

There exists a centuries old argument in the Christian church over priesthood. Who has the authority of God to mediate between God and man? Who has the authority to declare or interpret scripture? Who has the proper keys to baptize, administer the Lord's supper, conduct a marriage, or to ordain another to a position of authority in God's Kingdom?

The Catholic Church believes in a literal authority that has been passed down from Peter through an unbroken chain which runs through the Popes. Every Catholic priest or bishop can trace his authority back to Peter through a claimed authoritative descendency. This means that a priest can only be a priest if he receives his authority under the hands of another priest who holds the proper authority. This is a huge doctrine to individual members of the Catholic church. When I ask some of my Catholic friends why they are Catholic, this doctrine is usually part of the answer. Where does this doctrine come from?

(Heb. 5: 4) And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

(1 Tim. 4: 14) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

(Matt. 16: 19) And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

(Heb. 5: 1) For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:

These scriptures support the idea that you cannot just claim authority to administer in God's kingdom. Many people feel like God has called them into his service. But according to the Bible, a proper servant of God not only is chosen by prophecy and revelation but also must be ordained with the proper keys and authority by someone else who has that authority. You cannnot just "take this honor unto yourself."

Now the Protestant churches have had to wrestle with this doctrine. Martin Luther objected to many of the other doctrines of the Catholic church but he resisted forming his own church in the beginning because of this very doctrine. John Wesley, the founder of Methodist church, was criticized by his brother Charles over this doctrine: "So easily are Bishops made, by men's and women's whim, Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid, but who laid hands on him"(John Wesley: A Biography By Stephen Tomkins. p.186).

Protestants declared a new doctrine known as the "Priestood of All Believers." This doctrine says that Jesus Christ is the great High Priest and the only necessary intercessary and mediator before God. That all men are on equal ground and that all believers hold the priesthood and can come unto God through Christ without the need for the gifts, righteousness, grace or another man.

(1 Tim. 2: 5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

(1 Pet. 2: 5, 9) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;

(Ex. 20: 19) And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

(Matt. 28: 20) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Protestants and Evangelicals focus on Ex. 20:19 where God desired to make high priests out of all Israel but they refused. So instead, God gave a lesser law and called Aaron and his brethren to mediate in the priest's office. Since the Law of Moses is fulfilled and Christ is the higher law, Protestants claim that priesthood is no longer necessary in the same way as in the Old Testament. Having said this, it's not like I could just walk into any Protestant church and claim the same religious authority as their priest or bishop. So, sometimes I wonder how they make their doctrine really fit with everything the Bible says about priesthood. I mean, there has to be someone who collects the tithes of the people, or someone to baptize, and someone to conduct marriages. The Bible is clear that despite the doctrine of the "Priesthood of All Believers," Christ organized his church with priesthood officers upon which he conferred keys and authority.

(Eph. 4: 11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

So, for centuries, the Protestants and Catholics have gone back and forth about this issue when in fact they have created a false dichotomy. Truth is, that they are both right and both wrong. Which is usually the case with false dichotomies. Both the concept of priesthood descendency as well as the priniciple of "the priesthood of all believers" is necessary. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints stands alone as the only church that exhibits both doctrines. How do we pull that off?

The LDS Church believes the priesthood keys and authority given to Peter are necessary but do not descend through the line of the Popes. We believe the Bible clearly teaches that the authority was lost from the Earth (2 Thes. 2: 3, Amos 8: 11, Rev. 12: 6, 14). That authority was then restored (Acts 3: 19-21, Dan. 2: 45) by Peter, James and John to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1830 just how the Bible requires it; by revelation and by the laying on of hands. Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them with the keys and authority to administer God's Kingdom on Earth. All priesthood holders in the LDS church can trace their authority back to Joseph Smith and consequently Jesus Christ himself through an unbroken line of descendency.

Now what about the idea of "The Priesthood of All Believers." Well, just because we have apostles, prophets, bishops and such doesn't mean we don't also believe this doctrine. In the the LDS church there are is no professional clergy. Bishops and such are choosen by a process of prayer and revelation out of the congregation. All worthy men in the congregation are ordained to the same priesthood and be called at any time to use that priesthood to administer and preside over God's Kingdom. While not serving as Bishop, he continues to use his priesthood to serve his family and neighbors over which he has stewardship. When his wife needs a blessing for the sick, or a child arrives at the appropriate age and desires baptism, it is the right of the father to administer to his own family. The church also has set up a system of Home Teaching that gives a father a stewardship over several other households. He is then able to assist the head of that household in administering to the spiritual and physical needs of their family.

Why is this important? Well, the whole idea behind the doctrine of "The Priesthood of All Believers" is that there shouldn't exist this spiritual divide between the clergy and the congregation. Just because you were a Bishop doesn't mean you are getting into heaven faster or ahead of anyone else. But, I think people recognize that the ministry and spiritual service in God's Kingdom is a powerful way to bring people closer to Christ. There is no better way to come to know Christ than to do the kinds of things he did. So, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, I am thankful that I have not only been give the proper authority to minister in the name of God, which authority was restored throught the prophet Joseph Smith, but I am also thankful that the LDS church has given me and all of the other members of the church many opportunites to serve and minister in God's Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Eternal Marriage

I have always found it intersting that most Evangelical and Protestant Christians believe, or at least hope, that family and marriage ties will exist intact in the next life. Although, not suprising, this fact is intersting because this belief is contrary to the official doctrinal beliefs of all other Christian denominations. Lately, several of my Christian friends have told me that their preacher or pastor has taught eternal marriage and eternal family relationships during their Sunday surmon. Despite what they preach on Sunday; evanglical, catholic and protestant clergy continue to conduct marriage ceremonies "until death do you part" or "for as you long as you both shall live." The marriage ceremony ends up being a marriage and a divorce all in one.

The belief that marriage and family relationships do not extend into the next life comes from the following scripture in Mark 12:24:

(Mark 12:24) "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."

The Pharisees came tempting Jesus proposing the scenerio of what would happen if a woman married a man who died without her bearing a child and then according to Jewish law she was given to brother 1-7 and they all died. In the ressurection whose would she be. God chastized them for "[denying] the power of God" Yes, angels aren't given in marriage or married in heaven. But that doesnt mean that as men they weren't already married. Marriage is an ordinace that can only be done here during mortality but if done by the correct authorty, will still be in effect in the eternities. This is the power of God.

(Matt. 19:6) “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
(1 Cor. 11: 11) "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord."

Priesthood authority was given to Peter that whatever ordinance or action he perfomed in the name of God on earth would be in force in heaven. Therefore, if he baptized someone on earth, that contractual or covenant agreement would be in force in heaven. Also, if he married someone, that covenant agreement would also be in force in heaven. The keys of the kingdom is God's authority given to man to act in his name. This is the power the Pharisee's denied. Only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has the true doctrine and authority restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, to seal couples and family together forever.

(Matt 16:19) "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."